Breaking promises

slacktivist tells a not too apocryphal story.

So in this story you have an old uncle who lives in a mansion outside of town.

Your uncle owns the valuable mansion outright, but has little else in the way of assets and income.

He proposes a deal. If you will provide him with money to live on, a percentage of your wages, you will be allowed to move into the mansion when you retire and he will leave the grand old house to you.

It seems like a good arrangement.

The cash for your uncle — 11.7 percent of your wages — takes a pretty big chunk out of your paycheck. But you’re glad to know that you’re ensuring the economic security of your older kin. And in return you have received a sacred promise that you, too, will have economic security in your retirement years.

For years the arrangement goes smoothly. Eventually your uncle discovers that the pipes in the basement of the mansion need to be replaced, and you increase your payments to 15.3 percent. Your contributions to your uncle’s care now take a bigger chunk of your wages than even income tax does, but you still consider this a wise investment in both your uncle’s well-being and your own future security.

Then one day you receive a letter from your uncle.

He confesses that he never actually had the pipes in the basement repaired. The resulting water damage has rendered the building unlivable and it has been condemned. He also tells you that he no longer owns the mansion. It now belongs to DiTech, which repossessed the building after he defaulted on the second and third mortgages he had taken out on the mansion. The cash from that refinancing is all gone — your uncle used all that money to pay his living expenses while he squandered all the payments you had been sending on lavish parties for his rich friends.

Your uncle thanks you for looking after him all those years and tells you not to worry about him — he’s moved into the mansion of one of those rich friends and will be able to live well and party on for the rest of his days.

The letter concludes:

Best wishes and good luck with your future.

Your loving uncle,

Alan Greenspan