Friday, December 7, 2012

Killing Them Softly Into Wealth

10:09 PM

Last weekend, the hubster and I had a date morning (ha!) and saw Killing Them Softly.  I loved the movie, and if you're into good guy / bad buy / shoot a dude all up in his face types of movies, I highly recommend it.

What I wasn't expecting was to come out of it thinking about the economy and finances and the "American Dream" differently.  The film is set during the 2008 election season, throughout the movie you hear snippets of Bush and Obama talking about the economy.  At one point, one of the characters says "This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh! I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country, it's just a business..."

I'm not a conspiracy theorist.  In fact, people who swear everything is a c-o-n-spiracy make me tired. But the more I thought about it, the angrier I became.  For decades, property ownership was a way to build wealth, a way to start a legacy for future generations.  And seemingly overnight, that was no longer the case.  In fact, for many of us, our homes have gone from being assets to being liabilities. 

Most of my social circle would agree that we were not taught how to build wealth.  This is mostly because our parents didn't know, they didn't have an example for wealth building either.  But the more I think about it, the more it seems as though we set ourselves up for failure in the way we teach/are taught to be financially responsible.

I think that most of us were taught something like the following:

  1. Go to school - And probably take out student loans to help cover, maybe even put books and other necessities on a credit card
  2. Get a job - You're going to need work approrpriate clothes for the job. Maybe you have some money stashed away, if not credit again
  3. Move out - You've got a job, you need your own place, go be free and pay your own bills
  4. Begin repayment - You know that stuff that you've already enjoyed, it's time to pay on it, while trying to enjoy your life right now
The above doesn't build wealth.  You don't have a chance to build wealth. You start out digging the debt hole and you never get out of it.

I've started paying more attention to the "affluent" people at work.  What do they do different?   The biggest thing I've noticed, is step three is delayed.  Those "kids" are encouraged to stay home after they get their first job.  Stay home and save!  I know someone who had enough money after living with his parents that he had the financial means buy a condo with cash.  Cash.  For a condo.  Number two, they shun debt.  It's all about savings.

As a parent, I want to be able to give my daughter the world, and to equip her to be the best person she can be.  But I can't teach what I don't know.  So I'm watching and asking questions.  Wealth building doesn't spring out of nowhere, someone has to start it.

That someone is me.

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  1. YES! My exact sentiments. I've been saying this for nearly 5 years, when people would ask when I was going to buy a home, no one would understand my "not interested" reply. That 50's American Dream is GONE.

    In one of my classes we were discussing this and I explained to the youngsters there that the current American Dream is a lifetime of debt.

    College: debt
    Job: debt (because you NEED a new car and clothes and what not)
    Marriage: debt (spend $20K on a wedding?!?)
    Family: debt (cars, vacations, starter homes to bigger homes, etc, etc, etc)

    It's a nasty cycle.

    Aside from student loan debt, which is plentiful and one credit card which we maintain for rental cars; I have no consumer debt. I don't want it. I've been there with 4 major cards, TWO Target cards, TWO JC Penney cards (you know why they'll give you a second card freely right??), NY & Co, plus car note and GAH! It will NEVER happen again. EVER!

    1. I'm slowly digging out of consumer debt. Slowly. I've been great about not using credit for anything since K's been born. If I can't buy it with cash, I don't need it. You don't have to be rich to be a parent. She's one! I shop clearance racks with coupons. If I NEED something I buy it, on sale with a coupon. Wants don't matter for now. What matters for now is getting out from under this mountain of debt. That is all.

  2. I think that an important issue here is the fact that our economy runs on us BUYING! During WW2, our grandparents were told, "Do your part for your country, cut back, sacrifice, grow a garden." We were told, "Do your part, buy a new car, use your tax refund for a new TV." So if we save our money and live cheaply, we are unpatriotic, WE helped our neighbor lose his job through our frugality! If we had just purchased one more cheap, piece of crap item of trendy clothing, that nice lady down the street would have kept her job at Walmart.

    Also, we are constantly bombarded with the notion that stuff=happiness. Seriously. Think about all of the ads we were brought up on. Kid wasn't happy until mom or dad bought that popular toy that *every* kid has. Think about the ads we see now. Telling us that we aren't pretty enough, smart enough, our home isn't trendy enough but spending will solve that problem! Buying cheap crap will make our lives better! We will be happy, pretty, thin, popular and stress free.

    Do you want to know why it is so hard to stay on a budget? Because we are conditioned from the day we are born to shop! Nick and I began to escape the cycle in a few ways:

    1. We changed our vocabulary. We have dropped the word need unless it refers to something we absolutely have to have (ie, I might need a new sports bra for work but I no longer "need" a new pair of earrings). It sounds so simple like, I know I never actually NEEDED that lipstick but by calling it what it really is, it seems to have reduced the desire to purchase.

    2. We set our priorities. Vacations are a HUGE priority for us. Cable TV, not so much. Drinking good beer, BIG. Pop, meh, not so much. Decide early what you actually want to spend your money on and what you don't actually care about.

    3. Unless going out to eat is a huge priority for you, cook at home, and make as much from scratch as you can. This will save you $$ in a few ways, one, homemade food is generally much cheaper than processed or take out food. This next one may or may not be true, but I strongly suspect that homemade, quality food is more satisfying than processed/fast food so you eat less food, leaving more leftovers!! Also, you will save money on doctor bills now and in the future.

    I'm sure that we've done way more than this but for now, these are the big ones that come to mind!

    1. KT I love this! I hadn't though about the cultural implications of savings vs. spending. And I never realized how much advertising affected my thoughts until becoming a parent. Those Fisher Price commercials are something else. I'm left feeling like I'm a bad parent because my child doesn't have whatever toy they're actively advertising. Never mind what she does have.

      I'm working on the "need" vs. "want" vernacular. And we've been talking about staying focused, setting priorities sounds like a great idea! Focus on what's important and leave everything else to savings/paying off debt.


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