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Berger’s Burg: Making ends meet is not always easy money

A survey indicated the leading cause of heart failure is getting up at night and stepping on your cat.

Readers, I threw in that line to get your attention. This column is really about money (with a little life insurance tossed in), so give me your utmost.

A wag once wrote that money is the root of all evil. At first, I begged to differ with that wise wag. But, if I had money, I would not have had to beg. As a child, I always thought that money was the most important thing in life. Now that I am older, I know that it definitely is.

You say there are bigger things in life than money. But you usually need money to buy them. It certainly is a truism that money isn’t everything. That is unless you mislay your credit card.

Mothers caution that harmful germs are passed around on a dollar bill. “Poppycock,” I say. Nothing can live on a dollar these days. To quote Milton Berle: “With money in your pocket, you are wise, you are handsome and you sing well, also.”

When I first married Gloria, all I wanted from her was affection, admiration, encouragement and the ability to stretch our sparse incomes into grandiose living. She doesn’t quite make it, although she tries very hard. She found a new way to save her money. She uses mine.

Gloria, however, is very patriotic. She does her best to stimulate the economy by shopping every chance she gets. She shares my money with Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. My wife also is very economical. She buys things before the prices go up. “One thing money can’t buy today,” says she, “is what it was able to buy yesterday.”

Gloria keeps implying that two can love as cheaply as one. Only it costs twice as much. She once went to the supermarket and ordered $3 worth of Swiss cheese. The clerk wrapped up six holes. Finally, I put my foot down. I told my partner-for-life that she introduces more bills than Congress. Gloria replied that this was intentional since she is practicing to run against Hillary in the next election.

Since I know that the dollar loses its value every day, a sly smile creeps across my face every time I get the best of my credit-card companies. I pay off their charges in full every month. But I wish I didn’t have to fool them quite so often.

Money problems are everywhere. With apples so expensive, it pays to see a doctor a day. And with cold weather looming in just a few months, perhaps I can keep warm this winter by burning my bills. Do you know what will make me very happy? Just making one end meet.

Last month, I finally was able to make it through the month. I stopped payment on four checks. I made a resolution. Next month, I will start living within my means, even if I have to borrow money to do so. A sad thing happened to me this morning. My checkbook died.

When I was finally able to rub a few pennies together, I took Gloria out to eat. I ordered a $20 meal. The waitress grumpily served us a mouthful. Economists say we should have at least four months’ income in the bank for emergencies. “Hey, Ecos, I do the jokes around here.”

Misery loves company, however. I learned through the grapevine (listening through the wall of the next apartment) that I am not the only one with money woes. I heard Gerard, my close neighbor, say to his wife, Beryl, “My love, I just received good news. We don’t have to move to a more expensive apartment. The landlord just raised our rent. And, don’t fret about the high cost of living. There are a lot of things you can still buy for a dollar - like 20 nickels.”

Despite the financial crunch, Gerard knew that he was growing older and he needed to buy an insurance policy. The insurance agent asked him, “How much life insurance do you want?”

“About $30,000,” Gerard answered.

“You don’t expect to be dead very long, do you?” the agent responded. “Don’t let me pressure you,” he added. “Sleep on it tonight and if you wake up in the morning, you can give me a call.” Gerard is aware that paying insurance premiums will keep him broke, but he will be a rich man when he dies.

My other neighbor, Seymour, just bought a large insurance policy on his wife, Cup Cake. He never leaves the house without saying, “Take chances, C.C.” One time, Cup Cake tried to collect the life insurance on Seymour. “But your husband isn’t dead yet,” she was told.

“Yes, I know,” she sniffled. “But there is no life in him.”

Seymour finally wandered off and was missing for a long time. Cup Cake finally got the sorrowful news that Seymour had passed on. So, the next morning, she wrote to her insurance company, “I am happy to announce that my husband, who was reported missing, is now definitely deceased.”

The agent then handed her the full amount for which Seymour was insured. “While you are here,” the agent asked, “why don’t you open a policy on yourself?”

Cup Cake thought for a moment, and replied, “I think I will, since my husband had such good luck with his.”

My own insurance company is very reliable. In the 30 years they have been insuring me, they never missed sending a bill. They offered me a policy for fire and theft. Then I found out that to collect I have to be robbed during a fire. I made certain to have my house fully insured.

One feature of the plan stipulated that if a burglar got hurt while robbing my house, he could not sue me. When I was single, an insurance agent sold me a great retirement policy. I gave him the first payment and he retired. I am presently paying so much for insurance to take care of the future that I am slowly starving to death in the present.

Yes, life insurance is weird. The company bets that you will live. You bet that you won’t and you invest a fortune hoping to lose. I also insure my automobile. I got the no-fault insurance. I had an accident, so I contacted the insurance company. They told me that it wasn’t their fault. I had intended to buy a $1 million group life insurance policy until I found out that to get paid I had to die in a group.

Gerard then suggested that rather than paying for an insurance policy, I should invest in the stock market. He said that stocks would provide security for my old age. I foolishly bought, and all that my stocks did was to hasten its arrival. The stocks that I purchased aren’t listed in the business pages anymore. They now are found in the obituary section. I had one bit of good news lately. My migraine just split two for one.

So readers, be like me. Don’t worry, be happy! Eat, drink and be merry — for tomorrow living will cost you more.

Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at or call 229-0300, ext. 140.

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