8 Life and Money Lessons Shared by the Elderly

I have made decisions in my 20s or 30s that I’m sure I will regret later in life. I’m probably not alone.

A 25 year old making a choice believes he has decades of recovery time if that choice is poor. Yet, the elderly would warn otherwise. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have grandparents around to ask how they would have done things differently.

Fortunately, The New York Times recently ran an article that sought the accumulated wisdom of grandparents everywhere, entitled: “From the Elders to the Kids: What I Wish I’d Known”.

Much of the advice involved money. While the article itself is interesting, the unsolicited comments truly delivered the lessons many of us need to learn and re-learn.

Below are 8 verbatim comments that embody the life-lessons retired folks had for younger generations:

1. You really do not need the latest phone/computer/car/vacation, what you need is to have a security net so that you can kick back some when you are my age. My husband and I have lived well below are means for years. It is just recently we have begun to spend more freely because we do have a large nest egg put away. You will be astounded by how quickly it can increase by just putting a small percentage away every paycheck.

2. You might not make it to 67. My parents were disabled at 50. My turn came at 45. So get it together and start saving YOUNG.

3. I am 73 and am a semi-retired attorney. Best advice I ever gave myself was to get a profession where you can hang out your own shingle if a salaried job disappears. I lost my last “job” at age 47 when my boss lost his election and I have been working solo ever since and loving it.

4. Plan for the future as if the worst might happen, that you might not be able to work as long at a highly paid salary as you’d hoped. Be prepared for disaster.

5. Don’t put off everything you want to do until retirement. I’ve seen lots who are now unable to travel or do what they want due to health and money problems.

6. My best advice is to minimize debt. Debt will cost you far more in the long run than any other financial transaction. Save money, make smart purchase choices. And watch the small expenses- coffees, t-shirts with the latest catchy slogan, subscriptions to publications you seldom read. They add up.

7. Retirement may not turn out the way you thought it would. I ended up selling my home, moving in with my mother, subverting all the plans and things I thought I would be doing in retirement to elder care and taking care of a huge yard on our small farm.

8. Realize that many of your relationships are probably tied to work. Once they are gone, and if you have to move it’s a very difficult task to reform those kinds of relationships, especially if you are unable to get out.

If you know someone young that could benefit from this advice, share this article. Sharing is caring.

8 Simple Habits to Get Slimmer, Smarter and Richer

By now, you’ve probably broken all your New Year’s resolutions. I’ll give you a mulligan.

Here are 8 easy things you can do on a daily basis to lose weight, get richer and become more productive in just a few months:

  1. When you’re done with something don’t put it down. Put it away.
  2. Spend 15-30 minutes a day writing about your thoughts and feelings. Studies show this could be beneficial for your mental and physical health.
  3. Replace soda pop and juice with water or carbonated water. You’ll barely notice a difference and you’ll stop consuming empty calories.
  4. Stop buying coffee or lunch at work. Pick one – you don’t even have to do both. You could end up saving a couple grand a year.
  5. When the microwave is counting down or water is boiling, take care of a small chore. Unload the dishwasher, vacuum the living room carpet, cut the cat’s nails. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in just a couple otherwise wasted minutes.
  6. Floss. You’ll save yourself thousands in dental costs over your lifetime. And your breath won’t stink anymore.
  7. Put all your spare change in a jar. It adds up.
  8. Turn off the TV. You’ll be forced to find something else to do. Almost anything else is more productive than sitting on your ass binging on Netflix. 

You Live. You Work. You Suffer. You Die.

Yesterday, as I left a doctors appointment, walking down a small residential street I heard a call from between two houses. I stopped and looked. I saw an old man, maybe 75 years old, hunched over behind some garbage bins, holding onto a walker.

Our eyes met and he called me over again to help him get back up to his walker. As my sight adjusted to the scene, I noticed his pants were around his ankles. It became clear that he had a stomach issue and sought the closest semi-private spot for bittersweet relief. 

