When I'm 85

During the Super Bowl, interspersed between the beer, chips, and car ads I saw an intriguing financial commercial. It features 85-year olds flying planes, DJing at a club, performing surgery, lifeguarding on the beach, working tech support, and fighting fires. The theme song running through the ad is “I’m 85 and I want to go home” – a riff on the famous Jamacian folk song “Day O” (The Banana Boat Song). If you haven’t seen the ad, I encourage you to check it out.

While hilarious, this ad packs a punch. It ends by stating the fact that “Over 1/3 of Americans have no retirement savings.” People are neglecting to prepare for their future. I realize for many of you reading this blog retirement seems like light-years away. It can be easy to put off saving for it when you’ve got other pressing demands on your wallet today. This commercial reminds us that it’s important to think about not just what you want to be doing at 65 (maybe you still plan to work) but what you want to be doing at 85 or 90 years of age. How will you prepare for a future when you are no longer able to (or even want to) work?

Pair this image with Andy Grammer’s reflections in his song 85 from his album The Good Parts. He reflects on how consumerism has ravaged his life and how he might see his life if he looked back at age 85. This is an excerpt from the chorus:

“I don't wanna be 85, singing
‘Oh, no, I think I missed it, I was chasing money’

I don't wanna be 85, singing
‘Oh, no, I got a big house, but my heart is ugly’
You can't take it with ya, and your whip ain't gon' miss ya
So wipe off that window, see the bigger picture now
I don't wanna be 85, singing
‘Whoa, no, I think I missed it, I was chasing money’"

This song feels like a modern version of “A Christmas Carol” or a riff on “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” It calls us to question what motives drive our life. Are we living out our values (following our hearts) or are we on a quest for more and more of what never satisfies? At 85, what do you want to see when you look back on your life?

I think the challenge comes in as we pair these two images together – how do you prepare for the future while still enjoying your life today? Living out our values means that we have to pay close attention to how we are using our money in both the present and the future.

My husband and I are blessed with four grandparents between the two of us. Our grandparents are currently between ages 85 and 95 and we’ve both learned a lot from them. Lately, I’ve started to ask them more questions about their lives – their greatest memories, what retirement has been like for them, and what advice that they would have for us today. What I hear from them is cultivating a sense of balance, spending money on the things that matter (experiences, travel, relationships, etc.), giving generously, and living frugally with the rest so that you can save diligently for the future.

As I reflect on my own life, I hope that what I remember at age 85 of the early years of my adulthood and marriage is the game nights with friends, our handmade Valentine’s day gifts, and our adventures both at home and abroad. Money can buy experiences, but it can never buy happiness. I hope that I’ll be grateful for the ways that we built up a solid financial foundation, diligently paid off our student loan debt, and began amassing retirement savings. What would I change? I’d remind myself each and every day to go back to our values – how might my husband and I use our money in ways that bring lasting fulfillment and joy to our lives and the lives of those around us? How might the money that we’ve received become a blessing to others in our community and around the world? That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t remodel our bathroom or enjoy dinner out – but how can we make sure that most of our discretionary spending is going toward the things that really matter to us and to those who need it most?

What will you remember at age 85 about your life right now? What one thing might you do differently because of this perspective? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know!


On an entirely different note, I was honored to be featured in the Your Money Matters Summit by The Money Boss. My interview on repaying student loan debt is being featured today. I invite you to check out my interview as well as the other inspiring and practical interviews in the series. I know you’ll find this to be a helpful resource!