Mark Harvey — Reader shares how patience, planning, foresight has worked for 40 years


A couple of weeks ago, in an attempt to respond to a lot of folks who were more-than-a-little concerned about their personal budgets, personal debt, etc. I threw out a few ideas that I’d seen a lot of Elders use with considerable success.

The following is an email I received from a local gal about how she does “her thing,” and (obviously!) makes it work. There’s a lot of wisdom here, so don’t read it as fast as you can – let it sink in:

“I was fortunate to have been raised by financially responsible parents. I was taught that you saved first and bought afterward. The only thing one bought on credit was a house or a car. Over the years, I have found that, by the time I have the saving accomplished, the desire for whatever has often evaporated. Another non-essential land-fill-destined item avoided!

“Shortly after I finished graduate school and began my first career-level job, there appeared, in my local newspaper, a series of columns on budgeting written by Sylvia Porter. One of these columns included a point that would round out your suggestions to readers of your July 15 column.

“In addition to the day-by-day expenses, most of us have predictable annual or twice-yearly big-ticket items that are NOT elective but are often fairly large. Porter advised that we pro-rate each of these items and set aside that amount on a monthly basis. That way, when each comes due, we have the funds available and don’t have to starve ourselves to pay them.

“I have a notebook in which I track my funds on a monthly basis. I open the notebook (it’s graph paper) so that I have a two-page spread for each month. The left sheet is for my savings account, into which my paycheck is deposited. In my ledger, I have ‘pigeon holes as follows:’ real estate taxes, real estate insurance, real estate upkeep (yup, a feller needs the occasional repair), car replacement, car insurance, federal taxes, vacation, rainy day. Into each of these pigeon holes I ‘deposit’ an amount each month, that amount being equal to the total annual outlay for items such as insurances or, in cases such as real estate upkeep, an amount that seems doable, realistic, and responsible. When the car insurance comes due, for example, I transfer the exact amount from savings to checking, write the check, and voila! Life goes on, no starving needed.

“The right sheet on the open ledger is for my checking account. On the first of each month, I transfer an amount from savings to checking to cover the following budget items: housing (mortgage, utilities), medical, food, transportation, spending (my fun money).

“This method has been magic for me for the past 40 years. I hope you’ll amend your article to advise your readers about the helpfulness of the ‘left sheet’.”

Sharp, huh? And, as far as I can tell, she didn’t have to purchase any software or engage any loudly advertised agencies to do it.

Do I think this is the only way? Of course not! But it’s one very good way – and did you notice something else? Did you notice the…attitude? The “world view,” if you will?

What I see there is patience and the ability to see beyond the next two hours. She knows darn good-and-well what’s going to come at her and when, so she prepares for it; further, if she decides she “wants” something, then she plans for it, saves for it and, if still relevant, gets it.

If you stop and think about it, that’s a very distinct departure from the messages that we’re constantly given: “Call NOW!” “Rush your order!” “Operators are standing by RIGHT NOW!” “Don’t wait!” “This offer won’t last forever!”

And, of course, there are the social expectations that we’d better have the latest whatever-it-is when everybody else has it or risk social alienation, familial estrangement and, in all likelihood, refugee status.

Right. One can only hope that most of us have aged beyond that.

Patience. Planning. Foresight. Dare I say it? Delayed gratification. And just as an aside, all of that is “teachable.”

So, enough already, huh? We can manage our money, or let our money (or the lack of it) manage us, so I’d prefer the former; after all, I get shoved around enough by my health insurance.

Mark Harvey is the director of Senior Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at harvemb@dshs.wa.gov or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.