How to Tell if the Person You’re Dating is After Your Money

A objective list of things to consider to reveal the truth.

A very, very good friend of mine — someone I’ve known for a very long time — has begun dating a woman who may have ulterior motives in the relationship. My friend is apparently quite smitten with this woman and I suspect it’s because they met at a time in his life when he was feeling particularly vulnerable to an agreeable woman’s “charms.”

Sadly, my friendship with this person is on the rocks — indeed, he’s tuned me out completely and won’t listen to anything I have to say. And although many of his other friends have similar suspicions about this new woman in his life, they just want to “keep out of it” because it’s “none of their business.” I think they should be ashamed of themselves. I think friends who really care do need to get involved, at least to offer objective advice.

I’m doing my part. Here’s list of bullet points to consider when there’s a possibility that the person you have begun dating might be after your money:

  • How did you meet? Dating sites are excellent tools for people trolling for good financial partners. Many sites encourage you to provide financial information such as annual income. This makes it easy for someone looking to improve their finances to find someone in a better financial situation then they’re in.
  • How quickly did conversation turn to your material possessions? Did you mention your multiple homes, flashy European car, or airplane? (These are just examples, of course.) If someone is interested in your money, they’ll be impressed by what you own and more anxious to “seal the deal.”
  • What techniques did this person use to get and keep your interest? This can be conversation based — for example, agreeing with everything you say or siding with you against a common enemy. Or it might be more emotionally based, such as sharing risqué photographs or personal details to gain your trust. A rather well-off friend of mine who tried dating sites told me that a few of the more desperate women sent him “boudoir photos” very early on in their email conversations.
  • How quickly did the other party satisfy your basic emotional needs? I’m talking about button-pushing here — “sealing the deal.” Women can easily seal the deal with good sex, the sooner the better. Men can seal the deal with things like flowers, romance, hand-holding, cuddling, and/or excellent foreplay before sex. Someone looking for a meal ticket will want to build a strong emotional bond quickly, while you’re still wowed by all the attention you’re getting and don’t have time to think clearly about what’s really going on.
  • How big is the financial inequity between you? There are five main things to consider here:
    • Employment status. Is this new person gainfully employed? Has he/she been working steadily for a while or bouncing from one job to another? While being “freelance” or “self-employed” might sound good, if there’s no work and no revenue, it really doesn’t count as being gainfully employed.
    • Income. Is this person earning enough income to cover living expenses with enough left over to live comfortably? Is his/her standard of living and lifestyle similar to yours?
    • Outstanding debt. Does this person have a lot of outstanding debt such as student loans, credit card balances, and personal loans? If this person owns a home, is it under water? If so, by how much?
    • Net worth. Is this person’s net worth — that’s total assets minus total debt — negative? Someone who is in debt up to his/her eyeballs will be highly motivated to find a partner who can help prevent him/her from drowning in it.
    • Retirement savings. Does this person have his/her own retirement savings including pensions, IRAs, and retirement investments? Someone without a retirement plan could be looking for someone else to provide it.
  • Has the other party asked for assistance? Has this person appealed to you to help with his/her finances? Perhaps borrow a small (or larger) amount of money? Ask your advice about refinancing or selling a home? Enlist your help getting a job?
  • Has the other party indicated that he/she wants to get married? Marriage — as I’ve so recently discovered — is more than just a vow of love until “death do you part” (which can apparently be broken). It’s a legal and binding contract with all kinds of ramifications on finances. If the other party is in a hurry to get married, it might be because he/she is in a hurry to grab your purse strings. Remember that a good prenuptial agreement can save you far more than it costs to draw up. And if your new partner refuses to sign it, that’s a pretty good indication of what his/her intentions really are.

In my friend’s case, an objective look at these points raised a lot of red flags. It seems that there’s a huge financial inequity between him and the woman he’s dating. In addition, the woman was extremely quick to seal the deal (yes, with sex) and gain his trust. That, coupled with what I know about the woman’s personality and my friend’s extraordinary behavior changes after they met, has me convinced that she’s primarily motivated by the financial benefits of a relationship with him. But because she meets his emotional needs — constant agreeability, ego stroking, companionship, and sex — he’s become blind to what’s so obvious to the rest of us — including the friends who simply won’t speak up.

