By Al Jacobs
Author of Nobody’s Fool: A Skeptics Guide to Prosperity
I recently attended a retirement party for a close friend. It was inspiring to listen to the speeches lauding him for forty-three years of diligent service, interspersed with accolades for selfless devotion to clients and coworkers. In all, it was a moving experience, culminating with his announcement that he planned to spend his retirement years contentedly with his wife and family, engaged in morning rounds of golf with friends, and accented with travel to exotic places. If anything detracted from the celebration, it was his admission to me in the washroom later that evening that he dreaded the thought of giving up work. He added that golf had become a bore, that there were no places he particularly wanted to visit, and that a few hours a month with his children and grandchildren was all he could stand. Finally he blurted out: “Damn! I still have ten or fifteen good years I could continue. If I hadn’t accumulated so much money, I couldn’t retire—I’d have to keep working.”
Though there’s nothing I can do to assist my friend, I can pass on some tips to those of you who never want to find yourself in his predicament. If you want to make certain you’ll always be sufficiently insolvent so as to require perpetual nose to grindstone, I know just how to do it. Pay attention as I describe five surefire methods to guarantee financial inadequacy.
1. Announce to the world that the motor vehicle you drive is a reflection of your personal excellence. This is accomplished by driving only a current year model of a recognizably prestigious vehicle. Driving a Toyota, as I have for the past five years—and will probably continue to do for the next five—is no way to inspire adulation. All it will do for you is provide comfortable, reasonably priced, and maintenance-free transportation. But that will never do. What you want is this year’s Jaguar, Mercedes, or, at the least, BMW. In that way your bank account will avoid accumulating those dollars that might one day force you from the rolls of the habitually employed. And if you want to make absolutely certain you’ll not fail in this endeavor, do not purchase what you drive. Instead, lease it, as there is no surer way of motoring unprofitably than by driving a rented vehicle. In that way you’ll not only incur all the normal operating expenses and depreciation of an owned auto, but provide an extra profit to the middleman from whom you lease it.
2. Send your progeny to the finest universities. The fact that learning can be acquired inexpensively is no reason not to expend huge sums in its attainment. With tuition, books, fees, lodging, and incidentals included, you should be able to blow upwards of $40,000 annually for each child if the right schools are chosen. You may have heard that two years at a community college, followed by two years at a local state university commuting from home, can provide a motivated student with as fine an education as four years in residence at Harvard or Princeton. Despite the fact this is true, it won’t meet your basic requirement, which is to avoid accumulating all that money you don’t want. Therefore, you know what you must do. Encourage each of your offspring to select a high-priced institution at an exclusive location. It may not address their needs, but it will resolve your problem.
3. Don’t settle for reasonably priced merchandise when something more expensive is available. The fact that an $18.75 Timex wristwatch is as reliable and precise as a $3,500 Rolex does not matter. The prospect of being observed wearing a timepiece that is—God forbid, cheap—will forever mark you as someone devoid of what the marketing professionals have established as a mark of prosperity. The same is true with the writing implement you use. Consider the hyperbole employed by one firm to convince us of the importance of a $600 ballpoint pen. Their pitch focuses on its beauty and workmanship, as well as the implication that you will be admired by clients and associates for your taste and culture. With that as your goal you’ll not want to emulate someone like me; the pen in my shirt pocket, with probable value of about 29 cents, carries the worn inscription “Resdeck Plumbing, Redondo Beach, Calif, Your problems are our problems.” So keep those lofty principles uppermost as you shop your way through life, favoring such products as $300 per ounce bottles of perfume, $250 pairs of Adidas-1 athletic sneakers, and $500-per-night hotel rooms on Las Vegas weekend getaways, to name just a few.
4. Never say no! Did your brother-in-law just lose his weekly paycheck by a bad pick on the third race at Hialeah? If he needs a bit to tide him over, give him your help. Is a generous contribution to the bridal shower of coworker’s daughter requested? It will certainly be a nice gesture on your part. The plea given from the pulpit by your pastor last Sunday made it clear that without your assistance, the natives of Rwanda will continue to suffer. Surely you can’t turn your back on mankind. And as there is no limit to the needs that others will impose on you, it is a reliable device to rid yourself of money. Simply turn off your head and follow your heart.
5. Accept without question your stockbroker’s suggestions on the securities you buy and sell. Should a heavily loaded mutual fund be recommended, as it most assuredly will, signify your approval with a nod of the head and a broad smile. Finally, as a last resort, if your portfolio refuses to head in a sufficiently southward direction, give discretionary authority to your stockbroker. In this way, the inevitable churning of your account to generate maximum commissions for the broker, irrespective of performance, will be guaranteed. Simply follow this program and you may rest assured that it won’t endow you with unwanted assets. Your status as a working stiff will be guaranteed in perpetuity.
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