I'm broke and I can't fix it
By AMY PANG
Blast Los Angeles Bureau
The problem facing many people today is the downward spiral of debt brought
on by negative cash flow. See if this doesn't sound familiar: you start
racking up debt in college because of loans and outrageously priced
textbooks. Once you're out of school, you're making a fair wage but are
confronted with the unpleasant price of modern life. Anything to do with
your car is expensive; you have insurance, gas, payments, maintenance and
so on. You have rent and utilities. You have to get a decent wardrobe for
work, which is a heady investment. You have to eat. You have to have fun in
order to keep your sanity. On top of all this wanton spending are your
credit card bills and school loans.
So the salary you're getting, which may be great if you're debt-free,
becomes diddly-squat when it comes to actual cash. You may vow to pay more
than the minimum each month on the Visa, but if you're not careful about
balancing your checkbook, you won't have any cash for groceries. So you
charge it on your credit card? See how it perpetuates?
You can swear not to use a single card ever again, but credit card
companies continually attempt to wear away your resolve. I get offers for
approved cards all the time. Spiegel sent me one. Home Depot sent me one.
Even Levitz sent me one! I wisely have not accepted any of them. Maybe I
should've taken the Home Depot card; you never know when you will need some
I am broke most of the time. Maybe that's not accurate enough. Another way
to put it is that I have no money to do the things I want to do, like
traveling for months at a time, paying off all my credit cards and burning
them, eating out for dinner a couple of times a week, seeing a non-matinee
movie, or buying things without worrying whether they're on sale or not. I
am reminded every day of my financial hole simply because I live in
Southern California. Nowhere else on this planet can people do so little
and make so much money.
Occasionally I'll hear of or run across some bastard who's my age and makes
five times what I do. I'm bitter until I hear what the job entails. "Sales
for [fill in the blank]." "Lawyer." "Drug dealer." "It's his mommy's
money." In those cases and similar others I'd rather be happy with my lot
than miserable with all that dough.
Come to think of it, what's the big deal with being rich anyway? OK, you'll
have enough money to get whatever you want. But if all that stuff ever gets
stolen? What a pain in the ass! Insurance can cover the cash value but not
replace a one-of-a-kind item. People hit you up for money all the time:
relatives, "friends," political parties, and the list goes on. People you
screwed over will sue you because they know you have money. Hell, people
will sue you anyway.
In the end, I manage to enjoy what I have. I have food to eat, clothes to
wear, and a computer and modem. I can get rid of my debt eventually. I
think. I'm not making any hard and fast plans.