To Too Many Women, R.I.P.

To Too Many Women, R.I.P.

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To Too Many Women, R.I.P.

I stopped by Winn Dixie on Tuesday, on my way home from a luncheon.  As I walked in, I saw Sandy, one of the cashiers there, who lives not too far from me.  I caught her eye, just to say hi, and she did a double-take.  I was all dressed up, not in the early dawn walking get-ups she’s seen me in for the past ten years as I walked past her house.

Over the years, we’ve talked about our pets:  a stray cat here, a vet recommendation there.  I wouldn’t say Sandy is a close friend, but rather an acquaintance who has shared my life at arm’s length … and I hers.

On Friday as I walked towards her house on my walking route, another neighbor gave me the news.  Sandy had died in her sleep overnight.  When her housemate had headed for bed the night before, she saw Sandy propped up in bed, reading a good book, so she went off to sleep.  Next morning, Sandy was in the same position and her dog was at her feet, whimpering.

Sandy was 71.  After retirement, as the years went on, she found she could no longer make it on Social Security.  She had never been able to save up much money.  So she pooled her resources with a friend and they bought a little place together, hoping their joint Social Security checks would be enough.  Eventually even that wasn’t.  So Sandy, the healthier of the two, went to work as a cashier at a local thrift store.  When that closed after the 2008 financial collapse, she moved over to a Winn Dixie where, at her age, she was on her feet for long stretches at a time.  That, and moving large kitty litter bags and 24-packs of beer or soda across the scanner.

This morning I saw Sandy’s housemate outside, feeding the little tribe of outdoor kitties that counts on them for nourishment.  She said the coroner hasn’t declared the cause of death yet, but figures it was either a heart attack or a thrombosis, maybe a dislodged clot from a knee injury that then blocked an artery or major vein.

It seems the day before Sandy had sat with a neighbor, and had complained of a pain she’d been feeling in her jaw for the past few days.  The neighbor said, “Be careful, you know that’s one of the signs women get of heart attacks.”  Sandy asked the neighbor if she was afraid of dying.  The neighbor said “no.”  Sandy said, “I am, but only if this pain is something slow like cancer.”  “Why don’t you check it out with a doctor?” the neighbor asked.  “I can’t afford it,” Sandy answered.

Sandy epitomizes why I do the counseling and mentoring work I do … and why I write this blog.  I don’t know many details about Sandy’s life.  But she had worked and had retired.  Like so many other women, she had virtually no savings.  Social Security was not enough to survive on, but she was resourceful enough to join forces with someone else in that situation and did what she could to ensure a roof over their heads, modest as it might be.  And when that wasn’t enough, she went out and found a job in this difficult economy.  Not an easy one either, but one that made ends meet.

Her housemate said she didn’t know what she was going to do.  I told her to focus on her grieving for now.  I said I’d be over in a day or two to work with her and see how to create a bridge to some sort of solution.  Because there always is one.  I don’t even know her name, but I’m sure I will real soon.

How many women do you think are facing this kind of financial reality?  These are not “bad” people, or women who were spendthrifts or wasteful.  They are simply women who were either never taught about money or were hampered all their lives by mistaken beliefs carried forward from childhood.

Even if you didn’t know Sandy, I’m sure you know of at least one woman in a similar situation.  If that isn’t enough motivation for you to get your finances in order, I don’t know what is.

And if you find yourself putting up all sorts of obstacles, please go enter your name and email address in the upper right-hand corner of this page, and get the down-loadable (and free) eBook entitled “Busting Five Myths Women Buy Into That Keep Them Scared and Broke!”  You can always unsubscribe later.  But please use any tool you can so you can get yourself on track for a future that promises financial peace of mind.

May you rest in peace, Sandy.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her Over Fifty and Financially Free coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Sharon, this is powerful and I really appreciate you writing it. It spells out why we shouldn’t condemn people who are in a tough financial situation, because being there doesn’t necessarily mean that someone was wasteful. I think it’s great that you’re going to help our Sandy’s roommate figure out what to do next and I also think it’s great that you help women avoid ending up in that position in the first place. 

    • Rebecca, this really brought home how vulnerable so many people are.  Any one single thing can so easily tip the scales the wrong way.  And it’s so easy for people to say, “Oh, that could never happen to me …” 

  • Diane Massad

    …Your recounting of ‘Sandy’s setting…appreciated. A transitional generation, women who are aging into the pension/retirement phase whose parents who had one income earner in their marriage, have encountered a economic settings with little solid modeling. Men’s sufficiency in a family unit…was the model. Women’s economic equivalency in a family unit…is a smaller percentage.  The on and on…could fill this page…but…again, thanx for the information and sketching and urgings. Entrepreneurial efforts seems wisest, at this time, save the factors that health care coverages are…nearly impossible as a small biz owner. Best.

