Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Sunday Feeling

You may remember my elderly friend Miss June. I grew up with her daughter Judy and we have remained close friends as year succeeds to year to paraphrase the old hymn. You may recall that her husband passed away a year or so ago. Anyway, June has decided-on her own no less- to sell the old house on Belmont and to move into an apartment at Good Shepherd Retirement Center. I had actually heard about this before Judy called last night from my friend Mary Kay over in Alabama who posts comments here under the pseudonym Lucy or Lucysgone. Seems Miss June is getting a place next door to Lucy's mother.

The Internet has really flattened the Earth hasn't it?

Anyway, Judy is ecstatic that her mother has decided to move. What she is less than ecstatic about is that June is moving into an apartment that is only 400 sq. ft. Is that because June can't afford a bigger place? No. Judy is a loan officer and financial consultant. She has taken good care of her mother's finances. June has more money set aside than she can spend. She has hers and Oather's pensions coming every month. On top of that, she has a long term care policy that will kick in whenever she has to go to assisted living or the nursing home.

Despite Judy preaching to her Mom until she is blue in the face, June is afraid that she might outlive her money. And because of this she is taking a space about the size of my dining room. Is this because June is crazy or because she can't add? No.

It is because she saw pictures like the one above of people standing in line to withdraw their money from California bank IndyMac whom the Feds just shut down. This is less than a month after they took over ANB up in Northwest Arkansas. Now, a run on a bank is a terrible thing and I know from experience that the FDIC generally is poised to take a bank over way before half the town starts lining up outside the doors. But panics are just that. And they sometimes get out ahead of the regulators.

And the pictures they produce take an incalculable toll on the psyches of elderly folks like June and my Mother who saw first hand how forces both seen and unseen collapsed the financial system during the Depression. Banks failed. Factories shut down. People lost homes and farms. The fact that the banking system in this country is basically safe and secure and that only the investors and those people who are idiotic enough to exceed the limits for deposit insurance will lose a nickle is scant comfort to somebody who remembers going hungry as a child.

This must have been on Mom's mind the other day. Either that or they were talking about the high price of gas at lunch or something at St. Andrews. She told me that she thought she needed to get a job.
Me: Huh?
Mom: I want you to find out where I can get me a little job so I can help you boys.
Me: Mom, we don't need any help. We're doing just fine. You don't need a job. You have plenty of money.
Mom: I'm not so sure of that.
Me: I am.
Mom: Get some paper. I want to write a letter.
Me: Okkkkkkaaaaaaay.
I found some paper and I borrowed a pen from the front desk.
Me: Ok. who we writing a letter to?

She started squirming in her chair. As usual the words weren't coming to the top.
Mom: No. Oh Lord. I can't think. I just want things lined out.
Then it occurred to me.
Me: Mom, you want me to write you a will?
Mom: Yes! A will.
Me: We did that 15 years ago.
Mom: We did?
Me: Yes ma'am. Everything is lined out. Everything is fine.
Mom: Lord, I don't know..........

Judy has thrown up her hands. There are only so many fights that you can take on. There has to be an Estate Sale. There are realtors to consult. There are only so many hours in the day. If June thinks she has to live like a miser, fine. There are worst places to do it than at Good Shepherd. Once she settles in I will take a run at her. Parents never listen to their kids. Maybe she will listen to me. Maybe not.

Typically, whenever a bank fails somebody gets indicted. This is because if you play by the rules, the bank will not fail and the taxpayers will not have to take over the bank. The Officers at IndyMac and ANB ought to be sweating bullets now. Because the Feds will start looking up their asses with a flashlight. And rightfully so.

Because not only is a run on the bank an ugly thing. Not only because you ought not to gamble with other people's money. The regulators ought to come down hard on them for no other reason than pictures of folks lining up outside of banks scare the bejeezus out of the remaining members of the Greatest Generation who hoped to God that their kids would never have to see such a terrible thing.
And they deserve far better than this.

Editorial Note: Many people have been kind enough to call and write over the past week to ask about my health. I am fine and will write more about it later. I guess I thought that this would be clear when I didn't write about being scheduled for brain surgery or something. I guess I was more interested in the process of accessing what my cousin calls "the system" than the potential symptoms themselves as I was fairly well assured by my doctor that the brain scan was mostly a precaution.
But I am in no danger. I feel perfectly well. We still don't have all of the answers but we have excluded the worst case scenarios.
Thank you again for your concerns. It means a lot to me. To those who were alarmed, I apologize. I should have been more thoughtful. That was certainly not my intent.
I'll write more about it soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fear of outliving her money -- every member of the Greatest Generation I know feels the same. I don't know anyone rich enough not to fear.

Bless Miss June for her willingness to downsize. I do understand Judy's concerns about the size of the downsize, however.

I hope in time that June can learn to let herself enjoy more the fruits of her dedicated labor in the nursing profession. Perhaps when the dust settles after property sale, etc., she'll permit herself a larger apartment that isn't so confining. My mom loves her apartment at GS.

By the way, you don't have to be a child of the Depression or wealthy to feel queasy over the lines in front of those banks. But, hey. We're worrying for no reason. We're just having a mental recession, kiddo.

I'll try to quit whining, too.

And... you blew my cover :-)

Bama MK