Advice We Can Use: From an Octogenarian

Debbie Hatch  |  Pinnacle Personnel Services


I was scrolling through some past blogs earlier this morning and came across one I wrote back in June 2017.

It’s as relevant today as it was then.



I had finished teaching in Altus, Oklahoma and was flying home to DC from Oklahoma City.  The woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation.  She was 88 years old and flying to DC to celebrate her cousin’s 100th birthday.


She told me, “I’ve looked up to her as a role model my entire life.  It’s good to have role models, you know.  I’ve always wanted to be just like her and I can’t wait to celebrate her birthday! She lost her husband last year. He was 102, they had a long and happy life together. They were married for 76 years.”


I love life stories like this!  Decided right away I didn’t need to work (like I normally do on my flight).  I wanted to listen and couldn’t wait to hear more.  There is great benefit to conversing with people who have experienced more life than you.  We can learn a lot if we listen and take the lessons to heart.


I told her I teach retirement planning and asked if she had any words of advice. She did:


I.  People need to start saving now

“Even when they’re young and even when they don’t think they can afford to save. They need to plan for their own future.  I think they should also remember to be careful – if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”


She’s so right!  In my financial literacy classes I talk about the technical term for saving when we’re younger:  compounding.


Compounding makes a little bit of money invested early, grow.  Here’s an example:

Let’s say my annual salary is $60,000 and I start investing 5% from the beginning of my career in 2020.  I plan to work 20 years so I choose a Lifecycle Fund closest to my retirement (2040).  This fund has a historical rate of return equaling 9.79*

*9.79 is a factual historic rate of return for TSP’s L2040.  There is no guarantee the fund will always have this rate of return.


Now let’s change the example just a tiny bit.  My salary, rate of return, planned retirement date, and investment choices are all the same BUT I didn’t feel that I could afford to save right away.  I waited 10 years before I started investing.



I contributed $30,000 less but I end up with $126,019 less money in my retirement account at the end of my career.  Contributing as much as you can, as soon as you  can, makes a difference!  This example doesn’t even include employer automatic or matching contributions.



II.  They should know that they’ll need something besides Social Security in old age.

“With the cost of living increasing all the time, I don’t think the government will always be able to do the things it does for people, right now.  Social Security isn’t enough to live a comfortable retirement.”


Again I agree.  This woman is after my own heart!


Social Security was never designed to provide a “full” retirement benefit.  The maximum Social Security retirement payment for a person deciding to collect this year, at age 62 is $2,265.  If an individual waits until age 66 to begin collecting, the maximum benefit is $3,011; and if a person waits until age 70 to begin, the maximum benefit is $3,790.  That said, in order to receive the “maximum” an individual would have had to have paid in the maximum amount of tax every single year for the past 35 years.

Some do.  Many don’t.

So, let’s look at a more typical number.  The average monthly Social Security payment for retirees was $1,471 in June 2019.



Can you live on $1,471 a month?  What if you have an emergency that requires money?  Do you have another line of income?  Do you have savings?  Investment?  How are you going to cover the gap between your income and expenses?



III.  It pays to take care of your body.

“What you eat, what you do, that you get physical activity whenever you can.  It’s important to move some every day – you want to be as healthy as pain free for as long as you can.  People need to stay engaged in living.  I take a couple of classes, each year, at the community college.  I’m 88 and have nothing but arthritis and high blood pressure.  My cousin is 102 – she lives alone but she is so active in her sorority, community, and church groups. She goes to an exercise class three times a week.”



I didn’t tell her that my personal retirement triad is, “health, wealth and personal fulfillment.”  BUT the tips she shared with me referred back to them.  We need all three.  Some money, decent health, and something that makes us feel we matter.


What is THE best piece of retirement advice you have ever received?

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