    • Entrepreneurial efforts have certainly the selection du jour to fill the void caused by recent high unemployment — and, no, the structural part won’t be coming back.  Yet, even there, too many women do not have the natural propensity (or training) to run those efforts as a business … but do so rather as an extended hobby.  I worry about how many real business plans underpin the flurry of activity we see.   

  • Carolmay54

    I am 57 & in a similarly bad financial situation following divorce from an alcoholic who then went bankrupt. I was also held back by childhood beliefs – but after reading Women Who Love Too Much I have finally seen the light & forgiven both my ex & myself. But my sister is so judgemental……..

    • Unless your sister is going to pay your mortgage and your pension, Carol, ignore her.  She’s part of the “They” we have to let go of as we take personal responsibility and take control of our own financial well-being.  Here’s an article that might explain what I mean:  Congratulations on the progress thus far! 

  • It is stories like these that definitely serve as a wake up call, I am glad you will be there to help her house-mate but not everyone is so fortunate to have someone like you with your wisdom, insight and experience living in their midst. That is why I feel so blessed to have connected with you and your amazing website. Thanks for all you do:)

    •  Denny, I went over this morning to be sure the immediate things were taken care of.  While there, I asked if she had anyone to talk to about the will, house ownership, all the loose strings … plus her path going forward.  She said no.  I said, “That’s what I do.”  And she asked for my help.  So we’re on the first steps of the path …

  • This made me so sad, Sharon, but it is such an important story to get out there. So many women (and I am sure men) have this happen to them. Your work is very important. We need to know that there are ways we can make things easier.

    • Catherine, this is such a fabulous country.  But if anyone thinks “everything will be fine” without some kind of focus and concerted effort, they’re sadly mistaken.  So, yes, it IS an important story …

  • What a hearbreaking but common story. That is why your work is so important Sharon. I applaud you for blowing the doors off something women seldom want to talk about. Thanks for reminding us “young women” that we need to make wise financial decisions to change our twilight years.  

    • Raychel, I remember how invincible I felt … until I was about 53.  That’s when a good smack-down showed me how I had been fooling myself.  So, “young woman,” the earlier you get the message, the easier the effort needed to be truly financially secure … 😉

  • Lorna

    Thanks Sharon!  I just finished forwarding your email with the link to your blog to many of my women friends. I also read your blog out loud to my hubby, but was in tears before I finished! This is a story that should be forward to the politicians who say “there is safety net for the poor”.

    Thanks so much for all you do!  You have so much to share, and do it in such a powerful way.

    • Lorna, what compounds the lack of a true safety net is that the family unit has disintegrated.  We’re far more likely to be fending for ourselves, perhaps with the help of a child or sibling.  But it’s not the same as having an active extended family, where caring for someone could be a shared endeavor.  And with all the Boomers coming along, I hate to even think about it … but I do.  

  • At times people need hear stories like this Sharon, you are doing a great job helping so many people to get their finances sorted. It is such a sad story and money is spiritual, as without money we can’t live the life we are meant to live. Without finances we can’t even by medicine and pay for the doctor, and so keep our spirits high and happy.

    • Solvita, for a large part of the population, “money is spiritual” is so far beyond their imagination.  They’d love to be in the position to reflect on it.  But it is too much of a master, a part of closing the month, worrying about the unforeseen, the “what ifs.”  That’s why it’s so important to get the role of money into perspective and under control as early as possible …

  • marveen1

    I agree with Solvita, some times we need to hear these stores. Very sobering reminder. My mom is the same age as Sandy and it really hurts to think she could be in the same situation.
    I think every woman needs to take cahrge of her finaces and know what is going on with them rahter than leave it up to the husband or luck.
    Thanks for bring good ideas to make a shift in this area!

    • MarVeena, I don’t know what your relationship is with your mother, but if you haven’t had “money conversations” with her all along over the years, you might want to start now.  I know they’re never easy … but neither are surprises.  And I know you have such an enlightened way of looking at money …

  • Nancy Tierney

    Ah, great, insightful post. Thank you for sharing it… and your passion for what you do.

  • Lori

    Wow! That hit home for me! I am sorry to hear about Sandy. 🙁

  • Good article Sharon, thanks for sharing it!

  • Sharon, I’ve seen quite a few “Sandy”s in my neighborhood’s Publix with stories quite similar. Still many of us are not awaken. Great awakening should be underway..thanks for spreading it!

    • SharonODay

       Claudia, every so often events like this happen … and it’s another wake-up call, especially for those left behind.  But unfortunately, as you say, not enough women are awakened.

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  • What a touching and moving story Sharon – thank you for helping to raise awareness of those who are less fortunate and less informed. Poverty amongst the our elderly population in the UK is a similar social problem with many people living out their days in a very sad state.

    • My hope, Carolyn, is that stories such as Sandy’s will motivate younger women to get serious about taking care of themselves financially. Yes, it means a few sacrifices and life is already full of them (especially in this economy). But that plight is pretty irreversible if they let themselves get to that age in that state of financial unpreparedness.