2012’s Twelve for Twits

2012's Twelve for Twits

Back in 2011, I wrote that many Americans appear to follow a “Goof’s Guide to Money Management” in most of their monetary transactions. In the column, I posited this loony approach to dealing with earning, spending, saving and investing that nearly guaranteed a lifetime saddled with back-breaking debt.

There may be something uniquely American about the indifference many display to their own financial illiteracy. Indeed, legions across the nation seem to take a kind of perverse pride in their standings as dollars-and-cents doofuses. So for those Goof’s Guide adherents who would like to lift their fiscal fumbling to new heights, elevating themselves to masters of money management mopery, I propose for the new year the following “12 for ’12” money resolutions.

Avoid the saving habit. Most people who pile up substantial savings do so through the habitual tendency to “pay themselves first, ” routinely banking a portion of their earnings. Like any other habit, this one can be avoided! Any time you feel the tendency to save coming on, fight it by lying down, closing your eyes and repeating the hypnotic mantra, “Don’t wait! Buy now!”

Make blowing cash a daily routine. Opportunities exist each day to let money ignite a hole in your pocket. Don’t pass them up! Shop convenience stores for groceries, pop for $6 cups of frothy liquefied caffeine at coffee houses each morning, and lay rubber as you rocket away from every stoplight.

Sidestep personal responsibility. Folks who accumulate nifty nest eggs invariably take personal responsibility for their own financial futures. This doesn’t have to be you. Assign full responsibility to the government or your employer. Your later years can be made more enjoyable by constantly repeating your belief you were gypped out of a secure retirement by forces beyond your control.

Equate possessions with happiness. Embrace lock, stock, and barrel the idea that the purchase of vehicles, homes, clothing and toys will ensure a happier life. On TV commercials, you’ve seen luxury SUVs crowned by giant holiday bows heal marital strife, calm surly teenagers, and put grins on the faces of family members from Granny to Fluffy. Why shouldn’t the same work for you?

Remember, it’s not who you are, it’s what you buy. Resolve to base your sense of self not on what you do, who you are, or how much you give back to your community, but on your showy acquisitions.

Be the first to acquire every new electronic device, from smart phones to wall-sized TVs. And for goodness sake, don’t bypass the opportunity to charter a stretch limousine to ferry you and your friends to the priciest concert events in town.

Steer clear of stocks. Should you come into some money, do not invest it in the stock market! Ignore the fact a broadly diversified portfolio of equities held over long periods of time offers some of the best assurances of solid gains.

Should a trading day end with indexes lower, proudly proclaim, “I’m sure glad I never took the risk of getting into the stock market!” Then pooh-pooh the idea that by socking your money away in a “safe” instrument paying a fraction of one percent, you’ve traded market risk for greater purchasing power risk.

Develop a booze or drug problem. Have you seen the pricetags affixed to bottles of liquor these days at your local stores? Routinely having to replenish your liquor cabinet can be one of the best ways to erode earnings, while helping ensure you face additional health care costs down the road. Ditto for drugs.

Make the prescription slip your permission slip. Speaking of drugs, there’s nothing like prescription pharmaceuticals to flatten your wallet. Assume you’ll have no option over time but to take on a substantial regimen of meds, each generating side effects requiring still more pills.

Every prescription shall be your permission to avoid exercising, eating well, or caring for your health. For confirmation, look to the pro-pill messages dispensed by major media. The fact those very media outlets reap giant revenues from pharmaceutical advertising? Sheer coincidence!

Make a casino your home away from home. No money management miscue promises greater excitement than dumping most of your paycheck at the roulette wheel or a slot machine. So proceed frequently, if not daily, to one of those glittering palaces chockablock with flashing lights and annoying sounds.

Don’t give a thought to the term “one-armed bandits.”

Play the lottery every day. You say you don’t live close enough to a casino to venture there every day? Don’t despair; you still have options. You can plow a huge chunk of your earnings into your state lottery. Over time, the winnings add up. Why, after decades of lottery playing, you should be able to boast of several $50 payouts to offset the tens of thousands you’ve pissed away.