What makes this all the more lamentable is that my friend, at age 56, is at a point in his life where he’s achieved an enviable amount of financial security. No, he’s not rich, but he’s financially stable with a positive net worth and very little real debt. To take on the financial responsibilities of a person he barely knows just because she’s pushed the right buttons when he needed them pushed is breathtakingly tragic.

Now I don’t know if my friend will read this. He very seldom reads my blog. I’m sure that if he does, he’ll recognize himself and his situation. He’d be blind not to.

But will he take what I’ve written here in the spirit in which it was intended: as a wakeup call to objectively look at the situation and possibly slow down? Or will what I’ve written here for him further damage our long friendship? Sadly, his irrational behavior lately leads me to believe that it’ll do the latter, possibly destroying our friendship forever. I believe that at this point, he’s too far gone down a foolish path.

As good good friend, however — a really good friend who truly cares about his emotional well-being — I’m willing to take the risk. To do otherwise would be to betray our long friendship.

I hope he reads this and understands.

Gold Digger

A definition that I find extremely fitting for a certain person.

As I learn more and more about what’s been going on in Arizona since I left in May, a term came up that I find extremely fitting for one of the parties involved. From the New Oxford American Dictionary:

gold digger
noun informal
a person who dates others purely to extract money from them, in particular a woman who strives to marry a wealthy man.

What amazes me is how easily a weak man can be led around by his penis.

Why I Spent $11,524 to Replace Perfectly Good Fuel Tanks on my R44 Helicopter

The short answer: Lawyers.

I’m not sure when the brouhaha began.

It might have been right after this crash, when a helicopter operating at or near gross weight at an off-airport landing zone in high density altitude situation by a sea level pilot crashed, killing all four on board and starting a forest fire that raged for two days.

Or it could have been earlier, after this crash, which I blogged about here, when a helicopter operating 131 pounds over the maximum gross weight for an out of ground effect hover by a brand new helicopter pilot low-level at an off road race crashed, severely injuring all three people on board.

I’m sure it was before this crash, when a 250-hour pilot landed to “relieve himself” at an off-airport landing zone with a density altitude of at least 11,000 feet, then panicked when he got a low rotor horn and aux fuel pump light at takeoff and botched up a run-on landing on unsuitable terrain, severely injuring himself and his wife.

These three cases have two things in common (other than pilots who did not exercise the best judgement): the helicopters were R44s and the crashes caused fires that injured or killed people.

Crash an Aircraft, Have a Fire

Of course, if you crash any kind of aircraft that has fuel on board hard enough into terrain, a fire is likely to result. Fuel is flammable. (Duh.) When a fuel tank ruptures, fuel spills. (Duh.) If there’s an ignition source, such as a spark or a hot engine component, that fuel is going to ignite. (Duh.)

I could spend the rest of the day citing NTSB reports where an airplane or helicopter crash resulted in a fire. But frankly, that would be a complete waste of my time because it happens pretty often.

Don’t believe me? Go to http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/index.aspx, scroll down to the Event Details area, and enter fire in the field labeled Enter your word string below. Then click Submit Query and check out the list. When I ran this search, I got more than 14,000 results, the most recent being a Cirrus SR22 that crashed on April 27, 2012 — less than 2 weeks ago.

The Knee Jerks

But Robinson reacted in typical knee-jerk fashion. After issuing a ridiculous Safety Notice SN-40, “Postcrash Fires,” that recommended that each helicopter occupant wear a “fire-retardant Nomex flight suit, gloves, and hood or helmet,” they began redesigning components of the helicopter’s fuel system. First they redesigned the fuel hose clamps and issued Service Bulletin SB-67, titled “R44 II Fuel Hose Supports.” Then they redesigned the rigid fuel lines to replace them with flexible lines and issued Service Bulletin SB-68, titled “Rigid Fuel Line Replacement.” And then they redesigned the fuel tanks to include a rubber bladder and released Service Bulletin SB-78 (superseded by SB-78A), the dreaded “Bladder Fuel Tank Retrofit.”

