Sunday, May 13, 2007


I am pretty regular viewer of the Suse Orman financial advice show on CNBC. One of the newly added features of the show is called "Can I Afford It?", during which all of the viewer calls are to ask advice about stuff they want to buy based on their current financial status. Over the last few months, this segment I've become convinced that either people who claim to be big fans the show ar total morons.

Tonight's episode provided some typical examples. The first caller was a 24 year old woman who already had $10k in credit card debt at a scary high interest rate, student loans and an entry level job asked if she could afford to spend another $500 on a purse. A classic "duh" moment: a 40 year old guy want to build a custom 4400 sq. foot home with a price tag of almost a million bucks, and just building the home and his current $1k/month car payment would eat up about 85 percent of his income. I guess that he didn't ever plan to furnish the house or turn on the lights or run water once he moved in. And a 37 year old woman with $27K in credit card debt, a car loan, and a mortgage was planning on dropping $k to go to Disneyland. (I personally thought she was already a citizen of Fantasyland.) What the hell did these idiots expect a financial genius to tell them -- "Nah, debt's no problem at all, enjoy!"

I absolutely cannot stand being in debt. I've had to at times, like when I woke up one morning in a new, more costly apartment and found out that my employer had cut my pay by 20% and stopped reimbursing me for my $400/month health insurance. But given a choice, I will cut every item in my budget down to the bone rather than owe someone money.

I was raised by depression era parent who both grew up pretty poor. My Mom was the financial manager of the house, and her experiences and her commitment to do better for her kids, were huge motivators behind the way my parents spent money. Although she refused to really believe it, our entire family believes she was a financial genius. The fruits of her skills sure testify to it -- my parents had no debt ever beyond a car loan and their mortgage; all of her kids had lives filled with family vacations, all the food they could eat) whenever they wanted it); a really nice place to live; and my parents still had enough saved to fully enjoy their retirement and leave an inheritance. Some of the best things my Mom taught me (and there ware many), were the importance of living within your means and maintaining a good credit score. I can't begin to describe the ways in which this advice benefited me throughout every phase of my life.

Now I realize that not everyone has the benefit of being raised be their own financial guru. But even so, it seems to me like common sense to not carry more debt than absolutely necessary, and to not spend more than you make. Maybe the Suse Orman viewers aren't total morons -- at least they've gone to an expert before making dumb decisions I'll give them the benefit of the doubt now , but would certainly add a few choice adjectives to my original assessment if those folks ended up buying that stuff anyway.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Are people not connecting that your salary should not be less than your expenses. I am not a fan of debt, unless all it contains is your mortgage and a car note. Credit cards are the worst. The fine print should be magnified. Better yet, do not own a credit card, and if you should only have it with a low credit limit for emergencies only. Hopefully, people will get it. Online direct banking is very popular and offer a great interest rate for savings. They can put money away for retirement instead of purchasing that $500 purse. Let's see how spending works out with the upcoming Holiday Season.