Financial Skeletons in the Closet?

A valid theme for a Halloween, are there financial skeletons in your closet?

As I have mentioned in previous posts, honesty with money is the cornerstone of any relationship. If you go into any relationship with secrets that you can’t, or won’t tell your partner, will the relationship last? I have no bloody idea, in general, I am the last person anyone should talk to about relationships (I am lucky I found Mrs. C8j, and am astounded most days that she remains with me), however with money I feel more confident in my advice.

Dishonesty about money with your spouse or partner about money always ends badly. Hiding details about your financial world is much like the following example:

Take a 4 foot long and 8 inch wide tray that is about 4 inches deep, fill it with water, and pick it up. Now attempt to walk 100 yards without spilling any water, you will fail. 

The example is actually taken from a real world example from my Father, when he worked in the BBC Canteen in London, and he had to do that exact thing, and yes, as soon as you are out of balance it all goes to heck in a hand basket.


Now this is one heck of a skeleton to have in your closet

What kind of skeletons?

  • A massive credit card debt that you are bringing into your relationship, that you are sure you can pay off soon.
  • Impulse issues with buying things, or spending money (I believe you should watch the TV series Hoarders on how that can end up).
  • You claim that you are a highly paid civil servant, when in fact you are poorly paid civil servant

The list can be much longer.

Are there skeletons out there that you have heard of, or worse, you have in your financial closet?

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Celebrate the Slow Thinkers

Many of my friends think of me as a fast thinker, in that many times I have very snappy answers to their quips or stories, but it took me a while to figure out that while I do have a quick mind, my initial ideas and response to most problems that I am confronted with is wrong!

That is correct I am a quick wrong thinker, but I am a much better slower thinker, if you give me enough time, I will eventually figure out the correct answer to a problem.

I used to think not getting the correct response right away was a sign of a weaker mind, but now I realize that some problems need time to view all the possible different angles, before they are acted upon. There are a few remarkably quick and smart minds out there, but there aren’t that many out there (trust me, I have met many folks who think they are quick thinkers, but they are usually as wrong as I am).

Countless times I have made “snap” decisions which at the time seemed great ideas, but in the end they were wrong (or effectively wrong) when I look back on them. There is no shame to ask for time to think about things, and if someone pressures you to make a snap decision follow the advice of a noted child psychologist, who says that when  your child confronts you with a snap decision simply answer:

If you need an  answer now, the answer is NO, if you want to wait a while, we’ll see what I decide.

This is the mature way to deal with any decision (now I am not saying get into over-think gridlock, however, under thinking a problem is just as bad).

The next time you think that someone is somehow inferior because they take longer to make decisions, ask yourself if they end up making good decisions or not, that is really the real barometer. As my wife points out to me many times, if, instead of listening or looking at a problem, you are attempting to formulate a quick “solution” you are in danger of choosing the wrong “solution” or worse the right “solution” for the wrong PROBLEM.

The Great Wall of China Did not Get Built Overnight, it took a while, just like a good decision!

This is a great picture my brother took when he visited China. Sometimes good things just take a while, so be patient, and don’t rush things too much, you might not like how the rushed version turns out.


Adventures in Car Buying (or Now that is Chutzpah!)

For a while, Mrs. C8j and I have been hunting for a new family vehicle. We have had many arguments discussions about what type of vehicle we wished to purchase. I think we will not need a van for much longer and she sort of agrees but thinks we still need one for the short-term so we should get one, and after a great deal of consternation consultation I we agreed that a van would be the best way to go. I must admit that we did try a few SUKs SUVs and while they felt OK, they did feel a bit “truck-ish” for my liking.

We have been dealing with a smaller dealership who had in stock the van we were hoping to get (used) a Sienna from Toyota (please don’t treat this as me endorsing this model, or that I have received any compensation for this story). The salesman at the dealership seemed a nice personable chap, although maybe a bit slick for my liking, but we thought that might be where we wanted to make our deal.

We had decided before we got too far into this process, that we would purchase a used vehicle this time (we purchased new last time, but I decided a used vehicle was the way to go). We borrowed from the Ottawa Library the Lemon-Aid books and saw that in fact the Sienna from ’07 on seemed to be a good choice. If we were going to buy a used car, I was going to have my mechanic who I trust in these situations, to have a look at whatever we might choose to buy (I simply do not trust dealerships that much).

I mentioned to the salesperson we were dealing with that we wanted to take whatever vehicle we were thinking of buying to my mechanic to have a look at it, and the sales guy kind of got twitchy (i.e. tried to dissuade us), but eventually relented, figuring that he might lose a sale if he didn’t agree (smart guy).

I then called my mechanic and said I would like him to have a look at a vehicle and he said he would, and he asked who I was thinking of buying from, and when I mentioned the name of the dealership my mechanic hesitated. After a short pause he said he had had some dealings with the dealership and gave me some advice about possible issues getting the van off the lot and to his garage. When my mechanic makes that kind of statement the hair on the back of my neck starts to raise up. I thanked my mechanic and said I’d call back when I had decided on a specific van.

