Saving for a lifetime: Oseola McCarty

Many of us know we should save yet many of us don’t.

We tell younger generations to save so they can afford the expensive things later in life, like investing in real estate, retiring at a decent age, and raising a family. We want them to be able to afford the education they crave, the future they dream of, and just be happy.

Saving can feel like a selfish thing. When you put limitations on your spending, you most likely do it to personally reap some benefit in the future. It can also feel like the reward may never come to fruition. Forty percent of Americans whose household makes $35,000 or less believe they have a better chance of getting $500,000 by winning the lottery or sweepstakes than by saving and investing small sums of their pay. But that’s not the case for all savers.

Oseola McCarty spent 87 years of her life as a washerwoman in Mississippi. McCarty dropped out of school in sixth grade to start working. She was never married, didn’t have any children, and never learned to drive. She felt blessed to have a job, as many black people in Mississippi at the time weren’t as fortunate, and lived a frugal life with a stringent savings plan.

After living a long life denying many luxuries in life, she was able to save $150,000. But at her age, she thought it was too much money for one woman to have. That’s why she decided to donate her money to the University of Mississippi to help finance scholarships for black students.

“I wanted to share my wealth with the children,” said Miss McCarty, whose regretted never returning to school. “I never minded work, but I was always so busy, busy. Maybe I can make it so the children don’t have to work like I did.”

How can sharing the story of Oseola McCarty help youth understand how saving early can pay off big in the end? How does McCarty’s story change how you feel about saving? How about generosity?

Share in the comment box below.


Bragg, Rick. “All She Has – $150,ooo – Is Going to a University.” August 13, 1995. New York Times.  Accessed August 11, 2011. <>

“Oseola McCarty : A symbol of selfless giving.” Accessed on August 11, 2011. <>

“Saving Stats.” Accessed on August 11, 2011. <>

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