Wolf’s Story: It’s Not About Amassing a Fortune

Meet Wolf, a retired psychologist living in the mountains of Colorado with his wife and many animals.

What do you do?

My wife and I are retired. We have a small, 35-acre ranch here. We make a little bit of extra money with our goats and chickens. I also contract tutor online. It’s a good way to make a little bit of extra income.

What ups and downs have you had financially?

Our financial struggles happened after we retired. We had everything set up and I do have a pension, but then several things happened. We had a massive windstorm with 150 mph winds. It blew out the windows in our car and home, and it destroyed our solar panels and windmills as well. The storm took our barns and threw them into the woods, too. We were well-insured, but that wasn’t enough to replace everything. Plus, this happened in November, and they couldn’t replace things until June.

Then I was diagnosed with leukemia. I had medical insurance, but it wasn’t nearly enough, and I didn’t qualify for Medicare yet. We had thousands of dollars of medical bills, which just wiped out our savings. And then my pension was cut!

All of that took us from a very good position to a very bad position—all in less than a year in 2011.

I haven’t been healthy enough to work, and my wife has been disabled for a number of years. People don’t realize that within a short period of time, you can be really destroyed financially.

Just this year, we started saving again. That’s eight years where we were just trying to fix all of this. I laugh when I hear advice like, “cut back on coffee and eating out.” We completely cut that out.

The bottom line is that medical insurance doesn’t cover enough. I had three visits to the ICU, and we know that we’re not alone. Many people have been through worse. We’re lucky that our house was paid off and that we have a roof over our heads.

What did your upbringing teach you about finances?

My mother was the big financial whiz. She was a school teacher. My dad died when I was 11 years old, but even before that, my mom handled the finances. When she passed away, she left us enough so that we could get the ranch we have now.

She watched everything that she spent. She wasn’t a penny pincher, but she spent deliberately. The only year when she was extremely frugal was the year after my dad died.

As I got older, I started seeing the value in saving. She taught me the importance of having insurance for everything that’s valuable.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?

To set something aside in savings so that you can afford emergencies. Without that, it makes things very difficult. You’re stuck. Our generator recently went out, and we need that as a backup in the winter. We didn’t have savings, so we just had to wait.

I feel very strongly that it’s important to always have something to fall back on.

What’s one thing you know about money now that you wish you knew when you were younger?

That it’s a whole lot easier to save when you’re young than to try to catch up when you’re older. Start saving young, and keep it going.

What are your goals for the future?

Just to be able to build up our savings again. That’s really the main thing. We want to be able to live comfortably, but still afford any emergencies. And as we get older, we know we need that emergency fund more.

We have gotten to the point again where we’re able to do things. We still don’t eat out, but we’re able to eat out.

What does money mean to you in your life?

I don’t put a lot of emphasis on money, except what it takes to be comfortable. I’ve never allowed money to rule my life. It’s important to be able to live comfortably and to be able to take care of your family. It’s a utilitarian thing for me.

I’ve never been into amassing a fortune. And I never will be!

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