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The Never ending struggle Between Saving and Spending
Old 10-18-2015, 11:52 AM   #1
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The Never ending struggle Between Saving and Spending

Many posters here talk about trying to balance saving and spending. Such as saving now to spend later or spending now to enjoy the moment.

I am personally involved in a family matter that seems to point to the fact that this issue is almost always about more then money.


My DF ran away from home in PA at the age of 16 in the mid-40's he lied about his age and enlisted in the service where he spent over 20 years. At the end of his hitch he moved our family out West, 2000 miles from where he grew up. We had very sporadic contact with his family seeing them perhaps twice in my entire childhood. He came from a large Catholic family with many area ties, but never spoke about them to anybody in my family.I have sporadic e-mail contact with one cousin and don't know or speak to the others.

In May, I received a letter from a lawyer in PA. A first cousin had died at the age of 76, he had no living parents, his spouse passed in '87, he had no children and was an only child. He also had no will. According to PA state law his money would pass to all blood Aunts and Uncles in equal shares, if the Uncle or Aunt was deceased (as in my case) the share would be split equally between their children. ( the first cousins). The paperwork asked for some identifying info, such as DOB, SS number and legal name and address. I sent it off and never thought about it again, as there would be many Aunts and Uncles on both sides of his family...

I googled my cousin and found he worked for Mack truck. My emailing cousin told me the deceased cousin lived in a very small home that had a leaky roof and water problems , damp and cold resulting in mold and other problems that probably contributed to my cousins late life illness and death.

I didn't give the matter a lot of thought, just thought in passing it was sad he didn't have anyone to leave his last remaining possessions to.

Thursday I received a large packet, around 100 pages pertaining to my cousins estate and the settlement. After 3 minutes of reading I was in tears.
He left an estate of over 600K.

It consisted of cash and more cash all invested in CD's either IRA or after-tax money in local banks..several uncashed pension checks.. his pension from Mack truck was 575.00 a month

A few savings bonds.

A house worth 60K, virtually a teardown

Large quantities of cash found in his home.

The personal property listing was stunning

A '90 Buick sold for scrap.

50 dollars of costume jewelry sold at a yard sale
1200 dollars of household items sold at yard sale
a few collectibles or antiques sold on e-bay for 3,0000.

and that's it.

As you can imagine there are lots of fees and commissions involved in settling this big can of worms. The state of PA took 70K in taxes. There were 12 Aunts and Uncles...so after our 1/12 is split 3 ways my sibs and I each get 13K...
this enclosed a complete family tree from both with the disclosure paperwork. It looks as though there were perhaps 2 dozen first cousins all living within about a 5 or 10 mile area where these families are located. Over 95% of the address are local. How is it that my cousin had no one he felt good about leaving his money too? How is it that he probably was obviously struggling with some mental health issues and no family noticed? He lived alone for almost 30 years did he ever get an invite to someone's Thanksgiving or Easter dinner.

I have no idea what I will do with this money once I get the check in my hand. I'm pretty certain my cousin accumulated this cash through severe self deprivation. He was so intense about hoarding and yet made no effort to figure out what would happen when he was gone. How is it that so many people seem to struggle with money and what is represents? And most importantly, how do we check our own attitudes toward money and see that they stay balanced?
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Old 10-18-2015, 12:24 PM   #2
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This is a sad story. Since you didn't know the cousin, you can't know his reasons/motivation for hoarding cash... but perhaps it has roots in whatever reason your dad had for getting the heck away from his family.

We're dealing with the last bits of my husband's grandparents estate and are seeing an amazing amount of disfunction amoung the aunts/uncles involved. A few of the parties have already died - and were intestate... but the survivors seem to think the rules can be made up rather than following PA law. (Yes, this is PA also.).
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Old 10-18-2015, 12:41 PM   #3
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It reminds me a lot of how I lived when I was younger and still working except I didn't own a house that could run down, and due to constant re-locations I could never accumulate a bunch of junk. I can understand that regard for money. Make it. Save it. Never spend it. Today is taking care of itself. It's tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow that I need to fear. People? Family? Friends? They will not be there for you when you need help. Either from indifference or being caught up in their own lives. With money you can buy what you need. Of course when that is your main focus it can become your only focus. Then you can't see those opportunities to actually spend it for your own good.


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How is it that my cousin had no one he felt good about leaving his money too?
I am not unfamiliar with this. Maybe he didn't really know any of them well enough to know who might qualify as deserving? Or maybe it was mind-over-matter? He didn't mind so they didn't matter and vice versa.


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How is it that he probably was obviously struggling with some mental health issues and no family noticed?
Maybe they tried but gave up on him years ago due to his obstinance on the issue? Nobody likes to think they need help. You can lead a horse to water......

