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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 23

“So you don’t think that bankers, economists or financial advisors have any better chance of predicting market trends than the average guy, Carl?’ I asked, dawdling along in the slow lane on the short trip back to the office.

He smiled. “Well, there’s also an adage that says, that is you want to become known as a successful predictor of the future, ‘predict early and predict often.’ That way you have at least a chance of getting something right. It’s amazing how many economists make their reputation on correctly foreseeing some downturn or another, but no one bothers to examine their other pronouncements to see how many they got wrong.”

“But investors are still willing to pile into mutual funds on the theory that fund managers will outperform the market. Why is that, especially when management fees eat up so much of any profit? I’m sure I just read that the MERs of Canadian funds are about as high as any in the world.” I turned left into the company parking lot.

“Good question. Advertising and strong sales pitches account for some of that, for sure, but I think there’s something else at play here, too. It’s one thing for a working guy to maybe think a bank employee is better qualified to handle money, but it amazes me how many well-educated professionals are reluctant to do a little reading and manage their own affairs. It may be that I’m getting old and I don’t want to go off on one of those, ‘why in my day…’ speeches, but there’s no doubt we’re becoming less self-reliant. We want to outsource everything. It costs us, and not just in money.”

I switched off the engine. Carl and I stood in the parking lot behind the truck for a long minute.

“You’ve got a point there, Carl. How many guys nail on their own shingles these days? Twenty years ago it happened all the time. People would ask me for advice and I’d tell them, ‘Start roofing at the back of the house where no one will see your screw-ups. By the time you get to the front, you’ll know what you’re doing.’”

He nodded. “That might not be bad advice for some of the younger guys starting their own roofing companies, too. But it’s a good example. Anyway, Tommy, good talking to you, and thanks for lunch. I better get going. I told Alice May I’d be an hour or so.” We shook hands and I walked him over to his car.

“My pleasure, Carl. My best to Alice May, and enjoy Arizona. By the way, did you plan on the Canadian dollar taking a tumble?”

“We bought the American dollars for this trip about six months ago, Tommy.” He grinned.

“So you were predicting that the greenback would appreciate?”

He wasn’t falling into that trap, either. “No Tommy. As I told Alice May, ‘We’ll buy the US dollars now and hope we’re wrong! At some point we’ll need to buy more, and if the Canadian dollar goes up in the meantime, we’ll be glad it did.”

To be continued

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 22

Much as I wanted to pick Carl Whitman’s brain a bit more, we had already stretched lunch to almost two hours. I signaled Lena for the bill and she slid it onto the table on a little tray with four after-dinner mints.

“Another five minutes and I was going to bring you dinner menus.” She raised an eyebrow. “Everything all right, I trust, including the complimentary, as opposed to the complementary, dessert?”

“Excellent as always, Lena,” I answered, still embarrassed by my suspicion of the baklava. I paid the bill with my credit card and left a 20% cash tip.

“Thanks, Tommy. If the Georgia Straight every gets around to including roofers in its “Vancouver’s Best” survey, you’ll get my vote. Wouldn’t that look good in an ad? ‘Thanks for choosing Arbutus Roofing as Vancouver’s Best Roofing Company Seven Years in a Row.’ Right up there with the gyms, bars, restaurants and banks.”

Carl snorted. “Do they really have a category for ‘Most Popular Bank?’”

“Absolutely, Carl,” I told him. “And I can tell you, with the aid of inside information from a son engaged to a loans officer, that one of the big banks reminds their employees that it’s important they vote, but I’m guessing that that may be customary at the gyms and bars, too.”

Lena held the door for us. Our exit was well-timed. The rain had stopped.

“So, Carl,” I said as we merged into the slow lane, “are you and Alice May satisfied that you have enough of a nest egg to retire, or has the horizon receded for you, too?”

He laughed. “I guess you always wonder. There are so many unknowables. Life expectancy. Inflation. Interest rates. Markets. Unexpected expenses. But I’m sure we’ll be fine. We’ve always lived within our means. The house is paid for. The kids are out and successful. We’ve done all we can. And, as I said before, we’ve been lucky.”

“So have your investments become more conservative as you’ve gotten closer to retirement?”

