Tag Archives: money

Getting ahead by getting in over your head

people who buy houses they can't afford

Apparently, the best way to build wealth is to go into massive debt.

“You know, you really should consider buying a house,” said my friend, Wayne, as he looked around my dismal apartment, his lips curled in a condescending sneer. “Now is a terrific time to buy.”

“Really?” I said, settling across from him on my grungy couch. “Right now? You mean when inventory is depleted and prices are sky-high? Yeah, it sounds like an ideal time to pour all my hard-earned money into a ramshackle hovel. When was the last time I heard this advice? Early 2008?”

Wayne sniffed. “This time it’s different. Home prices can never go down. You don’t want to get left behind.”

“Take a look at my apartment,” I said. “I’ve already been left behind. I couldn’t buy a house in the aftermath of the recession because I had a low-paying job. And now that I have a better job, home prices have surged to outpace wages. I can’t win.”

“You’ll never learn,” Wayne said. “The only way to make it in life is to buy and sell houses. That’s the key. The only people who get ahead are the ones who buy homes.”

“Huh. I always thought the way to get ahead was to save your money and live below your means.”

Wayne laughed out loud. “Seriously? And where has that gotten you?”

I glanced around my dismal apartment. “Not far, I suppose.”

“That’s exactly right. Working hard and saving money are probably the stupidest things you can do. When you live below your means, you’re not living. That’s why you’re supposed to buy a house and borrow against the equity. How do you think people have RVs and ATVs and brand-new cars? They’re not working hard and saving the money, I can tell you that.”

“I believe it,” I said. “People don’t seem to have to work anymore. Everyone’s just rich for no reason.”

“It’s not for no reason,” Wayne said. “They’re rich because they live in enormous houses with rising values. You should take some notes. Like I said, now is a terrific time to buy.”

“People always say it’s a terrific time to buy,” I said. “When the market’s up, it’s a terrific time to buy. When the market’s down, it’s a terrific time to buy. When a zombie apocalypse hits the planet, it’s a terrific time to buy.”

“Actually,” Wayne said, “that would be an amazing time to buy. You could get in early when the prices were down. You’d just have to hose out the guts and rotting flesh.”

“Well, tell you what,” I said. “I’ll make you a deal. If a zombie apocalypse hits the planet, then maybe — just maybe — I’ll consider buying a house.”

“If you do, check out mine,” Wayne said. “I’m listing it for sale, and I’m looking for a buyer. I’m trying to move up.” 

“Move up?” I said. “And you want to use me as your stepladder?” 

He shrugged. “What can I say? If you knew anything about making money, you would have bought a house you couldn’t afford a long time ago.” 

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Rallying for all the wrong reasons

Demanding Day Traders

Well, fair’s fair.

My next-door neighbor, Paul, was all grins the other day when we met for drinks after work.

“What are you so happy about?” I asked, my head sagging over my gin and tonic.

“Well,” Paul said, wearing a huge smile, “I’m not sure if you follow the financial news, but there was a major relief rally today on Wall Street.”

I peered up at him. “A relief rally?”

He nodded. “Yep. A big one.”

“Well, then,” I said, rolling my heavy eyes, “isn’t that just spellbindingly fantastic? Jolly jolly six pence.”

Paul’s bright smile dipped ever so slightly. “That sounded sarcastic.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “Not at all. You see, when it comes to relief, I can’t think of a more deserving group of people than rich Wall Street jerks with huge mansions, five vacation properties, four yachts, three private jets and a wad of hundred-dollar bills blowing out their backside. I mean, forget the working-class poor who are slaving away at multiple part-time jobs and struggling to raise their children in a rising-interest rate environment where wages are stagnant and the cost of living is skyrocketing. Goodness knows they don’t deserve relief. When the market dips ever so slightly, my heart goes out to the truly downtrodden — the truly worthy — such as the bankers and the politicians and the lobbyists. They’re the ones who deserve the outpouring of pity flowing from our tender hearts. In the patchwork quilt that is America, they’re the imperative threads that weave us all together in a snug cocoon of kinship and closeness.”

Paul blinked at me. “Are you sure you’re not being sarcastic?”