Or maybe at the time they just didn't know he had any money?
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Old 10-18-2015, 03:42 PM   #4
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It appears that your cousin was a loner. He accumulated a lot of savings thinking he will live long life. Unfortunately his life was cut short at 76, and he run out of time to enjoy his savings. At least he was not a burden for any one, and self sufficient to the end.
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Old 10-18-2015, 03:51 PM   #5
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It appears that your cousin was a loner. He accumulated a lot of savings thinking he will live long life. Unfortunately his life was cut short at 76, and he run out of time to enjoy his savings. At least he was not a burden for any one, and self sufficient to the end.
Yes, but at some point is it just about accumulating the savings and being too fearful to actually use some money to enhance your life...I don't think anybody here would disagree that at 76 it's time to think about yourself. We often have posters here say they have plenty of money, but are so used to saving that they don't really enjoy spending it.
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Old 10-18-2015, 04:14 PM   #6
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I agree with what you are saying, however we do not know how our life will unfold. One thing you can control is your money. I believe in having balance in life. Enjoy what brings you happiness, invest in your health, and plan for the worst. My grandma lived until 103, and thanks to her accumulated savings she was able to stay at her own house. For the last 15 years of her life she had living in caretaker, and she was in charge of her life to the end.
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Old 10-18-2015, 04:17 PM   #7
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I agree with what you are saying, however we do not know how our life will unfold. One thing you can control is your money. I believe in having balance in life. Enjoy what brings you happiness, invest in your health, and plan for the worst. My grandma lived until 103, and thanks to her accumulated savings she was able to stay at her own house. For the last 15 years of her life she had living in caretaker, and she was in charge of her life to the end.
That's a good way to look at it, I didn't know him at all so it's hard have any idea of what he was thinking. Perhaps his biggest fear in life was being a burden to someone.
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Old 10-18-2015, 08:13 PM   #8
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This is a sad story. Since you didn't know the cousin, you can't know his reasons/motivation for hoarding cash... but perhaps it has roots in whatever reason your dad had for getting the heck away from his family.

We're dealing with the last bits of my husband's grandparents estate and are seeing an amazing amount of disfunction amoung the aunts/uncles involved. A few of the parties have already died - and were intestate... but the survivors seem to think the rules can be made up rather than following PA law. (Yes, this is PA also.).

I have an uncle who thinks he can make up estate law to suit his own needs. He claimed my aunt, who had cancer in 1980 and died in 2013 after battling a reoccurrence since 2009, had no will. Yeah, right. I owned farm property with her and my uncle kept insisting that I spend my money to do the appraisal and title search and all kinds of things so he wouldn't have to hire a lawyer. He made stuff up. Funny, the will magically appeared when I refused to play his games and explained to him how the estate is handled in CA if one dies intestate.

Now he's trying to convince my cousin to give the uncle his deceased mom's house to keep CA from collecting for estate recovery. He seems to think he can make it up as he goes.


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Old 10-18-2015, 09:15 PM   #9
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When one is 76 it can be difficult to find reasonable ways to spend, by reasonable I mean either things one actually needs or experiences desired. Often poor health results in limited mobility. It makes no sense to splurge on a new car or trip to Europe if one is homebound. I think such people logically keep the money for medical expenses, of which the total amount needed is highly unpredictable.

I've had distant relatives who died intestate with large estates. Some had no idea how much they had, particularly when real estate was involved. "My husband paid only $5000 for this home back in '38." They did not believe the home and its acres of land in a prime location could be worth 1000x as much.
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Old 10-18-2015, 11:40 PM   #10
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Wow, I thought for a second you were describing my cousin, it sounds just like where he is headed.
Except he doesn't have a stash of cash.
He is isolating himself in a dump of a house, living alone.... we know where this is going to end up.

Very sad what some people do.
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Old 10-19-2015, 01:17 PM   #11
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I've seen the same thing on my mom's side. Her uncle had a good blue collar job and scrimped and saved and sacrificed all his life to accumulate a nice nestegg for him in his retirement. He retired and dropped dead from a heart attack six months later.

Another uncle was very similar to your cousin. He alienated most of the family, lived in a run down house, and even though he needed it and could afford it, refused to go to a nursing home because it was "too expensive". He finally had no choice, entered the nursing home and died shortly thereafter.

Both sad... and both the result of a myopic focus on saving and refusing to spend to enjoy life. I'm trying to find better balance... we ordered a new car a couple weeks ago.
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Old 10-19-2015, 03:32 PM   #12
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... I'm trying to find better balance... we ordered a new car a couple weeks ago.
I need to find more balance as well. We need a new car and some other things like major home maintenance/improvements that I've been deferring. But I just can't bring myself to spend that kind of money. I'm only two years into ER and all I can think about are the worst-case financial scenarios, like the in-laws running out of money and needing LTC, or a prolonged recession and significant market pull-back. In my new-to-ER brain, these scenarios seem a lot worse than continuing to LBYM and possibly leaving an unintended sum to the kids. I just hope I find a better balance before the mind and body go, lest some distant cousin posts my sad story on an internet forum. Actually, we have a will, so that's unlikely.
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The Never ending struggle Between Saving and Spending
Old 10-19-2015, 04:51 PM   #13
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The Never ending struggle Between Saving and Spending

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I need to find more balance as well. We need a new car and some other things like major home maintenance/improvements that I've been deferring. But I just can't bring myself to spend that kind of money. I'm only two years into ER and all I can think about are the worst-case financial scenarios, like the in-laws running out of money and needing LTC, or a prolonged recession and significant market pull-back.


