When Miss Ondia Mae died at 75, those of us who knew her marveled that she had managed to make it to the end of her life without winding up in the poorhouse.
Bless her heart. She was as sweet as any woman could be. But for all the time I knew her, she made bad decisions. I don’t believe that she ever made a choice by looking further out than five minutes. There were occasional times when she asked others for advice, but whenever it went against what she wanted — and usually it did — she ignored it. She always did exactly what she wanted to do and backed it up with some kind of ridiculous reasoning.
I remember the time some 25 years ago when she emptied out her retirement fund to buy a house she couldn’t afford. For goodness sake, she bought one with a swimming pool when she had not even had a bathing suit on in more than 30 years.
“It’s a good investment,” she claimed, overlooking the fact that using retirement money for a house is never a good idea. When taxes on it were due on her annual return, she had to borrow money to pay them. In her earlier years, whatever she wanted, she bought. Regardless of how expensive or absurd. Though she never admitted it, her philosophy was clearly, “Why save a dollar when you can spend two? Charge what you don’t have.”
Of course, it caught up with her. These things always do. The house proved too costly in upkeep for her pocket book, so it ran down into pitiful shape. Her parents died just in time to give her a small inheritance that kept her going for a bit longer. For many years, I watched her struggle as she worried monthly over finding the money to pay her power bill or fix her car. Once when she needed a new set of tires, she stayed home for two months until she could put together enough of down payment that the tire store would sell them to her on an installment plan.
“That’s no way to live,” I thought to myself every time I ran into her and had a conversation. Once, many years ago, I said to her, “This adds so much stress to your life. Why don’t you sell the house? Downsize and do something manageable?”
“Because,” she replied, “I’d have to take a loss on it and I can’t afford that.”
Her reasoning always made perfect sense to her.
As I watched her life unfold, the more she spent, the more I tried to save. I don’t want to be 60, worrying how to pay my utilities because I squandered money.
We all make bad decisions in our lifetime in one way or the other. Several years ago, I had an Internet stock that had gone up in purchase price more than 1,000 percent. I didn’t sell because greed got the best of me. It plummeted to a cellar price, much below what I paid. It ended my speculation in the stock market. I learned a costly lesson.
People like Miss Ondia Mae are fascinating to me because their major decisions are always bad. They don’t learn from their mistakes. They don’t take past decisions into account when making other decisions.
People like this who ask for my advice never take it if it goes against what they want to do. Not me. When I have a decision to make that I am not well equipped for, I call someone who is smarter and has more experience. When someone wiser than I makes a recommendation, I take it. If it goes against what I want to do, I get a second opinion.
Which is the primary reason that I don’t have a house with a swimming pool. But I can pay the power bill without worry.