“You already know the answer to that one, Tommy. Short of burying our money in the garden, we couldn’t get more conservative. We’ve got some long-term bonds that will pay us pretty good interest for the next forty years. They’ve kind of laddered themselves over time; we’ve been doing it for so long. If interest rates went up dramatically, we’d lose some nominal value and some purchasing power, but we’ve got a pretty good cushion. Now if we can just make that mental transition from saving to spending, we’ll be alright.”

“So what will happen with interest rates, Carl?” I figured I could sneak that one in.

He smiled. “Oh no you don’t! As you know, Tommy, no one can predict the direction of markets. I read a good quotation about economists a while ago: ‘There are two kinds of economists. Those that don’t know what will happen, and those that don’t know that they don’t know.’”

To be continued

Copyright: The Award-Winning Tommy Torchon Roofing Blog

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 21

Against my better judgment I took a sip of coffee, wondering fleetingly if this was my fourth or my fifth cup today. I thought I’d successfully cut back to two a day a couple of months back. Still, I didn’t want this lunch to end just yet.

“The horizon recedes,” I mused. “You always think you need more. So you work away and save a million bucks, but when you get there, you just want another million. Do you think that applies to everyone, Carl?”

“To one degree or another, Tommy. But maybe everyone’s reasons aren’t the same. I think if money was tight as you grew up, or maybe if you lived through a depression, like our grandparents did, it’s reasonable for a person to think that the good times won’t last forever, and maybe it would be a smart idea to salt away every penny you can.”

I nodded. “I can see that, all right. My parents were kids during the depression, and they spent their whole adult lives saving money for the next rainy day. The problem was, when they retired and were comfortably off, they could never bring themselves to splurge on anything. They weren’t able to make the transition from saving to spending. Not that they ate dog food, but they’d go to unreasonable lengths to save a buck.”

“Of course. And really, that might be a lot wiser than the alternative: ‘Live for today and tomorrow will take care of itself’ kind of thing. I guess it’s tough for lots of people to find a balance. But that kind of thrift doesn’t explain a bank CEO that has to be paid eight or ten million a year. I suppose if the boss of another bank made eleven million, the first guy could feel hard done by, but that just seems like a lack of character to me. Then again, it’s easy for me to theorize. Maybe if my pay got jumped up to eight million, I’d be happy for a year or two, and then start looking for a raise. Then quit in a huff if I didn’t get one, and maybe feel entitled to another twenty million or so severance on my way out the door.”

I had to laugh. “You’re right about some of that. A lot of it must be tied up in self-esteem. Over the years we’ve both worked with roofers who were pretty content with their wages until they found out someone else was making two bits an hour more. Then it was like they’d never been so insulted. They’d either fly into a rage or sulk all day, and then bear a grudge against the poor guy that was getting a quarter more. So maybe, deep down, when it comes to drawing a pay check, the bank CEO is just a roofer with an eighty dollar tie.”

“Tommy,” Carl said gravely. “I know some Vancouver roofers who would be deeply wounded if they found out you were comparing them to bankers.”

To be continued

Copyright The Tommy Torchon Roofing Blog

The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 20

“So what’s your solution to that riddle, Carl?” I asked. “How much is enough to retire on?”

“I really don’t know, Tommy, and not for lack of thinking about it. Enough to live comfortably for the rest of your days? I actually had a chance to put that question to a bona fide expert who is a neighbour of mine. She’s a retirement planner who has just retired. Who better to know?”

“And her answer was…?” I was anxious to hear this.

“She was definitive, Tommy. She looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Carl, it depends.”

Lena took advantage of the brief pause in the conversation to slip a couple of portions of baklava in front of us. “On the house, gents. Courtesy of the kitchen, for Vancouver’s favourite roofers, in gratitude for their constructive criticism of the cuisine. Enjoy.”

Ungraciously, I eyeballed the comped dessert with suspicion. I was a Panos regular and this was a first. I looked up at Lena, maybe a bit too quizzically.

“Eat it, Tommy, you ingrate!” Then her tone softened. “New policy. When the place is clearing out after lunch we like to keep a couple of tables occupied for show. Ordinarily that wouldn’t have applied to you, here in the back, but none of those guys in the front window has ever left anything but a bare minimum tip. Deadbeats.”

I poked a fork in tentatively. Lena crossed her arms; Carl looked on expectantly. The phyllo had a perfect flake. I put the fork down.

