First Advice Column Friday

First Advice Column Friday:

There was some positive response so here goes. I thought this was a good one to kick things off:

My wife wants to pay for her sister’s $25K wedding. My future brother-in-law is blue collar — and earns more money than me

Read any other good ones this week?

167 thoughts on “First Advice Column Friday

  1. Not hijacking, just have to lament that I missed Wednesday’s thread. I am finance support for supply chain/logistics and am leading our portion of a major SAP project. I hit all the buttons there!

  2. I can see why the wife wants to pay for her younger sister’s wedding – especially if the parents were able to pay for the wife’s wedding. It’s a gesture of emotional support. I don’t understand why the advice columnist said they can’t afford it given than the husband said he’d increased the inheritance the wife received from her parents. And his income is about to significantly increase. I’d feel differently if the money wasn’t coming from an inheritance from the wife’s parents – but since it is, I can see the wife’s point of view. Not saying I would do the same thing – but I get where she’s coming from.

  3. I got the sense that husband might be the type of guy that thinks his car, boat, woodworking equipment, etc. is a totally reasonable thing to spend money on. But, if his wife wants something that’s just stupid. Sort of a MMM type. And we all know how that turned out.

  4. The parents should have set aside an amount of money equal to the older sister’s wedding price tag for the younger sister, to use for a wedding (or other celebration if she chose not to marry.) But they didn’t. Without hearing what the fiancé sister says about her own use of that money, we can’t know if she’s been as profligate as her BiL claims. To me, that makes a big difference in whether they’re being supportive or suckered in paying for the wedding.

    Also, I’m curious about the sisters’ relationship and age difference. I know of one family where the mother recently passed away and the 28 year old is now taking custody of the 10 year old (which the younger girl’s dad is fighting, for $). In their case, it would totally make sense to me for the older to one day pay for the younger’s wedding, or contribute as she is able.

    Maybe the guy could accept paying some, but not all expenses. The groom(‘s family) is traditionally expected to cover the rehearsal dinner, the shower hosts the price of showers, etc.

  5. I’m sure I’m in the minority on this, but I see inherited money as different from money that a couple earns themselves. I would be sort of livid if DH tried to tell me what I could or couldn’t do with money I inherited from my parents. Similarly, I am not weighing in at all on what he might or might not want to do with the (sadly small) amount that he is inheriting from his mother. By contrast, I feel that assets that we are earning from our own efforts as a married couple are assets that we should both have a say in. Just one person’s opinion.

  6. I don’t know if I agree with that sentiment Rhett. I wonder if he’s just concerned that they won’t be able to absorb the $25k loss, even though it’s not his money to lose. But I take people at face value until they show me something different – so they way I read his message is that he doesn’t want to see the investments drop significantly by taking out the $25k. I think he worries that his BIL will be resentful. And I think he’s a bit resentful that the blue-collar worker makes more than he does (though he doesn’t factor in the savings he has because his wife stays home with the kids…).

    I think they should all have a sit down and discuss the wedding finances. I would talk to them about the $$ gift, and go from there. Maybe the sister doesn’t want the $$ and he’s worrying for nothing.

  7. North of Boston – I agree with you. If the money came from income, it should be a joint decision. But for inheritances, I would at least give extra weight to the person who inherited the money.

  8. Rhode, you’ve reminded me of my blue-collar uncle (dad’s sister’s husband) calling my dad “doc”. It made my mother bristle. There was probably more of a snear and probably some history to it than I realized at the time. The sister was older, my dad used to go home from college on weekends and help out with my cousins (he didn’t tell me that until I asked why they were so enamored of him). I wonder if any of that goes on in this family.

  9. She should help out with the wedding if the parents paid for hers. It’s disingenuous of him to point out that blue collar BIL and SIL [combined!!] make *double* his $60k. But if he’s going to be an internist or pediatrician, I’ll offer a little sympathy. If he’s a surgeon, he’s a jerk.

  10. @NOB – ITA. I don’t know anything about the relationship between the sisters here. It doesn’t sound like the engaged sister is asking for this or begging for cash – it’s more of a thoughtful gesture. I think it’s a very nice & generous gesture that the husband doesn’t really have the right to block since it was inherited from her parents.

  11. The husband now sees the inheritance as a joint asset to be used for the benefit of their children. He may consider spending on a wedding or even a honeymoon to be frivolous. But if the wife gave her sister say $5k to $7k as a gift to help with down payment on a house, he’ll probably be fine with it. If the same money were offered for the sisters wedding dress, he might not be fine with that. I definitely think they should have talked about whose money the inheritance is, from the start.

  12. I disagree on inherited money – IMO it is joint money, just like income. I inherited some money when my mom died and it never would have occurred to me in a million years to tell DW that it was my money and she had no say in what I did with it. It was our money, period.

  13. Although I kind of disagree that inherited money is not jointly owned.

    When we first got married, I had a relatively sizable amount of it. At some point in the hopefully distant future, we will likely be in an extreme opposite situation.

    But if one spouse considers it his or hers, then the marriage is inherently unequal.

  14. “But for inheritances, I would at least give extra weight to the person who inherited the money.”

    Except in this case, the husband was the one who made the money grow since the parents’ death. And I think he may be bristling because his wife sees the total value, not the work the husband did to get it to the total value. If they left it in a savings account somewhere or if the wife was the one doing the work to make the money grow, I’d agree with you. But the gains on the money is no longer inheritance.

  15. All of my alarms are going off with this guy. He’s a doctor who thinks he has some kind of investing genius. He handles 100% of the finances. He doesn’t respect his SAHM wife and is angry at her desire to decide how to spend her inheritance. He sees his wife’s inheritance as his to control. He doesn’t reveal what their expenses are, and whether or not he likes to live above their current means. I’d advise him to compromise with his wife on some wedding assistance, like Louise said. I’d advise his wife to insist on being fully involved in every aspect of their family finances. I was a SAHM for many years and was stunned by how many of my peers knew nothing about the family finances. So many were completely at sea when they got blindsided.

  16. That the wife has co-mingled the inheritance she received with the family finances seems to be a contributing factor here. Now the husband thinks of it as ‘their’ money. IMO the wife should spend/gift the $25k as she sees fit (since it’s ‘their’ money, the $25k can be from both, to stay under gift tax limits).

    The resident is likely to be making at least $150k next year (of course there are less remunerative options).

    Note: DW & I have joint $ and separate $. The separate $ is from small inheritances we each got from grandparents which have been invested and grown over time. We spend as we choose but we tell each other, especially if it’s something for our kids.

  17. To clarify, I agree that inherited money is joint and DH and I have treated our inheritances that way. I am more concerned about the financial power dynamic in this couple and think it is dangerous for her.

  18. HFN, looking at his signature, I think he’s resigned to paying for it, but is resentful and wants sympathy.

  19. @HFN – ITA.

    We have only inherited 5-figure amounts in our marriage, so maybe it’s different. Most of the money has been treated as joint & folded into our other accounts, but we’ve always deferred to the person who actually inherited it if there was something special that they wanted to do with it.

  20. HFN +1000. The way it’s written sounds like he’s been controlling all the $$ and makes me think, what else is he controlling?

  21. I disagree that she should pay just because her parents died before they had a chance to make it fair. My FIL paid for SO much stuff for my nephew. Bar mitzvah, 2 cars and a large portion of college. There is a substantial age gap between my DD and my nephew. We would never assume that my FIL should have set aside money just because he paid for my nephew at an earlier stage of his life. Life happens and people can die at anytime.

    If he is a physician, they are probably going to fine (financially)in the long run. This is a sweet gesture that she isn’t being asked to $, but something that she wants to pay for.

  22. Put me in the club of “inheritance is joint money.” I can’t imagine getting an inheritance and telling DH, “Well, this is mine. You can’t have it.” We also don’t have any separate accounts. I would hate to have to keep track of double the number of accounts. We got married after we were both established in life and each had our own assets. I thought it would be hard to combine all that I had worked for and earned with him, but really combining our finances was one of the easiest adjustments. We’ve had way more fights over his system for doing laundry than over money.

