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Last to survive

“Last to Die” is a form of life insurance, like its cousin “First to Die”.

But with people dying much later in life (if you’re a baby girl born this morning in Toronto, the chances of you living to be 100 are 1 in 3), I’d like to expand the idea of “Last to Die” beyond life insurance into a cash award called “Last to Survive.”

It can be for any group of people bound together not by blood, but by camaraderie and interest, and “it” can be a joint savings account, mutual fund, or other recognized financial vehicle: that is, anything you can contribute to over time.

Many of life’s most tight-knit groups form when we’re young. High school and university friends. Sports team. Military buddies. Sorority sisters. Political interns. Biker gangs. String quartets. Sous Chefs. Knitting groups. Book clubs. Jewel thieves. Big brass bands.

All it takes is a 50th reunion to remind you just how enduring those bonds are and how regret tinges our memories for not having made them stronger before now. And now, hell, everyone’s getting sick and dying. Okay, not everyone. But when you’re 74 like me, it feels that way, especially for our friends whose old age is not their golden years but their tin cup ones.

Some of us boast morbidly that our retirement plan is Lotto 649. But the odds of any of us actually winning that jackpot are 1 in 14 million. The entire population of Ontario is around that. So, no, you won’t win.

But with “Last to Survive”, one member of your gang of 4, or 40, or even 400, is guaranteed to win. They may not win millions. But they will win tens of thousands or even hundreds of them. Guaranteed. This is the selfish version of a giving circle. (Be sure to consult a lawyer and/or financial professional before you do anything).

All the winner has to do is stay alive longer than everyone else in the group, in the same way that you don’t have to outrun the charging polar bear. You just need to outrun the slowest person fleeing the polar bear.

What can turn this prize into a late-life windfall is starting when you’re young. This means having to overcome the universal sense of invincibility we have in our teens and 20s. You also need to feel fairly sure you’re going to remain close to your group for 40 years or more. I don’t mean ‘close’ as in move in with them, but as in seeing each other maybe once a year, being part of a Facebook or e-mail group hashing over old times, and feeling more fond than foolish on hearing the old school song.

Let’s say the six of you on the first line of your Junior B hockey team all agree at age 25 to invest $25 a month in your Last to Survive fund. That’s $150 per month in total. By the time you turned 65, that pot would be worth $298,723*.

That’s more than a quarter of a million dollars when you and your teammates have reached an age when they’re starting to die.

But let’s say your gang starts this later in their lives. Say you’re all around 40, but you’ve got more money now and each is willing to put $100 a month into the pot. At age 65, you now have $415,796*. And so on and so on.

I won’t go into the math when 5 of your 6 members are gone and stop contributing to the fund. But if the second last teammate left dies at age 80, the last to die would still have some real money to make their final years tolerable and even enjoyable. This is especially true if they have Alzheimer’s and need continuous care, which is a likely fate for far too many of us. Or they need an expensive cancer drug. Or a family member who’s been an unpaid caregiver for many years. Or…

My point is, Last to Survive offers the  ultimate reward for the enduring loyalty of a group of people very important to you. After all these years, they are still your best friends, or remind you of your best years or best times. Now, you can practice the idea of “all for one and one for all” when one of you is still alive to spend it.

One unrelated point: there will be no OG blog next Saturday, June 1st. I’m taking a break.



1. The Darwin Awards. They celebrate stupidity on a global scale. Now in their 31st year, ”they recognize individuals who have contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool by dying or becoming sterilized by their own actions.” Here are this year’s Darwins.

2. Be careful out there. If you think Ottawa is oblivious to the world’s poly-risks, here’s their latest report, Disruptions on the Horizon, about futures we can barely see, let alone manage.

3. Royal Portraits. Very pretty pictures of pretty privileged people. You can catch them from now through August 27th at Buckingham Palace. And speaking of crazy Brits.…

Also, are you impressed by Impressionists? This is your year, too. There are 19 must-see shows around the world.

4. Keeping ahead of AI. It’s moving so fast that earthquakes in the old ways are happening weekly now. Here are some latest: we can now map the human brain much faster with AI because we still have a dim view of how our brains work. Next, did AI just kill classical music? Plus the newest and kulest AI tools. Plus real-time translation in 50 languages.

5. Brilliant on paper. Finally, a book on grand architectural designs that never survived first contact with reality. The Atlas of Never Built Architecture includes works by Daniel Libeskind like his fatal design for the Royal Ontario Museum.

6. There are no depths to which Jill Heinerth won’t go. She’s one of the world’s top cave-divers, a form of exploration even the bravest rarely undertake. As she says: “I swim through the graves of my friends all the time…and that list is well over 100 people.” Oh, and she piloted the first 3D cave mapping device using tech that’s now bound for space.

Here’s a link to the virtual screening of Diving into Darkness, a new documentary about Jill. You can pre-order your $10 ticket and you can watch the movie any time between June 9 and 15. On the 15th, there will also be a Q&A with Jill.

7. College kids go home! Venice and Amsterdam are the world capitals of over-tourism. But a subset of that beast is college-kids-torch-the-town tourism. So Miami Beach is sending a signal to US college kids that it’s over. Maybe Kingston should do the same with Queen’s University’s Homecoming in October.

8. Optical inclusions. First, some hypnotic spirographs. Next, Lego goes wild.

And maybe four years late, how to look better on Zoom. In that same realm, here’s how to deal with seasickness and imposter syndrome.

9. A 100th anniversary mystery. June 8th is the 100th anniversary of George Mallory’sattempt to summit Mt. Everest in 1924. He disappeared in the mist, and was never seen alive again. Wade Davis wrote a book about that ascent, Into the Silence, that won the Baillie Gifford Prize in 2012 for the best non-fiction book in the English language. Then last week, two University of Toronto scientists, Kent Moore and Dr. John Semple were quoted on CNN for their 2010 theory that Mallory couldn’t possibly have made it to the summit, and why.

10. Making tutus for Swan Lake. It’s not so easy. Nor is playing Bolero on one cello by four cellists. Nor is writing a film script without these movie clichés. Nor growing old, especially if you’re a woman.

11. What I’m liking. Two books: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s  An Unfinished Love Story,her marvellous memoir of the 1960s and life with her husband, Richard Goodwin. I forgot that Martin Luther King’s assassination and Robert Kennedy’s were separated by less than two months.

Then, Ed Yong’s An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us. We humans have far to go beyond see-taste-touch-feel-hear.




So join us …in BC’s fabled Great Bear Rainforest…. aboard the National Geographic Venture… on a Lindblad Expedition.  The adventure starts in Ketchikan, Alaska, on September 2nd, 2024, and ends on September 9th, 2024  in Prince Rupert, BC.

It’s May right now and summer is just a month away. Time’s running short to book the trip of a lifetime in your home and native land.

So if you want this summer to be deep and memorable, join us.

Here are the details of the trip.

You can register in one of two ways:

1.  Download the application form and fill it out by hand, click here and then email it to the Lindblad Groups at

2.  Fill  out the form online, click here and your completed copy will automatically be sent to Lindblad Groups and to RamsayTravel.





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