Will You Eat Cat Food For Dinner? — No Retirement Savings, Artists? Too Bad.

Photo credit: Ethan Trewhitt (Flickr)

Photo credit: Ethan Trewhitt (Flickr)

I posted a status on Facebook about how a client of mine who is disabled and a senior gets $96 in food stamps per month. How is someone supposed to survive on that? No one should have to rely on cheap food (think: Raman Noodles), especially not people with health problems. Forget farmers markets that take food stamps. They are still unaffordable for most of my clients.

The thread elicited fear in some people. I didn’t ask for clarification but assumed that they were worried how they’d survive financially when they are seniors, especially as artists. Regardless, their comments reminded me of an issue I am quite familiar with:  Many artists, musicians, writers, dancers, crafters and so on, do not work typical jobs where they can contribute to Social Security retirement. And many couldn’t afford to open their own retirement savings plans even if they wanted to. So what are they supposed to do? A creative life often requires such sacrifices. Artists are damned either way. Work a job that pays benefits and the art suffers, along with society’s culture. Put more of the focus on the art, and the artist suffers. Many artists are at risk for major social problems. But this is a society who doesn’t care much for its poor or disabled, why would it care for its artists? After all, who needs the arts? We are not a society full of color, entertainment, music, framed paintings and posters, or design. Of course we are, but we are reluctant to acknowledge that we need the arts. And we are even more reluctant to acknowledge that we should support our artists since art is only “play” and a “hobby” that is “not essential” to living.

What do you have planned for your “golden years”? What do you have planned for the time when you can no longer hustle to the extent that you do? When you can no longer work? Unless you have access to some investments,  are saving on your own, or work a job where you pay Social Security taxes, you might reach your golden years and find that the struggle only gets harder. The government doesn’t offer many public benefits outside of welfare or Social Security retirement and if you don’t contribute to the latter, there will be nothing for you. There are worries that the program won’t be around for much longer. And if you had low paying jobs your whole life, then you’ll have even less of a Social Security check.

Unacceptable. What do we do? Any radical ideas?

What’s your story? We are seeking written or video submissions for our Artist Stories online library, a social justice project, and would love to hear from you.

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