“It’s wonderful baklava, Lena,” I admitted. “And I apologize for doubting you.”

Carl looked relieved, took a bite and made an appreciative noise as Lena watched him.

“Cool, I get to practice my line again,” she laughed, “How… are… those… first-bites-tasting?” She didn’t stick around for a response.

“Well, there’s that question, Carl. What’s the correct foodie response?”

I watched the same show Lena did,” he smiled. “The diner does not say, ‘Really good’ or ‘delicious.’ He says something grammatically convoluted like, ‘I’m really enjoying what I’m tasting right now.’ Or if he’s under twenty-five, ‘Awesome!”

“Well, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up. Now, did your neighbour share any insights on her own retirement readiness?”

“No she didn’t, Tommy, except that she admitted to being in her mid-seventies and wanting to move to Nova Scotia to be near her grandkids. I got the impression she’d probably look for a part time job there, just to keep her hand in.”

“Nothing else at all?”

“Well, now that you mention it, there was one other thing. She said there was a secret that all retirement planners share. You don’t lose any clients by successfully planning their retirement. She said, ‘Just like in real life, as you move toward it, the horizon recedes.”

To be continued

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 19

“Well,” I reflected. “They say that lessons learned in childhood last a lifetime, but if those are Warren Buffett’s ideas on nutrition, maybe he should have revised them along the way. Of course, if he’s 85 and still going strong, who’s to say?”

Carl nodded and put down his fork. “Or maybe just because you’re an expert in one field, it doesn’t mean your opinions are worth a darn in others. I’m a flat roofer, but neighbours sometimes ask me for advice on their shingle roofs. They might as well be asking me take out their gall bladders. Mind you, come to think of it, I might be selling Warren a little short here, on his roofing expertise. He bought Johns Manville pretty cheap a few years ago, and they’re one of the biggest manufacturers of roofing membranes and insulation, but I’ve never read that he learned everything he needed to know about roofing materials by age five, or that he offered to help re-roof the neighbour’s bungalow with laminate shingles. And I can’t recall any pithy homilies on roofing that he’s shared with the investment world.”

“So Warren Buffett’s investment expertise aside, you’re not tempted by the stock market, Carl? Even though, in the long term, you know that equities return more than fixed income?”

“Absolutely not, Tommy. Some of it may just be habit. Some of it may be risk aversion. After all, you reach a certain age and capital preservation becomes more important. I really started to think about it a few years ago. There was a shyster in Victoria at the time, took a bunch of middle class people for millions in a Ponzi scheme dressed up as an investment. But what really struck me was the evidence of one of the victims. He was in his sixties and went on about how he and his wife had had enough money for a comfortable retirement, and now this con artist had ruined their lives. I mean, you can feel sorry for the poor guy to a point, but somewhere in there his greed got the best of him. And it’s not like this man was an exception. It seems that, for most people, enough is never enough.”

Carl’s story had given me time to gain valuable ground on him in working through the lunch special. I felt I could ease up and rejoin the conversation.

“I know what you’re talking about. The business sections in the weekend papers are full of thoughtful analyses about how much you need to retire, and three columns later, the answer is ‘well, it depends.’ And then there are those great online calculators where you punch in about six variables like your life expectancy and a couple of percentages for what you think inflation and interest rates will be, the slope of your roof expressed as a fraction, and the gas consumption of your second last car, and it shoots out an answer like, “You will need to save an additional $76,403 a year until you are 83 years old.”

“Yes, I’ve tried a couple of those calculators myself. If you want to feel better about your retirement prospects, you just have to change your life expectancy to two more years and your projected rate of return to 25%, and you’ll be declared ‘five star retirement ready’ right now.”

To be continued

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 18

As Carl sorted the silverware and started his Greek salad, I digested his take on Warren Buffett’s investing practices.

“So why not just copy Warren Buffett’s stock purchases and get rich the lazy man’s way?” I wondered aloud.

Carl put down his fork. “Lots of people try that, but it takes months for the news to get released about his stock buys, and by then the easy money, if there is any, has been made. A better plan might be to buy some shares in his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway.”

“Any idea what it sells for?” I hadn’t started eating yet.

Lena came by with the coffee pot and interrupted maliciously. “How are those first bites tasting?” she asked. Then, not waiting for a reply she laughed. “A waiter said that on a foodie show on TV the other night. I guess that’s the new ‘how is everything?’ So?”

