Friday, December 26, 2014

WANTS versus NEEDS (and evasive answers)

When people give elusive answers, you know something is up.

I was recently on Reddit, which is a horrible place to hang out. Not as evil as 4Chan, but almost as bad.  Mostly a bunch of bored IT professionals and teens, just trolling each other.  But one user asked whether she should co-sign her friend's student loans, as his grandfather "suddenly" refused to sign.

So I sent her links to my NEVER CO-SIGN A LOAN and NEVER CO-SIGN A LOAN, PART DEUX postings, and like a chorus of others said "don't do it!!!"

But her friend had a sob story. He couldn't take a semester off, he said, because they would not let him "back in the program".  What the program was, was not said.   First elusive answer.   And there was no other way to go about this, other than to co-sign student loans.  No way to cut the budget.  Second elusive answer.  No way to get a scholarship.   Third elusive answer.

After some prodding, it turns out he is majoring in "music therapy" which I said was "interesting" but since this is my blog, I will say it sounds like a load of hooey and unless you have at least a masters in it, forget getting one of the four job openings available in the country.  Not only that, if you do get one of the four jobs in the country, good luck getting paid enough to pay back your student loans.   And talk about a specialization!   A very narrow field of study, to be sure.

As for his budget, well, no answer.   It is funny, but college students today require cars - usually brand-new ones, it seems (and Grandma co-signs the loan) as well as a smart phone and a wardrobe of Abercrombie shirts.   Sacrifice is for suckers.   She never answered that question, so we'll never know.

But the third one floored me.  He went to the school with his tale of woe, and they offered to give him a full scholarship to cover room and board in the dorm.   His problem was, he didn't want to live in the dorm, but rather in an apartment with his girlfriend.  

My sympathy meter went to zero at that point.  Room and board are half the cost of college, and if you are serious about college, well, you can live in a dorm room and study instead of live in apartment and get laid and party.   What are your priorities?

But you see this all the time with financial matters.   Very few people in America have problems with financial NEEDS.   Rather, they get into trouble over WANTS.

I related before the person who asked me for help with their $5000 credit card debt.  I went through their finances and found at least $1500 a year they could take out of their budget (maybe far more) by cutting cable TV and going to a lower level of Internet service (or even using WiFi at the cafe - they were retired, after all).   I suggested they cut out restaurant meals and expensive cocktails until the debt was paid off - they spend hundreds a month just on that alone!

But she would have none of that.   What she wanted was $5000, please, to pay off the credit card and "get a new start".   And of course, I said no.  The sympathy meter was pegged at zero.   She had luxuries like Cable TV and was buying $10 Margaritas - when I watched Netflix and drank beer.  And I am supposed to subsidize her lifestyle?

And the same is true in the co-signer situation - in every scenario that people present, asking you to co-sign a loan, it is for a WANT not a NEED.   The WANT a new car.   They NEED bus fare.   They WANT a new house.  They NEED an apartment.   No matter what, there is always some "Plan B" that doesn't involve co-signing.

Elusive answers are like police tape - and they tell you that a bad deal is coming around the corner.  As an Attorney, I get elusive answers all the time - and know that I will have a "problem client" as a result.  Elusiveness and vagueness are forms of passive-aggression and a way of concealing true goals and reasons for doing things.

In the legal business, I find that these sorts of folks provide me only with the information that leads to the legal conclusion they wanted to hear.  Opposing data is discarded or de-emphasized.   And maybe they do this to themselves - self-filtering negative data so they believe in a particular goal or scenario.   Maybe we all do this to ourselves - believing that a new Jet Ski will "save us money" over renting one, or whatever.

I told the young lady not to co-sign the loan.   The point is probably moot - her credit rating at age 21 isn't sufficient to support such a loan.  But it was interesting how she posited the question - leaving out key facts in the situation - in an effort to solicit a particular answer.