Marsha Schumacher is 69 years old and lives in Montana. She went through a profound life challenge in the early years of her marriage when her husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Shortly after her husband’s diagnosis, they had a son who, at five years old, was also diagnosed as bipolar.
Her husband’s illness prevented him from being able to care for their son,s o she decided to quit her good, union job at a grocery store and become a full-time, stay-at-home mom and caregiver. In doing so, she lost a job that would have provided a solid pension after retirement.
It was not easy for Marsha and her family. Her husband’s failed business ventures nearly forced the family into bankruptcy, and, in the end, there was no way for her to ever get back into the workforce. Furthermore, because so many years were dedicated to unpaid caregiving, Marsha barely had enough Social Security credits at retirement age to receive benefits.
Marsha and her husband have separated, and her minimal benefits cover her monthly house payment of $700 and the Medicare co-pay of $400, with only a few dollars left over. Nonetheless, Marsha insists she “wouldn’t have done it any other way, no matter what the cost. I’ve always tried to live my life consistent with my values. I raised my son into a well-balanced, productive citizen, and I’m proud of that.”