I have noticed a disturbing trend in the past four or five days. Average, ordinary folks are skulking by their banks, pacing back and forth and scowling, unable to get themselves to go in to talk about their money.
I have noticed a disturbing trend in the past four or five days. Average, ordinary folks are skulking by their banks, pacing back and forth and scowling, unable to get themselves to go in to talk about their money. Also, instead of going online to check the retirement account, Americans are simply logging on to Yahoo Games and playing “Classic Mario” or “Brick-Breaker.” I understand it; it is a phenomenon that Congress will probably approve millions of dollars for some university to study: let’s just call it “bankophobia.”
Bankophobia happens when there is some kind of bad national economic news -- it involves terms like “bailout,” “inflated mortgage loans” and “insane sobbing in the conference room” -- but you are so busy working to make money to put gas in your car that you haven’t had time to investigate what is going on. (Also, you have been rethinking your college years; why did you spend time inventing a dance to “Rock the Kasbah” instead of attending a class in economics? Sure, the dance was awesome, but can you really use it that much now?)
I am in your exact same situation, believe me. I know it’s bad and that a bunch of mortgages were written that allowed people to borrow too much, and then some bad things happened at big brokerage houses (apparently some sort of dorm, where brokers live, playing Wii in their boxer shorts and drinking Rock Star energy drinks), and then some bad things happened at several banks. Now you want to know: Do they mean my bank? The one on the corner with the lollipops and the coffee setup in the lobby?
Please do not turn to the national morning “news” programs to find out this critical information. I am never ready mentally for these shows. No. 1, the hosts have been up for hours and are all hopped up on espresso and power bars, but we haven’t been up for hours, and we just aren’t ready for the in-depth report with graphics about the increase of cases of athlete’s foot, or the joys of “discovering Tibet on a budget.” What budget, you want to scream, standing in your droopy pajamas and counting your pennies to go through a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru. They will treat you like an infant when it comes to this money crisis, too; a girl-woman in high boots and a peek-a-boo brassiere is going to be speaking very slowly into the cameras so that all the dummies out there can understand her, and she will say, “In Part One of my series, I am going to tackle, ‘What Is A House, and How Do You Buy One?’” (Cue swirling, aggressive graphics and theme music, some banking song sung by Josh Groban.) I read the paper instead; it doesn’t talk, and it can’t wear a bra.
The only thing I can suggest to bulk up your personal income is a new plan I thought up called Interest for Everyone (or IFO for short). What this means, in a nutshell, is that you charge everyone in your life interest when it comes to money. First, print out about 20 copies of a mini-contract, complete with fine print. Then say your husband needs a little cash for lunch. Simply pull this contract out of your purse and say, “I can lend you 20 dollars, but I’ll need 22 back if the loan is out two weeks or longer.” Now, while your husband is scratching his head, assure him that he can handle this loan, that it is a standard loan, and then focus on how much he’s going to enjoy that lunch. You are now a loaner of money! In another example, your child needs lunch money. The answer? “I can get you 2 dollars, but that will be $2.50 at the end of the week.” (If you’re going to charge interest, really charge it.)
As our economic climate changes, it’s time to start really learning about our personal finances – I know it will cut out some reality TV viewing, but it’ll be worth it. What really is a 401(k) – and does it really have 401,000 dollars in it, as I have always assumed? (It better have -- I have based all our finances on that assumption.) What type of mortgage do you have – an ARM, a fixed or a balloon? (You get to go up in a balloon, I understand, when you pay this loan off; maybe they borrow the Remax balloon.) Take some time to really understand your finances, and go talk to your bank, instead of skulking outside. They won’t hurt you … and if they’re worth anything, they have coffee and lollipops interest-free!
You can connect with Deirdre at www.exhaustedrapunzel.com.