Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. My Personal Struggle with OPM Addiction: A Cautionary Tale

 

Opium is my pet name for OPM – Other People’s Money. I know that it’s addictive and dangerous. I have personal friends whose lives have spiraled out of control after just trying a little bit of it. It seems harmless enough in small doses, but their experience has led me to do my very best to avoid experimenting even with recreational use of this powerful substance. But recently, I have fallen off the wagon. I share my story, hoping to help others. My name is Dr. Bastiat, and I am addicted to OPM.

I live in a very nice house on a golf course in a gated community in Hilton Head. A few months ago, we found a leak in our roof. My neighbor down the street had just replaced his roof. His estimate was $13,000, but during the repair, they found some problems with flashing and sheeting, and it ended up costing nearly $15,000. My house is a little bigger, so I was thinking of numbers close to $20,000. That would be a setback, but not enough of one to lead me to get hooked on OPM. At least, you wouldn’t think so, would you? But hear my story, dear reader, so that you do not suffer the same fate as me.

The roofer shows up, and he finds the leak. There’s a 5×5-foot area of bad shingles, plus some flashing that would need to be replaced. He figured $2,000 – maybe $3,000 if they found some other problems when they got into it. I mentioned that my neighbor got a whole new roof for five times that amount, and he just shrugged.

So he goes to my HOA. Our gated community has very restrictive rules – our mailboxes all match, and I recently got a letter from them pointing out that I needed more mulch around my landscaping. No kidding. Our neighborhood looks very nice. But the HOA rules supreme.

So he goes to my HOA and tells the lady that he needed to replace a 5×5-foot section of shingles on my roof. The lady there asked if he could match them. He said no, they don’t make that shingle anymore. And even if they did, the roof is 14 years old, and has faded some, and they wouldn’t match anyway. But he showed her samples he had found that were very, very close. He pointed out that the repair was in a valley of the roof, facing away from the road, and the new shingles were so close in color, that no one would ever notice the difference. Easy repair, and it’ll look great.

She said, “No.”

He said, “I have to fix this. His roof is leaking.”

She said “No.”

He said, “I need that in writing.”

So he comes to me with a letter stating that he was not permitted to repair my roof. I said some bad words, and he says, “Relax – the game is just beginning. Watch this.”

So he sends that letter to my home insurance company. They had already approved the $3,000 repair. He explained to the insurance company that he was not permitted to do the repair they had approved, and that the only way that he could repair this leak, and have all the shingles match, would be to replace the entire roof. Which would cost $70,000.

The insurance company approved it. They had to fix the leak.

The HOA approved it. The shingles all match, and it didn’t cost them anything.

My roofer approved it. He drives a Shelby Mustang.

My wife approved it. She got a new roof, and it didn’t cost her anything.

And here I sit, rocking back and forth in the dark, struggling with my addiction to OPM. You just can’t imagine the horror until you’ve been there yourself.

But I’ll bet that you have been there yourself, haven’t you? Don’t try to act holier than thou with me – I know you’ve dabbled in the pleasures of this drug yourself, correct? Be truthful. Maybe a little harmless experimentation in college, like a Pell Grant or something? No big deal, right? In fact, it was kind of nice, wasn’t it?

Right. I knew it. So don’t judge me.

Plus, this was just a little relapse. A long weekend, if you will.

I can quit anytime I want.

In fact, I quit now. I’ve had enough. That was it. Never again. I really mean it this time. You’ll see.

Oh, boy…

It’s just that OPM is, um… so, well, so wonderful. There. I said it. It’s wonderful. It really is.

But I don’t want any more. Nope. Not me.


The politicians continue to run for office promising more and more OPM for the masses.

And they win, and they hand out the OPM. Not just to those who really need it — they hand it out to everybody. The people are happy and content, and re-elect the politicians. And we don’t criticize, because now we’re all on the take. And after all, just a little is harmless, right? Maybe just a little more. Why not?

And the politicians keep handing it out — it doesn’t cost them anything.

And they keep getting re-elected. And on and on we go.

It’s mostly harmless, right? Why not?

Oh boy…

This is going to be difficult to stop.


My name is Dr. Bastiat, and I’m addicted to OPM.

 

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There are 113 comments.

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member

    Obviously, the solution is to overthrow the HOA.

    • #1
    • October 16, 2019, at 6:55 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  2. Stad Thatcher

    I am so glad we don’t live in a place with a HOA. My friends at work all had horror stories of HOA dealings. I’m convinced most HOA Presidents are Hugo Chavez wannabes, and get off on wielding power over their neighbors:

    “Your grass is 1/8″ too high.”

