Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chris McGinty - Enemy of Debt - Episode Eight

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Welcome to Episode Eight of: Chris McGinty – Enemy of Debt

For an explanation of this feature, and disclaimers that talk about how I’m not a professional money anything, go to Episode One. If you are caught up to speed though, we’ll begin discussing my friend who called me in financial desperation on July 10, 2011. Out of some, perhaps slight respect for his privacy, I’m not using his real name. I am instead referring to him as Genghis Conflux of the Jedi.

I find it really hard to believe that the last time I wrote about Genghis’s plight was only eight days ago, and so much has changed since then. I’ll try to deal with it all in this part, but you’ll have to buckle in, cos we’ll be going fast.

Then I start creeping along at my normal slow pace.

First of all, let me say that his bank transaction report wasn’t detailed enough for me to figure out anything, so the bastard has gotten away with his addict behaviour this time. On the third of August, I met him at his work. It turned out that his check was not as much as he swore it would be.

What I’ve learned about Genghis is that he never actually sits down and realistically tallies his money. Every time he has gotten paid since we started this, he has believed that because something is due, and that because he has a paycheck, that he can pay everything. He also tends to believe that his check will be more than it is without doing the math to verify it. The check was for $521.24, exactly 76 cents less than what he owed me.

Here’s the other wonderful thing. I took the money from him, and I knew that I would have to immediately loan him $40 back for gas for his van. He said, “I was thinking you could get me a carton of those really cheap cigarettes, cos I won’t smoke as much that way. Oh, and I need to get gas for the van.” That lack of priority is why he is broke. I told him I would not buy him cigarettes until we were done with bills.

We went to each of the payday loan places, and asked for more time. The hope was that they could give us a couple of weeks. In both cases, all we got was until he got his guard check on Monday. At that point, I probably should have just paid them both, but I was considering the idea of having him do another payday loan for his rent. In the end, I realized that the fee for the loan would be about the same as the late fees for the rent.

I asked my dad for some money, and a friend of mine pointed out that borrowing money from my dad to loan to Genghis wasn’t right, and I agree. The problem is that if I loan money to Genghis, then come up short on my own bills, and have to borrow money from my dad for me, it comes out to about the same thing. As it turns out, I ended up using the money I borrowed from my dad for my bills, including my storage. In the process of focusing all my effort on Genghis’s troubles, I didn’t realize I’d not paid it. So in all of this, I managed to accrue a late fee on my storage of $25, when the shed is only $33 a month. I feel stupid.

Since Genghis’s rent was going to go late either way, I bought a carton of his regular cigarettes, and a single pack of the cheap ones. I gave him the cheap one and two packs of the regular, and told him that he would now have to make each pack last two days. If you remember before it was a day and a half. My hope was that he would slow down his frequency of smoking, but it seems to me that if I’m right about the stuff I wrote about before that he hasn’t slowed down any more than he’s had to. This would become evident four days later. But for that night I took him those three packs. I dropped them off at his guard post and he told me he had been smoking the cigarette butts in his van. Classy.

From there it was just a matter of waiting until Monday to deal with anything.

Now I want to explain about something I’ve been saying all along, which is the whole emotional decision thing, and then I’ll tell you the latest twist in this whole mess. I keep telling Genghis that you can’t make emotional decisions with money. We all have done it. I remember, during the last couple of years of my second marriage, trying to keep the fucking house. I yelled at my dad once because he wasn’t helping me enough. And I promise you, my dad didn’t deserve that.

In my defense, what I was saying to him was sound logic given the circumstances, but it was unfair to him. The problem was that I was drowning in late fees on the mortgage, and he didn’t want to help me get current, only to help me with what I owed at that moment. This meant that I kept getting further behind in spite of his help. In hindsight, I wish we had just let the house go. Maybe the mortgage company would have realized that we weren’t paying it and worked with us, or at the very least we would end up in a place that we could afford. In hindsight, I should have never asked my dad to help, and then I wouldn’t have been in the position to be logically right, but morally wrong by yelling at him.

The truth is that helping Genghis was also an emotional decision. I should have just told him too bad. After all, it is bleeding over into my own personal life and finances when I make dumb mistakes of not paying my own bills because I’m too busy worried about his.

I’ve spoken about his wife being in Oklahoma at her mom’s, so the kids could see their grandma. Her mom offered to give her a car. This would have been very helpful, because we wouldn’t have paid on the title loan, and could have focused that money on paying his rent. The problem is that there was emotional decision making involved here as well. The stipulation was that she would give her the car, but Genghis was not allowed to drive it. This meant that Genghis would still have to maintain the van, the loan, and the eventual repair.

Genghis’s wife came home on Sunday, and that night, while Genghis was driving to work, the axel on the van finally snapped. Now her mom is suddenly willing to give her the car, and Genghis can drive it, but there is no easy way to get to Oklahoma to get the car. Wonderful.

Next episode, I’ll deal with why I nearly stopped helping Genghis altogether.

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