I retired to Arizona, thinking it would be cheaper. Now I have no choice but to work
Opinion: Parents shouldn't have to work multiple jobs just to pay their bills. And grandparents like me shouldn't have to reenter the workforce to help.
After working for more than 40 years, I thought I would spend my golden years in retirement – relaxing, enjoying my family, maybe even traveling. I never thought I would be delivering groceries for Instacart just to pay my utility bills at age 68, but here we are.
I’m originally from Manhattan, N.Y., where I worked my entire career as a patient advocate in the health insurance field. I helped former hospital patients navigate their way back into the day-to-day world.
I always liked helping people get back on their feet.
When I retired in 2016, I decided to move to Arizona, where I thought the cost of living would be lower. Where I could be close to my family, help out with the grandkids and enjoy retirement without the financial stress of living in New York City.
For a while, that was the case.
I'm not the only one hurting. My kids are, too
I used some of my retirement savings to buy a small condo. Both my daughter and my son-in-law work full-time, so I stepped in as the “grandma taxi,” taking my two grandchildren to and from school every day, and helping them with snacks and homework every afternoon.
But now this “grandma taxi” can barely afford to fill up the tank. I’m on a fixed income, and it has been hard to make ends meet here in Arizona. With the costs of everyday basics like food, gas and utilities so high, I barely make my mortgage payments.
Things got so bad in October 2020 that I took a part-time job on weekends: I became an independent contractor with Instacart, a grocery delivery and pickup service. I had no choice – I was worried I would lose the house.
Prices are up:Why metro Phoenix inflation is highest in the U.S.
To make matters worse, high gas prices now cut deeply into my Instacart income, because I pay for my own gas.
I know that I’m not the only one hurting. Food prices are climbing fast. I see it firsthand in my food delivery work. I used to budget myself $100 a week on groceries. Now that’s up to $150.
I also see it with my own family. My son-in-law is considering taking on an extra part-time job – on top of his full-time job – on the weekends just to make ends meet. But even with the extra income from an additional job, they still won’t be able to afford the skyrocketing cost of child care.
The upshot is I might have to drop my Instacart job to care for my grandkids more, which would significantly reduce my income. We don’t know what to do.
Raise the wage, suspend the gas tax
It shouldn’t be this hard for working families to get by in the richest country in the world.
Parents shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs just to pay their bills. Seniors who work hard their whole lives should be able to afford to retire. Our elected leaders need to step up and deliver policies that lower costs and raise wages for everyday people in Arizona.
One-shot stimulus checks have been helpful, but they’re short-term Band-Aids. It’s time to focus on fixes that help working-class people for the long run.
Congress just passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a great start. It will go a long way toward lowering utility costs and medical costs for retirees like me.
But there’s a lot more to be done. First, Congress needs to quit playing politics and reintroduce the Raise the Wage Act so we can have a federal minimum wage that folks can live off. It’s long overdue, and will help my children afford to take care of my grandchildren.
It’s also time to suspend the federal gas tax. As a proud moderate conservative and Donald Trump voter, I’m calling on Republican lawmakers to work with President Biden to make this happen so the grandma taxi can keep running.
Millions of Americans like me have worked hard all of our lives. Now, we deserve the opportunity for an affordable life and a secure retirement. Our elected officials need to make that happen.
Margie King lives in Glendale and is a member of WorkMoney, a nonprofit organization dedicated to lowering costs and raising income for all Americans. Share your thoughts at email@example.com.