Want to Be Independent Later On? Elder Wisdom Says: Save Now!

It’s a pleasure to share a guest blog by our third summer intern, Zoe Eisenberg. Zoe is a sophomore financial independenceat 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.

2 thoughts on “Want to Be Independent Later On? Elder Wisdom Says: Save Now!

  1. Another way to look at it – Most people in their 20’s have no money because they are repaying educational debt. At least not enough to significantly impact an RRSP. Another thought? You certainly do not know how long you will live. I agree, so why not enjoy life a bit more in your 40’s/50’s when you have your health(and the money) to do it? You may have a million in investments when you’re 60-70 and little health to enjoy it, however I guess you will at least have made your kids or relatives “millionaires” when you check out having worked real hard to save and never really having had the chance to enjoy your life before “life as a millionaire” because you sank all your money into a Brokers’ or investment professionals’ career (and bank account) while doing so. Add that to the fact that every 10-20 years the market takes a huge it that makes you wish you had just stuffed your money into your pillow case and there is a very good argument for why lower to middle class income earners should focus on just enjoying life before retirment. Get out of debt first, then save a but LIVE LIFE as well. Don’t just pay for a brokers new boat. My house has been paid off for about 5 years now, have a bit of money saved in the bank, some in RRSP’s and some for a new vehicle after driving my current truck for almost 20 years. Let me say that just because your house is paid off doesn’t mean you have hit the jackpot especially when income may not be what it used to be. It still costs me over $800/ month just to live in my house (WITHOUT a M*rtgage or rent owing) when you factor in Utility bills and Property taxes. Property taxes that you now have to pay on your own because the bank is no longer paying the taxes to the city for you. This isn’t including bills such as cable tv or groceries just a couple among a dozen. Between all of life’s commitments and the cost of living, it is IMPOSSIBLE for MOST low to middle income families to max out all of their allowances throughout the year (RRSP’s, RESP’s, Loan repayments etc etc). Governments pushing us more and more to save because one of these generations will get dumped on when they inform us there is no longer such a thing as CPP. Might be sooner or later.

  2. Bill- I am sorry I am just seeing this now. You raised some interesting points, however what I understood from my interview with Richard is that it is important to save enough to both live a comfortable life while you are working and when you retire. It is important to realize that we are living longer, but with more chronic illnesses. Chronic illnesses cost money. I do not believe that Richard was implying that he wished he lived frugally when he was in the work force, I think rather he wishes now that he would have considered his future a bit more based on his current circumstances.

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