Time passed and eventually we decided (after consulting CarFax on line) on a specific Sienna that our original salesman had on his lot. My wife called up to talk to our salesman, but he wasn’t around, so she spoke to the “Owner” of the dealership.

Now this is Chutzpah

My wife asked the question, “What do we need to do to take a van to our mechanic to have him inspect it before we buy the van?”.

After a short pause the Owner’s answer was classic chutzpah, “First you buy the van, and then take it to your mechanic and whatever he may find that needs fixing, we’ll fix.”. This is most definitely not what had been discussed previously (we had been told no worries, it should be fine, you can have the car inspected BEFORE you buy it).

Let’s analyze this amazing piece of chutzpah, you want me to give you a large amount of money, have the car licensed into my name, and then once I am owner of the vehicle and my mechanic finds something, I should trust you that you will fix these problems? I do realize that in Ontario a bunch of new rules are in place dealing with used vehicles, but I am also not naive enough to believe that they will somehow protect me in this situation.

I guess it all comes down to who(m) do I trust, a car dealership that I have never dealt with (that I have heard some odd stories about), or do I trust my mechanic, who has fixed my cars for 20 years? As you can guess, we did not call back this dealership.

We have since found a similar vehicle with a larger dealership, which may cost a bit more, but they are fine with us taking the van to my mechanic (if I leave a deposit, and my current vehicle) and will abide by whatever my mechanic says (and will find another van if my mechanic finds an issue with the van). The CarFax report on the van suggests there should not be a problem.

Financial Moral of the Story?

None really, just that I am a very untrusting person and that if you try to sell me things, it doesn’t take much to get me to go elsewhere, or completely walk away from the purchase.


TV Trends: You are wrong!

From my viewpoint most of the “self help” shows on TV these days consist of an expert telling a dupe (or dupe couple) that they are wrong,

The array of shows seem to follow the following formulas:

You Aren’t Wearing That!!!

Two people treat you like the “cool” kids did in High School (i.e. they berate you for your taste in clothing and ridicule you until you agree with them). While this is entertaining, I suspect I could well be one of their victims, as I am not a “victim of fashion” (to quote Rough Trade) I wear what is comfortable to me mostly (I have suits that I wear when I need to show I can dress like an adult).

You are FAT!

There are a bunch of these shows that either take morbidly obese folks and attempt to get them to lose weight by making them exercise a lot and change their lifestyles or something similar to this. These shows typically are like the jocks in high school making fun of the “geeks and fatties”, except the hosts then attempt to help them lose the weight. I applaud the attempts, but they all seem superficial and I would be very interested to see follow up shows 1, 2 and 5 years after to see if folks keep off the weight.

I’d fit into one of the “hey you need to lose those last 30 lbs” shows right now (under full disclosure).

You can’t Drive or Fix Your House!

There aren’t that many shows about this, but they are quite funny to watch, but in a very  mean way. You watch folks who just don’t understand how to drive or how to do any kind of “home fixit” things and you watch the hosts laugh at them about it, and attempt to fix this issue.  I must admit I do watch these shows and laugh, but I also feel guilty for doing it. I am also not a “fix it” kind of guy unless it is a computer, then I am ok with that.

You Spend How Much Money?!?

This last type of show is more in my neck of the woods, but again it is painful to watch them. The hosts usually try hard to show the couple or person the folly of their way (I like Gail Vaz Oxlade’s show, but can’t watch it because the stories of how the people got into debt drive me insane).  It is important to help these people, but it is important that these people realize that all of this is a lifestyle change, not just a quick fix. Again, follow up with these folks after a while might be very interesting.

I am astounded at some of the folks who go on this show and let their financial misfortunes be put on TV for all their friends and family to see. I think I would sooner see naked pictures of me on the net, than publish all of my financial failings (fear not, I suspect there are no naked pictures of me out there, and if there are, nobody really cares).

Congrats Preet!

Why am I writing about this? Preet over at WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo won the W Network Expert challenge so he will be doing his own personal finance show pilot and we wish him the best of luck on that.


Weddings and Costs

Bankrupting a New Relationship with an Expensive Wedding

After spending a very enjoyable evening at my brother-in-law’s reception on Saturday night I looked back on my wedding and where we had the right idea, and where we might have gone wrong (financially speaking, I’ll leave the critique on relationships to Mrs. C8j):

  • We had our reception as a brunch which was much cheaper and because we only needed the reception room until 3:00 PM, we actually got it for free, as we had booked lots of rooms and we were paying for the meal.
    • Because this was brunch very little liquor was served as well.
  • The real reception was at my wife’s parents house, so we and her parents bought most of the booze “retail” from the OLC, which was cheaper.
  • We didn’t spend too much on a honeymoon (which I view as a regret, but we just couldn’t afford it).
  • Both sets of parents gave generously to the blessed event as well (in case they are reading and thinking I am trying to portray this as something I solely paid for).

I am not a believer in blowing huge amounts of cash for a wedding (as you can tell).


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