Perplexing problems of the rich & famous

No doubt you shook your head when you heard that Tiger Woods’ ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, tore down a $12 million waterfront mansion that she had bought in North Palm Beach, Fla., because she didn’t like it. Now it’s being reported that she tore down the house because it had termites. Hmmmm. Really? Termites?

“What do you wanna do, lady? Fumigate or tear it down?”

That doesn’t quite explain why she bought the house in the first place. I don’t know about you, but whenever I buy a house for $12 million, I like to get it inspected. Sure, the inspection costs a couple hundred dollars, but who knows? It could save you, oh, $12 million. Or at least the sellers might have dropped the price to $11 million.

Also, when I spend $12 million on a house, I like to buy something I like. That way I don’t have to tear it down and build a whole new house that’s going to cost me another $12 million. It’s hard to believe that in all of Florida, with all the foreclosures, Nordegren couldn’t find something she liked for the same price or less. Maybe she’s just one of those people who don’t know how to bargain. Something tells me she’s not a coupon clipper.

Now, I don’t know Nordegren, and I’m sure she’s a nice person. It’s just that hearing numbers like that thrown around so casually makes the rest of us a little crazy. Millions of people are out of work, and a lot of the ones who are working are struggling to make ends meet. So when they hear that someone is tossing money out the window with a shovel, well, it’s demoralizing.

Of course, it’s not as if she didn’t work hard for that money. She had to live with Tiger in a living hell of private planes, celebrity friends, exotic travel and unimaginable luxury. Those are six horrible years she’ll never get back. Yes, he was, by his own admission, a lousy husband. Like that’s a rare thing. Just in my own little circle, I could tell you tales of lousy husbanding that make Tiger sound like Prince Charming.

I’m not taking his side or excusing him. I’m just saying that the only really abnormal thing about this whole situation is the money involved. When regular people get divorced – and it happens every day – it’s not spread all over the front page. We don’t usually read about our friends’ (or our own) marital problems in People magazine, and we don’t read about who got what in the settlement. Was it fair? Let’s ask some random people who don’t know you from Adam and see what they think.

We all like to think that if we had that kind of money we wouldn’t throw it away on silly things like tearing down mansions we really didn’t need in the first place. We would do things for other people; we would tear down, say, only a $2 million house and give the other $10 million to charity. Or maybe we’d give it to some of our down-on-their-luck, ne’er-do-well relatives. Or spring it on some friends who could use a helping hand. Well, maybe we wouldn’t give away the whole $10 million that’s left over, because we’d have to build a new house and buy some new furniture and hire a cleaning person and a pool boy. (I’ve always wanted a pool.) So we’d have only about $6 million left over for good works.

But then we should probably save half of that for our old age and, oh, yeah, we’ll need some for property taxes and groceries, and then the kids will have to go to a good college ... maybe we should only give a million to charity. Better to be safe than sorry.

Actually, let’s put that million dollars in a safe place and wait and see if we need it. Then we can help people – maybe not this year, but in a few years, when they really need it.

For all we know, maybe Elin Nordegren has given a ton of money to good causes. But all we’ll ever hear about is the teardown.

Jim Mullen’s book “Now in Paperback” is now in paperback. You can reach him at

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