Monday, April 4, 2011

Are We Supposed to Feel Sorry for This Person?

I came across a post on a site called which discusses a recent article in the New York Times. The article describes the case of Susanna Wilson of Grass Valley, California. Susanna is 70 years old and has "not a penny" of retirement savings despite having at one point earned an income of $65,000 a year. While she currently receives about $1,400 in monthly income (mostly from Social Security), Susanna has accumulated $9,000 in credit card debt -- what she jokingly refers to as "MasterCard futures".

The article goes on to mention that Susanna is part owner of several tracts of some timberland in northern California. Her house is valued between $150,000 to $200,000, and a financial planner has suggested that she consider a reverse mortgage. Nevertheless for many readers, the concept of an Under Accumulator of Wealth (UAW from The Millionaire Next Door) comes to the mind.

Articles like this one ( and the one about Law Professor M. Todd Henderson: We are the Super Rich ) tend to draw a lot of comments, many of which are, umm, shall we say "unsupportive". Here is one such comment (edited):

Are we supposed to feel sorry for this person because she never saved any money? She lives in Grass Valley in a nice house and has $150K in equity? Can she take a reverse mortgage and get a monthly check from the bank? She also owns timberland in northern California that she won’t sell because it has dropped in value? She never invested any of her earnings over the years… Her choice. Give me a break! This woman is better off than 90% of the people on this planet. For real. Cry me a river. Am I missing something here?

You can see this post and its many comments here. And for reference, I am also linking to the original article in the New York Times: A Reverse Mortgage Can Help Those With No Retirement Savings.

Should we feel sorry for Susanna Wilson? What is your opinion?


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