It can be a real challenge learning how to manage your money better. Doing so often takes some mistakes — a shockingly high credit card bill, for instance — to figure it all out. It would be nice to be able to see into the future, when you’re old and gray, and get money advice from your senior self. “Should I really spend this month’s rent on a spontaneous trip to Mexico?” you might ask.
Fortunately, you don’t need a time machine to get great money advice. There are supercentenarians — seniors over the age of 110 — who have lived amazing lives and have already shared their wisdom. Keep reading to discover their essential money advice to improve your financial life.
You Can Never Have Too Much Saved for Retirement
“I don’t know when I’m going,” Richard Overton told National Geographic regarding the uncertainty of life and death. “You either. Neither one of us know when we’re going.” Indeed, with people living longer, things have become uncertain. When planning retirement, for instance, it’s hard to know whether to save up enough money for 10, 20 or 30-plus years.
For Overton, one of the oldest living World War II veterans in the U.S. at 112 years old, the costs are extreme. His family has had to set up a GoFundMe page for him to finance his 24/7 in-home care. Though it has raised $452,366 as of Dec. 19, 2018, according to AJC, much of that money has already been spent on his health needs. He has been in and out of the hospital a few times already this year due to bouts of pneumonia.
Saving more than you think you need for retirement and learning ways to survive rising healthcare costs are important to ensure that you don’t wind up in a similar situation in your old age.
Read the Fine Print
French woman Jeanne Louise Calment lived an exciting life, to say the least. She’s famous not only for living to 122, but for meeting Vincent Van Gogh and becoming the oldest actress to have a role in a motion picture.
The supercentenarian’s longevity worked in her favor when she made a particularly shrewd business deal at age 90. With no heirs to leave her estate to, Calment signed over her apartment to lawyer André-François Raffray. He agreed to pay her a monthly sum of 2,500 francs until the time of her death. Little did he know, the old woman would go on living another 32 years. Raffray ended up paying her more than double the apartment’s market value over the years.
Of the contract, Calment simply said, “In life, one sometimes makes bad deals.”
It goes to show that you might want to read the fine print on any paperwork you sign and rethink any unfavorable terms. You never know when a loophole — perhaps in the form of a 122-year-old woman — will make you pay.
Hard Work Pays Off
Hard work doesn’t just pay off in business; it apparently could help you reach the age of 117. According to The New York Times, Marie-Louise Meilleur “generally cited hard work as the reason for her longevity.” And the woman knew a thing or two about hard work. She had 10 children and often cared for them by herself while her husband was away working at logging camps.
Whether you’re starting a business, paying down debt, saving up for a major purchase or trying to get a raise, you can bet that hard work is the key to getting there.
DIY Pays Off
Sarah Knauss, who lived to be 119, was no stranger to the do-it-yourself approach. Before transitioning to an electric sewing machine in 1940, she used an old, foot-powered Singer machine to make her wedding gown and her daughter’s. She also made quilts and crocheted doilies to give as gifts. Her great-great granddaughter told The Morning Call that Knauss mended her Raggedy Ann doll and taught her how to sew squares for quilts.
Sewing, knitting and similar skills pay dividends. Not only do they help you save money on clothing, but DIY items are cost-effective gifts that will still impress.
Invest in Your Health
It’s easy to blow your money on vices when you’re the one in charge of the budget, but taking care of yourself is important. According to The Washington Post, Nabi Tajima, who lived to be 117, credited “eating delicious things and sleeping well” as the secret to a long life.
Fortunately, a good night’s sleep usually comes at very little cost. And when it comes to your diet, there are plenty of inexpensive foods that are both delicious and good for you.
Don’t Give Up Life’s Little Luxuries
Though there are many supercentenarians, like Tajima, who espouse the virtues of healthy living, there seem to be an equal number of proponents for saying to heck with it — have a beer every day if you want. Christian Mortensen, who died at age 115, believed in a little of both.
According to John Wilmoth, Ph.D., who interviewed the senior on multiple occasions, Mortensen said the key to longevity was to “live a good, clean life.” However, the Danish-American immigrant also loved a nice, Danish cigar.
It’s true that you should give up vices that break the bank, but there is something to be said for allowing yourself a treat once in a while – so long as you make room in your budget.
