Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Got Parents? Keep an Eye on Them!

It is freaking amazing how vulnerable we old folks get to scams and sales pitches as we descend the steps toward the grave. Lissen up,  you young pups: if you have parents, it is sooo incumbent upon you to quietly keep an eye on whatever financial mischief they’re getting up to. If not to protect them (as most of them did for you when you were too dumb to know better), then to protect whatever assets you might inherit or to delay the day, as long as possible, that the old folks become dependent on you.

Here’s what brought on that outburst: Semi-Demi-Ex-Boyfriend called, all hepped up about having dropped something in excess of five grand on an improvement to his 35-year-old tract house in Sun City, a venue that most Boomers avoid like it was radioactive. While the house is ideal for a single person who doesn’t live there year-round, Zillow believes it to be worth $6500 less than he paid for it in 2004.

Here and there around Sun City, you’ll see old masonry houses that recently have been clad in stucco. Most of these get a layer of insulation under the new mud, which in theory should save on power bills.

Welp, one of SDXB’s neighbors decided to do this. Curious, SDXB stopped by to inquire, and that gave the contractor an opportunity to offer him a smokin’ deal if he would just sign on the dotted line before the guy moved his crew out of the area. So now he’s all excited because he expects this will increase the value of his hard tent (his term: a guy with terminal wanderlust, he wishes to spend his dotage in constant motion, using the place in Sun City as a place to camp out during the winter, when the weather’s livable). And it is true that the houses modernized with a layer of stucco do look a lot better than those with naked slumpblock walls.

So now he’s saying maybe he’ll sell the place, taking advantage of what he thinks will be spectacularly improved property value, and upgrade to a better place on the golf course.

Well. This sounds grand, until you think about it:

a) During the winter, it’s a rare day when you’ll turn on the heater. Today as we speak we’re in mid-November and it’s 73 degrees on my back porch. Last month my power bill was $66; this month it will be less. Ditto SDXB’s.

b) In addition to her house in Sun City, New Girlfriend owns a lovely home in Boulder, to which she repairs at the first sign of undue warmth. SDXB either goes up there with her or soon follows, every spring. She stays there until October. He spends most of the summer there, when he’s not hanging out with his relatives at the Hood River in Oregon or visiting boyhood friends in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Thus, when my  power bills run upward of $200, he has exactly no power bills. None. Nil. Zero. Zip.

c) The two of them have developed a love of ocean cruises. They are merrily squandering their kids’ inheritance on wonderful cruises, and having the time of their lives! In summers past, they’ve been all over the Caribbean, to say nothing of the trip to Italy. And just now he’s got NG persuaded that nothing will do but what they must head for the South Pacific. Thus, between the summer home in the high country and the constant peripatetic mode, they’re hardly ever there!

d) SDXB has taken his neighbor’s word for it. He’s done nothing to check this contractor out or to get competing bids. This is SO out of character that it defies belief.

Well. IMHO if you plan to spend the entire year in one of those hard tents and if you believe you’re going to live in it until you croak over, this stuccoing scheme may not be a bad idea. Although God only KNOWS how many years it will take to recover the cost if only utility bills are taken into consideration, SDXB’s slump-block home is fully painted. A new paint job, if it’s done with a decent grade of paint, will cost him two or three thousand bucks. Newer forms of stucco come dyed to the color you please and, in theory, never need to be painted. So assuming that’s true and assuming he lives, say, another 15 to 20 years, he could save as much in paint as he spends on mud. In that case, whatever savings he realizes on the air-conditioning (which could be non-negligible, should he ever break up with NG) would be gravy.

But as a practical matter, SDXB has no intention of EVER spending another summer here in the Valley of the We-D0-Mean Sun. So that leaves us with the question of





IMHO, this is a case where a competent family member — a son or a daughter, for example — needs to be on hand to keep an eye on big-ticket decisions for an aging parent.

Of course, none of us wants to give over our autonomy to the younger generation (or to anyone else, for that matter). And naturally, none of the young folk wants to have to take on the responsibility of riding herd on an increasing frail (and so increasingly annoying) parent. However…it must be recalled that, after all, those parents shouldered 18 years or so of responsibility for the pups. Or, less altruistically: our assets are their assets. Whatever we refrain from squandering will help to keep our kids in the middle class, to the extent that a middle class survives in this country.

So. Keep an eye on us old buzzards, you young thangs.




Author: funny

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  1. But isn’t it his money to do with what he wants? (Even something seemingly nonsensical?) It’s not totally crazy like investing in a gold mine in Tahiti.

