Pondering purchasing power at 82
Now that I’ve reached 82, I carry a kind of mental actuarial table with me when I go shopping. When I’m considering any major purchase, this table automatically causes me to question, “Are you really going to live long enough to justify this kind of expenditure?”
This is not as morbid as it may sound. What is happening is that my practical side, developed as a child of the Depression when every penny was weighed at least twice before being spent, is manifesting itself.
It also bears upon the always present guilt question of whether I’m squandering my children’s inheritance, and the more worrisome question of do I have enough money to last me for the rest of my life without becoming a burden to my aforementioned children?
My daughter and son show no signs of greed, and they consistently urge me to “Go for it, Mom,” but I worry anyway, because it’s my duty.
Considering all this, if I decide, for sound economic reasons, to replace my old electric range, which has required several visits by technicians and two expensive replacement parts, all costing more than doctors’ house calls and major surgeries used to, then I’m confronted with another dilemma. Do I buy the top of the line, with its virtual lifetime guarantee, or do I settle for the cheaper utility model with a one-year warranty? I have to ponder whether my dear departed mother’s advice to “always buy the very best you can afford – it always wears better” – is applicable in this situation.
Candidly speaking, I notice the ice is thinning underfoot. There has been decimation among the ranks of my friends and acquaintances, and I realize that life is more and more a day-to-day proposition. But, on the other hand, although my mirror image has quite a few spots and wrinkles, I was given high marks at my last physical examination six months ago … “for a woman your age.”
I fantasize having my picture in the paper someday with a headline: “Centenarian Still Producing Gourmet Meals.” I will, of course, be standing in front of the deluxe model stove, which has served me so well over the years. Perhaps, a lifetime warranty is warranted, so to speak.
Furthermore, I also suddenly remember reading somewhere that the late J. Paul Getty’s advice about buying real estate was to purchase the best piece of property one could possibly afford in the absolutely best neighborhood. I realize that electric ranges and real estate are two different things, and that I’m in apples-versus-oranges territory, but quality and long-term return on investment are what we’re discussing here. My mother and J. Paul Getty both had the kind of financial acumen one must respect.
The personable young salesman in the appliance store has no possible way of understanding that the white-haired lady, who is squinting at the price tags on each and every range in the showroom, is simultaneously waging an inner moral and philosophical battle, while bravely trying to look mortality in the eye.
He gives no indication of thinking of me as an indecisive ditherer. He is the soul of patience and good humor as he demonstrates the features of each range. He shrewdly deduces that the one with the electronic display panel, comparable to the instrument panel of a large commercial airliner, is not suitable for this particular customer.
With the air of a solicitous grandson, he confides that the model with the Greatly Reduced for Quick Clearance sticker on it is really “just a piece of junk.” He politely hustles me past it to the sleek, elegantly simple, high-end model across the aisle.
Of course, you know what happens.
“I’m sure you’ll be happy you bought this range,” the young salesman says. “It will give you many years of fine service.” I am thinking it had jolly well better last 18 years to fit in with my plans for my centennial picture in the paper.
“It always pays to buy quality,” he says approvingly. He seems to be exactly in tune with my mother and J. Paul Getty. He should go far.
Lucille Lovestedt enjoyed a professional career as a speech pathologist at the University of Southern California Los Angeles County Medical Center. Since her retirement to Grass Valley, she has participated in a writers’ workshop and has developed an interest in writing articles, short fiction and poetry.
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