If I wanted to, I could fill this blog with posts of all the basic financial gems like budgeting templates, savings calculators, and mortgage interest rates. Because there’s no shortage of said material, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite sites: Feed The Pig .
Feed The Pig is a National Public Service Campaign sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs and the Advertising Council. The site’s mascot is not the most attractive pig I’ve seen, but stay with me. His head is a piggy bank and that’s where the parallel message lies.
The presentation is meant to appeal to young people, or those that we’ve affectionately labeled the Millennials. Us Baby Boomers would be remiss in our obligation to society if we failed to engage this genre. According to SoFi (www.sofi.com), 39 percent of Millennials would rather disclose a preexisting sexually transmitted disease to a potential partner than reveal how much debt they have.
Ol’ reliable. Isn’t she a beaut? This baby is turning 20. While most people would rather be seen in the back of a hearse than a car this old, I embrace its charm. The visor sometimes falls in my lap, the radio volume lowers or becomes sharply louder when I hit a bump, and there’s that strange clicking when I put the fan setting on the front windshield.
She’s been sprayed a few times to cover up the bruises. The front bumper is secure, but if you look closely, it’s slightly askew. That’s left over from when an old man T-boned the passenger’s front quarter panel. She’s been punched in the gut by shopping carts and side-swiped by careless drivers but she rides on like a champion.
You know that soft whistle-y sound when the aura enters the room in the Twilight Zone? I hear that coming from under the hood. Those sounds are helping me secure my future as I’m aggressively working towards an early retirement.
Of all the things we buy, our car is the most personal and sensitive. Next to a house, it’s also the most expensive. And people love to judge, right? We are all judged on what we drive. Some will even determine if you are a good match for your car. Like, “What’s that old geezer doing driving a Corvette? There should be a hot guy in the driver’s seat.” Gotta love the American way.
My short story, Jake’s Financial Transformation, is loosely based on someone that I knew in my late teens. Blessed with the adroitness of an excellent carpenter, he took great pride in his work and started his own business at a young age. Sadly, his skills as a carpenter and as a businessman were at opposite ends of the spectrum. The business failed because he lacked basic business skills, like pricing a job competitively. His estimates were often too high, resulting in lost opportunities. When he did get hired, he dealt with cost overruns. He simply couldn’t find a way to be profitable. His alternative was to take a job with a contractor. His money management deficiencies now surfaced in a different light. On payday, he could make his take-home pay vanish before arriving home, like some latent magic ability. For someone that was making a decent living, he was always broke. This pattern occurred in tandem with a rotten attitude towards “the rich” and constant complaints about having to work for a living. In his home, there was daily commiseration with his dad about “the rich”. He was living out this destructive money script, oblivious to how he could transform the gift of his skill into a rewarding and successful reality.
I tried to help. Together, we nailed down a plan for him to save $100 a week which should have been fairly seamless. He lived with his parents and had limited expenses. After imagining how he would have to tighten his expenses, he scoffed and didn’t give it a second thought.
Individuals that carry this kind of attitude are constantly in debt. Because they never build a savings account and plan their purchases, they never have their own resources and must use the maximum credit provided to them for their home, car, or other large purchase. If they have $500, their financial obligations match the $500 limit; if they have $1,000, their financial obligations match the $1,000 limit. There’s never an excess and they’re always scraping by. Any financial emergencies become fire drills and inevitably create a setback. Banks and credit card companies love these people. These are the consumers that live on the financial hamster wheel. Earn, spend, earn, owe. Rinse, repeat.
Jake personifies those that don’t have a clue. They don’t know what they’re good at or what they want from life. In their little bubble of the world, life just happens. Many people wallow in self-defeat, not realizing that a life of satisfaction is not a far leap. They struggle along, thinking that the “good life” is beyond their achievability. Often, they’re frustrated and they don’t even know why. These mental chains prevent people from developing useful skills, resulting in untapped talent.
Feeling in control seems like an impossible state to this unenlightened bunch. What Jake learns from some prodding by his older cousin is that he needs to come up with a plan and figure out his life. Jake only knows one song and it keeps playing over and over in his head. But nothing changes unless actions change. Eventually, Jake experiences a breakthrough and soon realizes that he needs to acquire some education in the field that he knows – cars. He takes his part-time job activity and turns it into a full-time, marketable skill. With some basic money skills, he builds up a small savings account and starts to see his life taking shape.
I believe that everyone has the ability to attain self-sustenance. In Jake, I show the reader that someone with an uncertain beginning can unwind their destructive habits and find their way. Anyone can create a vision from a blank screen in small, focused steps and find fulfillment.
Dr. Brad Klontz writes extensively about money scripts. More on that in future posts.