“Please tell the chef that this is okay but a Caprese salad with a balsamic vinaigrette reduction would be a real hit with the very best Vancouver roofers, Lena. They’d be making reservations on Open Table and neglecting their re-roofing projects.”

“She’ll be so pleased,” Lena nodded thoughtfully and went on her way.

“About $210,000 a share, last time I looked,” Carl grinned. “Want to call your broker, Tommy? The stock symbol is BRK.A, but that’s on the New York Stock Exchange. I think it’s averaged about a twenty percent annual return for the last few decades.”

“Maybe I’ll wait for a correction,” I demurred. “What kinds of companies does BRK.A hold that makes it so successful?”

“That’s one of the best things about it. Really familiar names like Coca-Cola, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, Heinz, and Wells Fargo. So there’s sort of a human element that people can relate to. Plus the company has kept its headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska which gives things a down-home feel. The annual meeting is like a pilgrimage to the Midwest. And Warren’s kind of a homespun character and gives a speech that ordinary investors can relate to. They auction off a ‘lunch with Warren Buffett’ and that usually gets bids in the millions, so there’s kind of a mythology about the whole thing.”

Carl had managed to finish his salad between sentences while mine was barely touched when the main course arrived. Lena slid the plates dramatically onto the Formica surface. “The chef thanks you for your feedback and says, and I quote, “Tell Tommy that the Caprese with the vinaigrette is so last year. Foodies are flocking back to Greek salad and souvlaki.’ By the way, Tommy, the ‘slow food’ movement is more about the preparation than about you taking half an hour with your salad. Still working on that?”

“Still working, Lena, thanks.” She was already four booths away.

Carl went on, “Plus, of course, Warren is so quotable. People eat that stuff up. No pun.” Carl had already made a pretty good dent in his entree.

“Does he have anything to say about food?” I thought I’d better start ‘working’ on my lunch.

Carl puzzled for a moment, looking toward the ceiling. Then relief came over his features.

“Well I don’t know how much investing wisdom is buried in this one but Warren said something like, ‘My ideas about food were irrevocably formed quite early – the product of a wildly successful party that celebrated my fifth birthday. On that occasion we had hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, popcorn and ice cream.’”

To be continued

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 17

Well, my conversation with Carl Whitman was getting even more interesting as we got deeper into his take on investment. For a man who’d spent his working days with a flat roofing crew, he’d soaked up a lot of knowledge about the world of finance. I also found it intriguing that, despite his consistent success, Carl was still intent on questioning his own reactions and motivation.

We’d spent the whole morning talking about bonds and interest rates changes in the past fifty years, but I had the feeling that Carl had a lot more to say. From the window I could see that it still looked pretty gloomy outside, but the rain had stopped, at least for the moment.

“Got time to grab some lunch, Carl?” I asked him.

“Sure thing, what do you have in mind, Tommy?”

“How about Greek? Panos, down the road, does a nice souvlaki.”

The rain started to splatter the windshield the minute we jumped into the pickup, and I’d clicked up through four wiper speeds in the few blocks to the small, neighburhood restaurant. We got lucky with a parking spot right out front and hustled inside. A couple of other Vancouver roofers were seated at tables, taking advantage of the wet weather to change the routine of ‘tuna on rye’ at a job site. We exchanged hellos on the way to a booth in the corner.

We hung our windbreakers on the old-fashioned coat hooks and slid onto the red vinyl benches just as two cups of coffee hit the table.

“Greek salad, two chicken souvlakis, extra tzatziki.” Lena’s familiar smile was welcoming, and she was telling us our order rather than asking.

I laughed. “Lena, one of these days I’m going to sneak in here and grab a menu when you’re busy at another table, just to see what else there is to eat.”

“Souvlaki, Tommy. Stick with the souvlaki. The other stuff is for the tourists. There was a Surrey roofing contractor in here a couple of months ago and he had the moussaka. Passed away a week later. Seemed like a nice fellow, too, for a shingler.” She shook her head sadly, gave the table an extra wipe and left us to our coffee.

“Speaking for myself, Tommy, I like souvlaki,” Carl grinned. “Shame about the Surrey roofer.”

