25 May 2006

Sometimes It's Hard to Not Be Judgemental

Since I have started writing and reading a number of blogs, I have found myself becoming increasingly judgemental about other people's issues -- especially financial ones. Believe me, I am in no place to judge anyone. My finances have been screwed for the last 10-plus years, and while I am making progress getting things together, I still do the kinds of things that other people would surely consider stupid.


It was hard not to read this week's USA Today article from their series "Couples and Their Money." I'll try to paint the picture for you, before I got judgemental.

Tim earns more than $100,000 a year as a senior bank loan officer; Caren makes about $65,000 a year as a physical therapist. Yet despite their ample salaries, they say they're "absolutely unable to put money aside, except with retirement accounts."
This inability to save also has them in over $400,000 worth of debt. I will admit that I don't know how anyone finds themselves in almost a HALF MILLION dollars worth of debt, but I still don't really think any less of them at this point -- they just spend more than they make, which doesn't really make them that much different than many other Americans. Further, almost 3/4ths of this debt is from the couple's primary home mortgage, so maybe the huge debt can just be attributed to keeping up with the Joneses? You would think, though, with a family income of $165k, a house with a $285k mortgage is not out of range, no?

Apparently, expensive dinners out, extravagant gifts given to one another and their son, and house fixer-upper projects (you would think that for $285k+, it would already BE fixed up, no?) all add up. While these may not be the financial choices I would choose to make, there is still no need to be judgemental, right?

How about this?

One thing they're not worried about is the cost of Edson's college education. They've decided that college expenses shouldn't derail their retirement savings.

"We basically told him that he can work his way through college," Caren says. "He can get loans; he can get a job. That's what makes the world go 'round."

And the nominees for Parents of the Year are....The Mayberry's. It's bad enough to dig themselves a financial hole, and teach their child that this is "normal,"and be so materialistic that having "stuff" trumps financial responsibility, but to set your ONLY son up for a possible financial hardship because of sheer selfishness is absolutely beyond me.

Families who make $165k per year should have no trouble funding one child's college education. Instead, because of their income, their son will have very limited access to anything except loans when it comes time to applying for financial aid. "Working his way through college" is a nice image, but why would you want to start you only child off behind the proverbial eight ball? Because it is more important to have a boat? Lovely priorities and a lovely message to send to your kid.

Others have commented on parent's responsibilities to their kids. The general concensus is that children are not entitled to extravagant weddings and expensive private school educations, but parents should take some control over their expenses to make sure that their children are at least somewhat taken care of when needed -- most seem to believe that it is not too much to expect parents to contribute at least the cost or the equivalent to a public university education, if it is realistically within the family's means. It still comes down to a measure of "to each his own," but just remember, your kids are the ones who will determine which old folks home you will be spending your golden months living in. Your call, Dad -- the nice, modern facility, or the crooked home that they showed on last week's '60 Minutes?'

If I were the Mayberry's, I don't know if I would want my son picking my 'home.'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I read your post. It is interesting, but I kind of do not understand what is wrong with 3/4 debt from primary home mortage? Housing is still a way of inverstment, especially the one that you live in. (1)If you buy a house you are converting your rent for other people's house to pay for a house that your own.(2) house could be an rather low risk investment which can be selled in the future. may be in some area the real estate is not very hot now because of bad economy. But as a general trend it is a good way of investment.
I think that couple in the report is quite smart and carefull about their money. I have just start making money so would like to disscuss this kind of issue with people. Above are just my personal opion.