“What do you care about the ebbs and flows of the markets, anyway?” I asked, throwing back my drink. “You don’t have any money invested.”

“I was trying to pass on good news, is all. I read that you should try to share a bit of good news every day, to instill cheer in your fellow humans.”

I glared at him. “Instill cheer? And you think the idea of rich people getting richer is supposed to instill me with cheer?”

“Well.” Paul shrugged.

“If you wanted to instill me with cheer, you could tell me that housing is finally affordable, or that healthcare costs have gone down, or that instead of buying back their own stock, companies are finally investing in their employees.”

Paul shook his head. “Nope. None of that’s happened, as far as I can tell.”

At that moment, his phone buzzed. He picked it up to read the alert.

“Hey,” he said, “I got more good news. The Dow futures are way up in after-hours trading.”

I sighed, sinking lower in my bar stool. “What a relief.”

Financial experts: No matter what the market, you should always buy stocks

roulette wheel

According to financial experts, U.S. stocks have nowhere to go but up. (Of course, that’s what they were saying about home prices in 2007, but best not to dwell on that.)

I walked into a local money manager’s office the other day to open an account.

“Do you have an appointment, sir?” the receptionist asked, as I walked past her desk.

I walked into the money manager’s office and sat down at his desk. “Here’s the thing,” I said. “I know you’re a money manager, so you’re probably used to working with clients who, you know, actually have money. And I don’t really have anything to my name except for a worn-out rubber vomit and a pack of gum that shocks you when you try to touch it. But I want to retire someday from this grueling, thankless career of writing comedy, so I need to start investing for the future. Does that make sense?”

The money manager clasped his hands and leaned back in his seat. “You should buy stocks,” he said.

“I’ve never been very good at earning money,” I said. “Don’t get me wrong: I’m a hard worker. I’ve spent my entire life busting butt, trying to get ahead. The problem, I’ve found out, is that hard work has nothing to do with making money. Employers used to covet a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn, but now all they seem to want are self-promoting braggarts who mask their incompetence with smooth-sounding babble. And because I was taught to be humble, I tend to labor diligently in the background while the smooth-talking braggarts take all the credit. And then they get all the promotions while I stay at the bottom, working myself to an early grave.”

“You should buy stocks,” the money manager said.

“And I don’t want to end up in an early grave,” I said. “I mean, sure — dying young has its benefits. I wouldn’t have to save so much for the future, because there wouldn’t be much of a future to save toward. And I wouldn’t have move to Florida and start eating dinner at 3 p.m., because who wants to eat dinner that early, anyway? I certainly don’t. I’d end up rummaging through the fridge at 7 p.m. and making a tuna fish sandwich with sardines and mayonnaise. And then I’d wake up at one in the morning with raging heartburn that feels like someone is running a blowtorch up and down your chest. I don’t want that to be my future.”

“You should buy stocks,” the money manager said.

“But if I do grow old, I need a retirement fund so I can actually buy food,” I said. “I don’t want to be a destitute geriatric with no teeth who gnaws on Alpo while watching Murder, She Wrote reruns. If it gets to that point, a tuna fish sandwich with sardines might be the financial equivalent of eating caviar. Not that I’ve ever eaten caviar. Why would anyone pay so much to eat something so disgusting? I feel the same way about frog legs. Although some people say frog legs taste like chicken. I guess it depends on what kind of chicken. If it tasted like KFC, then I might try it. I like chicken when it’s deep fried, but not so much when it’s baked. Baked chicken might be healthy, but it tends to be chewy and dry, and then it’s about as appetizing as my worn-out rubber vomit.”

I paused for a breath. “As you can tell, I’m not exactly a health nut, which is a personal defect I should address if I’m going to start planning for the future.”

“You should buy stocks,” the money manager said. Keep reading…

Yellen farts; markets surge

U.S. stock markets rallied on news that the Fed is going to protect short-term speculators by ignoring long-term structural problems in the overall economy.

U.S. stock markets rallied on news that the Fed is going to protect short-term speculators by ignoring long-term structural problems in the overall economy.

Stocks rallied Wednesday, closing at record highs on the news that Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen blew gas out the back of her ass.