  23. They should seek out a financial advisor who can show them unbiased modeling of what pulling $25k out of their net worth will look like. Honestly, I have cat food retirement worries like LfB. My guy is constantly showing me that pulling out $15,000 or $25,000 for this or that will have almost zero impact in my retirement goals.

  24. I view inheritances as shared money – but the person inheriting the money gets a little extra weight in the decision-making (assuming the inheritance is “bonus” money and isn’t needed to cover critical family needs). DH inherited a small amount from his father. DH and his siblings decided to each take a portion of their inheritance to set up a scholarship at the university where FIL spent most of his career (DH and most of his siblings also attended the university). I viewed that as their decision to make. DH also bought a new tv – and then the rest went into our joint savings/investments.

    I see this case as a nice gesture from the older sibling. She may have received support (both financial and emotional) from her parents when she got married, when her kids were born, etc. – and knows her younger sister won’t get that same support.

    I keep wondering if the husband is going to dump the wife once the kids are older and he’s making more money. I agree with HFN that the wife needs to get more involved in their finances.

  25. “ We’ve had way more fights over his system for doing laundry than over money.”

    That is hilarious and awesome. Best part is that it is *his* system that is the problem, not yours or clashing systems. But I get it that day-to-day running of the household matters. (No conflict with past partners over laundry—if they did mine, I didn’t look at how. But others can testify that my moms opinions of my laundry methods in my family have been an issue)

  26. “I disagree on inherited money – IMO it is joint money”

    I tend to agree with this* because otherwise the money can create a power struggle when so much is considered either his or hers. I know that goes against many who believe a wife should have her independent pot of money but for me it works better to consider all money jointly owned. I’m thinking of a case where the husband comes from wealth and the wife from poverty. In the future he would consider his inheritance to use as he pleases depending on his priorities and cut his wife off from consideration. That would not sit right with me if I were the wife.

    *OTOH, I’ve discussed this issue with other parents whose adult kids are entering the marrying phase and we’re concerned in some cases our kid’s spouse will want to claim half of any inheritance in the case of a divorce after a short-lived marriage. So we discuss the wisdom of trusts that preserve assets for our kids. Different scenarios call for different consideration.

  27. L, that makes me think there is a lot more relationship counseling in your profession than I had realized!

  28. “Best part is that it is *his* system that is the problem, not yours or clashing systems.”

    Well, obviously the problem is *his* system, not my perfect system of the right sorting method, water temperature and drying combination! :)

  29. I think I would struggle with this if it DH proposing to do this with an inheritance he received. We don’t have any individual assets – none. So if he wanted to take money out of the “our” account (and away from our children), and hand it off to one of his brothers, it would need to be because said brother was in dire straights.

    If the wife was really insistent, I would at least try to argue that they should only pay half, since the sister did receive half of the inheritance.

  30. I disagree on inherited money – IMO it is joint money, just like income.

    That’s not how the law sees it. I went ahead and comingled my inherited assets, but both my lawyer and my husband advised me not to. So just FYI. Obviously you should handle it however you see fit.

  31. Clearly DW & I are outliers in that we have kept our separate inheritance $ separate. Everything else is commingled (except for IRAs/401ks) which by definition are individual.

  32. It is challenging to make the split of money fair between siblings. There is always one sibling that seems to need more money than the other siblings. For example, they can’t hold a job or choose not to work. Or, they pick an obscure profession that has few jobs. Also, some kids just seem more needy and they are always asking their parents for money. I thought that I heard it all about taking money from parents until my friend told me earlier today that her mom is paying for her cemetery plots. My friend is a lawyer and the youngest of 3 kids. The older two kids have very successful careers and they never seem to take $ from the mom. My friend takes $ for everything – camp, college, clothing, multiple cars and now – cemetery plots. My friend and her husband work full time. They’ve never been unemployed and they don’t live beyond their means. She just feels like why should I pay if my mother will pay instead? She is almost 60 so I think this is ridiculous. Her brothers probably have no idea about the day to day expenses and then they won’t inherit as much when the estate is split three ways. There are probably millions of examples of unfairness about how money was spent in families even when parents had the best of intentions.

  33. “Clearly DW & I are outliers in that we have kept our separate inheritance $ separate”

    I don’t think so since as RMS indicated the typical legal advice is to keep them separate. I suspect for small amounts it might be more common to comingle.

  34. Lauren, maybe they *do* live beyond their means and you don’t see it because of this stream from her parents. But why is your friend telling you this much about it anyway? My friends irl know much less about my finances than people on this blog. But my real question is…. do cemetery plots top a 25th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii from the Midwest? I know someone who was quite irritated to have her parents turn down that request

  35. Just so you all don’t think I’m a total selfish bitch, I will point out that I have not spent a dime of the money I inherited from my parents. It is all invested, and I anticipate using it (with DH’s agreement) for the kids — college tuition, help with a first home, etc. One of the big reasons I keep it separate, though, is that if I made it joint, then if I dropped dead tomorrow, the assets would be DH’s to do with as he pleased. Maybe he’d ultimately leave it to our kids, which is what I want (and what my parents would have wanted), but maybe he’d leave it to his next wife, or to the kids he might have with his next wife, or to the Sierra club, or whatever. My parents would spin in their grave for all eternity if their money went to DH’s second wife, or to the second wife’s children, or to the Sierra club, and not to their grandchildren.

    Remember also that I work in this area professionally, and I have seen all sorts of things, so maybe I just view this issue differently from most people.

  36. Just so you all don’t think I’m a total selfish bitch, I will point out that I have not spent a dime of the money I inherited from my parents.

    No one thinks that about you. Ever. I just assumed your greater legal expertise led you to make specific, sensible decisions.

  37. It depends on the state! Community property states have their own rules (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin) where on divorce, couples are required to split equally all assets acquired during a marriage *while domiciled in that state*. In other states it can depend on whether the property is part of the “marital estate” or not. BUT in MA the court will just make an “equitable distribution”, not necessarily equal, and the judge can assign to either spouse all or any part of the estate of the other spouse (although in practice the judge will usually award “separate property” to its original owner).

  38. Seriously S & M??
    I have some very close friends and it is possible that she might share information with me because I can also help her with investment advice about money. She trusts me since we are friends IRL.
    You are the person that has shared your financial situation in a public forum with complete strangers. Here and on the WSJ where there might have been 1000s or even millions of readers.

  39. The way our estate plan is set up, theoretically I can’t spend all the money on some 20-year-old hunk and DH can’t spend it all on some floozy. We each can spend on our own health, education, maintenance, and support, but of course those terms can be, and have been stretched pretty thin by some people.

  40. My mom told me that if I (or any of my siblings) died before my parents, they have their will set up so that my share of their estate would go to DH, rather than directly to the kids. She said that the lawyer had strongly advised against it, but this is specifically how she wanted it done. She has good relationships with all of her son’s and daughters-in-law and said that if our spouses saw us through to the end, she wanted them to get the inheritance.

  41. FWIW, neither DH nor I have ever received an inheritance more than a few $, but I could always disclaim the assets from my parents’ estate when they die so that my share of the $$ will go directly to our kids (subject to continuing trusts for kids under a certain age etc. etc.).

  42. I like TLC’s suggestion of cutting the request down to $12,500. I’d love to see a Where Are They Now in five years time.

    I do think inherited money is mutual, but that works for my marriage. I have a cousin that receives SSDI and she does not share that money with her husband (and for good reason). I also have a family member who married a women who had inherited a six figure sum before they met. She kept that money separated, never spent a dime of it. When they got divorced she fought him in an ugly divorce for alimony and child support since he was the only one employed (she was always SAH by choice). I don’t know how it turned out, but I know my side of the family was surprised to learn that she had a significant net income. Money makes me crazy.