Live for retirement. Don’t give a thought to finding a vocation you like well enough to work beyond retirement age, or even well beyond. Instead, spend your days in a dreary job, dreaming of that golden day you can retire. After retirement, you’ll be able to spend a lot more time watching TV, and also fretting about the precipitous decline in purchasing power of your meager bankroll.

Ignore this posting. Fearing they might hit close too home, never, ever read opinion columns lampooning Americans’ daffy dalliance with dollars.

10 Responses to “2012’s Twelve for Twits”

  1. Anonymous

    Haha – interesting way to present the real information! .. I wonder how well it worked to get people to take action!

    We’re starting to see the value of illustration in helping people to take action. ie. if you do X you will save or have Y in Z years time.

  2. Anonymous

    What about supporting your favorite Nigerian kings / princes who only need your credit card number to invest in their economy, guaranteeing massive gains??! I thought for sure this would be key for a great 2012!

    On a serious note though, it’s sad to think that so many people are living out many of these mistakes, simply because they don’t bother to think of how it will impact their future.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Jeff,
    Say, if you wouldn’t mind letting all us ignoramuses know when you recognize “market highs” so we know when to sell, I’d appreciate it! 🙂
    Thank you sir,

  4. Anonymous

    Thanks for your comments, folks. I agree that prescription drugs can be life savers for some. I also believe too many Americans accept the notion they MUST go on a regiment of prescription drugs when there may be other options, lower-cost options that aren’t promoted because there’s no money in urging people to walk two miles a day or eat more wisely.

    As for the stock market, yes, it is true a substantial amount of your holdings can go “poof.” But I’m not suggesting putting cash you’ll need soon in the stock market. I’m suggesting putting money you won’t need soon in the market, sitting back and waiting to opportunistically take profits on market highs. I very much prefer that tack to accepting that my purchasing power has to evaporate over time while my money sits in low-interest instruments.

    Jeff Steele

  5. Anonymous

    I would also add “use shopping as entertainment.” If I could only take back some of those Saturday social shopping trips, I would be much wealthier! Walking around the mall with friends is not quality time.

  6. Anonymous

    > Will the long term over which I suspect you’d argue
    > stocks will be the best investment be reached before
    > I run out of money or die?

    I know my retirement fund adjusts to be more conservative (less risky investments) closer to retirement age. What other financial vehicles can you recommend that can outpace inflation and help people build a nest egg? I do think Wall Street overemphasizes the gains potential and not enough of the risks.

    > Make blowing cash a daily routine.

    You should put this next to drug problem.

  7. Anonymous

    “Make the prescription slip your permission slip”

    While I don’t disagree that the average American needs to eat better and exercise more, that doesn’t mean that everyone who eats well and gets their exercise will magically stay disease free. You can’t just ignore the strides in length and quality of life brought about by the modern pharmaceutical and medical industry because you happen to have been lucky – so far.

  8. Anonymous

    Regarding your stock sales pitch, and in particular:

    “Ignore the fact a broadly diversified portfolio of equities held over long periods of time offers some of the best assurances of solid gains.”

    I think you disrespect the intellect of many who choose to avoid stocks. I don’t think these people “ignore” any facts; rather, after taking all the facts into account, they simply choose to avoid the prospect of a substantial portion of their assets going “poof,” a prospect uniquely offered by stocks. And I think they mostly understand the purchasing power argument, and are not ignorant of that either. They may choose other weapons to combat the erosion of their assets’ purchasing power: TIPs for example, or by continuing to work part-time into their “senior years.”

    The public has understandably grown cynical about the same tired, worn out marketing pitches from Wall Street, especially after 2008-09. Yes, I know there are loads of statistics—and Wall Street excels most at self-promoting numerology—that stocks are a better investment than [fill in the blank] “over the long term.” So a key question about stock investing: Will the long term over which I suspect you’d argue stocks will be the best investment be reached before I run out of money or die?

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