Money–It Doesn’t Pay to Save (a Lot)

(Photo of Andrew Jackson’s, Ulysses S. Grant’s, Ben Franklin’s, courtesy of And why are there no women’s faces on our paper currency? That sends a message, for sure!)

I tell my grown kids: “Stop stressing over money and worrying if you’ve saved enough.” Why? Sometimes you’re better off if you don‘t show a lot on your ledger. I discovered that the hard way.

I remember applying for credit cards, as a young adult. Because I had no debt and used cash for purchases, stores refused me credit, so my good husbandry (yes, that’s the term for frugality and why is it gender-specific?) eventually sabotaged me.

When I tried to buy my first car, banks and credit unions rejected me. They said I had no history, while I countered: “If you don’t extend me credit, how do I get it?” The same thing happened recently with my younger daughter. I’d refused her a credit card in college (good thing because friends of hers piled up massive debt) and when she applied for her first credit card, after college, she was told: “Sorry.”

We weren’t the only ones burned by our fiscal responsibility.

My older daughter and her husband suffer a new wrinkle in this pattern. They’re underwater in their home (like millions across America who paid more for their home than it‘s currently worth) but they don’t qualify for any government help. Why?

They’re paying their bills.

Yet they worry. With astronomical bills for childcare (they both must work,) there’s almost nothing left for their kids’ college fund. That’s when I tell them: “You’re probably better off if you haven‘t one. Then, you’ll qualify for aid.”

Case in point: I received funds from a modest life insurance policy when my husband died, money that was supposed to last me a lifetime. But as soon as my older daughter applied to colleges (and I submitted my financial statement), schools determined that money was ‘available funds’ for that child. It didn’t matter to them that I had a second child who’d need funding 10 years later or that this money would never be replenished (as it would have been in most 2-adult, working families).

Despite my single parent status and modest income as teacher, we qualified for “No financial aid.” Then, too, I’d discover other galling truths.

That daughter brought classmates home from college whose parents were divorced and who’d filed via the parent who showed fewer assets, so they, too, got financial help. Or they had a special consideration (a parent taught at a college in their network and got free tuition), or they applied as a minority student to fill the quota and got a serious tuition discount (despite the fact the two parents were high-income-producing professionals).

In short, they got the breaks, while I got none. Why? I showed money on the books.

Now, the good news is the second child opted to go to out of the country, to McGill University, in Canada, so with a favorable exchange rate, we made do with the money I had.

I remember a teacher friend who complained that when she came back to the workforce (when her kids were in high school), her husband and she realized little of her salary, for the added income forced them into a higher tax bracket. Then, too, when their kids applied to colleges, they, too, qualified for no financial aid.

As full time teacher, she joked she was doing “charity work.“

I can extrapolate the data further when I project along to old age. When my mother went into a retirement home, she had to “spend down” til she reached the magic figure ($3000) when Medicaid picked up her expenses.

What would more money have given her? A longer period to spend down.

For most of us, our final days will pretty much end in similar fashion. The kitty we amassed over a lifetime will be depleted…the funds will go to nursing homes, medical benefits, etc.

How much we saved will only matter if it’s a Bill Gates kind of fortune. Even then, it’ll be a questionable asset, for more money will buy: A fancier old-age institution where the food is better (we’ll be on bland diets), valet service ( we won’t be driving), and a vista second to none (older eyes can’t appreciate).

At the end of the day, stop worrying about money. If you act responsibly, you’ll weather the many up’s and down’s of the economy and you’ll accrue a tidy nest egg. Most of us found out we had “enough” for the things we really needed…

The rest we never needed anyway.

Got your own thoughts on money? Seen friends who had no money get the breaks? Leave Comments below.

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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