Wealth is Overpriced

Two small houses share a driveway that runs between them. It spreads out to two garages in the back, one behind each house. The neighbours are friendly enough to chat on their lawns, but not friendly enough to vacation together. Their character and ambitions were not harmonious, so their relationship was simply casual.

The occupants of the house on the left were the Warrens, Clark and Marianne. Marianne worked at the county courthouse as a court stenographer. She was satisfied with the job, although it was often boring and never fulfilling. Clark was an insurance salesman at the same time as he was working toward real estate development.

The family that lived in the house on the right was Milton and Honey Young with their 12-year-old son, Adam, and their 14-year-old daughter, Sylvia. Honey enjoyed staying at home, caring for the house and the family. Milton was a proud draftsman at the telephone company. He enjoyed his job at the big drawing board amid co-workers who had become friends. The regular hours and days off enabled the Youngs to schedule times when they could visit together, or chat around the dinner table. The family was peaceful and comfortable.

The Warrens and the Youngs had been neighbours for about two years, when Clark Warren began to move ahead into real estate development. One of his life insurance clients was a developer. He agreed to accept Clark into a large suburban development he had just begun. In the cul-de-sac where five model homes were to be built, Clark Warren could own one.

Clark’s model was a front-to-rear split level house with imitation brick on the exterior, and a roof of green shingles. During construction, Clark struggled to arrange his calls to insurance prospects so he could go by the development site to see how his house was coming along. One time, early in the construction, Clark was watching the walls begin to go up, and he noticed that something was wrong. He went to the project manager and asked to see the blueprint of his house. Sure enough, the sliding door that was to lead to the rear patio was instead facing the side of the garage of the next house.

Clark’s response to this traumatic event led him to visit the site several times a week. He would walk around in the construction mess to check every detail against the plan. At the same time, he succeeded in selling three major industrial corporations massive policies. Clark Warren was on a roll. He drove himself on, starting his days early and ending them late. He became addicted to making deals. He made an arrangement with a bright young salesgirl to share his insurance clientele. She would take care of the day-to-day needs of the insurance office so Clark could put more energy into real estate development.

During the same time that Clark Warren was wheeling, dealing, and acquiring a solid portfolio of stocks and properties, Milton and Honey Young were satisfied with their life. Their children are well behaved and disciplined, resignedly taking after school jobs and working toward scholarships. Milton was asked to step up from the drawing board and become the director of a new division based on computer design facilities. A nice increase in salary and a private office came with the position, so he accepted.

Clark Warren, meanwhile, acquired a Mercedes Benz, and a BMW for his wife, Marianne. His real estate dealings had become large, and he was working sixteen hours a day – some days even longer. Marianne enjoyed the increased cash flow and the luxuries it bought, but rarely seeing Clark was becoming an irritant. She became friendly with a new judge named Oliver Kane. He was a young man, quite attractive, and divorced. They occasionally had lunch together, and on one occasion, after a gruelling day in the courtroom, they went to dinner before going home.

Marianne tried to reach Clark with phone and text messages, but there was no response. After dinner, Marianne did not go home. She went instead to Judge Kane’s apartment. She did not get home until almost three in the morning. She was relieved and concerned that Clark was not there. She didn’t know that while she was with the young judge, Clark was with the young woman in his insurance office. Within weeks, each knew of the other’s indiscretion, and a few months later, they were divorced.

The house was sold; Marianne got to keep her BMW and half the money from the house sale. Clark was also to pay her a substantial alimony each month. He struggled to keep his cash flow healthy, living in a penthouse with a spendthrift girlfriend while driving an expensive car and making monthly payments to Marianne.

A few years later, Clark Warren bumped into Milton Young on a downtown street. Milton observed that Clark had aged badly. Dark rings around his sunken eyes made him look ill. Clark noted that Milton had hardly changed. He looked fresh, and said he that he was happy with his family and still on the same job, although he rejected an offer to go into management. Clark asked why.

“Wealth is overpriced,” he said. “Don’t you see?”

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