  43. RMS – I always tell people that the HEMS standard is pretty liberal, but you can’t go out and buy a yacht if you don’t already have one! ;)

  44. “Just so you all don’t think I’m a total selfish bitch, I will point out that I have not spent a dime of the money I inherited from my parents.”

    I have never inherited any money and I agree with you. More because I think that in a marriage with a reasonable spouse and enough money, you should defer to one another’s requests like this. Particularly if they are not regular occurrences. If DH asked to do something like this, I would assume that it was really important and would only say no if we truly couldn’t afford it. I know some of that is open to different opinions, but in this case where they have a windfall and he is going to be a doctor making more money, I be incredibly insulted if DH told me that I couldn’t do this. It would be like he didn’t respect my feelings or trust me to make good decisions that are meaningful to me.

  45. I can spin the advice request 800 ways, but they all boil down to those guys need to communicate better about money. Maybe the guy is going to make $120K next year and is staring at $300K med school loans and is worried about it. Maybe he’s going to make $500K in a few more years and has $1M in the bank and the wife is wondering why he’s a skinflint. Maybe the parents paid the wife’s wedding and the sister got the short end of the stick, or maybe the wife was totally independent and the sister was a leech until the parents died and now wants to attach herself to the sister. The right answer is going to vary dramatically depending on the circumstances. Although I do like the compromise of offering the honeymoon.

    Inheritance: I would plan to keep everything in separate accounts, to protect both of us. We have many steps and halfs in the family, and so it’s just what comes naturally. In the end both of those pots of money will be used for things we both agree on, although I can see the one who inherited the money having more say in the decision. So for ex., my mom is the property maven, and I totally inherited my love of owning homes from her, and so I would absolutely see using part of any inheritance from her to buy a property somewhere we’d enjoy, because it’s a tangible reminder for us and something she’d appreciate. So if I told DH I wanted to take say $500K and buy a cabin in Maine, he’d pretty much say ok and go with it, even if that wouldn’t necessarily be his top choice. And if he had other ideas, I’d listen and consider that as well. And in the end we’d both agree to use the money to buy a property, and where that property should be.

  46. DH and I have kept our money separate. It was the way we started our marriage and has worked for us. At various times we have helped our families, not because they didn’t have money but it would mean breaking their long term savings. We have gotten paid back but over a period of time. We stepped in to pay for some of our siblings education. We were fortunate to be able to help out. One of DH’s siblings stayed with us for six months while he looked for a job. My parents were also able to help their siblings in various ways. They were paid back the money they lent.
    Unusual for our culture we paid for own weddings. We had been given good educations a and we didn’t need help beyond that.

  47. TLC, my MIL received a share of her IL’s assets even though her husband died before his mother. I think FIL’s brothers actually had the will redone after FIL’s death. (with her consent to the extent she was able to consent, but I think one brother had power of attorney)

    I sometimes discuss MIL finance stuff with my Dad, since they are similar age and she doesn’t mind, and his comment was, “Not only do the brothers have money, they also have class.”

  48. NoB, of course! Not sure how it slipped my mind that this is your profession. In that case it makes total sense for your friend to discuss it with you, just as one might discuss a health issue with a physician friend, but not with others. Barring such circumstances though, I’d much rather “talk” about it with strangers than with people in my life.

  49. “DH inherited a small amount from his father. DH and his siblings decided to each take a portion of their inheritance to set up a scholarship at the university where FIL spent most of his career (DH and most of his siblings also attended the university). I viewed that as their decision to make. DH also bought a new tv – and then the rest went into our joint savings/investments.”

    This is exactly what my take is for us. And if this was “low six figures” then using $25K of it to give her sister as a wedding present really isn’t that different from using a little for a memorial scholarship and a TV. And then they should have a conversation that the rest is joint. (or maybe not if this guy is controlling & she should have separate $$ for safekeeping)

  50. I think if the sister was a leech or twisting his wife’s arm, he would have used that in his argument. But it was just him stomping his feet because the “blue collar” guy makes more money than him (oh the humanity!), and so why should he share his wife’s parents cash? *pout*

    @NoB – That all makes sense, and I agree with RMS. NO ONE reasonable who has spent any time here would get the impression that you are selfish.

  51. In TX, inherited or gifted money is considered separate, but you have to prove it is. Income from it during marriage is communal. I had a friend who is Dr that said the loan people were circling around residents their last year of residency. Her parents paid for hers but her roommate came from a working class background and was panicked as she was relocating and had no job lined up yet. I’m in the camp of wedding being paid for, but modestly.

  52. I’m not sure if it’s related to her own will decisiond, but my mom’s dad (my grandfather), died before his dad (my great grandfather), and my mom and all of her siblings were disinherited – the surviving siblings divide the estate 4 ways (between her surviving aunts and uncles) rather than five. This all came bubbling to a head during my childhood when one of the uncle’s died after a long bout of diementia and it turned out that he had changed his will to make my mom and her siblings inherit a portion of his estate in order to correct the old wrong. This, of course, infuriated his own children (mom’s cousins), who contested the will (I think successfully), because of the dementia . Hard feelings were had by all.

  53. What I find most striking/concerning is that the couple couldn’t come to their own compromise. I understand the wife wanting to take a large part in her sister’s day, and I understand the husband’s feeling that $25k is way too much. But couldn’t they have met somewhere in the middle – maybe pay for the wedding dress, or host a bridal luncheon or rehearsal dinner? At the end of the day it’s not about the dollar amount, it’s about feeling good about the decisions they make together.

  54. L, MIL was still alive when will was (I think) changed but had dementia thus power of attorney for one of her sons.

  55. L, I wasn’t clear, I mean MIL’s MIL was still alive. My FIL had two brothers, one of whom had power of attorney for his mother with cognitive decline (my MIL’s MIL). Both brothers and DH’s grandmother-with-dementia thought middle aged MIL should inherit instead of her young adult sons and somehow, magically, that’s what happened.

    Good thing *I* don’t write for a living. :)

  56. Seattle,

    Feel free to post any interesting columns you’ve read this week. And I would ask that If anyone comes across a good one to add it to the suggestions page.

  57. I agree with HFN about control. I would add this could be about her trying to exert control. This is my money and I will do with it as I please.

  58. That’s not how the law sees it. I went ahead and comingled my inherited assets, but both my lawyer and my husband advised me not to. So just FYI. Obviously you should handle it however you see fit.

    I’m speaking from a moral/ethical standpoint. DW and I are equal partners so any money either of us comes into is ours.

  59. Just so you all don’t think I’m a total selfish bitch,

    I don’t think that at all and certainly didn’t mean to imply anything of the sort.

  60. I’m speaking from a moral/ethical standpoint. DW and I are equal partners so any money either of us comes into is ours.

    I understand what you’re saying. I don’t personally feel that way about it; if/when DH inherits a few hundred thousand dollars, as seems possible, then they’re his if he wants that money. In my case, though I did share the money, I kind of felt like “I’m the one who put up with my mother my entire life. I earned this money. It’s mine.” This was particularly true since for the last several years of her life, DH didn’t come with me to the assisted living place every week to visit her. He hadn’t seen her for a few years when she finally died. I was resentful about that, as I’ve shared before. I had expected more support from both him and from my sister, and when that was not forthcoming, I was a whole lot sadder but wiser.

  61. So I’m the only one who read this and thought, the couple has $60k in income and young kids, and she wants to spend $25k on a wedding? Anyone’s wedding? Is she nuts?

    But then all the medical residents I knew had substantial debt, and would have needed that inheritance as emergency money and a down payment on the first house.

    It’s her inheritance, not his, and she has every right under the law of most states to spend it as she sees fit. But I would be very worried about her priorities.

  62. I agree with Denver and Ivy—can’t imagine anyone here thinking NoB is a selfish bitch, by a long stretch

  63. Sky, if the wedding is in the same year that his income doubles, they could keep their lifestyle constant, pay for the wedding, and still have $35 k to pay towards any med school debts.

