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Outliving your money may not be all that bad...
Old 05-10-2010, 11:28 AM   #1
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Outliving your money may not be all that bad...

Reading about these folks who live to be 100, the term "poor but happy" comes to mind:

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...centenarians derive a remarkable amount of happiness from the financial resources available to them. In a seminal study published in the Journal of Aging Studies in 1996, researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Georgia found that 67 percent of 100-year-olds had income below the poverty line. The interviewers who gathered this data concluded that 44 percent of centenarians had no financial reserves and 37 percent had no money for buying any luxuries -- both rates are about double those for Americans in their 60s.

Surprisingly, the centenarians themselves told their interviewers an entirely different story. A full 95 percent said they had enough money to meet their needs, while 76 percent reported they had "enough to buy extras." Overall, a staggering 96 percent of 100-year-olds said they were doing better than or the same as others of the same age. These expert survivors, the researchers concluded, have managed to adapt successfully to a ripe old age, and they perceive themselves to be better off than their peers -- when clearly objective resources reveal quite the opposite. why-centenarians-are-so-content: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance
Notice there is no mention of the plight of the destitute and starving folks who die in their 80's and 90's...
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Old 05-10-2010, 12:14 PM   #2
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Not to rain on the "happy parade," but I wonder how much of the results can be attributed to cognitive impairment. I don't expect to be very sharp if I get to be 100.

OTOH, maybe being content with what you've got is a big part of the secret of living a long time. There are lots of long lived folks in some Buddhist cultures, and this could be a reason.
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Old 05-10-2010, 12:35 PM   #3
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Overall, a staggering 96 percent of 100-year-olds said they were doing better than or the same as others of the same age.
I really have to wonder how many other folks age 100 they actually know. Or is it more along the lines of Betty White on SNL: "To stay in touch with my old friends I need a Ouija board."
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Old 05-10-2010, 12:37 PM   #4
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OTOH, maybe being content with what you've got is a big part of the secret of living a long time.
I have a feeling that there is something to that, yes. The more you appreciate what you *do* have instead of stressing over what you *don't* have, the better for your health, I would think.
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Old 05-10-2010, 12:41 PM   #5
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Notice there is no mention of the plight of the destitute and starving folks who die in their 80's and 90's...
Yet another financial study invalidated by survivor bias...
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Old 05-10-2010, 01:31 PM   #6
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This study obviously assumes a person cannot possibly live comfortably and happily near the poverty line, but it is entirely possible. Just another one of the seemingly infinite number of examples of our ultra-consumerist society. Especially if these seniors have a paid off house and are unusually healthy, their necessary costs would be really low, somewhere in the 5-6k range, leaving 5-10k for wants/meds (not sure how much meds make up a fairly healthy seniors budget). People with with low "needs" have a lot less to worry about.

One big thing that I think helps someone live to 100, is to know their physical limits. As people get older, certain activities just should not be done, if health is their concern. People who are content with not traveling, going out all the time, fixing up everything around the house...etc (which all results in spending $), tend to live a lot longer, because they do not attempt to do things that will destroy their body. Just speaking from experience, my grandparents both died from doing "household chores" which were not appropriate for their age/conditions (e.g. my grandfather fell off a high ladder...three different times in a short period). Not saying anyone should not do what makes them happy, but certain types of people have hobbies which are a lot safer than others.
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Old 05-10-2010, 03:23 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by samclem
maybe being content with what you've got is a big part of the secret of living a long time.
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The more you appreciate what you *do* have instead of stressing over what you *don't* have, the better for your health, I would think.
Good observations, ziggy29 and samclem. I can't imagine a 100-year-old stressing out because he/she can't afford an Escalade, iPad, designer clothes, or Elton John tickets. At that age, excessive consumerism would be nuts (IMO).

