Saving Money: The Antidote to Being Vulnerable

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Audio Saving Money Antidote to Vulnerability

I hope you’re not counting on your children to take care of you when you run out of money.  (That is, if you have children.)

Those are values of a different era, where children checked back to be sure their aging parents were okay.  But that era weakened in the 1950s, as World War II veterans started moving their families out of their home towns.  And those values all but disappeared with the advent of the Baby Boomer.

In our culture, as things change we just roll with the punches and try to find a way to deal with what we consider “normal evolution.”

But look at China.  In a country where the government determines how many children its citizens can have – in its One-Child Policy implemented in 1979 – it’s apparently now worried that its economic “evolution” is leaving its old people exposed.  So last week the Chinese government introduced a law called Law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly.  It obliges the children of people 60 and over to care for the financial and spiritual well-being of their parents.

Can you imagine that here?  We’re wondering if our government is even going to make good on its promise to pay out on Social Security and other minimal (but earned) support!  And we think our kids are going to jump in and carry the burden … especially if we were too absorbed in our everyday lives to make the needed effort to save?

Enter Vulnerability

I know how hard it is in our 30s, 40s and early 50s to even imagine that we’ll need help some day.  Or that we won’t have the income and energy we have today.  After all, we’re still invincible, right?

Well, at 53, I got a wake-up call when I lost my home and business.  I had been working and playing full out, never giving a thought to retirement, whatever form that might take.

And recently I had another wake-up call:  I injured my knee in a fall.  As I lay in bed icing it, the distance to the bathroom seemed endless.  And, living alone, I tried to figure out how to get my cats to fix dinner for me.

The next step was surgery.  Fortunately I am surrounded by fabulous friends who took care of every need after I had a piece of cadaver put in my knee to replace the torn ACL.

I had torn and replaced my ACL 12 years ago when I fell off my roof.  But I was still in that invincible stage then.

This time I–who continues to pull all-nighters and who runs an international consulting business doing deals worldwide–felt totally vulnerable.

It made me recognize that one day I will not have the energy I have today.  (Fortunately I have done what was needed to create a sustainable lifestyle, so I know the financial part is covered.)  As I lay healing, I revisited how I saw my life playing out and I’ve make some changes to those plans … just to cover that new-found vulnerability.

Saving Money

I do know you’ve heard again and again that it’s important to start saving … as early as possible.

I don’t know how to transmit to you how important it is to break through that feeling of invincibility and invulnerability … and just do it.

I’m not talking about living at anything less than “full out.”  But I am talking about spending an extra couple of seconds as you make a purchase, whether it’s in the grocery store or the electronics store.  Take a moment and envision what you’d like your life to look like at 65, 70 or beyond.  Then ask yourself, “Is it more important to spend on this item today?  Is the pleasure I get from it worth putting that later-year vision at risk?

What will amaze you is how much you spend on things that bring you marginal pleasure and that you forget about in just days.  Like any muscle, that spending muscle learns to make those healthier decisions automatically.

You’ll still have all the things that are truly part of bringing joy to your life today.

But hopefully you’ll have a savings account and investments that make your later years joyous as well.

Let us know in the Comment section below if you’re able to “see” yourself clearly in 10, 20 or 30 years … and tell us what you see!


Bio: Sharon O’Day fixes financial lives. She is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can have more money, less stress and more joy. With her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategies, they take actions that lead to their ultimate goal: financial peace of mind.

  • Vatsala Shukla

    I hear you, Sharon! I welcomed the move by China and hope other countries will follow suit. We have similar legislation in India now to protect the elderly in their twilight years. From the time I started working, I have always set aside 10% of my earnings in a special saving account with the drawings being used to give me the security I need in my old age. So, the house was bought loan-free and now anything I save/invest is meant for providing for me when I am not invincible but still going strong.

    • Vatsala, I congratulate you for taking your financial future in your own hands and doing so consistently over the years! As for China’s move, unfortunately it reflects the unexpected consequences of other laws — from the one-child policy to moving the labor force to the cities leaving elderly farmers without help, etc. That’s typically what happens for political expediency — politicians making laws that ease their re-election — and our economies cannot necessarily afford the invoice. Personal responsibility, as you’ve embraced, is still the best line of defense!

  • Susan Schiller

    Invincible… I feel like I’m too young to come to terms with the vulnerability of aging, but lately I’ve been forced to face a knee injury, as well. I can barely walk, but at least I can still get around. So I guess you can see I totally relate to what you’re saying here, Sharon!

