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Senior Correspondent

I stopped by Winn Dixie on Tuesday, on my way home from a luncheon. As I walked in, I saw Sandy, one of the cashiers there, who lives not too far from me. I caught her eye, just to say hi, and she did a double-take. I was all dressed up, not in the early dawn walking clothes she’s seen me in for the past ten years as I walked past her house.

Over the years, we’ve talked about our pets: a stray cat here, a vet recommendation there. I wouldn’t say Sandy is a close friend, but rather an acquaintance who has shared my life at arm’s length … and I hers.

On Friday as I walked towards her house on my walking route, another neighbor gave me the news. Sandy had died in her sleep overnight. When her housemate had headed for bed the night before, she saw Sandy propped up in bed, reading a good book, so she went off to sleep. Next morning, Sandy was in the same position and her dog was at her feet, whimpering.

Sandy was 71. After retirement, as the years went on, she found she could no longer make it on Social Security. She had never been able to save up much money. So she pooled her resources with a friend and they bought a little place together, hoping their joint Social Security checks would be enough. Eventually even that wasn’t. So Sandy, the healthier of the two, went to work as a cashier at a local thrift store. When that closed after the 2008 financial collapse, she moved over to a Winn Dixie where, at her age, she was on her feet for long stretches at a time. That, and moving large kitty litter bags and 24-packs of beer or soda across the scanner.

This morning I saw Sandy’s housemate outside, feeding the little tribe of outdoor kitties that counts on them for nourishment. She said the coroner hasn’t declared the cause of death yet, but figures it was either a heart attack or a thrombosis, maybe a dislodged clot from a knee injury that then blocked an artery or major vein.

It seems the day before Sandy had sat with a neighbor, and had complained of a pain she’d been feeling in her jaw for the past few days. The neighbor said, “Be careful, you know that’s one of the signs women get of heart attacks.”  Sandy asked the neighbor if she was afraid of dying. The neighbor said “no.” Sandy said, “I am, but only if this pain is something slow like cancer.” “Why don’t you check it out with a doctor?” the neighbor asked. “I can’t afford it,” Sandy answered.

Sandy epitomizes why I do the counseling and mentoring work I do … and why I write this blog. I don’t know many details about Sandy’s life. But she had worked and had retired. Like so many other women, she had virtually no savings. Social Security was not enough to survive on, but she was resourceful enough to join forces with someone else in that situation and did what she could to ensure a roof over their heads, modest as it might be. And when that wasn’t enough, she went out and found a job in this difficult economy. Not an easy one either, but one that made ends meet.

Her housemate said she didn’t know what she was going to do. I told her to focus on her grieving for now. I said I’d be over in a day or two to work with her and see how to create a bridge to some sort of solution. Because there always is one. I don’t even know her name, but I’m sure I will real soon.

How many women do you think are facing this kind of financial reality? These are not “bad” people, or women who were spendthrifts or wasteful. They are simply women who were either never taught about money or were hampered all their lives by mistaken beliefs carried forward from childhood.

Even if you didn’t know Sandy, I’m sure you know of at least one woman in a similar situation. If that isn’t enough motivation for you to get your finances in order, I don’t know what is.

And if you find yourself putting up all sorts of obstacles, get the downloadable (and free) e-book entitled “Busting Five Myths Women Buy Into That Keep Them Scared and Broke!” You can always unsubscribe later. But please use any tool you can so you can get yourself on track for a future that promises financial peace of mind.

May you rest in peace, Sandy.

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