Why “dreaded”? Primarily because of the cost of compliance, which was estimated between $10,000 and $14,000.

Originally released on December 20, 2010 (Merry Christmas from the folks at Robinson Helicopter!), Robinson did give us some breathing room. The time of compliance was set to “As soon as practical, but no later than 31 December 2014.” I did the math and realized that my helicopter would likely be timed out — in other words, back at the factory for overhaul — before then. But the February 21, 2012 revision moved the compliance date up to December 31, 2013. At the rate I was flying — about 200-250 hours per year — it looked as if I’d still be flying it when December 2013 rolled along.

Is it Required?

I talked to my FAA POI. He’s the guy that oversees my Part 135 operations. He’s a good guy: reasonable and easy to talk to. He doesn’t bother me and I try hard not to bother him. After all, he’s got bigger operators with bigger headaches to worry about.

We talked about the Service Bulletin. Neither of us were clear on whether the FAA would require compliance for my operation. After all, it was a Service Bulletin, not an Airworthiness Directive (AD), which is definitely required.

We left off the conversation with acknowledgement that I didn’t have to do anything at all for quite some time. We’d revisit it a little later.

Pond Scum

Around this time, I was contacted by a lawyer representing the family of the 250-hour pilot who crashed in the mountains because he had to “relieve himself.” This guy had seen my blog posts about my problems with my helicopter’s auxiliary fuel pump — perhaps this one or this one or possibly this one. Or maybe all three.

He was looking for an “expert witness” to provide information about the problems with the fuel pump. It was clear that he was trying to pin the blame for his clients’ injuries on the fuel pump manufacturer and Robinson Helicopter. Not on his client, of course, who had caused the accident by making a series of very stupid decisions. Apparently, Robinson is supposed to make idiot-proof helicopters.

I got angry about the whole thing — lawyers shifting the blame to people who don’t deserve it — and responded as you might expect. I also blogged about it here.

I didn’t make the connection between lawyers and bladder fuel tanks. I believed — and still believe — that it’s not unreasonable for post-crash fires to occur in the event of an aircraft accident. It’s part of the risk of being a pilot. Part of the risk of flying.

The Buzz and Insurance Concerns

Meanwhile, the Robinson owner community was buzzing with opinions about the damn bladder fuel tanks. Some folks suggested that they’d been developed as a means for Robinson to make money off owners in a time when helicopter sales were slow.

Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think Robinson was just trying to protect itself from liability. By offering this option, it would be up to the helicopter owner to decide what to do. If the owner didn’t get the upgrade and had a post-crash fire, Robinson could step back and say, “The new fuel tanks might have prevented that. Why didn’t you get them? Don’t blame us.” And they’d be right.

And that got me thinking about my insurance. So I called my insurance agent, who was also a friend and helicopter pilot. The year before, he’d managed to come up with an excellent and affordable policy for R44 owners and I’d switched to that policy as soon as my existing policy ended. Would I be covered if I didn’t get the tanks installed right away? He told me that of course I’d be covered. The compliance date wasn’t until December 31, 2013.

Buy Now, Save Money?

I also talked to my mechanic. He told me that the tanks were on back order and it could take up to eight months to get them. I was also under the impression that the cost of the tanks was going to rise at the end of 2011. And that if I ordered the tanks, I wouldn’t have to pay for them until they arrived. I figured that once they arrived, I’d store them until I was ready to have them installed. Or maybe even hold onto them until overhaul.

So I ordered them in late December, right before the Robinson factory closed for the holiday break.

I’d been misinformed. I had to pay for them up front: $6,800. Merry Christmas.

And, oh yeah: the price didn’t go up, either.

A Horrifying Scenario

Time went by. I thought about the damn tanks on and off throughout the winter months. In February, during my occasional checking of accident reports, I saw this report about an R44 with a post-crash fire. It got me thinking about liability again.

And then I started thinking about lawyers, like that sleezebag who had contacted me. And my imagination put together this scenario:

My helicopter crashes and there’s a fire. One of my passengers is burned. Although my insurance covers it, the blood sucking legal council my passenger has hired decides to suck me dry. He claims that I knew the fuel tanks were available and that they could prevent a fire and that I neglected to install them. He puts the blame squarely on me. My insurance, which is limited to $2 million liability, runs out and the bastard proceeds to take away everything I own, ruining me financially forever.