I knew what I was in for, but I felt worse for him. How humiliating it must be to call to a stranger as you just half shit yourself in public. 

Before diving into the problem, I first asked if there was someone I should call to help. Family? “My wife is at home”, he answered. Clearly that was a dead end path to follow. 75 years on this planet and nobody of any strength to depend on. It was all on me. Fuck.

I struggled to help him back up to his walker. His legs shook and buckled beneath his weight, with no power to simply stand – even with assistance. The man had yellow-brown smears on his shirt and coat and I tried my best to limit my contact. 

Weak is an understatement for how I felt. Powerless perhaps? It’s hard to move 170+lbs of dead weight when you can’t really get your back into it. 

Besides the event of the moment, the gentleman had obvious issues with basic self care. This was his life on the regular.

I was making no gains, so I walked back to the street to get some help. I saw a guy walking with his girlfriend and thought “here’s his chance to show his girl how he’s a good guy”. I was wrong – I got a lame excuse and off they went.

I hailed another guy and he didn’t hesitate. Looking back, I can understand how it might have looked like some elaborate scam. As a city-dweller, that was my first instinct when the old man called for me. But within a second of looking at the gentleman, it was quite obvious this was a real situation.

Teamwork won. We struggled, but got the guy back on his walker. He pulled up his pants and we helped him back to the street. 

All the while we asked the gentleman questions. He had just come from an appointment at the same clinic as me. He had planned on walking (?!?) to his home on Cosbourn Avenue – about a two hour journey given what I expected of his maximum pace. But he insisted there was nobody we wanted to call for help. 

The gentleman, my helper and I parted ways, but I’ll never forget the final look the gentleman gave me. The look itself burned into my brain, but I’m still deciphering what it meant and what he was trying to communicate to me. It was some combination of humiliation and sadness. I wonder if he was crying for help with his eyes, while telling me he was fine. That look has been haunting me.

I walked away towards my car that was parked about 100 metres down the street. As I opened my door I looked back and could make out his silhouette but could still sense his eyes on me. I feel like I abandoned him. I thought about offering him a lift, but he was covered in shit. Fuck. What was I supposed to do? I had already offered numerous times to call family, the police or an ambulance. He refused, and I can understand. Sometimes you just want to be left alone to lick your wounds. My final thought as I drove away was that at least he’s out in the open and can more easily get help if he needs it again.

Today I wonder who this man is. What’s his story? Is he going to die soon or does he have to live like this for another 10 years?

This can and will probably happen to many of us. We take our strength and health for granted. This old, feeble man once ran and jumped as a child. But during his last hours, months or years, he is burdened by complete dependence on others. It sucks, but we can fight it. 

Weight training and exercises to help with hip mobility and leg strength are immensely useful for maintaining your quality of life. Perhaps there’s nothing this man could have done to prevent his predicament, but many do have a choice.

I’ve also wondered what happens to people who don’t plan for the day they can no longer take care of themselves, whether or not they have children themselves. Many people do have kids, but live an impractical distance away. Others spent decades allowing their relationships with their children to rot on the vine. 

I am also left with the impression that on the aggregate, humans are seen as expendable machines with a useful working life. At the individual level our relationships are infinitely valuable. But society at large – the general public, corporate entities, political systems, etc. – seeks to extract every ounce of value from humans during the best years of their lives, only to leave them to mainly fend for themselves during the worst years of their lives. 

People are brainwashed to devote the best, most productive, healthiest years of their lives to a system that doesn’t care about them and will discard them once proven redundant. Your boss won’t be there to wipe your ass when you’re sick. He doesn’t give a fuck. You may have been the best widget maker in the city, but none of that matters when you’re keeled over in a back alley because you shit yourself. 

Life has to be more than working, suffering and then dying.

You need to spend your healthy years on yourself, your friends and your family. What matters is the family you’ve built and the friendships you’ve fostered. You need to plan for the moment you become dependent on others. 

Perhaps that is what this gentleman was trying to tell me with his eyes.

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