Saturday, November 6, 2010

Here's A Subject We Haven't Touched on Yet


Let me preface this by saying that I have never truly been in need of money. I've never been in danger of hunger or homelessness or anything of the like. I've wanted more, for sure. I've also never supported myself. I've always worked, but I married young and he's provided well.

I've also never spent more than I could afford and a tidy sum from every paycheck goes straight to the retirement account.

Which brings me to the train wrecks I see around me, people my age and younger, who have no handle on their finances whatsoever.

I work with a woman in her mid-40s. She has two young children and a husband. They also own a restaurant which, despite glowing mentions in the travel section of the New York Times, despite being named her favorite place in Nashville by Gwyneth Paltrow and despite being a favored haunt of the musicians in town, stays in the red.

The husband often goes weeks at a time without a paycheck and I watch my friend stress out more and more—taking out loans, telling her kids they can’t go to camp with their friends and wearing hideous plastic shoes.

The restaurant goes through one crisis after another. Last week it was a dead refrigerator. The husband goes to buy a new one, but, somehow, manages to buy a freezer instead. Or, as my friend put it—“they sold him a freezer instead of a refrigerator.” Another day of disruption while the fridge/freezer crisis is worked out.

All the while, his wife is carrying the financial load—providing the paycheck, the health insurance and the parenting since he works until late at night.

But she’s not blameless either—last week they threw a Halloween party for 50 adults and kids. They provided all the food, all the alcohol and pumpkins and carving kits for all the kids. I know their debt load has to enormous. Once she and I were going to the grocery store at lunch. She called her husband to ask if he’d “put that $35 in the bank.”


When’s the last time you worried over $35?

It infuriates me that she works her fingers to the bone while he indulges himself as this restraunteur/musician/foodie. She claims he can’t get a part-time job during the day because he has to be available for deliveries at the restaurant.


This is a selfish man who uses his wife to keep his ego afloat.


  1. My mom's best friend (age 56) married a guy several years ago, without knowing his finances. His business was in the red, and he hadn't paid his taxes since the late 90's. He kept it a big secret, and she had no idea until she started doing his books for him.

    He was also an abusive drunk. My mom's finally talked her friend into leaving him and living with my parents (as she has in the past, off and on over 10 years).

    She has no clue how to live on her own, and has no clue about finances. She went from daddy's house to her first hubby's house, and never learned how to manage money.

    I have a friend (29, with a girlfriend) who, in the past has borrowed several hundred dollars from another friend (38, single father). The girlfriend doesn't know he borrowed money from the single dad.

    When the 29-year-old got a large settlement check from an accident he was in, his girlfriend gave him $2000 of it to spend on whatever he wants, and made him invest the rest. Instead of paying back the single dad, he spent the 2 grand on an iPad, guns, and Nazi paraphernalia.

    The single dad is pissed at his financial irresponsibility, and the 29-year-old has no idea why he's mad at him. I really can't understand why he can't figure this shit out. And obviously, his girlfriend knows he's an idiot, otherwise she wouldn't have so much control over his money.

    I was raised to be incredibly financially responsible, to the point where I've paid off all my student loans, and have no debt other than money I owe my parents.

    But I am broke as a joke right now and would love an extra $35 in my bank account. Financially, I would be much better off if I would have had a boyfriend or a husband over the past couple of years, just to have someone to split the rent/bills with. Or to have someone to support me while I look for a better job, so I don't get stuck working as a cashier at a department store over the holidays (which is what I'm gonna have to do to pay the bills. Seriously.).

    I judge people who are financially irresponsible, which leads me to a conundrum with my current situation.

    This economy fucking blows.

  2. Ellie--Nothing I can say to improve on that comment.

    Cham--Kudos to you for being a good manager. I promise you that your responsible attitude toward money will pay off for you one day. There's a young woman in my office who claims she just can drive a car that isn't under warranty, so she buys a brand new one every two years. She and her husband will never earn a lot (she's admin, he has an hourly job at a motorcyle dealership). They will never be out of debt--all because of her sense of entitlement when it comes to driving new cars and his willingness to fulfill that sense.

  3. Money rates up there with toilet cleaning duties for revealing inequalities in couples.

  4. I have always been financially responsible but I have also always been savvy at making money. I babysat early, I cleaned my choir teacher's house in highschool and then turned that into a business in college. While my friends made $5.50/hr at the Gap, I made $30/hr scrubbing toilets. Most of those friends ended up working for me. I loved at home until I was done with college and worked a year at a "real job" and then I used the $18,000 I had saved living at home(while my friends had cool apartments and nicer cars and clothes) and I bought my first home at age 24. It was a duplex and with a renter up top and a roommate, it brought down my mortgage from $1500/mo to $400, cheaper than most of my friends were paying in rent. When I moved to another state, the rents covered most of my own rent and then later kept my expenses low so I could open a business and then later I sold it and my husband sold his home and we bought our family home.