  64. Finn, I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at that comment, but then I went and checked it out. Turns out sharks do indeed attack kayaks, and crocs and gators do as well. There are exciting scary videos online. But many of the “attacks” are more just bumping the boat out of curiousity, and there are things a prudent person can do to reduce the likelihood of such incidents even lower than it already is (for example, death by drowning is much more likely). Anyway, Milo is unlikely to be out on the high seas in his inflatable kayak and much more likely to be close to shore, or at least to mangroves, where he can hang out and patch his boat up before heading back in. I thought this did a decent job of pulling together the different dangers and strategies. Note that I may have spent a grand total of 10 minutes on this. http://www.topkayaker.net/Articles/NatureIssues/sharks.htm
    I wonder if Meme has any info about inflatable kayaks.

  65. On the general “advice column” topic, thank you to the Totebaggers who recommended the “Dear Sugar” book a couple of weeks ago. I had never heard of Dear Sugar until that discussion. I am currently reading the book of her essays, and am really enjoying it.

  66. Inheritance can be tricky. My parents left it in a trust with minimal conditions, but their stated goal was to keep the principle whole (if possible) and spend or reinvest the income it throws off. The principle will flow to my DDs upon my death, now that they are both adults. Prior to that their dad (my SO) would have had some oversight until they reached adulthood.

    It took some time to implement fully, but I have changed the investment strategy on the inheritance money to grow it vs having it throw off the maximum income (though that was a good strategy for people funding retirement). Now that I have a better idea of what the income stream is under the new strategy, I feel more comfortable both disclosing that amount and incorporating it into our spending pattern.

    On the advice column – I agree with others that the devil is in the details that aren’t shared.

  67. “I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at that comment, but then I went and checked it out. Turns out sharks do indeed attack kayaks, and crocs and gators do as well. “

    My post was based on accounts of such incidents that occurred IRL.

    “death by drowning is much more likely “

    Being out at sea with a deflated kayak makes death by drowning much more likely, and IIRC in at least one case IRL was the main concern of the person involved.

  68. Of course, I’m sure Milo and his kayak companion will be wearing appropriate PFD to minimize the likelihood of drowning.

  69. I find it fascinating the assumptions/conclusions drawn from the letter.

    For example, some posters assumed the MD’s sister is the older sister, although the letter writer did not indicate relative ages.

    The letter writer handling finances was assumed by some to indicate a desire to control.

    I handle all the finances in my marriage, and that has nothing to do with control. I would be happy if DW even bothered to be aware of our overall financial picture, but she is happy to let me do all the work.

  70. Finn, besides the life jackets, I really don’t think they’ll be “out at sea” in a blow-up boat.

  71. IMO, top priority in what to do with inheritances should be given to the wishes of the bequeathers (is that a real word?).

  72. Regarding the kayak, the item suggested on yesterdays thread is suitable for light recreation on lakes or calm streams. Since you have to travel with paddles and pfds, too. There is probably room on top of the vehicle for two small rigid kayaks or even a double kayak. My good friends bought $1000 inflatables for more serious river only, not even ocean, and found them unsatisfactory and returned them. If it is meant to be kept on the boat and then used for occasional exploration, I would say it is fine for easy rivers or inlets, but not open water.

  73. Blythe – thank you for the recommendation yesterday, and thanks to meme and Finn for the thoughts. I initially missed the post because I tend to look at the recent comments section, and it had gotten buried by politics and inheritances.

    I’ll take a look at that one. It might be about the right level for recreation vs. cost.

    The intended use would be at the lake — I’m thinking satellite from the anchored boat. The grandparents (I believe) are buying the family (two?) inflatable SUPs.

    There’s also a river that’s popular for kayaking, SUP, even just river tubing. There’s also a reservoir close by that we could take it, too.

    And we could always take it to my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses on the Bay, although they offer their own kayaks. A regular flotilla, in the case of my dad. So they need to be portable. (Finn, don’t nitpick that definition, you kwim. My dad has a kayak trailer, a kayak roof rack, and a kayak bed extender — I’m well aware of the options. You do make me laugh with the things you come up with to worry about, though. I had not considered “shark attacks” in my list of lurking dangers.)

  74. Meme – when your friends said it was unacceptable, did they upgrade to a more expensive inflatable, or did they decide they needed a rigid one for their purposes? I’m just wondering how much the higher price points improve things.

  75. Lauren, you like to point out that I was pretty open with personal info at tos. Do you realize it’s been 6 years since we started this one? I believe the posts you’re talking about were several years before then. When you recently asked me a question that revealed personal information about me, and asked for updates on that info, the moderators were kind enough to delete it for me as soon as I asked them to.

  76. But I would be very worried about her priorities.

    I would agree if she had wanted to buy a Birkin. But she wants to give it away. She seems like a nice, generous if somewhat flaky person.

    One of my consulting friends wives is very religious and very involved in her church. He had putting money away in case work dried up or other emergencies. He went to check the account and it was almost empty. His wife had been giving it away to anyone in need she met through their church who was in crisis.

    He had also put her through law school and a year later she decided she didn’t want to work anymore. So there was some overall drama.

  77. I just passed what was probably a 30-year-old Rolls Royce in excellent condition that was decorated with Rudolph nose, and Santa Claus was driving.

  78. Milo. The high end portables or inflatables are aimed at backpackers who carry them into the woods, often on multiday hikes, or folks without large vehicles to transport rigid kayaks who like to do more serious ocean or fast river kayaking, often while transporting some gear. What was suggested to you is at a price point that if it doesnt suit it is no financial tragedy and you can sell it on craigslist..

  79. That was me above on kayaks. As for inheritances, bad feelings or misunderstandings often arise, even among well intentioned families. Drawing clear lines, both kegally and in the marriage, is important.

    I know my DIL, who is primary in managing the indoor and non mechanical or home repair domestic side but has worked off and on to bring in wage income too, feels that the money from her family of origin, some distributed from family LPs/trust and some as gifts, is part of her contribution to the choices they make in the family day to day and doesn’t expect DS to shoulder 100 percent as primary breadwinner. However, everything substantial on her side is tied up for her and her descendants, and recently as I gave some family tax advice about the early year IRAs and Roths her father set up for her, I reminded DS that the money was intended for her old age, so his job is just to nod and facilitate if asked.

  80. Meme – that’s a good point. Also we have enough places and purposes for a kayak that is more light recreation, even if we wanted an upgrade later.

    The new retail situation is hard. The choices are overwhelming and there’s nothing to see in person. I would drive to REI, but they’ve got nothing displayed, from what I read on their website.

  81. Interesting insights on how we all think of inheritance. DH and I have everything joint, with the exception of 401ks and such. I won’t receive any inheritance, but he will. As I’ve mentioned, he’s been unable to work and on disability for the last ~15 years….I think we both think of any potential inheritance as “our” money based on conversations. In our case, I think it helps him to think of this as a contribution to our financial health since he doesn’t have a job. Like someone said earlier, I’d have no issues if he wanted to take some portion of it to do something non-joint with, or honestly even if he wanted to leave it untouched for our kids. I would have a big problem if after all these years I provided the family income and he said it was his to do with as he wished.

    Our boys don’t have significant others yet, and our estate attorney gave advice on trusts to set them up to protect them against the future risk of divorce. It feels good that we’ve done it now, since it’s before we even know any potential romantic partners.

  82. would drive to REI, but they’ve got nothing displayed, from what I read on their website.
    How very weird! We used to like the REI store near Reston—my little babe was good at the climbing wall and thought it was fun to trip-trap across the little bridge in the shoe dept. We also may have spent more time than necessary investigating the insides of tents on display. All for nought—he is “more of a Marriott guy”. Sigh.