    It’s hard to project out to 30-40 years, especially with my body already feeling elderly right now. It’s scary, actually, but I know I can’t depend on my children…. not because they wouldn’t want to support me, but because they are getting hit with an economy that is already squeezing out the middle class… and I’m concerned for them, as well as me!

    Today, I’m reading “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher, and although I’m only in the 1st chapter, I’m feeling a rise of HOPE. His words of sanity override all dire economic predictions, as he encourages readers to take charge of their own lives and to create their own opportunities instead of taking the familiar, standard route of depending on a company for survival.

    There are lots of opportunities waiting, but it means being honest with ourselves and taking personality responsibility, even in the little choices each day, such as limiting our spending and increasing our savings. I, for one, needed to have that reinforced today, Sharon – thank you!

    And blessings on that knee… and on your health, energy, and I pray for even more wisdom, favor, grace, and joy. Thanks for your sacrifice of time and the love you put into these posts – I’m very grateful 🙂

    • Sue, I know as I do my therapy that I will regain all, or almost all, the mobility I had. And the energy will come back as well, as soon as it’s not being siphoned off to handle the actual healing. But those moments of vulnerability were very valuable to me, to accept that despite my overly independent nature I’d have to accept some help some day. Meanwhile, I plan to put my Superwoman cape on for several more years … I have lots of teaching and sharing to do! 😉 As for your (and everyone else’s) children, you are right that the middle class is far less robust than it was and things don’t flow quite as automatically from generation to generation. There are far fewer “givens” now. For me, the secret is still finding that sustainable lifestyle that one can afford and building/growing/saving from there. Now, take care of that knee, Sue!

  • Martha Giffen

    Such great advice, as always! One thing we have done, because our parents did it and it was a God-send, is take out long-term care insurance. I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been on us not to have to worry about our parents’ care and how to pay for it. And, yes, they also saved. Here’s the deal. Nobody is going to take care of us. We have to be in charge of our money. Saving is good advice yesterday, today, and tomorrow! Thanks Sharon!

    • Long-term care insurance isn’t the first thing people put into place because so many are struggling to get the savings and investment part going. But it’s the one that can wipe out your savings and investments faster than anything else… when you most need them. So brava, Martha, for being ahead of the curve! 😉

  • Yetunde Daramola

    Thank you again Sharon for this post. A reminder that we ought to save. I had a little savings before breast cancer and divorce. All that is gone now. I am trying to adapt a tithe 10% and save 5% policy again and encouraging my children to do the same. I quite agree that it might be impossible to expect our children to support us financially in our old age.
    Still, I believe that all things are do-able with God on our side and we put our minds to it.

    • I’ve seen with the women I mentor that savings are rarely achieved in a straight line. So if yours are gone, Yetunde, because they were needed elsewhere, that’s life. But as soon as it is possible, even if it’s not the full 5% you mention, put something into an account. Somehow that creates momentum, as if it then wants to grow! And, yes, all things ARE do-able!

      • Yetunde Daramola

        Yes, Sharon, I will definitely do as you have suggested. Thank you.

  • Alexandra McAllister

    Thank you, Sharon. You always have such helpful advice. I think twice about almost everything I purchase. I know it has saved me money instead of doing what I used to do….and that was impulse buying. 🙂

    • “Conscious spending” is so important, Alexandra. Most people have no clue where their money goes … and for some reason aren’t willing to find out. I know you’ve been thrown some curve balls and I’m thrilled that one outcome is you having so much control over your money inflows and outflows! Brava!

  • Thank you Sharon for all these reminders! You always make me stop and think about things!

    • So glad I can do that for you, MarVeena! You do the same for me … 😉

  • Anne Allen

    What an eye opening share–thank you for these reminders, Sharon!

  • I’ve had my own wake-up call – one that started in 2006 and was revisited this past year when I, too, injured my knee. These questions, “Then ask yourself, “Is it more important to spend on this item today? Is the pleasure I get from it worth putting that later-year vision at risk?” are ones similar to those which I’ve asked myself during this period and continue, today. It really helps. Thanks for another excellent post, Sharon – facing – truly facing our vulnerabilities is what gives us power to enjoy our todays!

