* The following is the second short excerpt from a project I started. My project started as an idea for a book on elder law, estate planning and, in particular, financing long-term care. I soon realized that such a book was vitally important but very boring. Endeavoring to spice it up, I am now writing it in the first person voice from the view point of a man who just died.
Chapter 1 (part 2) My Financial Life
It is ironic. All the things I helped my clients do, I did not do myself. Now it is too late for me but not for you. You do not have to make the mistakes I did. I knew better but, even with my good intentions and knowledge, something went wrong. It could have been avoided. It should have been avoided. If there is anything I can say so that you do not have to go through this, I will say it here.
When I was alive, my entire financial life had for components: my assets, debt, the income I made each month and the amounts of my income I spent each month, i.e., my expenses. All four were interconnected. It was hard for me to get it right.
I do not remember life before I was born but now remember my birth. I was shocked by the violence of it. It was also bright. I remember being afraid only because my eyes hurt but what I later learned were things called “lights.” I was very nervous about the sounds too. My mother was still screaming and the delivering nurse was yelling at my mom. Once clear, I began to cry. Now that I am dead, I realize I should hot have cried. At that moment, there was nothing at all to be afraid of other than breathing with lungs and opening my goopy eyes. After my first breath, I never worried about breathing with lungs again or opening my eyes but I spent a lifetime worrying about money, bills and retirement.
It really began right there in the delivery room and seconds after I cried. In hindsight, I wish I had not cried at all because the loud sound that came from my mouth prompted the nurse to give me my first asset – a beanie for my head. I got to keep it. Mine was blue. Shortly thereafter, the same nurse gave me terry cloth, footed pajamas and a paper bracelet to distinguish me from my peers, all the other babies in the nursery who also had beanies and pajamas. The nursery, that moment when I and my fellow babies owned the exact same property, is the only true egalitarian society I ever knew.
When I was twelve, I worked in the summer on farms of different types doing different tasks: picking cucumbers, cherries and apples. I cut asparagus. I once even shoveled cow manure but that was for free because my family wanted fertilizer for the garden. Paid or not, these were all thankless and hard jobs for anyone let alone a twelve year old. I worked on farms long enough to know I did not want to do it as a career because I spent every penny I made one pre-teen essentials: model airplanes and affordable items related to baseball. A bit older and now a teenager, my monthly income had to increase because my monthly expenses were higher and entirely related to girls.
In high school, I added the final component: debt. My monetary investment into impressing girls was not working very well. I needed a car. It was 1952 and everyone wanted a car. It was the only way I could see ever really doing anything or being anything. My entire worth as a person depended on having my own car. Yet, it seemed like I could never save up $200.00 to even buy the 1949 Maroon colored Ford Coupe. It would take me three lifetimes on my wages to save enough. Of course, I had to have at least the ‘49 Ford, not the ’48. The ’49 was the marc of demarcation, the year in which Ford’s revolutionary design separated the old world, the world of my father, from mine. I was willing to pay more to ensconce myself in the modern world – even if I could not afford it. The ’49 design did not have fenders, the first design to absorb the wheels into the “slab sides” of the car. Fenders was old school and I had to have the ’49. My bet turned out to be a good one. I have never seen a new car design since ’49 with the old world fenders again. I was heart broken years later when I learned that the design had not originated with Ford but a competing company – Studebaker!
My dad was a businessman and saw an opportunity. I had managed to save $50.00 and he loaned me another $150.00 and had me sign a promissory note. The next day I was driving a 1949 maroon Ford Club Coupe.