    So a couple early good decisions snowballed into a pretty good economic existence.

    My husband is also very responsible with money so we never argue over it because we spend the same way. We save up and when we have enough for a purchase, we either buy it or change our minds, the item perhaps having lost its luster while we saved for it. We are both savers but like to spend on travel but we have a separate savings account that we earmark for trips and unless the situation was very dire, the money never goes to household expenses or cars or anything but travel.

    I have empathy for people who are in financial distress because they have lost jobs and are looking in earnest. Most of my friends in this situation have savings but with children it is difficult to lower your expenses and even 50-100K in savings goes quickly if your breadwinner isn't working. But this isn't most people.

    A woman I work with has a husband with minimal marketable skills. During the housing push here, he found work as an contractor(unliscensed. There was so much work to be done that he found work even though he was basically a very good around the house handyman but not a craftsmen by any means. They were pulling in a lot of money for five years maybe. They never thought the well would dry even though housing is very cyclical. They have four kids, all wearing $100 jeans, all with Iphones and Ipods, she had a handful of different designer purses(not knockoffs) and an easily $15,000 wedding ring. They lost their house, have been evicted from one apartment, on to the next. She is resentful that her family will not give them any more money. She told me she doesn't have enough money to get one of her kids cavity filled. I suggested she contact someone at her church and see if there is a dentist in the congregation willing to donate the service or give her a discount or perhaps she should checkout one of the dental schools... The next week she had a new Juicy Couture bag and a new outfit. Now granted the outfit was from Target but still, a t-shirt and shirt and shoes is still $75 buck and her fucking kid has a sore tooth. Oh, and she still has her ring. If my kid was suffering or we were going to lose our house, my ring would go, sorry, I love it but it's just a thing, sell the diamond, stick a cz in it and there you go. The entitlement is crazy, her not having money is everyone elses problem and fault. There is no reason a twelve year old needs designer jeans. The only reason I would even buy myself a pair is if I lost 20#, finally got back into a size 8, then maybe and probably not even then.

    Anyhow I get it, somehow we ended up with a whole group of adults that want wave runners instead of peace of mind.

  5. Fuck. Even reading the word 'money' sends me into a mental frenzy. I'm not kidding, and I don't know why. Hellbilly and I have no debt. We live totally within our means. Every decision is meticulous. There is nothing to worry about at the level that I do.
    Maybe it's because I was raised around so much money that it wasn't even real - and more money was considered more power, intelligence, beauty, love, everything that has NOTHING to do with money.
    Maybe it's because, as an adult, I've gone through times that were so tight that I was literally asking people if I could eat dinner with them - my only meal of the day.
    I don't feel entitled to anything material. That always amazes me, considering how I was raised. By all rights I should be a spoiled, angry, entitled, ego maniac.
    Seriously - I'm all nervous now. I always am when it comes to money.
    I could never support someone's ego financially or any other way. Egos are just too fragile and the results of not supporting them are simply an exercise in setting myself to have anger coming my way. Fuck that. That's like telling myself I can run down a hill in 6 inch heels in the rain and not end up a heaping, mud covered, broken mess at the bottom.
    FUCK! I'm nervous as hell.

  6. I've never been good with money. I mean, financially responsible? Definitely. I always have been, but I learned to be financially responsible because I never had any money. I still make very little compared to my co-workers and other women my age doing the same job.

    But then again, I'm not qualified for anything and I've just kind of settled for very, very low-level work with an organization that I morally support and respect. I can't decide if this is better or worse than an alternative.

  7. The best thing I've done for myself since turning 30 has been to budget. Every week. WITH my partner.

    Because before we started doing this? Your friend's situation was the story of my life.
    Sometimes it still is. But at least now it doesn't catch me off guard and I haven't unexpectedly ended up with 9 overdraft fees lately. That's what really effs you up.

  8. PG-Sometimes I think women have it easier in the U.S. than in your corner of Spain
    Ruby--It's ALWAYS someone else's fault, right? Like the whole refrigerator/freezer fiasco. Just another wave runner.
    MG--Calm down, sista. Pet a pony. Take a walk. Not worth getting worked up. Hope it's better now.
    Rass--I imagine that you're qualified for more than you let on. But good for you for not falling into the debt hole so many people your age take for granted.
    Miss Ash--Welcome to our little consortium. Good for you for straightening your friend out. Best thing you could ever do for him/her.