I saw Idiot Brother, the other night. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, Paul Rudd can do no wrong.
Rudd’s portrayal of a ‘slacker’ got me thinking about money and obligations. His character is lovable and isn’t a jerk…
…but who doesn’t have that one person in the family who takes advantage of a situation?
That person could be you.
I stopped loaning money to my family back in 2007. You know how it goes. You write a check and then that person drinks, parties, buys new clothes, downloads music, or goes on a ‘hiatus’ from work. And when I would challenge someone on his/her spending habits, I heard this.
Laurie, you expect me to live like a homeless person. Should I have nothing?
I think the answer is yes. When you owe someone money, you work hard to either pay them back or pay the kindness forward. And that person has a right to judge how you spend your cash until the debt is paid. But obviously I am an idiot for loaning money in the first place.
So the checkbook is closed. Makes relationships easier, actually, but it took years of therapy and introspection to realize that — unless someone had a disabling injury or illness — fully functioning adults are not victims and can work to get the money they need.
Or they could go without.
I think about this journey in my life because I hear from people who are broke, walking away from their homes, and giving away their animals because the economy has been so terrible. The recession has wiped out middle-class wealth and savings in America. People work two jobs to meet their basic needs. Rent. Food. Utilities. Fuel. Basic hygiene needs. Clothing.
I get it. This is why I write about work. I have tremendous sympathy for those who are suffering. And their animals.
But I also know that far too many educated, middle-class Americans are intellectually lazy. We forget that leisure and consumerism are earned rights.
So listen, I’m not talking directly to you because I don’t know you. And even if I were speaking directly to you, you probably wouldn’t get it. You would see your younger brother or your uncle in this post. I just want to offer a few thoughts for those of you drowning in debt but otherwise fully able to function in our society.
- If you can’t pay your mortgage, get out sooner rather than later.
- If you can’t afford to pay your rent or mortgage, you can’t afford a data plan and 24/7 access to Facebook on your mobile phone.
- If you have to give up your home, you can’t afford a new car.
- If you don’t have health insurance, you shouldn’t have a new Mac.
- If your kids haven’t seen the dentist in more than a year, you shouldn’t have satellite TV.
- If you owe someone money, you are not entitled to downtime. You are required to get a second job.
If you have schizophrenia or you are intubated in ICU, this doesn’t apply to you. Obvs.
And again, I am a Democrat. I believe in starting fresh. If Donald Trump can do it, there’s no shame in walking away from debt. File bankruptcy. Set your house on fire. Start over. But quit making the same mistakes over & over & over again in life like an idiot.
And one more thing — living with your parents out of need is not the new norm. It’s humiliating. You should work hard every. single. day. to get the hell out of there.