While 101C is off to Amsterdam, tiptoeing through the tulips and tilting at windmills, here’s a guest post from Nelson @ Financial Uproar.
Let me tell you about a guy I know. Because it’s not going to be very complimentary, let’s call him Tony. mostly because the Tony Siragusa Depends commercial was on TV as I was typing that sentence.
Tony is, by most accounts, a nice guy. He’s gainfully employed, is generally pretty pleasant, doesn’t beat his wife, and so on. He and his wife own their house and drive a reasonable SUV that’s a couple years old. Like many young couples these days, they’re struggling with student loan and credit card debt. I have no ideas what the balances are, but I’d estimate they owe $25k in student loans and an additional $10k on their credit cards, and that’s not even factoring in their car payment or mortgage.
About once a year, Tony and his wife decide to get serious about fixing their finances. Since I’m the financially savvy friend, I’m always the first to hear about their newfound zeal. Like with any big sudden life change, their big plans quickly fizzle out before any major progress can be made, even with my encouragement. They throw up their hands and revert back to their old ways.
At this point, they’re on this cycle for about the fourth time, so it’s hard to get excited about their newest attempt to get their finances in order. I’m not sure it’s ever going to happen, especially since children are on the horizon.
You would think that Tony would be an extra motivated employee. His emergency fund consists of overdraft in their joint checking account. His investments consist of whatever he’s contributed to Canada’s version of Social Security. He might have a couple thousand bucks in home equity. If he or his wife lost their job, they’d be hooped in about a week and a half.
And yet, Tony, by most accounts, is kind of a slacker. Sure, he shows up and does his job, but not really that well. His work area regularly looks like a beaver dam after the guys from Duck Dynasty have been there with a couple sticks of dynamite. His job requires a neat and tidy appearance, and he regularly shows up looking disheveled (101C: “Tony” might benefit from reading this. On second thought, that would also be a major life change, and destined to fizzle out). His boss constantly complains about Tony. None of this stuff is enough to get Tony fired, but he’s not getting his name on an ‘employee of the month’ plaque anytime soon.
We all know guys like Tony. They’ve dug themselves a financial hole, and have no motivation to get themselves out of it. And even though they’re more dependent on their job than someone who has a healthy net worth, they often treat work like it’s an inconvenient chore, like jury duty for 40 years. I just don’t get it.
Folks, if you’re swimming in debt, your job is the only thing that’s between you and a trip back to your parents’ basement. I’d argue that anyone with debt should be looking for income opportunities outside of their job, but at least be the best possible employee you can possibly be.
Even if this doesn’t translate to a raise or a promotion, it still makes you invaluable, making you much more likely to keep that job you most desperately need. This can translate to all sorts of advantages down the road, like keeping your job through a series or layoffs or using your rock star status to secure a better job with a competitor.
But back to the original issue. I bet you know someone like Tony, a guy who needs that job yet does it kinda like Homer Simpson. Why are they like this?
Is it because their debt and financial difficulties stem from the same character flaws? A lack of ambition and planning for the future would be detrimental to both your job and your net worth. Is it because the Tonys in our life are secretly unhappy, and they’re just kind of going through the motions of life? Or is it because they just don’t understand finance, so they don’t fully grasp the consequences of the tightrope they’re walking? I’m thinking it’s a combination of these factors, with a focus on the first one.
This is going to make me sound as sensitive as a character from The Sopranos, (101C: by coincidence, Tony Siragusa played the Frankie Cortese character on four episodes of the Sopranos. Frankie was a driver and bodyguard. Presumably he drove a SUV. Unknown if he had any student loans) but I hardly shed a tear when guys like Tony take a fall. It might be the only way that they’ll actually learn this lesson. For most people, as long as they make enough to make their minimum payments, life is good. Most of them aren’t reading this blog, but you probably know a Tony or two. If you’re like me, you want to help him out, but can’t really do much unless he realizes he has a problem.
Don’t become a Tony. Take your job seriously, or get out. Or better yet, put yourself in a financial position where you can call your own shots. That all starts with taking care of your money.
101C: Thanks for tuning in, folks. Come back later mid-week for another exciting post by Nelson, or perhaps a discussion on the best cigars for your money. Anyone know any Tonys in their lives?