    “You can’t fly an American flag on your porch.”

    Your orange curtains are garrish – change them.”

    “Your porch furniture doesn’t conform to HOA standards.”

    • #2
    • October 16, 2019, at 6:55 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    I’m convinced most HOA Presidents are Hugo Chavez wannabes…

    Except for @skipsul.

    • #3
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:05 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    Dr. Bastiat: This is going to be difficult to stop.

    It’s the most powerful drug, because it is a form of power.

    • #4
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:05 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  5. MarciN Member

    Lord of the Ring, The Return of the King, “The Crack of Doom” (video is four minutes long): Many people have thought that Tolkien’s ring was addiction.

    • #5
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:21 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. EODmom Coolidge

    But what was the cause of the leak that the insurance company covered it? You must have a very understanding insurance company. And haven’t you paid premiums? With Your Own Money? I’m slow, so I guess the point was that your HOA loves spending OPM – yours. I agree with @jimmycarter – throw the bums out. HOA boards are just people with too much time on their hands for whom no bone is too small to fight over. But you love the gate, don’t you? I wouldn’t mind one in our little kinda rural neighborhood but I like that it’s a town road with town plowing and maintenance more….

    • #6
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:26 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  7. Stad Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    I’m convinced most HOA Presidents are Hugo Chavez wannabes…

    Except for @skipsul.

    That’s why I changed “all” to “most”. I figured Ricochet had some HOA Presidents who treat their neighbors like peasants with respect.

    • #7
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:31 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  8. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat Post author

    EODmom (View Comment):
    I’m slow, so I guess the point was that your HOA loves spending OPM – yours.

    What I was trying to point out is that when our government gives us free money, that’s our money, too. It’s the same thing as my insurance claim, but on a much bigger scale, and with different incentives for the players involved.

    But the government Ponzi scheme isn’t voluntary, which makes it much more dangerous.

    Sorry I wasn’t more clear…

    • #8
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:31 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  9. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Just wait and see what your next year’s homeowner’s insurance costs. Insurance companies are not a charity, and they don’t lose money.

    • #9
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:34 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  10. KentForrester Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat, from my reading of the story, you’re the only one who is not addicted to other people’s money. The roofer is, the HOA lady is, the insurance company is. But I don’t see how you are. Perhaps in another context, you will succumb to OPM, but for the time being you’re merely a victim of other people’s addiction to OPM.

    What’s up? You’ll have to correct my interpretation of the story.

    • #10
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:34 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  11. cdor Member

    What happened to the $20,000 roof replacement? Did you, at least, get new gutters as well? BTW, do not get too relaxed. Your insurance premium will be up for renewal next year. Sorry, Doc. This story is a great example of how easy it is for people to become tyrants over others when given power. Take a regular person, put them on the HOA…wallah, they turn into AOC.

    • #11
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:47 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  12. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Stad (View Comment):
    I’m convinced most HOA Presidents are Hugo Chavez wannabes, and get off on wielding power over their neighbors:

    Elizabeth Warren, for a certainty. I’ll bet an HOA is in her resume someplace.

    Our HOA meets once a year and costs $50 a year. That’s my only contact with them.

    • #12
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:47 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat Post author

    cdor (View Comment):
    What happened to the $20,000 roof replacement?

    My neighbor paid cash for his roof replacement. It wasn’t leaking, it just needed to be replaced. When he paid for it, it was about $15,000.

    Mine was an insurance job. Which came with a different price. As it always does, with insurance. I could tell you some stories about health insurance.

    I wonder what mine would have cost, if I had paid cash?

    • #13
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:57 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  14. Mark Camp Member

    This was a superb article–it will be reprinted somewhere for a wider audience if it hasn’t already.

    I have nothing to add about the content. That is a sign of a perfect piece of commentary!

    When we try to add to an essay like this, we sometimes accidentally subtract: divert attention from the piece to something about ourselves, like sticky notes attached to a good painting by visitors to an art museum. “I knew a lady named Lisa, too! She smiled just like that, because she had bad teeth.” “Once we had twelve people over for dinner, too. Too many!”

    • #14
    • October 16, 2019, at 7:59 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  15. Bob Thompson Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    What happened to the $20,000 roof replacement?

    My neighbor paid cash for his roof replacement. It wasn’t leaking, it just needed to be replaced. When he paid for it, it was about $15,000.

    Mine was an insurance job. Which came with a different price. As it always does, with insurance. I could tell you some stories about health insurance.

