Friday, October 28, 2011

Are you a CHUMP? And if so, why?

Money for Nothing? Stop being a CHUMP!

We are all chumps sometimes.  We want to believe in fairies and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow - and Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, while we're at it.  And hey, you CAN get something-for-nothing, right?  If you only wish hard enough!

But being a chump is a sure-fire recipe for personal financial disaster.  And we all do it at times - and most folks are just plain full-blown chumps, and enjoy their chumpdom and think it is a fine deal.

Are you a CHUMP?  Take this simple test:

1.  Do you think Sarah Palin or Michele Bachman would make a good President? 
2.  Do you rent-to-own your furniture? 
3.  Do you take out Payday Loans? 
4.  Do you take out a second mortgage or "line of credit" and use it to pay off credit cards? 
5.  Do you really think Fox News is "Fair and Balanced"? 
6.  Do you think Obama caused the economy to collapse? 
7.  Do you worry about terrorists attacking your local strip mall? 
8.  Do you think that there really is a "100 mpg carburetor" but that the oil companies are suppressing it? 
9.  Do you think that nothing bad in your life is really your fault? 
10. Do you think leasing is a good deal, because it "frees up your cash flow?" 
11.  Do you believe in elves, faeries, ghosts, creationism, spiritual readings, horoscopes, far eastern religions or any other sort of bullshit?
12.  Do you watch television? 
13.  Do you have car payments? 
14.  Do you think that you can "mod" your Mom's old Honda into a race car?

15.  Is your favorite restaurant a chain? 
16.  Do you watch television?  At all?
17.  Do you believe in the "one trick of the tiny belly?" 
18.  Do you think you can "Make money at home!" by answering an ad in the newspaper? 
19.  Do you believe that the government sells confiscated "drug cars" for $500? 
20.  Do you believe in SOMETHING for NOTHING?

Score:  If you answer YES to ANY of these questions, you are a first-class CHUMP.  Please send me all of your money, because plainly, you don't need it, and it is only an accident of nature that you have any in the first place.

What is Cumpsterism, and why are we all inclined to fall for it?  Being a Chump is to believe in something-for-nothing - to really seriously think that there are shortcuts to wealth and success and that only a "real chump" works hard to succeed.

And when we are young and stupid (which is redundant - there are no young and wise) we tend to be chumps.  And this is exactly why advertisers target the young audience - the chump audience - because they believe just about anything.  Young males, age 14-35 are the target audience for advertisers - the chump audience.

What cures Chumpsterism?  Experience helps - but not always.  Some folks go through life being "true believers, no matter how many times they put their hand on the hot stove.

However, if you pay attention, you can start to figure these things out, over time.

We all are chumps, at one time or another.   We are born into this world as chumps and then only become more wary over time - as our naivete causes us no end of troubles.

I remember my first lesson in chumpsterism, at age 6 - very vividly.  At that age, I was pretty much a full-blown chump - willing to believe, like most children, anything that worked in my favor.  The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and of course, every damn thing the television said.

As far as I was concerned the TeeVee was like a God - advertising all sorts of great stuff that you "had to have" like a new Stingray bike, or a G.I. Joe miniature submarine set, or a new Lionel train.    And I would beg and plead my parents for this junk - and they would buy it.  And in every case, the joy of ownership, by itself, was never quite as fantastic as the TeeVee made it out to appear.  You'd think I would start to figure things out on my own, but I was particularly dense.

One day, while spending far too much time in front of our flickering SEARS black-and-white, I saw an ad for a chocolate drink, sort of like Quik (it may have been, for all I know, before they used that stupid rabbit to sell it).  They showed a boy putting the chocolate powder into a glass of milk, while the announcer said, "It has so much chocolate, its like little chocolate explosions in your milk!"

Just then, small explosions appears to go off in the boy's milk, much to his delight.  Oh, boy, I just HAD to have this stuff!  Exploding milk!  I implored my Mother to buy it, and she said that the explosions were not real.  In fact, to an adult eye,  I am sure that the explosions were clearly crudely drawn animation, which passed for the CGI of the day.  And I am sure there was a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen "Note:  Chocolate Explosions do Not Actually Occur" - but I was too young to read and our flickering TeeVee didn't display the disclaimer legibly.

After weeks of begging, my Mother bought the stuff.  Eagerly, I poured a glass of cold Vitamin-D whole milk, and waited for the magic.  Nothing happened.  The powder slumped to the bottom of the glass, turning the milk a slight grey color.  I was gypped!