Changing Your Life Plan Is OK
Shifting careers can be scary. You put all your time, energy and money into one thing for so long that it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. But career hopping was A-OK with Mortensen. Over the course of his 115-year life, he worked as a tailor, a milkman and a factory worker.
It goes to show that it’s never too late to change careers and land your dream job.
Don’t Rely on Others for Financial Support
According to The Guardian, 117-year-old Italian woman Emma Morano credited her long life at least in part to leaving her husband. Though it might sound a little sad, that’s not necessarily the case.
Certified financial planner Cary Carbonaro believes financial independence is actually key to happiness. After surviving a nightmare divorce, she now advises every woman, whether married or single, to become a “money queen.” This is “any woman who wants to own their own financial future, be responsible for themselves, and know that they’re gonna take care of it and no one else is going to,” according to Carbonaro.
Hold On to Those Receipts
Several elderly people have claimed to be the world’s oldest person over the years. Mbah Gotho of Indonesia, for example, was said to be 146 at the time of his death, but without a proper paper trail, the claim was met with criticism.
Maria Capovilla had no problem proving her age. According to Bloomberg, Guinness World Records editor Craig Glenday said, “Maria Esther de Capovilla has beaten the odds — not only to live to 116, but to have the records to prove it.” A Guinness spokesman said, “A lot of the time it’s difficult for people to prove their age. In this case, there was no problem with any of the documents we were shown.”
Though you might not need to prove you are 116 one day, holding on to important documents is critical for travel, making a large purchase, long-term financial planning and, of course, defending yourself during a tax audit.
Retirement Isn’t for Everyone
Although most people dream of a day they no longer have to work, there are some who don’t find the idea of retirement appealing; work offers them fulfillment and keeps their minds active. The happy truth for these folks? Retirement isn’t mandatory.
Walter Breuning lived to be 114 and credited his long life to keeping his mind active.
“Keep your mind and body moving all the time,” Breuning said in an interview with photographer Robin Loznak. In fact, Breuning didn’t officially retire until age 99. Ever the professional, he was also known to dress in a pinstriped suit and tie every day, even in the later years of his life.
Sacrificing for Family Can Be Worth It
Fred Hale Sr. lived to be 113 years old. He was quite the centenarian, surfing at age 95, hunting at 100, shoveling snow off of his roof at 103 and driving a car until 108. But perhaps one of the most impressive anecdotes told about him is one his son, Fred Jr., shared. According to Syracuse.com, “Fred Jr. has vivid memories of how his dad — during the hard days of the Great Depression — somehow came up with the gas money to take his boy to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.”
Moms and dads are used to sacrificing for their kids, especially if they’re single parents. Sometimes, it’s worth the memory you’re gifting your child to forgo some of your own comfort. Of course, there are also completely free things to do with your kids that you should take advantage of whenever you can.
A Pension Is Invaluable
Renata Bianchi, 112, worked hard her whole life. At age 15, she took a job at the Fornace Marzocchi where employees carried bundles of bricks all day. Employees’ arms were literally stretched during this grueling work, according to Cesena di Una Volta, a cultural association in Italy.
Fortunately, Bianchi was eventually able to retire thanks to a pension plan. Pensions are becoming exceedingly rare, though government jobs still offer widespread opportunities for one. If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that still offers pensions, this can be your saving grace in retirement.
Optimism and Determination Can Get You Through
Polish-born Yisrael Kristal lived to be 113. He was the sole survivor of his family after the Holocaust, leaving Auschwitz at a weight of just 81 pounds. He remarried, moved to Israel and became a small business owner.
His daughter Shula Koperstoch said optimism was his most noteworthy trait. She told website Ynet in Hebrew, “Despite all that he went through, and he lost the whole family in the Holocaust, he had a lot of optimism, and he always saw only light and good in everything.”
Most people will never face the horrors that Holocaust survivors did, but there are situations in life that can nevertheless feel insurmountable. When you’re drowning in debt, the bank is threatening to take your house or you need medical treatment that insurance won’t cover, things can seem hopeless. Kristal’s story should put things into perspective. Optimism and determination go a long way. You can get through to the other side.
Click through to read about what five real retirees wish they had done differently with their money.
More on Retirement
- 30 Ways to Retire Earlier
- 50 Things Every 50-Something Should Know About Retirement
- 20 Best Suburbs for Retirees
- Watch: Best Cities to Retire on a Budget of $1,000 a Month
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