Not a pretty picture.

Is this what Robinson intended? I’d like to think not. But I’m sure that as I type this, some lawyer in Louisiana is working on a case using the logic cited above. The pilot might be dead, but his next of kin won’t have much left when the lawyers are done with him.

I started thinking that I may as well install the damn tanks — just in case.

Dealing with Logistics

In late March the fuel tanks were delivered. It cost another $310 for shipping. The two boxes weren’t very heavy, but they were huge. I had them delivered directly to my mechanic.

And then I started thinking about logistics. I had originally expected the tanks to arrive during the summer while I was gone for my summer work in Washington state. I figured I’d have them installed at my next annual or 100-hour inspection near year-end. But here they were, waiting for installation any time I was ready.

But when would I be ready? My mechanic said it would take about 10 days (minimum) to install them. Because the tanks had to be fitted to the helicopter, it was a multistep process:

  1. Remove the old tanks.
  2. Put on the new tanks and fit them to the helicopter. (Metal work required.)
  3. Remove the new tanks.
  4. Paint the new tanks.
  5. Reinstall the new tanks.

Most of that time was taken up with getting the tanks painted and waiting for them to dry.

Logistics is a major part of my life. I’m constantly working out solutions for moving my helicopter and other equipment to handle the work I have. I’m also constantly trying to schedule any maintenance at a time when I’m least likely to need to fly. This spring was especially challenging: I had to get my truck, RV, and helicopter up to Washington before the end of May. I also had to go to Colorado to record a Lynda.com course before the end of May.

So on April 13, I flew the helicopter down to my mechanic in Chandler and asked my friend Don to pick me up (in his helicopter) and take me home to Wickenburg. Then, the same day, I started the 3-day drive in my truck with my RV to Washington. I arrived on April 15. A week later, on April 22, I took Alaska Air flights to Colorado, where I stayed for another 6 days. Then, on April 28, I flew directly back to Phoenix. Don picked me up at the Sky Harbor helipad and dropped me off at Chandler. All the work on the helicopter was done and it looked great. I flew the helicopter back to Wickenburg that morning. Two days later, on May 30, I picked up passengers in Scottsdale and began the 2-day flight to Washington. We arrived on May 1.

Item Cost
Fuel Tanks $6,800
Shipping $310
Tank Installation $3,960
Tank Painting $454
Total Cost $11,524

The installation and painting had cost another $3,960 and $454 respectively, bringing my total for installing the damn bladder fuel tanks to $11,524.

I Blame the Lawyers

So, yes, I spent $11,524 for tanks that might only benefit me in the event of a crash. No guarantees, of course.

I didn’t need the tanks. They didn’t make flight any safer or better. They only might make crashing safer.

And the only reason I did this is so that a lawyer couldn’t point his finger at me and blame me for ignoring a Service Bulletin that wasn’t wasn’t required by law until (maybe) December 31, 2013.

The only reason I did this was to possibly prevent a lawyer from taking away everything I own, everything I’ve worked hard for all my life, in the unlikely event that my helicopter crashed and a fire started.

Do you want to know why aviation is so expensive? Why it costs so much to fly with me? Ask the lawyers.

Another Quick Groupon Story

Another real-life story about Groupon users.

A friend of mine in Washington owns a small winery. It’s open two days a week for tastings. He charges $6/person and waives the fee with the purchase of two bottles of wine. For the $6, you get a 1-ounce taste of every wine he makes that hasn’t sold out. He had eight varieties; two were sold out as of mid August.

A while back, a hotel in nearby Wenatchee called him. They wanted to do a Groupon wine-tasting deal. Would he allow the people who bought their Groupon to have a free tasting? Other local wineries had signed on.

My friend didn’t know much about Groupon. But he’s a nice guy who wanted to help the hotel folks and he liked the idea of having more people come to his winery. He figured he’d reach new people and sell some wine. This was before three of his wines won awards at a blind tasting of area wines; before his wines started selling out.