Same issue reference fear of spending.

On senior mental health, it is a serious and debilitating issue. It is very often undiagnosed especially in seniors.

I learned that those with a propensity for mental health issues eg, family history etc, often begin to show up in in their 70's.

A family member had some of this in his last couple years. Died at 78 .... Not dementia but just isolation (likely undiagnosed or untreated depression ) and eventually just no strong desire or will to continue.

Some older people just want to be left alone ... Respect that too .... But many fall into a spiral of mental health problems too. Medicare and geriatric medicine are only now starting to address this with proactive and preventive care too.
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Old 10-19-2015, 04:59 PM   #14
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Same issue reference fear of spending.

On senior mental health, it is a serious and debilitating issue. Those with a propensity for mental health issues often shows up in those in their 70's.

Some older people just want to be left alone ... Respect that too ....
There's the rub, if it's a mental health issue leaving them alone doesn't feel quite right either. I don't know my cousin's circumstances , but from over 2000 miles away there is nothing I really could have done. I have visions of him not buying groceries or getting proper medical care, that's hard for me to process.
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Old 10-19-2015, 05:12 PM   #15
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I think these circumstances are more common than one might think. I suspect we all have friends or family that display some of these characteristics. Perhaps not as severe. Very sad.

We certainly aren't trying to save money while retired. Don't feel too bad about spending either.
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Old 10-19-2015, 06:06 PM   #16
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A friend on FB just posted something similar- a NY Times story about a guy who died alone and the search for heirs. He also lived in a place that was full of trash, had isolated himself from the world, and actually had a decent amount of assets. The heirs were mostly dead but some of their descendants really needed the money and to them it was a huge blessing.


I've always taken the attitude that as long as I was saving enough, I could do whatever frivolous things I wanted to with the rest- travel, good jewelry (not by any stretch an investment, but pretty to look at), good scotch whisky. We've been the same way since I retired- as long as our withdrawal rate is reasonable (I want to keep it at 3% and that will decrease in later years when SS kicks in), we can squander what we take out on Business Class airfares.


I think the slide into dying in a house full of trash starts with being alone, and things going wrong with the house that you can't fix and don't want to pay someone to fix, then not feeling like cleaning the house so things pile up. Eventually your surroundings are so awful you don't want anybody to see you. I'm hoping to avoid that type of slide by going into a retirement community if I want/need the socialization.
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Old 10-20-2015, 09:05 AM   #17
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I need to find more balance as well. We need a new car and some other things like major home maintenance/improvements that I've been deferring. But I just can't bring myself to spend that kind of money. I'm only two years into ER and all I can think about are the worst-case financial scenarios, like the in-laws running out of money and needing LTC, or a prolonged recession and significant market pull-back. In my new-to-ER brain, these scenarios seem a lot worse than continuing to LBYM and possibly leaving an unintended sum to the kids. I just hope I find a better balance before the mind and body go, lest some distant cousin posts my sad story on an internet forum. Actually, we have a will, so that's unlikely.
I'm not retired yet, but feel the same way.
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Old 10-20-2015, 09:35 AM   #18
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...and some other things like major home maintenance/improvements that I've been deferring. But I just can't bring myself to spend that kind of money.
Actually, this is an easy one to overcome. Just remind yourself that whatever home maintenance you are deferring will only get worse with time and SO MOST LIKELY COST MORE MONEY IN THE FUTURE.

Car and home improvement are, of course, a different discussion.
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Old 10-20-2015, 09:46 AM   #19
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Also, remember that your Father left and did not communicate to them or to you about them. I can tell you that I would live in a run down house by myself before I would ever under any circumstance contact my relatives. You just don't know the whole story.
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Old 10-20-2015, 09:51 AM   #20
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Actually, this is an easy one to overcome. Just remind yourself that whatever home maintenance you are deferring will only get worse with time and SO MOST LIKELY COST MORE MONEY IN THE FUTURE.

Car and home improvement are, of course, a different discussion.
In most cases you'll pay one way or the other... via a lower sales price or doing the maintenance or updating in preparation for sale... at least if you do them ongoing you get to enjoy them for a while.

Cars are a bit different... I have a hard time deciding when it has become a money pit that the best repair alternative is a dose of the swaps.
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