Category Archives: Finances

Shamway

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While I worked at Cargill, one of my white coworkers approached me with his pitch. He was enthusiastic in his approach. What he didn’t know is that I saw him coming from a mile away and was already calculating how best to both amuse myself and learn something from him in the process. Being poor granted me the ability to avoid spending all my money foolishly; most of mine went for rent, pico de gallo, and an acre of french fries.

I’ve been thinking about some of my shenanigans due to the Showtime show, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” starring Kirsten Dunst. It takes a darkly comedic view of MLMs.

I invited my coworker Mitch (not his real name) to come to my residence. At the time I lived with a co-worker from Cargill. He owned a trailer in a park in Johnson. This is the trailer that would later give me the opportunity to say, “A plane crashed on my house.”

Mitch left his car running in the driveway, a common tactic used by converts to the scheme. As I listened, my roommate Ray shook his head in wonderment. He lived for years in California. As a result, his exposure to MLMs was vast. Later, he shared some of the stories of friends who had ruined themselves with such endeavors. I let Mitch do his pitch without being too problematic. It almost killed me. At the end of the first phase of his pitch, he asked me if I was interested. “Yes, but I’m more interested in how this ends for you, in three months or a year because it is going to end. Badly.” Because he’d spent a great deal of time with someone in his upline, he had a pat answer to redirect my point. I then said, “One thing I noticed is that you didn’t identify your company by name at any point. That’s one of the key warning signs for a pitch.” Mitch became nervous. I stood up and shook his hand and told him I wished him the best of luck. “Think of this as a training exercise. I’ll make a list of things that caught my attention.”

Ray stood up and told him, “Your pitch is pretty good, Mitch. I’ve heard a lot of them. But I recommend you quit now and start your own business or do your own thing before you spend a lot of money to make $10.”

Later, I gave Mitch a list of critiques. I made my comedic recommendations alongside my serious ones. He took the list. He stuck with the program for several more months, although after a couple of months, he began to drastically talk about it less. He quit Cargill without notice. Months later, someone told me he lost several thousand dollars buying his merchandise before quitting the MLM.

Over the next few years, I went to several pitches to see how much creativity might be involved. As you would guess, not very much.

Later, as people approached me with new opportunities to own my own company, be my own boss, I varied my responses from amused to indignant to gauge how it affected them. They couldn’t understand that I’d already peeked behind the MLM curtain. I asked them all, “Name one person you know who made the kind of money you claim. I want to talk to them.” No one ever gave me such a name, at least not a reasonable one. “I’ll follow up with you in a year. I hope you strike it rich. I’m rooting for you. And you should feel free to tell me ‘I told you so’ when you do!” No one ever did.

The same was true with timeshares and other similar high-pressure sales. One of the best I ever witnessed was in Mexico during vacation. The presenter was incredibly adept at countering every conceivable question or insight. Discovering that I spoke Spanish, he tried the ‘divide and conquer’ method. I switched to ‘batsh!t crazy’ mode and completely destroyed any means he tried to get back to normal. I ran down the clock and many of the other participants/victims joined me in ruining any chance we’d be stupid enough to buy a timeshare. Despite the free souvenir blankets, ponchos, bottles of tequila, and free meals, I finally got him to admit that each session paid for itself with only ONE person or family signing up. His usual success rate was 1 in 5, much higher than the average. This interaction was one of many that reminded me that when a person argues after the first “No,” you’re being manipulated and it is best to flee by any means necessary.

I learned long ago that you can’t convince a person in the cult of an MLM to listen to reason; they must finish the fatigue and finish line of their own accord, often after weakening countless friendships and connections.

One MLM currently going the rounds had to disclose that less than 2% make more than minimum wage doing it, and very rarely can someone live on the income generated. Most quit after losing more than they ever earned. Having a family member or close friend involved in any MLM is exactly like having a used car salesman living with you.

All of us have experienced the agony of a social media friend getting started in an MLM. The cringe factor is immense. Many of us have learned that it is impossible to tell them they are making a mistake.

MLMs are like religion; those involved want to do all the talking and seldom wish to hear your input.

All of us universally cringe when someone gets snagged by the tendrils of the promise of easy money.

As with some religious views, don’t make the mistake of trying to get people to see reason. They have to discover it for themselves.

Whether it is skincare products, essential oils, nutrition drinks, or clothing, it is never worth it. I am still waiting to get to know one person who has made a living from it. I certainly know a lot of people who have lost their social media friends by abusing their connections with these ‘business opportunities.’

For just an hour a day and $43,543, I’ll teach you how to do the same.

A Requested Defense Of Wasting One’s Money

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An acquaintance of mine reached out to ask me to take a jab at people who are hypocritical about his decision to spend money on fireworks. I’ll call him Slartivaniskivich for this post; mostly because you can’t pronounce his name that way and drop it in casual conversation. Slartivaniskivich felt he couldn’t do the subject justice. Me neither. But I can do it an injustice. There’s no point in being able to capably explain one’s opinion when modern news and entertainment clearly proves that incapably expressing oneself draws more eyes and ears. Being murdered by words never hurt anyone, and all the screaming basically counts as exercise anyway.

Are fireworks stupid? Of course. Is spending money on them totally discretionary, nonessential, and probably a demonstration of craven immaturity? You bet your ass! As long as there’s NASCAR, lite beer, and wine coolers, people are going to spend their money on blowing things up. Or, themselves, depending on quickly they can jump out of the way of danger. For Youtube’s sake, I hope we can reach a delicate balance between horrific stupidity and amusing stupidity.