“So, Carl…” I was anxious to turn the conversation back to personal finance. “If Warren Buffett said the most important thing was not to lose money, and you say that’s not what he really meant, what did he mean?”

“Well, not to put words in Mr. Buffett’s mouth, but he wasn’t talking about every investment being in the black all the time. His theory is that there are always undervalued companies out there, and those are the only good investments, and to be a successful investor, you have to find those.” Carl sat back and sipped his coffee.

So that’s it? Find undervalued companies, buy their stock, and you’ll make money?” I summed it up.

“Sort of.” Carl smiled. “Except that Warren Buffett buys the whole company, or enough of it to have some say in its management, which gives him a big advantage in increasing its value.”

“I’m guessing Warren doesn’t own any roofing companies,” I mused.

The Greek salad arrived along with a coffee refill.

To be continued

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 16

“You think you should have been in equities!” My first reaction was that Carl was kidding me. He had that weird sense of humour that sometimes doubled back on his whole line of reasoning. But he was serious. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in the chair. I had seen that look often enough to know it meant that he had staked out his position, however indefensible it might seem.

“Carl,” I pleaded. “You’re probably the most successful investor I’ve ever heard of, at least on a percentage basis. And now, after fifty years of pretty much non-interrupted success, you doubt the wisdom of your strategy? You’re second guessing yourself?”

Carl shook his head and unfolded his arms. “Naw, Tommy. Not second guessing. Moneywise, I’m way more than satisfied. And I’ve never had to watch equity markets crash while half our net worth gets wiped out overnight.” He paused thoughtfully.

“But Carl,” I interjected, impatiently. “You’re an admirer of Warren Buffet. My favourite Buffett quotation says, ‘Rule One: Don’t lose money. Rule Two: Never forget Rule One.’ Your investment history is probably the embodiment of that advice. Year in, year out, you’ve made money. I’d be willing to bet that eighty percent of investors would be happy to trade places with you.”

He laughed at that. “Let me explain, Tommy. Whenever there’s been a big downturn in the market, I’m fascinated. Despite not owning any stocks, I follow the markets pretty closely. Of course, fifty years ago the average person couldn’t do that. There were stock market reports in the newspapers, but where I lived the papers arrived a couple of days late, so you sure as heck weren’t going to become the first day trader. But the last twenty or twenty five years the amount of information available has just snowballed. Market reports all day long on the radio and TV. Programs just about the markets. And of course the banks, particularly, pushing their mutual funds. It’s in your face all the time, like it or not.”

“So you find yourself succumbing to the siren call of the stock market?”

“No, I’m not even tempted. But I often wonder if I would have been smart enough to have built a diversified portfolio and stuck with my long-term plan when the markets plunged. Maybe I would have bailed. Maybe the buyer’s remorse would have kicked in and I’d have sold to cut my losses. Then the market comes back. I’ve never even dealt with seller’s remorse. And maybe I’d have panicked the first time, learned a lesson and become a canny investor. And maybe not. Actually, I think about it quite a bit.”

“I see what you mean. That’s interesting. Have you considered maybe investing a small percentage of your savings in a self-directed account, just for the exercise?”

“Sort of, but not seriously. And if it wasn’t a worthwhile amount, you wouldn’t treat it like your bankroll. It would just be gambling.”

“But let’s get back to Warren Buffett’s famous warning about not losing money. He did say that, didn’t he?”

“Well, Tommy. He might have said it, but that’s not what he meant.”

To be continued

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 15

“Funny you mention ‘buyer’s remorse,’ Carl,” I mused. “My youngest daughter, Rachel, bought a new phablet a couple of weeks ago. She wanted it badly and saved for it from her babysitting money. It took a few months and I know she made some sacrifices, so she had some skin in the game. She’s using it, but she’s not as enthusiastic as she was when she first described it to me last winter. I asked her about it and she told me that it works fine, but it’s not as exciting as she thought it was. Tech changes so fast that, if you’re chasing the newest thing, you better get it as soon as it’s released or it’ll be obsolete, at least as far as the ‘cool’ factor is concerned. Anyway, we talked about ‘buyer’s remorse.’ She’d never heard the term before, but was actually pretty relieved that it was a fairly common feeling, and that everyone probably has it at one time or another.”

