What Money Can’t Buy

What Money Can't Buy

What Money Can’t Buy

There is nothing that money can’t buy!

The man standing across the nursing station was dressed flimsily in a gown that barely covered the bottom of his boxer briefs.  He paced back and forth spitting out nonsensical statements that assailed me as I crouched behind the computer terminal.  I glanced furtively at the desk separating doctor from patient.  Sizing him up, I  considered if he was agitated enough to jump over the barricade and grab for my neck.

I own this place!

He was not so unlike many of the patients I see in the nursing homes these days.  Years ago he was a high powered executive at some fortune 500 company or another.  Now his brain, riddled with plaques and tangles, had succumbed to the ravaging effects of Alzheimer’s.  In his case, he suffered from a malignant form of frontal disinhibition.

You’re on my payroll for G-dsakes!

His decline was particularly severe in the areas that effect executive functioning.  He lost the  little voice that stopped him from saying the most disgusting and visceral thoughts that sprang from his addled mind.  My initial consultation and physical exam were cut short by foul language, and even more foul gestures.

Your money can’t buy me off!

A Lonely Life

His daughter confirmed the history I had picked apart from his medical records.  He was a loner.  Heavily engaged in his professional career.  She also noted that he was as mean as a snake even before his abilities started to unravel.  His wife left him shortly after the kids went to college.  His daughters moved as far away as possible.  The grandchildren had never met their grandfather.

His daughter believed that the only thing that mattered to him was money.  Money that he didn’t even enjoy.  Holed up in his office most nights, he rarely spent the green bounty that he so preciously guarded in bank accounts and investments houses.

He boasted about the retirement he would take one day.  His colleagues humored him by listening, but they couldn’t wait to escape his office and scurry home to their own families and children.  There were dreams about cruising the Caribbean.  A summer-house by the ocean.

But there was never time,

There was always another new account to land.  Another executive to woo.  An investment that needed an extra sprinkling of cash.

Money Can't Buy

The Decline Was Precipitous

He went from boardrooms to examining rooms.  The doctors called it a rapidly progressing dementia.  His title was stripped.  His office given away to a much younger executive.  He became a ward of the state, and his financial powers were ordered by the court to be surrendered to his less  than thrilled youngest daughter.

She wanted nothing to do with her father.  Disgusted by his life choices, she chose a path of simplicity unfettered by materialistic wants and needs.  She had no interest in controlling his money.  There are things that money can’t buy.

After months of losing function, he finally succumbed.  I did my best to make him comfortable.  There was morphine for pain.  There was ativan for agitation.  He received all the comfort and support that his vast wealth could buy.

But there was so, so much that money couldn’t buy:

A hand to hold in his last few moments.

Grandchildren to run around and giggle in his hospital room.

Children to talk about him lovingly even as his memory began to fade.

Live a Little More, Earn a Little Less

I’m not trying to imply that those of us caught up in the financial independence community in any way resemble my unfortunate patient.  We are loving, caring, community building people who mostly are trying to achieve FIRE so that we can live even more.  But I do think the lessons he taught have great importance.

Maybe we should earn a little less, live a little more.

Our FI number is going nowhere, it will be there next year.

And the year after that.


Doc G

A doctor who discovered the FI community but still struggling with RE.

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2 Responses

  1. That’s a powerful lesson. One of my fears is ending up living and dying alone. In Japan, there is a term for it – Kodokushi- and there is a whole industry devoted to cleaning up after the dead after they die alone in their homes. Sad.

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