    • The more I pull out from the shadows and into the light, the more discretionary action I can take, Lisa. This wake-up pointed a bright light at something I was avoiding … that physical vulnerability. I had so focused on the financial one that this one went unexplored. But then … you understand. 😉

  • Norma Doiron ´*•჻.

    Scary to think of your functionality as you grow older. It is a wake-up call. Excellent post Sharon. Sharing it!

    • What was most interesting to me was to face the identical procedure … at different times in my life … and to see what each one brought forth. Thanks for sharing it, Norma!

  • Is it not interesting that starting at a certain stage in my life there was this tiny voice in my head asking me each time when I was about to buy something (mostly clothes or gadgets) “Do you really need this? Is there not a similar dress hanging in your cupboard, another skillet: how many do you need? etc.”
    What I have noticed as well is a real value decline in my earnings and sky rising insurance costs, higher taxes, higher living expenses.

    All the more reason to heed your excellent advice! And look well after ourselves both physically and spiritually to ward off vulnerability.

    Thanks, Sharon, and I would love to see your cats preparing your dinner. Have a wonderful week!

    • I lost that battle, Barbara. They pointed out that their bowls were still full of munchies and if I was hungry I could just figure out how to hobble … 😉 Yes, you’re right about caring for ourselves physically and spiritually … in fact, I thought I had!

  • Tom Holmberg

    As always your posts are a great wake up call to thinking about my financial future. I like the idea of pausing before making purchases and thinking about how it can impact your future financial situation.

    • Tom, we’re so accustomed to making purchases almost mindlessly … sure, we look at how they fit into our present reality, but rarely are we told to do the same for future preparedness. Besides, it seems so darned far off! (Until it doesn’t.)

  • Lisa Wells

    You’ve given me some things to think about. Thank you.

  • Shelley Webb

    As a geriatric care manager, I was astounded to see the law that China just enacted, but then too, I see American families whose children want nothing to do with caring for parents. Yet, they are the first to find out the contents of the will when the parent has passed.

    I also see women who have been divorced and are left without a retirement savings because they took time off to care for the children (and perhaps elder parents) ; the alimony has run out; they do not own their own home and yet their spouse is living a great life because he was able to rise in salary while his wife stayed home. Women have not come as far as they think they have… we are in for a huge problem in this country.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Shelley, about not having come as far as we thought. I was one of the bra-burners in the 60s and get frustrated that the momentum was allowed to slow. It’s also why I’m so focused on sharing everything I’ve learned about money with women who have NOT had a chance to learn. So much is intuitive, natural. But only if you have your eyes open. 😉

  • Sharon
    Thank you for this timely reminder. Thank God for family and friends who are near to help. But I also appreciate your reminder to take care of our money so it can take care of us. My goal now is to get debt free, save more, and spend less. Best wishes for continued speedy recovery!

    • Thank you for the kind wishes, Marvia! I hope you see your journey to becoming debt-free sped up by having declared it so openly! All I can say is that it is a blessedly peaceful place.

  • Kathy Robinson

    Having reached the young age of 63, I’m regretting not saving for my future. I gave up my career willingly to raise my two children and wouldn’t change that for anything. In my 30 plus years of marriage, we’ve never had much money, happiness and love was much more important.

    My daughter has always saved, even as a small child. She has always purchased her own cars. My son has always been generous, which has meant he has lost money when people take advantage. I’ve lost count of the number of cars we’ve bought him. They have both helped us out on occasion, they call it interest on what we’ve given them over the years.

    We move into semi-retirement (can’t afford to completely retire) with no nest egg except our home. But neither of us worry about our futures, we have each other. However I do try to save part of our pension each fortnight and only buy what’s necessary (or on special).

    • The energy that comes out of your comment, Kathy, is one where you have found peace and happiness even within uncertainty. Brava! Having loved ones close by who can contribute (in whatever form) is part of that joy. Still, I’m glad to see you setting aside whatever you can, as you can. Every little bit counts to help bridge gaps that may present themselves!

  • MamaRed

    As someone who has almost nothing in the bank (5 surgeries in 3 years wiped out the bank account and the energy) and is going through a divorce too, I total feel the vulnerability of the now and the future. Taking one day at a time to create a new life and your articles are soooo much a part of my learning!

    • MamaRed, if my articles help you rebuild towards that much-deserved peace of mind, I’m honored! I see such vibrant energy in your writings; if your “deliverables” to your clients are as valuable as your message, you’re on the right path!

