Sunday, November 9, 2008

If You Find Yourself Heading Towards Financial Oblivion...STOP

We've had a house full of guests over the past week which makes for little time to blog but lots of stuff to write about. Today's topic is about one family who visited recently. The names have been changed to protect the guilty...

A family which is distantly related to us came to visit for a week. They are wonderful people and lots of fun to be around but I have a very big concern with them. They have told us quite plainly that they are in debt, to the tune of a high six figure number. Now I don't know about most people, but common sense would dictate that if you are in a financial free fall and your very financial future is at stake, that you would take drastic action to correct the spending money that you don't have. Much like if you are flying a fighter jet with your family aboard and you are heading straight for the ground. Would you turn you head so you don't see the ground coming or would you bring the nose up so fast the entire family would have whiplash (but avoid certain disaster)? Here's some of my observations:
  • Why did they pay to fly a family of five to visit us for a week? Although they get a free place to stay, they paid for airfare, food, lots of shopping, etc. It wasn't like there was an important event or anything, they just wanted to take a trip. My comment (which I am writing here but had to restrain myself from telling them): if you are in debt, cut out all unnecessary VACATIONS.
  • Food is a social bonding thing but I have serious food issues with them, beginning with the fact that each meal requires them to drive to three different fast food restaurants to please each child. I'm sure I had an incredulous look on my face the first few times this happened although I didn't say anything under threat (actually it was a glare) from the spouse who knew exactly what I was thinking. Back in the day--which wasn't so long ago with our own kids--dinner was cooked and you either liked it and ate it or didn't like it and went hungry. The second thing is that they don't buy cheap food. A meal out for the spouse and I is usually a $5 foot long from Subway which we split; costing us $2.50 per person to eat out. In the case of this family, not only do they eat out for nearly every meal even though we cook lots of food for them, they usually head for the most expensive restaurant AND take us, some friends, and other relatives out as well. Last night's dinner cost them over $200 (!).
  • I don't know if you are familiar with Coach handbags but many of them cost about as much as a car payment. The lady of the family has a new, this season Coach handbag which retail costs about $500 (!). For a purse....something to carry around your junk...ayayay.
  • As they lament about their financial situation, they also toss in comments about their two new cars, their housekeeper, the latest and greatest appliances they have recently purchased (on credit), and other things that make me wonder if I'm in the Twilight Zone.
  • Oh, and they have already purchased their tickets for their vacation coming up in a couple of months; they will be hauling the whole family to Australia for a couple of weeks.

I guess the main point is that I don't much care how people spend their money. If you want to buy a diamond studded collar for your pooch I don't care (I'll laugh at the ridiculousness of doing such a thing, but I don't care). As long as you can afford it. As long as you meet your responsibilities which include not doing things that in the end will make your family homeless. As long as you teach your kids how to be decent human beings and good with money so they won't grow up to be swamped with debt. As long as you take responsibility for your actions. And as long as that when disaster is on the horizon, you do your best to correct the problem, rather than letting the situation explode in your face then ask 'what happened? duh', or worse, blame others for your dire situation much like the many people who took out huge home mortgage loans that they couldn't afford then blamed the banks for their foreclosures, but that's another post. ...I'll stop ranting now...


  1. All I can say is WOW!

  2. i agree with everything, except the fighter jet analogy. if you yank back too hard on the stick, an airplane will "stall",spin,and/or breakup in flight, then crash, often with a very impressive fire-ball. maybe you could send them dave ramseys book, as an early christmas gift, otherwise maybe they can just fade into the crowd with all the other bankrupts in a few months.

  3. I agree with you. It is one thing to have car payments (reality for most folks) and a mortgage but other then that I see no reason not to live within your means. Doing anything else is stupid.

    On a side note my wife has one of those bags but it was her college graduation present to herself and purchased at their outlet (last years model).

  4. Frustrating, isn't it. And they'll be the ones who benefit from the bailout we're all paying for.

    Makes me wish I would simply stop paying my bills and wait for good ole' Uncle Sam to bail me out.

    OK. Not really.

  5. I forgot to ask this earlier.... why didn't you simply confront them with the truth?

    Admittedly, I'm not very POPULAR with family members ;) but they do know I call it as I see it. And I tell them that I will not be an enabler... it's just not my style.

    So, just curious. Don't we have a responsibility to say it like it is and raise the Bullshit Flag?

  6. Looks like they could use a little "common cents" in their spending habits. My advice is usually quite simple. PAY CASH!


  7. ML--I would have said something if they were my relatives but since they are in-laws, the spouse has this glare-frown face down usually happens just as I am about to say something that I think should be really obvious to all in attendance but the glare-frown thing, which I know from years of experience, means don't say a word...guess that's why I'm still rather popular with the inlaws...

    Irish--I was trying to find the right word/visual combination to make my point. Not being a pilot I was unfamiliar with the outcome of such a maneuver--thanks for the heads up!