They started coming without warning on a Saturday afternoon. Dozens of them. They soon took up all the seating in his tasting area. He called me for help. I put on some clean clothes and rushed over to help him pour.

We poured, they drank. They didn’t seem to have much interest in the wine. The seemed more interested in the list of wineries included in their Groupon. The more wineries they visited, the more free wine they’d drink. My friend sold one bottle for every three or four people who tasted.

One table of eight young women were there for more than two hours. I guess they figured that their Groupon had entitled them to a shady place to spend their entire afternoon. Collectively, they bought two bottles of wine. They left chewing gum stuck to the table.

Some people without Groupons didn’t stick around. There wasn’t enough seating for them. They didn’t feel like waiting.

This was repeated on the following two weekends. My friend had to pay someone to help him pour to keep up with the crowd. He lost money on every Groupon tasting. And he doubts the Groupon users will be back.

My friend learned a valuable lesson. As you might guess, he won’t be offering his own Groupon deal anytime soon.

On Buying Friends

Another wake-up call from Twitter on the state of some people’s minds.

The other day, I went to look at a small jet boat. I friend of mine here in Washington was thinking of selling it and it sounded like what want I wanted to zip around the Columbia River on sunny days during cherry season. When I went down to take a look, I saw a 16-foot 1995 Sea Ray with some cosmetic issues (as you might imagine) but very clean and in generally good condition. The 120 hp engine was immaculate, tuned up twice a year for its entire life. The price, although not agreed upon yet, would be right within my limited budget for a boat I would only use five months out of the year; paying cash would not be a challenge at all.

I used my phone to take photos to send my husband. He thinks I’m nuts for even considering the purchase, but then again, he thinks I’m nuts whenever I consider a purchase. And he’s not spending every summer just a few miles away from one of the greatest boating and fishing rivers in the country.

Sea Ray Under ConsiderationI also sent the photo you see here to Twitter. I get around a bit and sometimes tweet photos of the things I see and do. It’s part of how I participate in social networks. Along with the photo, I tweeted:

Thinking about buying this for next summer.

I went on with my life, as I usually do. (Contrary to what many people think, I do not live my life buried in a Twitter feed.) We covered the boat back up and made plans to take it out on the river later in the day. I returned around 5:15 with my friend, Pete (in the photo) and his 12-year-old son. Pete has a hitch on his truck and towed the boat to the ramp about 1/4 mile away. We launched it. Linda (in the photo), the owner, joined me for a ride on the river. Considering it hadn’t been used in at least a year, it started up pretty quickly (the battery was kept on a tender in the garage). We took it slow in the No Wake area, then Linda took it up to full speed. She made a few hair-raising turns before we switched places and I zipped around a little. Then I went back, traded Linda for Pete and his son, and took another ride. The boat performed very well and was small enough that I’d be able to handle it on my own.

The next morning, as I lay in bed waiting for the sun to rise, I went through my normal social networking routine, checking Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ for replies to anything I’d written and interesting new tweets. Among the replies was the following, posted by someone who apparently follows me on Twitter:

Maria, why do you want that boat? I suspect you have plenty of friends already just by having a helicopter.

If I’d been sitting up when I read this, my jaw probably would have dropped four inches. I had to read it five times to make sure I understood what he was implying. Was he trying to say that my primary purpose for buying this little boat was to make more friends?

Crescent BarThat couldn’t be any further from the truth. I planned to use the boat mostly by myself, likely on weekdays when most of my friends were working. I imagined exploring the river’s lakes early and late in the day when the winds were calm and the light was good for photography. I imagined skimming over the river when the water was like glass (see photo), cutting a line across its surface at 40 miles an hour. I even imagined taking up fishing again. I had no desire to be out on the river on weekends when the crazies were out. And the boat’s weight limit is only 750 pounds with 5 seats — not the kind of thing you’d use for partying. Heck, I was told it can’t even pull a water skier.

