Think taking candy from a baby is easy? Taking cash is even easier.
My eight-month-old son didn’t cry when I emptied his savings account last month. In fact, he’d never have known about the crime had I not decided to use this space as a confessional.
My inauguration into embezzlement came shortly after baby Peter celebrated his baptism. In the thank-you cards, I told attendees their gifts of cash would be used to start a college savings fund for the newly-anointed Catholic.
This was my intent until I heard the steady drip, drip, drip of rainwater collecting on my stovetop. Water was leaking in from the vent above the range as well as in several areas upstairs.
Prior to the leak, we knew our roof needed repair. The brittle, gray shingles had more cracks than an elephant with dry skin. We saved about $3,000 in anticipation of a new roof and hoped it would suffice.
Unfortunately, the bill came to $7,600. We briefly considered putting the balance on a credit card, but decided stealing from our infant son came with a much better interest rate.
It’s been about a month since the roof was removed and replaced. It’s held up well against some fierce summer storms. It looks good too, though I am pretty sure I’m the only one that’s noticed.
And yet, the guilt lingers. The baby may not know his parents raided his piggy bank, but I do. I called Chris McNeil, a local financial services provider, looking for a bit of solace.
“The last year has been the most difficult year in my 11-year career in the sense that people are having to make some really difficult choices,” McNeil said.
The economic downturn has forced many of McNeil’s customers to pull money out of retirement accounts and other accounts they previously considered untouchable – including college savings accounts, he said.
In the short term, the roof repair may not have been a bad investment. Had I followed through with investing Peter’s baptismal earnings, the value would likely have fallen 30 percent, whereas the new roof is a fixed cost, McNeil said.
“What you have done is not the worst mistake in the whole world,” he said.
After making me feel like the next Warren Buffett, McNeil reminded me that college savings isn’t a short-term investment. The important lesson here is not only to replace Peter’s pilfered savings but also establish a regular pattern of putting money aside for education.
McNeil applauded my plan to set up a monthly payroll deduction, essentially establishing a forced savings mechanism. Though that’s going to be a stretch since we don’t have $100 per month to spare.
Still, setting up such an account seems like a fair way to tackle the repayment. That plus about a dozen Hail Marys and a couple of Our Fathers is an appropriate penance.
Article image by: clspeace, Flickr
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.