  83. Milo, oops, guess I lived in Florida too long! Kayaks seem like the perfect “big splash” family Christmas gift to me. But I’m glad you clarified—I thought you meant they’d cleared out the sales floor so as not to encourage people to linger. Stores here are required to do that, and not add any inducements to hang out, so no benches or displays, certainly no children’s choirs singing Christmas songs or the like

  84. I’d forgotten all about sit-on kayaks until I looked at REI’s site. There’s only one there (and a ton of inflatables). I bet that general type would work well, if I understand how you’re planning to use it. http://sweetwaterkayaks.com had them, but is bit further than you want to drive.

  85. I had no idea there was such a thing as an inflatable SUP until reading this discussion. I am definitely going to think about getting one. I really like SUPping (is that a word?), but I have never seriously thought about buying a paddleboard because they are so big and heavy to have to get on and off the roof of the car to transport.

    In other news, DS was able to take the SAT this morning. I was really glad, because the high school where he took it (several towns away from us) is currently closed for regular school, due to soaring virus numbers. But the SAT proceeded as scheduled.

  86. Does anyone subscribe to Acorn TV ? I want to watch A Suitable Boy, it will be only on Acorn in the U.S. and Canada but on Netflix in other countries. I wish it were on Netflix in the U.S.

  87. Louise — They made a series out of A Suitable Boy? I had no idea. That is one of my all-time favorite books.

  88. Milo, although, I know you are going to say that this is more expensive than you want, I’m going to recommend the Hobie kayaks with Mirage drive pedals. They are so amazing – how far and fast you can go using leg propulsion. In my family, other than the one son who rowed crew, we are much stronger and have more stamina in the legs. The other wonderful thing about investing in Hobies is that they have so many accessories and things to add to them. DH has endless fishing accessories and I love the sail kits, you can have a lot of fun sailing these things. I think they have one inflatable model that takes the pedals?

  89. “I had not considered “shark attacks” in my list of lurking dangers.”

    Perhaps that’s a regional difference. Avoiding encounters with sharks is a routine precaution for most ocean goers here, and shark sightings are a regular occurrence.

    Is minimizing the chance of shark attack not something you and your classmates are made aware of in college? USS Indianapolis?

  90. Mafalda, I wanted to thank you for including how much you studied and practiced before exhibiting your paintings. It’s so easy for some people to present themselves as just being instantly brilliant and three days after picking up a paintbrush, suddenly they’re Monet.

  91. Milo, have you checked Costco?

    The ones here often sell the rigid kayaks, and I’ve seen inflatable SUP there also. The kayaks they’ve sold appear to me to be very similar to rental kayaks I’ve seen at local beaches. Not sure if the SUP that was chomped by a shark was from there.

    They also regularly sell surfboards and boogie boards. Our boogie boards, and DD’s surfboard, are all from there. Many of my kids’ friends who surf also use boards from there. Those boards are apparently quite adequate for beginners; those who get better and want better equipment then typically move up to surf shop boards.

  92. “OTOH, alligators? Come on, that’s not really a thing.”

    I will watch out for them if I ever go back to WDW.

  93. Have any specific examples in mind, Rocky?

    Finn, do shark sightings mean shark attacks, or is it more like mask mandates and mask wearing?

  94. OT, some of our inheritances are in separate accounts, but that was due to convenience more than design. E.g., some of my mom’s estate was securities in a brokerage account at a firm where I didn’t have an account, so her account manager opened an account for me and transferred the securities; that was the easiest way to do it.

    My parents as well as DW’s had been saving for their grandkids’ educations, so that’s been our priority in what to do with those inheritances. Ironically, those inheritances also were apparently a major factor in us needing as much money as we have to pay for college.

    I remember someone who used to sometimes post here and her story of how an inheritance also had her plans for paying for college messed up by the inheritance. But her story was worse because the inheritance was earmarked for something else, so they needed to either come up with more money or have her kids go to less expensive schools.

  95. “Finn, do shark sightings mean shark attacks, or is it more like mask mandates and mask wearing?”

    Shark sightings mean sightings of sharks by people. Shark attacks generally refer to attacks on people by sharks, not vice versa, although the converse is much more common.

    Not sure exactly what you mean by your comparison.

  96. I was surprised at local attitudes when that toddler was killed by a gator at Disney. People couldn’t get over the stupidity of the family to let the kid just hang out in the lagoon that way, felt it was obvious there might be gators. Similarly, the drunk college kid whose leg got chomped when she took a dip in a drainage pond (yuck, dirty water) didn’t arouse sympathy either. Still, being aware of a danger doesn’t mean spending all day ducking to avoid it. If you walk along a busy road, you keep one eye on traffic, on the off chance a car will jump the curb, maybe while swerving to avoid something else. It’s not very likely, but it is possible. That’s how we wound up thinking about alligators. When one showed up in the pond where we lived or off my parents’ lanai, we watched from a respectful distance.

  97. Finn, what I meant was that it is obviously silly to try to say anything about rate of mask usage based on mask mandates; one can exist independently of the other. Having a mandate does not mean people will wear masks. Some people might even wear masks without a mandate. Now substitute in “sightings” and “attacks”. Do more sightings mean more attacks? Are there attacks when there were no sightings?

  98. Mask mandate : mask wearing = shark sighting : shark attack?

    Is how I believe the SAT would phrase that question

  99. In most shark attacks, there is an associated shark sighting, typically by the person attacked and/or a companion. However, in cases cases the first sightings are coincident with the attacks, and in others the sightings are subsequent to the attacks.

    There are many more cases in which sharks are sighted and beaches closed, or warnings posted, with no associated attacks. Frequent divers often have stories of encounters, including sightings, not associated with attacks.

  100. “how I believe the SAT would phrase that question”

    mask mandate : mask wearing :: shark sighting : shark attack

  101. Except neither of those is correct, because a mask mandate is an order by an authority. Mask wearing is an activity, or maybe compliance with the order. Shark sightings are not orders by authorities. A shark attack is not compliance with a sighting.

  102. Mask mandate : mask wearing :: closing beaches due to shark sightings : people staying out of water

  103. I wasn’t commenting on whether SM’s comparison was correct; I was just pointing out the nomenclature the SAT used to use.

  104. I love this nerdy site, where people don’t just understand they syntax, y’all correct it! Perhaps I should’ve written the entire formula in terms of numbers of each. I don’t mean to say that sightings cause biting.

  105. I was not aware of a beach called Santa Claus Beach.

    Another example of the stuff I learn here.

  106. Santa Claus Beach is off of Santa Claus Lane. There used to be a huge Santa Claus on top of one of the buildings that could be seen from the 101 Freeway. That Santa Claus was moved to Oxnard and is visible from the 101 down there.

  107. We did our first Christmas boat parade tonight. We were supposed to bring another family, but one of their kids had gotten a fever yes, so the cancelled out of an abundance of caution.

    Our boat was pitifully lit, or with a minimalist sense of you prefer. I bought a $30 inverter at Walmart that alligator-clamped to the boat’s battery, and we decorated with 400 white lights. Most others had a full theme and were far more elaborate, with displays powered by separate generators. But it was fun. We paraded slowly, for two hours, past a lot of people on docks and at beaches, usually surrounded by fire pits. It was cold and dark, and by the time we got back, I was thinking it was so late, it must be well past my bedtime. It was like 7:30.

    I think we’ll be expanding on this tradition next year.

  108. NoB – I never would have believed that an inflatable SUP would be as firm as they are until some friends took is on that river and provided all the equipment. You should definitely try one.

    Mafalda – my mom has that Mirage Drive Hobie and likes it for the reasons you say. It allows her to be on par with my dad if they go together. I didn’t realize there were inflatable versions, though. She also has a Mirage Drive SUP that looks like you’re on a Stairmaster.

    “ Is minimizing the chance of shark attack not something you and your classmates are made aware of in college? USS Indianapolis?”

    We don’t plan on being sunk.

    I’ll check out Costco’s website.

  109. “ I was surprised at local attitudes when that toddler was killed by a gator at Disney.”

    As I mentioned recently, there are always going to be some people, overrepresented in article comments pages, who need to blame victims of tragedies in order to feel more secure in their own lives.