    I wonder what mine would have cost, if I had paid cash?

    I have two points, neither of which yield any OPM for me.

    I cannot imagine your circumstance of dealing with HOA and insurance at the same time. But then you have all that valuable experience with health insurance.

    I cannot deal with this so-called or pretend market economy we all live in. The numbers produced for almost anything are meaningless.

    • #15
    • October 16, 2019, at 8:14 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. cdor Member

    To be fair, HOA’s can be helpful if one has the misfortune of acquiring an irresponsible neighbor that shows a preference for a jungle, rather than a lawn, or decides to paint his house, which happens to be directly in your view, with a color so obnoxious as to prohibit your enjoyment of your property outside the walls of your house. Then there are the amateur car repair neighbors, with multiple broken down vehicles and no shelter to house them. That is not often a problem found in gated communities…except for jails, perhaps.

    • #16
    • October 16, 2019, at 8:21 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. Seawriter Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Just wait and see what your next year’s homeowner’s insurance costs. Insurance companies are not a charity, and they don’t lose money.

    Actually, my homeowners policy dropped after I replaced my roof after Harvey. Why? Because I had a new roof – not a 20-yr-old one. In Texas, at least, the age of the roof is factored into the cost of your homeowners policy. As you said, they are not a charity and know the older the roof, the more likely it will be they have to replace it. Don’t worry, by the time my new roof has to be replaced, the insurance company will already have recovered the cost of what they will pay out for a new one.

    The roof was 2 years old when we bought the house. If you purchase a new home around here, lot of insurance companies make you replace the roof if it is over a certain age before they will issue coverage. I think mine wanted one less than 10 years old.

    • #17
    • October 16, 2019, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  18. Jim McConnell Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Mark Camp

    This was a superb article–it will be reprinted somewhere for a wider audience if it hasn’t already.

    I have nothing to add about the content. That is a sign of a perfect piece of commentary!

    When we try to add to an essay like this, we sometimes accidentally subtract: divert attention from the piece to something about ourselves, like sticky notes attached to a good painting by visitors to an art museum. “I knew a lady named Lisa, too! She smiled just like that, because she had bad teeth.” “Once we had twelve people over for dinner, too. Too many!”

     Exactly. You got the good Doctor’s point – and it wasn’t about HOAs.

    • #18
    • October 16, 2019, at 8:51 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  19. Stad Thatcher

    cdor (View Comment):

    To be fair, HOA’s can be helpful if one has the misfortune of acquiring an irresponsible neighbor that shows a preference for a jungle, rather than a lawn, or decides to paint his house, which happens to be directly in your view, with a color so obnoxious as to prohibit your enjoyment of your property outside the walls of your house. Then there are the amateur car repair neighbors, with multiple broken down vehicles and no shelter to house them. That is not often a problem found in gated communities…except for jails, perhaps.

    So true. The problem is when there are no problems, then the HOA goes out and finds some . . .

    • #19
    • October 16, 2019, at 9:18 AM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Mark Camp Member

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Mark Camp

    This was a superb article–it will be reprinted somewhere for a wider audience if it hasn’t already.

    I have nothing to add about the content. That is a sign of a perfect piece of commentary!

    When we try to add to an essay like this, we sometimes accidentally subtract: divert attention from the piece to something about ourselves, like sticky notes attached to a good painting by visitors to an art museum. “I knew a lady named Lisa, too! She smiled just like that, because she had bad teeth.” “Once we had twelve people over for dinner, too. Too many!”

    Exactly. You got the good Doctor’s point – and it wasn’t about HOAs.

    Yeah, I didn’t want to come right out and say it. I thought I’d nudge, instead :-) Probably doesn’t work.

    • #20
    • October 16, 2019, at 9:39 AM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Bob Thompson Member

    Do I have to count that I’m retired on a federal pension administered by OPM? 

    • #21
    • October 16, 2019, at 9:45 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  22. Paul Erickson Member

    No OPM confessions yet? OK, I’ll start.

    I did the “cash for clunkers” thing. Ten years later, still feel guilty.

    • #22
    • October 16, 2019, at 9:49 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  23. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat Post author

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Obviously, the solution is to overthrow the HOA.

    WHAT?!? Why would I do that? I just got a free roof!

    • #23
    • October 16, 2019, at 9:50 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Bob Thompson Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Obviously, the solution is to overthrow the HOA.

    WHAT?!? Why would I do that? I just got a free roof!