    A couple weeks ago I was having lunch with my ex-husband and he was telling me about a situation with his mother that required him to make a big decision about her assets vs. his legacy. She’s 95 and had been living independently until she had a fall a few months ago. While she was physically OK, cognitive tests indicated that she had dementia and needed to be in assisted living. So he found a nice assisted living place and moved her in. Over the past several months he was faced with lots of decisions around her assets, including what do to with her paid-off condo. He considered keeping it, as it would have been a comfortable place for him to live or to keep as an asset. (Unfortunately the condo building did not allow renters or he may have been able to rent it to provide her with an income stream.) However, he was reminded by the family lawyer that he had a duty as her trustee to use her assets for her care first and foremost, and not to think about what he wanted as a legacy.

    So he sold the condo and will be holding an estate sale for her furniture and personal goods. She’ll need to use the money from the condo sale and her other assets to pay for her care, and if she lives until that is all gone then Medicare will pick up the tab. He may not get anything as a legacy, but she will be taken care of, and that’s the most important thing.

    I know I won’t be getting any sort of legacy from my mother because she has no assets at all. I’d be satisfied with just not having to take on the expense of caring for her, and so far my stepfather seems to be doing well enough at that. There is a very slight possibility I’d get some sort of small legacy from my father who has more assets than my mom, but I don’t count on it in anyway. (And I’m glad those assets exist as they will come in handy if he needs to liquidate them for his care.)

    So if SDXB wants to throw $5k at stuccoing his house or pay for cruises, then he can do that. If his children point out that he is wasting money…well, that’s pretty much all they can do is point it out. It’s not a bat*hit crazy thing that would make it necessary to question his mental competence.

    I’m sure that it’s frustrating to see a friend use their limited assets in a profligate way, but sometimes we just have roll our eyes, or bite our tongue, and just stand by to listen to them vent later about their bad decision.

  2. She probably won’t outlive her assets, unless it’s a very fine nursing home, indeed. In my experience, most people fall into a funk and die pretty quickly after being relegated to one of those places.

    By the way…your ex- should check into what kinds of meds his mother is taking. In elderly people, some prescription drugs can have side effects that mimic dementia — doctors are often unaware of this or choose to ignore it. That happened to my step-mother, who at the age of 82 was stuck into assisted living when she appeared to have lost her marbles. Her daughter (my step-sister) went into her apartment to clean up (my father had just had bypass surgery and was in the convalescent section of their life-care community). She happened to look into the medicine cabinet and was amazed to discover row on row of prescription drug bottles.

    When she looked these drugs up, she discovered that one was addictive(!), and several caused disorientation, dizziness, and confusion in aged patients. As soon as she demanded that her mother be taken off ALL the drugs, her mom recovered fully and was able to move back into her apartment, where she lived until the end of her life.

    Yes, you’re right: it’s his business and his money. And as a practical matter, he painted that house when he moved in about 9 years ago, and in this desert sun it’s starting to look pretty faded. The stuccoed houses out there look MUCH better — it really is a huge improvement in the street appeal department, and if he chooses the right product, his house will never have to be painted again. At least, not in his lifetime.

    As for the cruises, IMHO that is the best and highest use of his money. He knows he probably won’t last much beyond 82 or 84, which ain’t much longer. He also knows that one daughter is well set, with an excellent husband and a good career of her own, and the other is so profligate and irresponsible that any assets he leaves to her will be diddled away within months.

    Unfortunately, the responsible daughter lives in another state. The wack job lives here. That doesn’t leave him with a sane relative who has a vested interest in his welfare HERE to talk with, face to face. And I really do wish he had that. If I were his sane daughter, I’d probably advise him to spend that 5 grand on another cruise.

  3. And the “legend of SDXB” grows….Never having met the gentleman …gonna take a guess as to his plan…. He aims to take full advantage of this “improvement” and sell the place. …so he is not doing the “due diligence” as he won’t be around if the craftsmanship is less than perfect. My thought is this is pretty smart….this “improvement ” with the improved insulation factor just may be the advantage that his place needs to net a new retiree homebuyer. As you’ve stated he has had some health challenges AND to paint the place would cost $2-3K…so for $5K he gets a new exterior substrate,,,Pretty smart IMHO…the legends grows….

    • Yes, I think he has that in mind. In addition to the idea that he might be able to sell the house for more than he paid and move on up to a nicer place on the golf course (some of those shacks have been the subjects of serious fixing & flipping), he also expressed the thought that the improvement could increase the property value for his daughters, once he’s gone.

      What he probably hasn’t thought about is the fact that if he lives another 10 years, the feckless daughter, the one who has exactly zero competence where money’s concerned, would be old enough to move into Sun City after he croaks over. In that case, she would get a fully paid-off house with almost no overhead — taxes and insurance are very low, and the plaster & insulation job may cut the utility bills, too. That would be a HUGE advantage for her, since she’s virtually without resources. Or she could rent it out and have enough cash flow to put a little food on her table.

  4. My mum is constantly falling for this stuff, whether it be an iPad for $1 or “virus” on her computer. I’ve told her to think about it like this, if somebody came to her door with the same offer – what would she do?

    Since then we’ve had no issues.