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An 87-year-old’’s economic survival guide

An 87-year-old’s economic survival guide

An old Spanish proverb says, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” I believe that value holds, in or out of a recession. And seeing as my 87year-old mother lived through the Great Depression, I think her value (and that of those like her) will increase through these tough economic times because her insider wisdom can help us all. Mother was about 10 years old when her eight-member family endured the thick of those recessive days in rural Wilson, Okla., which only has a population of 1,600 today. The recurring droughts across the heartland during that period dried up the job market, making it worse in the Midwest than it even was in the rest of the country. Over the years, my grandpa worked multiple jobs, from the oil fields to the cotton fields, and he was even a night watchman. The family members did what they could to contribute, but most of them were simply too young to play a major part. In 1933, when President Franklin Roosevelt took office, his administration, through the Works Project Administration, brought about the employment of millions in civil construction projects, from bridges to dams to airports to roads. My grandfather traveled about 90 miles for a day’s work to help build the Lake Murray dam. But with a far smaller ratio of jobs to potential laborers, if Grandpa worked five days a month (at $1.80 a day), it was a good month. Like most families, my mother’s family didn’t have running water or electricity. And Granny did her best to keep the outhouse clean, with Grandpa helping by regularly depositing lye to control the odors. (You can imagine how the hot, humid Oklahoma summers turned that outside commode into one smelly closet-sized sauna.) A “scavenger wagon” came by once a week and cleaned out the hole, which had a small chairlike contraption over it with the center punched out. (They once had a two-seater in there, which allowed for two people to enjoy each other’s company and conversation. Mom told me that she always felt a little upper-class when she sat with someone else!) By the way, and I’m not trying to be crude, toilet tissue wasn’t around, so they used pages from Montgomery Ward catalogs (and you wondered why the catalogs were so thick). No joke — they preferred the non-glossy pages. I’ll let you figure out why. Got the picture? With that in mind, I turn to a recent conversation I had with my mother. I asked her, “How would you encourage the average American to weather the economic storms of today?” Here’s her advice, in her words: • “Get back to the basics. Simplify your life. Live within your means. People have got to be willing to downsize and be okay with it. We must quit borrowing and cut spending. Be grateful for what

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