My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Ch.2.4
Today I prepared five tax returns. A big question at the end my tax volunteer day: What happened to all of the men?
Each of the taxpayers I helped today was a retired woman, either widowed or divorced. The other volunteer working in the office met with all women except one.
Given that most of the women I saw were 70 and older, I’m speculating that I was observing the reality that women outlive men in the U.S. The gender-based life expectancy gap – although shrinking – is significant.
Two of today’s taxpayers lived in a paid-for home, one had a mortgage with only a year left, one rented, and one lived in senior housing owned by her church. One of the homeowners had lived in the same house since 1961! She moved in one month before the birth of her first child. I asked her how the neighborhood had changed over the years. She said that it really hadn’t changed at all because the local government had taken good care of it. That’s not the typical story you hear.
Despite being on their own, all of the women seemed content. One woman told me that she had just turned 80 – I was shocked. I would have guessed 65 – tops. She looked fantastic, probably because she had kept the weight off as she aged. Nobody complained about money even though their retirement incomes were low-to-moderate. In fact, one lady insisted that we finish her return despite my telling her that if we gathered more data, I could probably save her a few hundred dollars in taxes. She didn’t care. It was more important that she be able to check her tax return off of her to-do list. To her, lower stress is more important than more money. How true.
This may be coincidence but three of the women had worked in nursing. One had been a home health nurse, working for the city health department. She was so proud of that job and her career. She told me how she drove her personal car around the city – in good weather and bad – visiting and helping those in need of nursing care in their homes. Now she is being re-paid with a small pension and fond memories of a job well done. I thought of how special it must be to have such pride in the work you have done when your working life comes to an end. How many of us will be in that category when we reflect on our own work?
My final taxpayer today gave me a special treat. At the end of each visit, I make a point of telling each taxpayer that I hope they have a great 2010 and that I will get to see them in the office next year. This lady smiled at me, telling me that the good Lord would decide that but a little prayer might help. I told her that I would think of her and all of the retired folks I help in my prayers. She smiled again, asked my name, and told me that she would be sure to ask for me next year so that I would know that my prayers were answered.
I continue to be so grateful for all of the life education I am receiving from even these brief interactions with an older generation.