My mother essentially lived to age 98, and was always happy and grateful for everything she had without really wanting anything else. That was true when she was young and poor, and when she was old and no longer poor. Maybe that was because she went through the Great Depression.
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Old 05-10-2010, 03:29 PM   #8
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Looking at my own grand-parents, I can see how people at that age spend little money. Most are probably house-bound (no travel, no need for fancy cell phones, computers, nice clothes, cars, etc...) and most of their money is spent on food and healthcare. My grandmother lived on $500/month in her later years and she was as happy as a clam.
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Old 05-10-2010, 03:43 PM   #9
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My mother essentially lived to age 98, and was always happy and grateful for everything she had without really wanting anything else. That was true when she was young and poor, and when she was old and no longer poor. Maybe that was because she went through the Great Depression.
I think many people who lived through the Great Depression have/had a great perspective on life. I imagine, among other things, it really helped one to differentiate between needs and wants.
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Old 05-10-2010, 03:49 PM   #10
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Here's a picture of one of the subjects answering the survey:

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Old 05-10-2010, 03:58 PM   #11
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Here's a picture of one of the subjects answering the survey:


Funny. He must have some great wi-fi service I bet
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Old 05-10-2010, 10:54 PM   #12
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If I live to 100, and I very much doubt that I will, I will have many more things to think about than money to spend on frivolous materialistic things. If I can shuffle to the bathroom by myself, instead of laying there in a dirty diaper to wait for an orderly, I will be happy. If I can feed myself with a spoon, I will be grateful. If I can still bathe myself, I will feel like king of the heap.

Most people do not spend much time with elderly relatives in nursing homes to see what people in that stage of life care about.
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Old 05-10-2010, 11:17 PM   #13
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Not to rain on the "happy parade," but I wonder how much of the results can be attributed to cognitive impairment. I don't expect to be very sharp if I get to be 100.

OTOH, maybe being content with what you've got is a big part of the secret of living a long time. There are lots of long lived folks in some Buddhist cultures, and this could be a reason.
My former FIL is 96 and totally sharp. In fact, he still works part time, and does a volunteer math teaching gig at a Junior High. He has slowed down physically in the past 8 months or so, but he has the brain of a young man. He still goes down into DC on Metro, goes to museums and speeches, sometimes observes congress, etc. He is one of those guys who is too mean to die.

Usually men in paticular don't make it that far if they are out of it.

Ha
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Old 05-10-2010, 11:23 PM   #14
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My former FIL is 96 and totally sharp. In fact, he still works part time, and does a volunteer math teaching gig at a Junior High. Usually if you are out of it you dont make it that far, especially men.

Ha
My mother was still doing the NYTimes Sunday crossword puzzle each Sunday, reading several hours each day, and carrying on impassioned discussions of various news events when she was 97. I think "use it or lose it" is often pretty important in very old age.
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Old 05-11-2010, 08:29 AM   #15
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If I can shuffle to the bathroom by myself, instead of laying there in a dirty diaper to wait for an orderly, I will be happy. If I can feed myself with a spoon, I will be grateful. If I can still bathe myself, I will feel like king of the heap.
My thoughts exactly.

I felt that way shortly after retirement when I realized that I know a bunch of people I used to work with who now have various physical ailments that prevent them from living the way they used to. One has macular degeneration; he can't drive a car anymore. Another with MS has been in a wheel chair for years. Another, injured in a car accident, can walk, but only with difficulty and in pain. Another has Alzheimer's, and can't even speak, let alone recognize anyone.

So hell, I'm happy I can still walk across the room and get myself a glass of water and I can still spell my name.

Compared with issues like those, how much money is in the bank or what my living expenses are seems trivial.
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Old 05-11-2010, 09:33 AM   #16
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A sad fact is that in my FIL's nursing home, he is amongst the oldest at 92. Most of the residents look like they are only in their 80s, or even their 70s. I am sure that there are some in their late 60s.

Egads! It sure feels like even I myself do not have much time left. I need to take that RV to Alaska, and then to Prince Edward Island, while I still can.

PS. We recently watched "The Savages", a movie about a brother and sister who have to take care of their ailing father. Sobering 2007 movie that had some Oscar nominations.
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Old 05-11-2010, 09:47 AM   #17
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Egads! It sure feels like even I myself do not have much time left. I need to take that RV to Alaska, and then to Prince Edward Island, while I still can.
Be sure to post us a photo once you get there.
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Old 05-11-2010, 10:03 AM   #18
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Be sure to post us a photo once you get there.
OK - test time. Where am I?
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Old 05-11-2010, 10:10 AM   #19
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Umm...
Tower of London?
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Old 05-11-2010, 10:14 AM   #20
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OK - test time. Where am I?
I think the more interesting question is what type of RV is that?
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