I also need to stress here that I didn’t buy a helicopter to attract friends or even use as bragging rights. There’s a lot of people who don’t even know I own one. (Actually, I don’t own it — the bank and I are still partners on it; I pay them monthly, they let me keep it.) Yes it’s fun to fly around, but I can’t afford to just fly it for fun. It’s part of my business and I work it as hard as I can to make it pay for itself. On the limited times I get to fly it just for fun, I’m usually by myself. I don’t dangle it as a carrot in front of people as a lure into a “friendship.”

I felt a need to set this guy straight, so I replied:

People who are my friend just because I have a helicopter aren’t the kind of friends I want to go boating — or flying — with.

And this is really true. If someone “likes” me because I have a helicopter, they’re probably not the kind of person I want to be friends with. I don’t like shallow people.

His response came quickly; perhaps he’s the kind of person who does live his life buried in a Twitter feed.

I guess that means you have ‘real’ friends. It seems like I have to ‘buy’ mine. Sure wish I could that repositioning trip with you.

He was referring to my twice-a-year helicopter flight between Arizona and Washington, which I take paying passengers or pilots on in an attempt to recoup my costs. Believe me, I wouldn’t take strangers along for the ride if I didn’t feel that I had to. Flying a helicopter is very expensive.

Although the concept of “buying” friends was something almost beyond my comprehension, I certainly didn’t want to open that can of worms with him. I replied:

Yes, I have both real and virtual friends. I don’t tolerate “hangers on.” The trip is amazing; maybe next spring? I come back in May.

He replied:

I first saw your time-lapse video across Arizona (I think) it was amazing. I am envious of people that can go flying every day.

I wasn’t sure which video he was referring to. I hadn’t done a time-lapse across Arizona. I suspected he was talking about my Phoenix to Page video, which was on YouTube. I had done a time-lapse of a flight between Pendleton, OR and Salt Lake City, but I didn’t recall putting it online. I said:

I think that one was just a bunch of clips, Phoenix to Page? Or did you see the time lapse Pendleton to Salt Lake? long flights!

He replied:

the vid was PHX to Page, very enjoyable. I saw the motorcycle racer Mat Mladin has an R-44 for his profile pic. #envy

I had nothing more to say. I felt sorry for this guy. He’d used the word “envy” (or a form of it) in two of his tweets to me. It reminded me that there are people out there who aren’t satisfied with what they’ve been able to achieve in their lives — but instead of working hard to get where they want to be, they sit back and look at what everyone else has with envy. (I can think of two people I’m envious of, and what I envy about them is their jobsnot anything they own.) I don’t know this guy’s story and I probably don’t want to. I suspect we have nothing in common.

I do know people, however, who seem to think that a person’s value is based on what they own. These are the same people who go out and buy a new car every two or three years and load it up with a lot of blingy options. They live in big houses, have lots of toys like watercraft and off-road vehicles, and are in debt up to their eyeballs — or even drowning it it. They think they really want and need these things, but all they really want and need is to show their neighbors and friends and others that they have them.

People call it “keeping up with the Joneses.”

And if they’re lucky enough to have kept their jobs in this recession, they’re working their asses off 40-60 hours a week to earn enough money to keep their heads above water, leaving very little time to enjoy the possessions that have enslaved them.

I’m not like that. I work hard, I live well within my means, and I value my time — and the freedom to make my own schedule and enjoy life — above most things. I don’t have a showy car or house. I also don’t have any real debt (except for that bank partnership for the helicopter). I probably spend about 180 days a year goofing off, doing things I like to do.

It bothered me, at first, that this Twitter person seemed to think I was someone who used money to buy toys to attract friends — and envy, I suppose. But then I realized that he probably didn’t know any better. He might be like that and simply assume that everyone is.

I feel very sorry for the people who just don’t understand what life is all about. It’s not about collecting toys and impressing others with what you own. It’s about learning, growing, doing. It’s about earning friendships by respecting, genuinely caring about, and helping people you like — without asking for anything in return except perhaps a smile or a cup of coffee. It’s about spending quality time with friends and family, doing things together to enrich all of your lives. It’s about making every day count, every minute worth living.

So please don’t hold it against me — or label me as a conspicuous consumer — if I buy this little old boat. I just want to get out on the river a bit and make next summer just a little more fun.