    That family was from Nebraska, not exactly alligator country. And he wasn’t playing in the lagoon so much as walking, maybe with his toes in, at the beach. Also, to a certain type of commenter, the fact that the parents were young, attractive, and affluent enough to be staying in the most expensive resort on the property probably contributed to the resentment and blame.

  110. Finn – iirc, when we would have a swim call, usually off the Bahamas, we would have someone on the sail with an M-16 on shark watch. However, it was standard procedure whenever we were on the surface and underway to have someone in the sail with an M-whatever, I forget the number, but one of those big machine guns on a little tripod with all the ammunition fed into it in a chain. So it wasn’t too much extra effort to say he was also shark watch while people were swimming.

    I’m not sure I’d want to trust the guy’s aim to hit the shark and not me if I were the one attacked.

  111. As I mentioned recently, there are always going to be some people, overrepresented in article comments pages, who need to blame victims of tragedies in order to feel more secure in their own lives.

    Yes, blaming the victim makes people feel safe. Otherwise they have to admit that bad things can happen to them, and people don’t like to do that.

  112. Milo, I understand the attitude you mean, but this was not that. I wasn’t referring to media. I meant people I knew. When I’d shake my head and say how awful, they just couldn’t get away from the idea that people come down, from Nebraska or where ever, and just don’t even consider alligators in the water. I don’t recall pix of the couple or that they were good looking. The ire was directed more at the ignorance in general than at the outcome it had for that specific family. I think the ignorance is an excuse and made it a tragedy, but they just couldn’t get their heads over there.
    The boat parade sounds like it was fun. Bet your kids have ideas for next year’s entry. Are they new they’re, or are you just doing it for the first time?

  113. I’m not sure I’d want to trust the guy’s aim to hit the shark and not me if I were the one attacked.

    My thought when I first read that. I’d be terrified.

  114. The boat parade must be beautiful to behold.

    RMS and Reality – thank you for that correction. I thought I had misremembered SAT skills.

  115. A boat parade with themed lights sounds fantastic.

    I’ll admit that if I was a Disney World and at the beach resort, I would not think an alligator would be part of the equation. I’m well aware of gators, and I’m on high alert around the water at my in-laws place. The safety of Disney World does give a false sense of security…they provided a beach. It honestly never entered my mind that any of the bodies of water in their guest areas would have gators.

  116. Loved the description of the Boat Parade! We have a prime viewing spot to watch ours, I feel kind of guilty for not participating but I do host viewings from our dock and we express lots of appreciation for the participants! (we don’t need firepits tho ;)

    Regarding the WDW Alligator attack. Bob Iger has a interesting description of the business reaction to that crisis in his biography. (I recommend the book, by the way.) After I read that, the next time I went to WDW, I noticed all the measures WDW has taken in response to that incident and it is really impressive.

  117. SM – DW read about it two days prior, and I thought “oh, let’s do it..”

    I used to watch the annual Annapolis one, and that was all yachts, with many sailboats using their masts and rigging for lots of height.

    Someday I’ll bring my larger boat there.

    This was much more “downscale.”

  118. I read the same Bob Iger biography book and I am glad Mafalda mentioned it because it is a good book. He shares a lot of inside information about the company. It is interesting to read and learn about the other side to each story because he also discusses different acquisitions such as Pixar, Marvel etc.

    I’ve seen a few boat parades, but it was always in warm climates such as Florida or Caribbean islands. I can’t believe it was just a year ago that we saw Santa arrive on a boat the when we were on vacation.

  119. Besides tons of cya signage and little ropes/chains to suggest not going into the water (but nothing that would actually stop a gator, or a child). Maybe they were useful for people like LT mentioned?

  120. The boat parade sounds wonderful. The most memorable boat parade I have seen is the Tall Ships at Sail Boston 2000. We went to a high floor of our office building and watched the Tall Ships. It was a glorious summer. It was a high point in my memory, after 2001 there seemed to be some crisis or the other. It was such a different time.

  121. Louise – I was in that parade in the summer of 2000 when it went through New York. We were just a regular 44’ sailboat, and we had just come back from Bermuda.

  122. Mafalda – I came scary close just now to placing a hold deposit on a $4k tandem Hobie Mirage. I was on the phone with the dealer. But then I thought this is just a bit nuts 🥜 , because at that price, it’s something I’d want to see and try out first, after we know we really want to do it. I shopped a bunch on Amazon, and I kept coming back to Blythe’s pick. There is also an intriguing one by Advanced Elements for about $700 that looks very streamlined and attractive, but it’s a little more of a sit-in style, and I couldn’t quite reckon how much value it was offering over Blythe’s $150 pick, so I went with the cheaper and simpler one.

    If we ultimately want to upgrade for more expeditionary purposes, we can leave this one at the boat as a toy.

  123. Milo – awesome. Boston city was filled with young sailors in their uniforms. Such a nice sight.
    It was also the summer of our wedding, so fond memories.

  124. I only lived in Florida for a short period, but I was warned that any body of water like a lake, pond, etc etc represents a potential danger. This includes all man made bodies of water that seem harmless. I am sure that Disney and even the state tourism board don’t want to promote this danger, but it is a fact of life in Florida. People living there are generally aware of the issue and visitors should be made aware too. It contradicts everything they are trying to promote about the state, so I bet it will never happen unless there is some massive lawsuit or loss of life/limbs. Some Florida hotels and resorts have signs posted because I have seen the signs, but little kids without parents might not be able to read the signs.

  125. Cranberry Wensleydale cheese is yummy! I used to get big chunks at Costco and share them with my parents. I just found it in my grocery here, sold in sizes I can eat alone. It is still delicious, but I wish I could remember what we used to eat it with! Does anyone here like cranberry Wensleydale? What do you paid it with?

  126. More from the WSJ about Tony Hsieh’s difficult life.

    TECH
    The Death of Zappos’s Tony Hsieh: A Spiral of Alcohol, Drugs and Extreme Behavior
    The inspirational executive seemed to lose his way after giving up his corporate role, including a starvation diet and fascination with fire
    Tony Hsieh in 2017 DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

    Two weeks before Zappos.com Inc. co-founder Tony Hsieh died in a November house fire, one of his closest friends in Las Vegas got a phone call.

    “Tony is in trouble,” the caller told Philip Plastina, the founder of an electronic dance music group that frequently performed at Mr. Hsieh’s parties and live events over the past decade.

    Because of the pandemic, Mr. Plastina hadn’t seen Mr. Hsieh since the lauded tech executive relocated from Las Vegas to Park City, Utah, earlier this year. The caller asked Mr. Plastina to go to Park City right away in hopes he could help pull Mr. Hsieh out of what the caller described as escapist tendencies, including increasing drug and alcohol abuse.

    Mr. Plastina said he texted two phone numbers he had for Mr. Hsieh and sent several emails but received no response. Mr. Plastina never reached his friend.

    Mr. Hsieh, 46 years old, died on Nov. 27, nine days after firefighters were called to a home in New London, Conn., where he was staying. The Connecticut medical examiner has ruled the death an accident. The fire department is investigating the fire’s cause.

    Many questions remain about the specific circumstances of his death. Close friends now say it was the culmination of a more than six-month downward spiral. The entrepreneur brought online shoe-shopping to the masses as a co-founder of Zappos and wrote a bestselling book on company culture, “Delivering Happiness.” This year, he struggled, the friends say.

    In August, he retired as chief executive of Zappos, which he had run for more than a decade after selling it to Amazon.com Inc. for more than $1 billion.

    Mr. Hsieh spoke often about partying as a central feature of his work and life, and his drinking increased after he retired and grappled with the isolation enforced by the pandemic, those close to him said. He began experimenting with drugs, such as mushrooms and ecstasy, they said.

    That was only one component of increasingly extreme behavior. A longstanding fascination with fire intensified, friends said. A real-estate agent who sold him a mansion in Park City and visited the house shortly afterward estimated Mr. Hsieh had 1,000 candles there.

