It’s a pleasure to share a guest blog by our third summer intern, Zoe Eisenberg. Zoe is a sophomore at Ithaca College. She is majoring in gerontology and plans to minor in Legal Studies. Zoe was excited to learn from the elders themselves through the Legacy Project’s in-depth interviews. This lesson about the role of financial planning in maintaining independence throughout life came from Richard, age 68.
Here’s Zoe’s post:
Independence is a value held dearly by many, and it is something that we often express without thinking twice. During my interview with Richard, the importance of independence in his life stood out as a recurring theme and valuable lesson.
Richard grew up in an environment that encouraged independence. His father died at a young age, and within his small family he was expected to be responsible for himself. As a young man, he traveled extensively while serving in the army and working in the computer industry. Though Richard was married briefly, he never had children and he pointed to this as one of the reasons he continued to lead such an independent life throughout middle age.
When reflecting on the choices that have allowed him to maintain his independent lifestyle, Richard emphasized the importance of saving financially for one’s future:
That’s why it’s important to think about your future, and think about money, and think about saving. Don’t get into debt, save for your retirement at an early age. I wish I would have known that. I didn’t really start until I was in my 50’s, you should start when you’re in your 20’s.
If I had done it at 20, I’d be a millionaire. I did it at 50 so I’m a “thousandaire.” It’s a huge difference. And you don’t know when your life is going to be over – Plan for the longest time. Start saving! And then do things you want to do.
Today, Richard is adapting to new levels of interdependence as he manages health challenges that have limited his mobility. However, his determination to be self-sufficient to the greatest extent possible is fueling his recovery and adaptation to changing circumstances. Valuing independence continues to serve Richard well – and careful financial planning is one way to do it.