Dear Karen and John: is the $200 you’re spending every six weeks on your hair, hair coloring, and eyebrows winning you any awards? Is that $110 blouse, the one with fluted sleeves and a tapered waist, worth it? Do you pay for someone to rid your yard, the one you’re seldom in and maintain mostly because you’re supposed to, of weeds? What about those golf clubs, fishing reels, and guns? How about those pyramid-scheme ‘nutrition drinks,’ the ones which cost an unknown amount of money per month? Or energy drinks? Are the cigars you smoke given to you at no charge? Are you washing your car every week in the automated lane? Are you having someone detail your car once a month? Are you subscribing to a meal delivery plan? Have those extra cable packages? Hulu? Netfilx? Eating out for lunch five times a week – and supper 3 or 4 more times? Your daily double latte? Your purchase of lottery tickets? Bottled water? Prepared foods? Do you have credit cards and pay interest on them? Pay for your checking account? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you were cologne or perfume? Do you go to yard sales? Do you have storage units? Do you have clothes or shoes you never wear? Manicures? Pedicures? Pediasure? (Ha!) Do you buy your pets special ice cream? Buy brand name products without question? Does your shampoo cost more than $4 a bottle? Do you have needlessly complex cellphones filled with paid apps? How about your subscription music services? Or those custom floor mats, vanity plates, or wheels on your vehicle? Do you own a golf cart, ATV, or motorcycle? Is your house bigger than 1200 square feet? Take vacations or do getaways, whether it’s to the beach, Mexico, Branson, or some other vomit-fueled amusement park? Do you have a favorite sports jersey? Do you collect things of any kind? Does your furniture ‘have to’ match? Do you have special utensils or dinnerware for special occasions? Do you own leather or fur jackets? Do you dry clean clothing?

Obviously, the point is that almost everyone wastes a LOT of money on stupid foolishness. Often, it’s spent for enjoyment and as a means to distract yourself from the ordinariness of daily living.

How you waste your money is your choice. How other people waste their money is their choice. It’s strange that you don’t feel a slap upside your head as you mouth criticism toward people who wasted their money on fireworks. You’re probably wearing $50 sunglasses as you mouth off – or wearing a pair of expensive shoes, even as the other 45 pair in your closet gather dust.

By way of example, a popular cliché sometimes exhorts us to spend our money and time on experiences rather than things. While fireworks are indeed ‘things,’ they also provide the experience of sharing the visual explosions with family and friends. They give a chance to upload videos of the displays that literally no one ever watches. They also give us a laugh if someone blows a finger off. Fireworks are social, even if some of the people involuntarily involved in their use aren’t keen on the experience. Additionally, fireworks give doctors the opportunity to practice their craft with stitches, scalpels, and surgeries, and firefighters the chance to put out roof fires all across these beautiful United States.

Invalidating another person’s stupid choices doesn’t enhance your enjoyment of your foolish choices. Okay, that’s not true. Mocking the choices of others can be fun, even if we don’t like to admit it. I’m saying that based on the 50+ years of observing people as they observe others.

From where I’m sitting, we’re all guilty of wasting our money on some seriously stupid things.

I’d write a bit more, but I need to go buy a polishing cloth for my silverware.

If your sibling, parent, friend, or neighbor wants to waste his money on fireworks, substitute any of the things you waste your money on.

There’s your post, Slartivaniskivich. Now you can link to it once the inevitable and repetitive arguments arise about how you choose to spend your money.

You’re welcome.

Financial Advisory

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For all of my friends who aren’t aware… In 2017, Equifax suffered a huge security breach, likely the largest ever. About 1/2 of all Americans had some or most of their private financial identifiers stolen. Most of the people I’ve mentioned it to seem to have no idea that it happened, much less that they are at severe risk of having their identities stolen or their credit ruined.

Equifax is offering a settlement, and the details are being finalized. While it is possible to easily file a claim and get a check of slightly more than a $125, I would recommend that you forego the money and opt for the 4 years of credit monitoring through the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Also, Equifax is offering an extension of 6 more years after the compulsory 4-year term lapses.

While I can’t force you to check your status on the settlement page, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you do so. I’ve always maintained that privacy is a unicorn; however, in events such as the Equifax data breach, I can promise you that you are gambling with your entire financial future if you ignore the risk. Here’s the direct link:

Link to check your eligibility and risk…

My name resulted in a positive. I, of course, signed up for the credit monitoring from all 3 of the major credit bureaus. This will allow me to reach out and expect assistance if and when my identity or credit history is used without my knowledge. It’s difficult to put a price tag on this sort of service. Anyone who knows someone who has suffered the agony of attempting to recover his or her history and identify after such misuse will tell you that is a personal hell of bureaucracy and paperwork.

Hopefully, your name will not result in a positive result. Even if it doesn’t, you should at a minimum be requesting a copy of your credit report once a year. Also, don’t get comfortable with the mistaken idea that you already participate in a credit monitoring system via your smartphone or one which is included with a credit card you might own. The truth is that the ones which are easily used often do not provide you the peace of mind and certainty that you believe that they do.

P.S. The website through which you can immediately see and download all 3 of your credit bureau reports: Link to get your annual credit reports…

Thanks, X