    Mr. Hsieh became fixated on trying to figure out what his body could live without, according to one friend. He starved himself of food, whittling away to under 100 pounds; he tried not to urinate; and he deprived himself of oxygen, turning toward nitrous oxide, which can induce hypoxia, this person said.

    Mr. Hsieh was increasingly away from his longtime friends and family in San Francisco’s Bay Area and Las Vegas, and was surrounded by a new group that indulged his behavior, close friends said. According to them, the new group, including some former Zappos employees who had moved to Park City from Las Vegas, were taking advantage of Mr. Hsieh, living in his homes and collecting salaries for little work.

    There were signs Mr. Hsieh knew he was in trouble. On the night he died, he was making plans to check into a rehabilitation clinic in Hawaii. He was in New London staying with a longtime girlfriend and former Zappos executive, Rachael Brown, along with one of his brothers, Andy Hsieh, and others, said people close to him.

    Mr. Hsieh at one point said he was going to a shed that was attached to the home, and asked the people in the house to check on him every five minutes, by the people’s account. They said Tony used a heater in the shed to lower the oxygen level.

    It isn’t clear what started the fire. When the others at the house tried to get to him, they couldn’t. One emergency worker was heard telling others he was barricaded inside. Mr. Hsieh died from complications of smoke inhalation, the coroner said.

    Over his 20 years as an executive, Mr. Hsieh carved out one of the most unusual and closely studied careers in business, in which he helped reshape customer service, tried to single-handedly revitalize parts of Las Vegas and challenged the role of hierarchies in corporations.

    Zappos employees relished Mr. Hsieh’s eagerness for them to express their individuality and carve out their own roles in a company with few bureaucratic boundaries.

    Mr. Hsieh was introverted but had a deep desire to bring people together, and invested time and money into his friends’ lives. One friend described him as “The Giving Tree,” referring to the story by Shel Silverstein in which a tree gives every part of itself to a boy she loves but gets nothing in return.

    Mr. Hsieh blended his personal and professional lives into a quest for spiritual union with his colleagues, and sought to make both more about fulfilling personal dreams and novel sensations than piling up money, friends and former co-workers say. His approach to life earned him wealth and many admirers. It also contributed to his final, tragic months.

    Mr. Hsieh, born to Taiwanese parents who raised him in Marin County, Calif., sold the first company he founded, an internet advertising service called LinkExchange, to Microsoft Corp. for about $265 million when he was in his mid-20s.

    The next year he invested in what became Zappos, nursed it through the dot-com bust and became chief executive. Amazon.com Inc. bought Zappos in 2009 for more than $1 billion. Mr. Hsieh remained chief executive.

    In Las Vegas, where Mr. Hsieh moved Zappos headquarters, he became beloved locally for investing $350 million into revitalizing part of the city’s downtown, including restaurants, retail sites and a technology fund, starting in 2012.

    At Zappos, Mr. Hsieh didn’t believe in company hierarchy, assigning some employees titles like “fungineer.”

    When Mark Guadagnoli, currently a professor of neuroscience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, took a break from his academic career to work for a couple of years at Zappos, Mr. Hsieh gave him the title of “zookeeper.” He was charged with creating Zappos University, the company’s culture training center.

    Mr. Hsieh was annoyed when people referred to the area where he sat as “executive row,” recalled Dr. Guadagnoli, who remained friends with Mr. Hsieh.

    Dr. Guadagnoli said he began calling it Monkey Row, and Mr. Hsieh loved that idea. Mr. Hsieh arranged for camouflage netting to be put up and suspended stuffed monkeys and other creatures.

    “He was really interested in what made jokes funny,” Dr. Guadagnoli said. The professor once made an amusing remark and then smiled. “I think it would be funnier if you didn’t smile,” he recalled Mr. Hsieh responding.

    For one New Year’s Eve party at his 3,500-square-foot loft in San Francisco, he rented a fog machine, which ended up setting off a fire alarm. He had to apologize when two firetrucks showed up.

    Alcohol-fueled parties were frequent at the company and at Mr. Hsieh’s homes, in San Francisco and later in Las Vegas and Park City.

    Mr. Hsieh wrote in “Delivering Happiness” that shots of Grey Goose vodka were a company tradition. He told Playboy magazine in 2014 he wrote the book in part fueled by coffee beans soaked in vodka. Friends say he went through a period in which he was obsessed with the Italian liqueur Fernet.

    “Ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life,” he wrote in the 2010 book.

    Mr. Hsieh wrote that the Zappos culture was all about the pursuit of fun. “When you need to party, you party. When you need to produce, you produce,” he wrote.

    In a written statement, a Zappos spokeswoman said the company “is committed to providing a safe and fun workplace for all of our employees. As part of this, all employees are required to review our Code of Conduct, which includes guidance on team gatherings and company functions.”

    According to Dr. Guadagnoli, Mr. Hsieh ran experiments on himself—limiting his sleep to four hours a day and climbing the three highest peaks in Southern California in one day.

    He tried a 26-day diet, eating only foods that started with the letter “A” on the first day and progressing through the alphabet each day. Some letters offered indulgences. The final “Z” day amounted nearly to fasting, according to one friend, Paul Carr.

    In 1999, Mr. Hsieh discovered the joy of raves after going to one in a warehouse.

    “As someone who is usually known as being the most logical and rational person in a group, I was surprised to feel myself swept with an overwhelming sense of spirituality,” he wrote in his book. “It was as if the existence of individual consciousness had disappeared and been replaced by a single unifying group consciousness.”

    Mr. Hsieh was a frequent attendee at the Burning Man music festival in the Nevada desert, bringing art from the festival back to downtown Las Vegas. A 40-foot praying mantis that shoots fire is on display outside his “Container Park” development in Las Vegas, in which shops are located inside stacks of converted shipping containers.

    At one annual event, Mr. Hsieh saw an electronic dance music performance group who called themselves the “Dancetronauts” perform. He fell in love with the group and insisted they become part of his plan to revitalize Las Vegas, said Mr. Plastina, the head of the group, who uprooted his life in California a decade ago to be part of Mr. Hsieh’s vision.

    Mr. Hsieh joined the Dancetronauts in his own astronaut jumpsuit, and the group became frequent performers at Las Vegas’s monthly “First Friday” arts festival. They also performed at Mr. Hsieh’s regular parties in his self-built community, a collection of trailers and tiny homes, including an Airstream that he lived in.

    The Airstream compound, as it was known to friends, also featured a fire pit and a stage. Mr. Hsieh let his pet alpaca, Marley, roam around.

    Mr. Hsieh bought friends houses, apartments and restaurants, say people who knew him. “He created greenhouses for people to be themselves and flourish,” said Jenn Lim, a longtime friend who helped Mr. Hsieh write his book and now heads a consulting and training firm that espouses his management philosophy.

    Earlier this year, Mr. Hsieh began buying properties far from Las Vegas, in the Utah resort town of Park City, with a similar mission of transforming its downtown, according to people familiar with his plans.

    The centerpiece was a 17,350-square-foot mansion with a private lake that he bought for about $16 million, said Paul Benson, a real-estate agent who represented the sellers.

    He also bought condos in the area for guests and quietly began investing in local businesses.

    When he visited the mansion, Mr. Hsieh wanted the house immediately and asked the family who owned it not to return home so he could begin living there right away, Mr. Benson said.

    The family agreed. Mr. Hsieh was constantly surrounded by other people, and the purchase appeared to Mr. Benson to be a group decision.

    “Tony was clearly the leader, but there was definitely a group of people that had said they were moving to Park City because of Tony, that had said he was extremely generous and a big part of their families, their worlds, and they were going to follow him to Park City,” Mr. Benson said.

    Mr. Benson said when he visited the house to help retrieve the sellers’ belongings and found the host of candles, Mr. Hsieh “explained to me that the candles were a symbol of what life was like in a simpler time.”