  • Robert Manea

    I too have lost a home because of the way of the economy.. we were vulnerable to the elements, but we had a place to go, and ppl to help us.. i also try and teach my kids the value of money, and they sort of get it..

    • All too often we try to shield our children from the events that form our own learning … thinking that somehow they are not strong enough to cope or understand. We are wrong. Honesty … laced with hope … gives them such powerful tools as they start making their own financial decisions. Keep it up, Robert!

  • With even the best laid plans there are always rules, regulations and governments out there waiting to put a pebble in the pathway. Learning how to overcome these pebbles has been a journey for me. Now facing another boulder on the road of my journey to success I’m sure I’ll figure it out once again. I’m just thankful that we had money set back for that rainy day that turned into a hurricane.

    • Ah, Carla, I’m sorry to hear you’re being challenged by another boulder … especially if it’s coming out of an effort you were making to get to your place of financial peace of mind! Let me know if I can do anything to help … even if you just want to talk something through. You know where to reach me, my friend!

  • I agree that you never know when something may happen to you. In fact, I have been unable to work since this time last year. I started blogging full time to help others and to take my mind off of my own problems. It has been a great outlet even if it doesn’t earn me a full days worth of wages. I am banking on the future of my site to hopefully give me residual income for years to come. 😉

    • Christy, if your blogging is serving the dual purpose of bringing you comfort as well as offering others something of true value, even if the momentary returns are limited you will be building a “tribe” of followers who will reciprocate if they recognize that value. Just be sure to keep your eye on how easy you are making it for them to do so …

  • Barbara Becker

    We are blessed with a constant and immediate flow of infinite prosperity and abundance. This is one of the most important lessons I learned in my life.

    • How fortunate you are, Barbara, to have mastered that lesson. I hope you are sharing it forward, because there are so many people who have not understood it …

  • daniele holmberg

    I am sorry for your losses, but I guess that what really matters the most is that you got back up and tried again:) I have always been a huge money saver since I got my first job at age 16 and I always live my life to the fullest. I am thankful that my dad instilled in me how important it is to save money at a young age:)

    • You are indeed lucky, Dani, to have had a strong role model. Saving is so satisfying, but most people never realize that …

  • Tom Holmberg

    Thanks for these insightful tips Sharon! I know you speak from experience and personal experience. We will try to integrate some into our lives early

    • The earlier, the better … as you know, Tom. What makes it hard is that, early on, we figure we have forever … 😉

  • Gertraud Walters

    Good Advice Sharon and I agree with you 100%.

    What to do when you’ve lost everything? The Private Pensions we paid into evaporated, the investments (Property) collapsed spectacularly and the Children are back at Home 🙂 We have debts we can’t pay off during our Life time. And no, it’s not that we squandered what we had.

    Thank God I am alive and well and have not lost Hope. We’re coming slowly out of this season. What I have learned is to no longer lean unto my own Understanding and live in the moment. I am re-inventing myself in Network Marketing , knowing that God’s Promise will carry us through.

    • So many of us have had to re-invent ourselves, Gertraud … some of us much later in life than we would have wished. But bit by bit, if we’re clear on our priorities, we find a new foundation to build on. I hope your choices–and your great energy–will make that happen sooner than you think!

  • Although I have always been aware of this, looking after my father through part of his struggle with cancer was a real eye opener for me last year!

    • I know last year was an eye-opener for you, Anita. You certainly had more than your fair share … so I hope this year is making up for it by treating you really well!

  • Excellent insights here Sharon – I’m sad about what’s rolling out in China but agree with your nudging and educating to save and do what can be done.

    • Thanks, Moira. Their issues are far greater and deeper than most are willing to accept. Playing with demographics can so easily get out of hand and have unexpected consequences. We have our own issues without even touching demographics …

  • Thanks for the kick in the butt!!!

  • My fiancee’s cancer was the eye opener for me and I am lucky to have that at the age of 30 where I can do something about it.

  • Saving is certainly not easy in this economy..especially here in South Africa…and as i have moved through my 40’s the awareness of future needs has grown…it is a bit scary when you think about it…it certainly demands mindfullness is the daily choices!

  • Robin

    Oh yeah, great article… I can’t believe the passive and irresponsible mentality of people who seriously think they can and should make bad choices and be irresponsible because they think someone else will just foot the bill for them when they’re old 🙂 Good article for sure!