Editor’s note: This column is a reprint from 2010.
I have a new personal hero. His name is Leonard McCracken. Leonard is 107 years old, was married 75 years to the same woman and has survived, raised kids and lived a pretty modest, but decent, life on no more than $10,000 a year.
When I read this story on the internet the other day I was intrigued by this man’s life. The story was about how Leonard had gotten by his whole life, never making more than $10,000 a year, and his advice to others on how to make that happen.
I was in awe of this man. He’s 107, been retired for 41 years, was married 75 years, raised at least one child (the story only mentions one) and is getting by still today on his own without assistance.
The key to all this, according to McCracken, is to be frugal.
That’s hard to do sometimes. He and his wife only owned two new cars their entire lives, sticking instead to buying used. Having lived through the Great Depression he saw the mistakes others made financially and learned a valuable lesson — don’t go into debt.
The Bankrate.com story said he and his wife never borrowed more than they could afford to pay back from a lending institution and when they had loans they paid them back as fast as they could. In his lifetime he owned 35 homes, having built two himself, and he managed to make profits off the sale of each one, which he wisely invested.
I found several things about the story amazing. The first was how Leonard and his wife avoided getting caught up in having all the “nice things” in life. He said they went without a lot of the things people were buying. They didn’t have the latest, greatest anything — they bought thrift all the time.
Too often we have to have all the “stuff” that goes along with life. The iPods, HDTVs, video games, GPS units and all the other frills in life.
Living without those things may seem like a tough existence, but Leonard got by without them for 107 years and has done just fine.
When he invested money he stayed away from the stock market, instead choosing to keep his money in bank accounts and CDs. Certainly the interest rates weren’t great, but he went the safe route and guarded what little money he had.
We’ve seen the stock market come and go. It has made people fortunes and it has robbed them of their life savings. Some may say you have to take risks to get ahead, but once again maybe Leonard has had the right idea all along.
What I also found was his wife was with him all those years, and he admits she had to be very understanding of his penny-pinching ways, and they were happy just getting by. That kind of a relationship only comes along once in a lifetime and if you let it escape you, it’s gone forever.
In that aspect alone, I’d say Leonard McCracken was perhaps the most fortunate.
In these tough times I don’t know if this man’s story will open anyone’s eyes and make them follow some of Leonard’s advice, but it certainly is something to be taken as food for thought.