Carl grinned. “Yeah, anyone that says they haven’t had ‘buyer’s remorse’ has got to be a fool or a liar. But I bet, for Rachel, her feeling of regret was probably in direct proportion to how much she sacrificed to buy the phablet. I know that the remorse that I felt after deluding myself into buying the Dream Car stuck with me for a long time. In the course of a lifetime, it was actually a pretty cheap lesson. On the other hand, looking back, it might have made me overly cautious at times.”

“Are you talking about investing now, Carl?”

“Yes, I am, Tommy. Alice May and I have done really well with the bonds over the years, particularly the corporate bonds in the past twenty years, but a lot of that was really blind luck. There’s been a bull market in bonds for at least thirty years. Interest rates have just gone down and down, all that time, with a couple of little blips. So all our long term bonds turned out to be great investments, but no one could have predicted that. We’ve been very fortunate.”

“Well, I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit there, Carl,” I ventured. “You had a plan and you stuck with it. Besides, as you explained to me earlier, as long as you actually own the individual bonds, rather than a bond fund, you can hold them to maturity and collect the interest along the way, even if interest rates go up and the market value of your bonds goes down. You’re the first person I’ve ever met that had ‘buyer’s remorse’ after making a great purchase.”

“I know I’m not explaining myself clearly, Tommy. Which isn’t surprising because I’m having trouble putting my finger on exactly what it is that troubles me about the long-term fixed income strategy.”

I was puzzled. “Well, what do you think you might have done differently, Carl?”

“Maybe I should have been in equities!”

To be continued

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The Wealthy Pinsetter – Part 14

“So how long did it take you to see the humour in the eight year old, oil-burning convertible with only forty thousand miles on the clock?” I asked.

“Oh, I think it got to be a funny story after about twenty years. I didn’t even know how badly I’d been ripped off for the first few months. I was in love with that car and blind to its defects. I kept adding oil and telling myself the smoke wasn’t that bad. Then the manager of the A & W drive-in came out one evening and asked me, really apologetically, too, if I’d mind not coming by any more. He said the exhaust was making some of the other customers sick. And once in a while when one of the roofing kettles caught fire and belched black smoke, one of the tar and gravel roofers would shout something about Carl driving his Chev to the A & W.”

“I’m guessing you didn’t have a steady girlfriend at the time,” I ventured. “Women tend to be more sensitive to those kinds of issues.”

“Your guess would be correct,” Carl smiled. “Anyway, it was a five hundred dollar lesson. Doesn’t sound like much now, but I was making about a buck and a half an hour working for a roofing contractor for eight months of the year, and less than that plowing snow the other four, so that was about a year’s savings. Valuable lesson though.”

“So what ever became of the dream car,” I wondered aloud.

“A buddy told me to take it into the local service station to get an estimate for rings and valves. I nearly choked when the mechanic told me. He also lifted the floor mats and showed me the rusted out floor boards. They used a lot of salt on the roads in those days. The car also needed brakes and tires. He kindly took it off my hands for a hundred dollars.”

“Any other memorable money miss-steps, Carl?”

“Not really, Tommy. I’ve been pretty lucky though. I got into the savings bond habit early, and it was just about that time that I came west and met Alice May. She was the paymaster for a Surrey roofing contractor, though not one of the ones I worked for. She was very big on budgeting and paying cash, though she wasn’t particularly frugal. As far as Alice May was concerned, once we’d put a certain percentage of our wages into savings, we couldn’t touch that, but we could have anything or do anything, as long as we saved up for it. We led a very good life, but maybe we were a little more thoughtful about our purchases than most people. Alice May has always been very good at comparison shopping. It’s kind of a sport to her. When I told her my rule about never talking to a salesman, she looked at me as if I’d told her that I thought rain was water.”

I had to laugh at that. “Sounds like Alice May set down some pretty sensible guidelines. Too bad more people wouldn’t do that sort of thing. Sounds pretty simple.”

“I used to think so, too, Tommy. But maybe most people just aren’t built like that, mentally I mean. We can blame banks and salesmen and advertisers all we want, but maybe deep down inside, we’re all a bunch of acquisitive pack rats. But I’ll tell you the one lesson that’s stuck with me from The Emerald Green Dream Machine tragedy.”

“Go ahead. I’d like to hear it.”

“Buyer’s Remorse.”

To be continued

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