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Bankbooks and Financial Records: Things people say about themselves

Officer Canciverra of the Phoenix PD just came by to pick up a checkbook La Maya and I found on the ground during our morning stroll. The owner’s address is in Tempe, so pretty clearly it didn’t just happen to fall out of her purse in the oleanders, 20 miles from home.

Interesting, the things your checkbook says about you. People reveal a great deal about their lives in ordinary, insignificant-looking daily records. Lawrence Stone, a controversial and entertaining historian of Britain’s early modern period, applied this fact with great flair when he produced The Crisis of the Aristocracy, in which he concluded that the British nobility went through a period of hard times near the end of Elizabeth I’s reign. As a toddling researcher in England, I studied Prof. Stone’s work and then, in a graduate-studenty way, tried to go forth and do likewise.

Her handwriting suggests our Chase Bank customer is an elderly woman. She pays $800 a month for what she enters as “cash rent.” You can’t rent much in Tempe for that price. It’s a debit, not a credit, so presumably it’s what she pays for a roof over her head—probably a room or backyard studio behind someone’s house. And that someone likely isn’t reporting the rent to any taxing authorities.

She has a number of relatives who share her last name. She paid airfare for several of them to come to Arizona last Christmas, and one of them received $100 as a Christmas present from her.

Another of her relatives, Donna, evidently was sick and disabled for a long time. Every month our checkbook writer paid $900 for Donna’s healthcare. In February, though, she voided the $900 check. A couple days later, she paid almost $2,500 to a mortuary.

After that, a series of checks are voided and several transactions are corrected, as though she went through a period of confusion and, probably, grief. Donna apparently mattered a great deal to her.

Her last check was written on March 30, leaving a balance of around $32,500 in her account. Ominously, one check is missing between that check number and the top check in her check pad.

I hope she wasn’t ripped off, or if she was, that Chase made good on the forged check.

So it goes. Our little lives are full of quiet drama, aren’t they?

3 thoughts on “Bankbooks and Financial Records: Things people say about themselves”

  1. Thank goodness you found it and not some crook. She may have been out of alot of money. BTW, I really hope she did not have over $30k in a checking account earning very little interest!!

  2. Yah. We think a crook prob’ly had already found it, used a check, and tossed the rest out. Our neighborhood is awash in burglars, particularly in that area.

    It’s interesting that a person would have that much sitting in a checking account, isn’t it? On the other hand, in retirement and old age, your priorities change. I intend to put quite a chunk into my “pool” account — not that much, of course! — to be sure there’s enough to back up the very piddling income I’ll get.

    Four possible explanations have occurred to me:

    * that she may be taking an entire year’s drawdown from investments at once and just stashing it in checking;

    * that smaller amounts are deposited regularly, but she doesn’t spend that much and so over the years that much has accrued;

    * that she was spooked by the stock market crash (having seen something similar much earlier in her life…) and decided to cash out a mutual fund; or

    * that she’s the widow or ex- of a man who managed all the money and so doesn’t know to keep that much cash in an account that will earn something.

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