The sonorous — and, by some reports, odorous — explosion provided a welcome relief to investors, who have been hanging on every syllable the Fed utters in anticipation of a September rate hike.

“These days, it’s all about watching the Fed,” said Morgan Smithers, investment strategist for Rich Prick Financial Services Inc. “Whenever they speak, write — and yes, even fart — it can carry enormous ramifications for the market at large.”

Market analysts said Yellen’s horrific flatulence is bullish for the overall market, as it signals the rebound of the American economy.

“Let’s put it this way,” Smithers said. “If you’re farting, it’s a sign that you’re eating. And the richer the food you eat, the more you’re going to fart. So if we have members of the Federal Reserve blasting ass trumpets, it’s a positive sign that the economy is on track, and that current asshole bubbles — excuse me, asset bubbles — will remain intact.

“In fact,” he added, “the only thing better would be if members of the Federal Reserve shart their pants during the September meeting. That would indicate that they’ve been gorging on a veritable feast, and that a cornucopia of fortune awaits American consumers.” Keep reading…

A penny for your slots

A relative of mine came to town to gamble. He’d recently gotten his tax return and wanted to put it to good use.

“You could put it in the bank,” I suggested.

“Nah,” he said. “Too risky. When it comes to losing money, I prefer a casino to inflation. At least a casino is upfront about robbing you blind.”

With the correct alignment of the stars -- and the collect alignment of the slot reels -- anyone can win a jackpot. Except me. And you.

With the correct alignment of the stars — and the correct alignment of the slot reels — anyone can win a jackpot. Except me. Oh, and you, too.

He asked if I knew of any good places to go.

Absolutely, I said. Being a native Nevadan, I’m exposed to the gaming culture all the time. Casinos, table games, slots, rolling dice, free drinks — all of them are threads that weave the fabric of Nevada’s soul. And that fabric’s starting to look like a worn casino carpet with one of those intricate, busy designs that makes you sick — especially after a jaunt at the $1.99 buffet.

Yes, I told him, I live and breathe gambling. And what I’m breathing smells like cigarette smoke and fried-food fumes. Good thing most casinos these days have air-filtration systems.

Because I live and breathe gambling, you might assume I know something about it. You might think I’d be clued in, know the score, or have an inkling of the odds.

You’d of course be wrong. I know nothing about gambling. Nothing at all. Well, that’s not true. I do know that when I gamble, I lose money. I’ve at least ascertained that fact, albeit after several rounds of keno. (All those free drinks must have impaired my judgement.)

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the odds are against me. Casinos don’t make a profit by giving away their money. They’re run by entrepreneurs, after all, and not by politicians.

Gambling allures because it offers the possibility of instant riches. And getting rich quickly is a basic human desire. None of us wants to work hard to survive; we do it only because we have to. I imagine most folks, if given the choice, would love to make untold riches without having to work. Sadly, not all of us can be Justin Bieber.

Gambling offers the thrill of chance. With a little luck and the correct alignment of the stars — not to mention the correct alignment of the slot reels — your average joe can turn $1 into $30 million, and all without spilling his free drink.

The problem, I told my relative, is that winning is rare. Only a certain number of people ever win a jackpot, and as a rule, none of them can be you or me. I think it’s a state law.

“Oh,” he said.

Casinos are designed to pluck money from our pockets, and they do so with a vigor matched only by the government. However, when we give money to a casino, at least we have some fun. And isn’t that the point? I’ve got nothing against casinos or gambling. If people want to gamble, that’s their own choice.

“Actually,” my relative said, “in my case, it’s my wife’s choice, and she’s probably going to tell me no.”

Too bad, I said, because gaming’s the backbone of Nevada’s economy. Without the casinos, we’d have nothing to sell but our sand. The federal government would have to pay us to store its nuclear waste.

Speaking of which, a glowing pile of plutonium might make a good tourist attraction. We could dump it in the middle of the Black Rock Desert and call it a Burning Man exhibit.

“You know,” my relative said, “maybe I’ll spend my money on something else. My daughter’s been begging me for Justin Bieber tickets.”

Wow, I said, snorting. Talk about throwing your money away.

This article originally appeared in The Comstock Chronicle, Virginia City, Nev.