70 years old and still working 70-hour weeks: agency owner never slowing down

“I’m not ready to wind down. What would I do if I didn’t have a job? I’m not a golfer”

70 years old and still working 70-hour weeks: agency owner never slowing down


By Sam Boyer

Maybe it’s the fresh sea air, maybe it’s the year-round sun – whatever the secret ingredient may be, Hawaiian agency owner Sue Savio seems to have found the recipe for a long, successful career.

Savio, 70, starts work in downtown Honolulu every day at 5am, and finishes up about 7pm. At an age when many in the industry have long since wound down and retired, Savio has no intention of slowing down.

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“I don’t really have a retirement date in mind. I can see myself working full time, like I do now, through my 70s, with no problem whatsoever, with these hours,” she said.

“Would I like to cut back, maybe to eight-10 hours a day, in my 80s? I think that would be great. And then maybe in my 90s just come in and harass the office some more but still have clients. I would love it – provided my health and my eyes and everything holds up.”

She used to have an agent who worked for her up until he was 94 years old. And that’s the dream Savio wants.

“If you’re healthy, it’s kind of exciting,” she explained. “Insurance is a good job, it really is. You have an opportunity, when you think about it, to talk to different people every day … you have the opportunity to help someone through a crisis.

“It’s a great job. I really like it. I’m not ready to wind down. What would I do if I didn’t have a job? I’m not a golfer.”

Savio got into insurance, initially, almost by accident. An elementary teacher by trade, her father was an insurance man. One summer, when she was 28, her father asked Savio and one of her brothers to help out at the agency – and then five days later he died from a heart attack.

“So we were left with this agency,” she explained. “Mother thought about selling about. But by the end of August – we started in June – we decided that we were going to run it ourselves. We had six months to get licensed, which we did … and here we are today.

“It was a stressful time, to say the least. I knew nothing. That was a steep learning curve. But we got a lot of help from people in the industry.”

Insurance Associates, where Savio has been owner and president since 1975, is an independent agency specializing in condominium insurance.

And now, with her two daughters grown and working, 42 years later Savio remains as dedicated and hardworking an insurer as you’re likely to meet anywhere. Once a year she takes a week-long trip to New York to take in some theatre, but otherwise she’s in the office – where she hopes to stay for a long time to come.

“It’s just what I do. I’m an early riser. I’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of things to do.”

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