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. 

Is Your Scarcity Mindset is Holding You Back?

Forgive me for oversimplifying, but generally, there are two types of people: those with an abundance mindset and those with a scarcity mindset.

I have a scarcity mindset and I believe it has held me back.

Growing up, I was the child of divorce living with my mother who was constantly on the edge of poverty through no fault of her own. She worried about money and I internalized her thoughts, even though I didn’t necessarily understand them. Life was OK and for the most part I had a decent childhood, but the underlying uncertainty never left. At times it culminated into acute anxiety over the highly improbable.

My concerns about the ground being removed from beneath me may have been unreasonable, as I’m sure the other half of my family (which is well-to-do) wouldn’t have let me live on the streets. However, the worry was palpable and shaped my view of the world.

As a child, I envied how other families (including other parts of my own family)  lived. They had cars, had lots of interesting food in the fridge, traveled, went out, sent their kids to camp. When I was young I wished I had these things. However, as I reached my mid-teen years I rejected anything that was an unnecessary expense. It was my idea to cancel the cable and newspaper subscriptions. I cut my own hair. I never asked for money because I knew it had a bigger purpose than my frivolous needs. I had little immediate control over what money came in, but I sure as hell would tighten my grip on what went out, in fear of the day when the bottom drops out. This is the scarcity mindset.

As I look back, I can still feel the ball of anxiety in my gut. That has never left me.

Poverty was something from which to escape. Although I had my share of f@ckups, when it mattered I worked hard and studied hard to overcompensate for my predicament. Some might say this made me successful. It’s true that I have had a good career and income because of my drive for financial security. My financial security is probably now in the top proportion of Canadians, so by that measure I am a success. However, my scarcity mindset has been an inescapable hurdle.

My scarcity mindset has kept me from pursuing potential opportunities because it forced me to prioritize the preservation of security. I’ve stayed in toxic jobs, shied away from new challenges and kept to myself because I didn’t want to give up job security or lose credibility. I’ve consistently undersold my capabilities, likely giving up potential salary as a result. I have hoarding tendencies and hate wasting money, so I rarely buy stuff. I haven’t taken a proper vacation in years, because I’m always sure the money could be put to better use.

While this behaviour has helped build me a decent nest egg, it has hindered my personal growth. I see 20-something, overconfident, entitled know-it-alls rocket to positions of seniority. They’re great at playing the corporate game because they have no fear. Many of these folks haven’t spent a day of their lives worrying about money or having a roof over their head. Even as they breeze through young adulthood, they still know that they can rely on the ‘bank of mom/dad’ to bail them out. They feel like they’re owed a better job, fatter salary and thousand-dollar handbags, because they have an abundance mindset. They don’t worry about losing their job (and financial security) because they ‘know’ there’s another one (perhaps a better one) waiting around the corner. It’s moral hazard at the personal level, yet these are the types of personalities that rise to the top.

At this point in my life, I’m not sure how much I can change or if I even should. I think there is a whole class of people out there like me who value financial security (and ultimately financial freedom) over prestige and power.

The world eventually sees the balance sheet of our lives, exposing the hidden truths of individuals with the scarcity vs. abundance mindset. By that point, however, the winners have already been decided. Still, I can’t help but think that there’s an optimal balance between both mindsets.