I wailed, of course.  By my Mother said, "I told you that there were no chocolate explosions, that was just a commercial!"

I was mortified.  The television had lied to me!  But Mother explained - or tried to explain - that not everything on television was the truth.  And perhaps some of this started to sink in.  I realized that there were some bad people out there who would lie to me to get me to buy things.

But of course, those were only a few bad apples, right?  I learned every week, on Dragnet that the bad guys were just a few bad apples - and that the Police always caught them.   It was only a matter of time before Joe Friday would catch those evil chocolate drink people and throw them in Alcatraz for false advertising - and causing a young boy to lose faith in the almighty TeeVee!

You'd think that early experience, which is burned in my memory, would have set me straight on how the world works.  But I was a raving true believer - a chump - for many years to come.  I was willing to believe whatever proposition the TeeVee set forth - or whatever convenient thing I wanted to believe that would work in my favor.  I was willing to engage in weak thinking.

Sure, we could all be billionaires, if not for the "evil corporations" - right?  Easy to believe between bong hits on a stained mattress in your parent's basement.  And the latest urban legend or rumor - so fun to believe in, when research and thinking are hard work.  Rumors, innuendo, slander, outright lies and deception - fun stuff for the weak mind.

But over the years, slowly, slowly, I started to realize - after each raw deal, bad bargain, misrepresentation, and just plain rip-off, that being a weak thinker was a trap.  It seemed easy to believe what you wanted to believe - to believe in easy wealth and that any setback was the other guy's fault.  But it became apparent to me that what this sort of mentality did was lock me into a continued mode of stasis - where I kept being a "true believer" and then kept looking externally for someone to blame when it all went horribly wrong.

I came to this conclusion fairly rapidly.  Others never do.  You see this all the time in adverts for fraudulent MLM schemes (there are no other kind, of course).  The text reads, "Scammed by an MLM scheme?  Try the new money system!  This is an MLM scheme that actually works!  Not a scam!"

They are marketing directly to the "true believers" who have been stung already and are still smarting from their financial wounds.  And yet, these weak thinkers are willing - all too willing - to believe that the reason the MLM scheme (money for nothing) didn't work out was that someone else defrauded them.  The basic premise of wealth without work, to them, is sound.  You just have to latch onto the right scheme!  They are like cattle to the slaughter.

And so today, we see Wall Street Protesters railing against "those evil rich Bankers" who forced them, at gunpoint, to sign up for Student Loans, or toxic-ARM Mortgages, or whatever.  Nothing the protesters did caused them to be in the situation they are in, of course.

Or on the Right, the "teabaggers" want their taxes cut - or at least more tax cuts for the very rich - and the Federal deficit eliminated at the same time.  Throw all those people off welfare!  But don't even THINK about touching MY Social Security.

And of course, they want the cost of gas cut, but won't give up an 8-mpg truck as their sole source of transportation.

This is not to say there are not "evil others" in the world, be it advertising folks who deceive little boys, or bankers who dangle out easy money - on onerous terms.  But in each case, in order for evil to succeed, it requires voluntary cooperation by the "victim".  In other words, chumpsterism.

Now, trying to change the world is a fine and wonderful thing and all.  And I am not saying that protesting is stupid - it just makes you look stupid.  But here's the deal.  In the millions of years since we learned to walk upright, there have been con artists, shady dealers, scams, come-ons, con-jobs, crooks, thieves, and whatnot.  And while you can protest all you want, I doubt that they will ever, ever go away.

However, one 100% guaranteed, sure-fire way to avoid being victimized by the "bad guys" is to stop being a chump, period.  You cannot end up in trouble with Student Loans if you never take any out - or if you think carefully about the overall cost, what you can realistically afford, and whether the education you are getting is worth the cost.

You cannot end up "upside-down" on a mortgage if you don't buy in an overheated market (and get greedy) and if you don't sign onerous loan papers with toxic features.  And yes, that was a choice on your part - if you did that.  I chose not to, but sold out instead.  Because I'm just not that much of a chump.

You cannot be "victimized" by the "big oil companies" if you drive a reasonably sized car that gets good gas mileage.  And yea, they sell them.  And no, you don't "need" a giant SUV to get around, unless you are towing a big trailer all the time.  You have choices.

So, rail all you want about the "unfairness" of Wall Street or how "Obama is turning America into a Socialist Country" - but neither activity will really do much for your own personal bottom line.  And listening to people like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann - and being a raging true believer of either - is not going to advance your personal cause, but just make you a first class chump - all over again.

Take control of your life.  Stop living as a victim.  Stop being a CHUMP!