    I actually know a guy who waits for the storms and then he goes to that storm area and finds the houses with minor damages to roofs or siding and guttering. He acts in a consulting role for the homeowners facilitating claims and, as far as I know, he collects some OPM.

    • #24
    • October 16, 2019, at 9:55 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Doc, the only thing strange about this story, to me, is your report that the insurance company paid $70,000 for a $20,000 roof replacement. Are you sure that they actually paid this much? Often, there are significant discounts negotiated.

    Good for you for having insurance to cover this loss. The patch-job would not actually have put the house back into its original condition, so the HOA’s objection was understandable.

    If the insurance company spent too much, this was not a result of using OPM. The insurance company was using its own money. If it wasted that money by overspending, it needs better employees or a better system.

    You have nothing to feel guilty about, and this is not a case of OPM. You paid your premiums, and demanded that the insurance company perform by fixing the problem. They did.

    If your bill is higher next year, you can look for new coverage.

    • #25
    • October 16, 2019, at 10:08 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  26. Bob Thompson Member

    I recently had an interesting conversation with my twenty year old grandson. He is considering what area of endeavor he might pursue as a work career as he determines major areas of study in college. Finance and computer science were the two candidates.Since I had background in both, we talked. I told him that although I had background in both, the experience I had in the financial area was in transaction operations. What I had observed from the field of ‘finance’ itself was full of corruption, inconsistencies, and fraud that I had never managed to overcome to my satisfaction. I consider finance an interesting subject but it exist within another swamp that specializes in using other people’s money (OPM).

    • #26
    • October 16, 2019, at 10:14 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Bob Thompson Member

    I wonder what qualifies as OPM. The President has just said that we are through with endless wars and repeating the process of depleting our military capability. Isn’t this a way of stopping one major way that those financially invested in arms production use OPM? Tell me, please, how I am wrong.

    • #27
    • October 16, 2019, at 10:34 AM PST
    • Like
  28. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat Post author

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Doc, the only thing strange about this story, to me, is your report that the insurance company paid $70,000 for a $20,000 roof replacement. Are you sure that they actually paid this much? Often, there are significant discounts negotiated.

    Jerry, 

    Yes, they sent the checks to me, and I gave them to the roofer. He got that much.

    My kid once got in a fender bender with her Crown Vic (I buy Crown Vics for all my kids – safe, cheap, and great cars). The guy at the body shop said it would be $1,800 to repair. I told him I was paying for it myself. Then he said it was $300, cash.

    I’m not sure why the difference is so striking.

    But again, my neighbor paid for his roof himself. Mine was an insurance job. With my neighbor paying his own money for his own roof, the price was less.

    I was spending other people’s money on stuff for me (Friedman’s third way to spend money, I think), so quality matters, but price is less important. I know that I pay insurance premiums, but I did not write a check for $70,000. That was $70,000 of OPM, at that moment.

    I’m not sure if that’s the reason for the difference. But it’s a big difference.

    Thanks,

    Dr. B

    • #28
    • October 16, 2019, at 10:42 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  29. Bob Thompson Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Doc, the only thing strange about this story, to me, is your report that the insurance company paid $70,000 for a $20,000 roof replacement. Are you sure that they actually paid this much? Often, there are significant discounts negotiated.

    Jerry,

    Yes, they sent the checks to me, and I gave them to the roofer. He got that much.

    My kid once got in a fender bender with her Crown Vic (I buy Crown Vics for all my kids – safe, cheap, and great cars). The guy at the body shop said it would be $1,800 to repair. I told him I was paying for it myself. Then he said it was $300, cash.

    I’m not sure why the difference is so striking.

    But again, my neighbor paid for his roof himself. Mine was an insurance job. With my neighbor paying his own money for his own roof, the price was less.

    I was spending other people’s money on stuff for me (Friedman’s third way to spend money, I think), so quality matters, but price is less important. I know that I pay insurance premiums, but I did not write a check for $70,000. That was $70,000 of OPM, at that moment.

    I’m not sure if that’s the reason for the difference. But it’s a big difference.

    Thanks,

    Dr. B

    For some young person entering the finance industry is there a formula for understanding this or is it beyond that?

    • #29
    • October 16, 2019, at 10:48 AM PST
    • Like
  30. Vance Richards Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    What I was trying to point out is that when our government gives us free money, that’s our money, too.

    I am out of work right now. Because I have no income, people tell me I could qualify for some government programs. But I have money. Certainly don’t want to hook up to the OPM because I have seen what the results can be.

    • #30
    • October 16, 2019, at 10:50 AM PST
    • 4 likes
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