Mary K, Inc.

Back in the day, Mary was the one who managed the family finances. All Harold wanted was enough money so that he could do his Lodge and Shrine activities. Harold didn’t care  a fig about paying bills. Mary was happy to do it. So it was a struggle for Mary to give up this responsibility. So when Harold died in 2009, she was already handling the finances.

Three years ago when Paula and I arrived in San Pedro after moving from Mass, I was beginning to see warning signs. Bills were not getting paid every month. Sometimes, bills would get over paid. Since we were living with Mary, I could see the mail arriving every day and see the bills. i would also see piles of mail on the table that would eventually get put into a shopping bag and then forgotten. Sometimes, Mary would write a check then put in envelope and forget to mail it.

To add to the problem of incoming bills in the US Mail, she was also receiving mail from every right wing politician and organization looking for money. Indeed, even Harold (who has been dead now for almost six years) was receiving (and continues to receive) political mail. She was donating money to political causes. Not a lot, but enough to get her on numerous mailing lists. Even dying won’t get you off of the mailing lists. She was getting to be unable to filter the important mail from the chaff. More on that later. My view is that giving money to politicians just encourages them.

So, our goal has been to keep Mary safe and to avoid nursing homes at all cost (pun intended). Paula watches over her health issues, I watch over her fiscal issues. We both are cooks and chauffers. So I have become the CFO of Mary K, Inc. It didn’t start that way but after her first fall, it became clear that I had to do a more active role in managing her finances. Living with her certainly makes that easier.

After her fall in Dec 2013, we took a trip to Wells Fargo Bank. WF is her primary checking and savings account. At the time I was examining her bank statement and found three fraudulent checks written to the tune of about $12k. At the time Paula and I had Mary add us as signers on the account. If I hadn’t been looking over her statements, she would have never seen the issue

Because of the fraudulent checks, we had to open a new account and close the old one. WF has an electronic banking feature that allows me to get email notification on balances and checks paid. At the time, she had over $30K in her checking account. So I moved most of that money to her savings account. My goal was to have no more than $5K in the checking account and no less than $2K. Fraudsters can empty an account in a heartbeat. No use making it too easy.

So over the past year or so, we made trips to the other banks where Mary had money stashed away and got our names added to the accounts. Once again using electronic banking to monitor the cash flow from pensions, investments and payments. The faster I can notice something amiss, the easier it is to get the bank(s) to fix it.

Back to the political mail. Even though I tend to be more leftist in my thinking I would be throwing out mail from Democrats as well as Republicans. The donations are not tax deductible. Sending them money just encourages them to send more mail. There is a large trash can in the mail room. The political mail doesn’t get past the trash bin. We would be drowning in paper if I brought it upstairs.

One more “Mary” story and then I’ll shut up for today. Over the years, one of Mary’s “hobbies” has been real estate. Several times over the years when she came to visit us in Mass., she would go out looking at houses with little intention of buying. And so it went in San Pedro. She would look at real estate. So the real estate agent would call after a couple of weeks to check on Mary. I had to tell him or her the bad news. Mary would not be buying any real estate this time. Though from time to time she would decide to buy. She tended to move every 7 years or so. I don’t know how Harold managed to put up with that.

So not long after we arrived in 2012, she went out to look at some new town houses not far from us. I knew this because she brought home several glossy brochures extolling the wonderfulness of the property. I told her, “Mary we need to talk”. I can’t tell whether you are “just looking” or are “serious”. I told her that Paula and I had just finished a difficult trans-continental move. I told her that if she did this, it would be on her own. She could move, but we wouldn’t move with her. That was the end of that little adventure. As it turns out, the townhouses would have been spectacularly bad for her and us. Stairs are not our friend.

TTFN,

Joe

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