    Mr. Hsieh had offered to pay friends to move to Park City and work at businesses he helped fund or other city development jobs with vague descriptions; some collected salaries while doing little and living in his homes, and encouraged his drug and alcohol abuse, those close to him said.

    Mr. Hsieh hired luxury tour buses to ferry friends to the community. Musician David Perrico said he and members of his Pop Strings Orchestra rode one of those buses in August at the invitation of Ms. Brown, Mr. Hsieh’s girlfriend and a cellist in the band. Ms. Brown didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Mr. Perrico said he stayed in a condo and visited the mansion, jamming with other musicians, with the idea of possibly performing in a future venue in Mr. Hsieh’s developing vision for Park City, but saw Mr. Hsieh only once in passing.

    Mr. Hsieh was uncomfortable in one-on-one settings, friends said, and the pandemic closed off much of his social scene. His drug use increased, they said.

    In Las Vegas and at Zappos, Mr. Hsieh always had a strong group of friends who questioned his grandiose ideas and were able to stop him when his plans didn’t make sense. In Park City he was surrounded by people who only told him “yes,” one of his close friends said.

    After a therapist recommended a “digital detox” this spring, Mr. Hsieh began further distancing himself from some of his longtime friends, who had trouble reaching him. When one FaceTimed him in early July, “he did not look well,” the friend said.

    By August, his father, brother Andy and a half dozen friends were planning an intervention to organize professional help for him, according to people familiar with the efforts.

    That same month, Mr. Hsieh’s retirement from Zappos exacerbated his downward spiral, friends say. Some such as Mr. Plastina said they tried unsuccessfully to reach him in his last weeks.

    On Nov. 18, firefighters rushed to a burning three-story beachfront home in New London at 3:34 a.m. An emergency worker said one man was “stuck inside,” according to a radio recording of first responders. Some firefighters and dispatchers referred to the victim as “trapped.”

    One gave a different description. “The male is barricaded inside,” that person said over the radio.“He’s not answering the door. Everyone else is outside the house. They are trying to get him to open up.”

    Mr. Hsieh’s estate is likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In a court filing, family members have said it appears Mr. Hsieh died without an estate plan. On Thursday, a judge in Las Vegas appointed Mr. Hsieh’s father, Richard, and brother Andrew as special administrators and legal representatives of the estate, finding that Mr. Hsieh’s personal and business affairs “require immediate attention to prevent loss to the estate.”

    In a written statement, the Hsieh family said they wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Mr. Hsieh’s life and career. They said they were “deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and respect shown in the wake of Tony’s passing. It is clear to us he had a profound impact on countless people all over the world.”

    The family said they planned to “carry on his legacy by spreading the tenets he lived by—finding joy through meaningful life experiences, inspiring and helping others, and most of all, delivering happiness.”

  127. Rocky, what a horrifically sad story! Really don’t see the need to repeatedly mention social distancing though—seems like his problems began long before that, and retiring in August isolated him more.

  128. S&M,

    It’s sad in the sense that he seemed very much like one of those very creative and productive people who are bipolar in a way that manifests itself as mania 99% of the time.

    It’s not sad in the sense that he had a hell of a ride. Would he have traded away his mental illness for a boring life of bland mediocrity? Who knows…

  129. Rhett, for most of his life, he seems to have kept it in balance. The last few months truly sound awful. I’ve never heard of anyone dying of, say, a lung disease after years of asthma saying “I had a great ride with years of clear breathing that let me get in with what I needed to do”.
    Btw, if you see any logistics positions (internships) that my kid could do around Berlin as part of a gap year, please send them my way.

  130. These numbers are staggering, but our paper recycling is today and we had a lot of boxes. I looked around and all of my neighbors also have very large piles of cardboard. I am going to start to do curbside pickup for places like Target because it is taking too long for some of my gifts to arrive. We usually tip our UPS and Fedex guys, but they deliver several times a day. I don’t even know my guys this year. We have the best mail person ever and I do plan to give him a large tip.

  131. Lauren, how much do you tip the mail carrier?

    In other tipping questions, our cleaning people are coming this Wednesday and again on Wednesday, Dec. 23. Would you leave the tip this Wed, or the 23rd? On the one hand, the 23rd is obviously closer to Christmas, but presumably they’re all shopping for their family and friends during the next few weeks and the cash would be helpful. Yes, I overthink things. What would you do?

  132. I ordered a piece of clothing Friday night and it arrived via USPS on my doorstep this am at 7. The two things that have taken more time than expected are something from Bed Bath and Beyond I sent to someone else, which even in good times is a slow shipper, and. Pick up order at my local Penzeys a few blocks away which is now 5 days and counting. Tracking has been 100 percent reliable. Many of my shippers use UPS or Fedex plus USPS for final delivery to the door, and we have local Amazon truck delivery for stuff in their warehouse.

  133. RMS, I plan to tip our cleaning people this week. I figure they can use the money now.

  134. RMS. I pondered exactly the same question. You are not any weirder than I am, but that ain’t sayin’ much. Since no one is flying home to Brazil for the holidays, I am giving it Dec 23.

  135. I’m finding a mix of shipping. Land’s End was UPS and took 10 days from when I placed the order (and I could drive to the Land’s End WI warehouse in 4 hours). It took 10 days for Nordstrom Rack to process my order and ship it (receiver hasn’t gotten it yet). But I ordered from Dick’s Sporting Goods on Black Friday and the receiver got it on Cyber Monday. Amazon purchases have been normal.

  136. RMS – I am giving gifts to mailman, cleaners etc, this week and next so that they can shop for their families if they want to. This year, it’s been much tougher for many people so I decided to give gifts a tad earlier than usual.

  137. We gave a $50 Visa gift card to the tennis instructor who’s been giving lessons to my kids and DW. That may have been a little light, or so DW was wondering. On the other hand, this area doesn’t share the NY tipping culture, so I’m sure many give nothing, and a few give more.

    We haven’t had outsourced house cleaning since March, so no tips to give there.

  138. I will give the cleaning service their gift on the last cleaning day before Christmas as usual. For us, that is the 18th because Friday is our cleaning day, and they don’t work on Christmas Day of course. That is also when she leaves a card and little bag full of European candy for DS as well. I was thinking of upping the amount though, especially because I think they are giving us an exceptional deal on the weekly rate for the new house. (We doubled our space and the rate only went up ~20%.)

    @Milo – We usually give the guitar teacher $50, and he’s been DS’s teacher for many years now. It seemed about right to me. He is employed by a music school, not an independent teacher. (although I know he teaches some classes other places as well)

  139. I’ve never heard of anyone dying of, say, a lung disease after years of asthma saying “I had a great ride with years of clear breathing that let me get in with what I needed to do”.

    But the lung disease didn’t cause the highly productive and interesting life. In this case the thing that killed him, his bipolar disorder, did.

  140. It’s more complicated than that, Rhett. The article pointed out that when he was working, he had people around him to say “You’re getting out of control, slow your roll, dude.” When he was surrounded by enablers, he died. It also said he was considering rehab, so he wasn’t entirely happy with his own behavior. Different social circumstances could have helped him cope. (And you don’t actually know that he was bipolar anyway.)

  141. Ivy – it’s a similar situation, as he’s an employee of the Y. It’s just that it’s covering four of them. Oh well. Oh well, he’s young. I think he may be an undergrad, or grad student.

  142. Milo, I don’t think that is a small tip for a tennis instructor unless multiple kids meet with the same instructor. We used to give $25 to tennis.

    I usually give $30 ish to the postal guy, but I am giving $50 this year for a number of reasons. We have the same person, he is nice, we get a lot more packages now and he even puts them closer to my front door. The rest of the people used to leave them on the steps. I did give him a small tip in June too, but that was pandemic related.

  143. RMS,

    Whatever his specific issues, it seems likely that they represented a double edged sword. They could propel him to great heights in the right circumstances. They could also bring him very low in the wrong circumstances. So the question then is, would he have wanted to be free of his issues if it meant both the lows and the highs wouldn’t occur?

Comments are closed.