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The Seven Best Ways to Waste a Paycheck

Chris Lose • LD at LargeMay 2021 • May 6, 2021

Illustration by John Sauer –

If I have learned nothing else in the last year, it’s that saving up for a rainy day is not enough. A rainy-day fund may need to extend for several months. I wish that post-pandemic Chris could go back and tell pre-college Chris how much this will matter to him in the future. He would probably be too drunk to listen and too tired to care. If you are reading this while sitting in your time machine, please deliver this article to 22-year-old Chris Lose in Las Vegas circa 2000. Please tell him to knock off whatever crap he is doing, put down the bottle and have a chat. Here are the seven things that he will try to tell you and seven ways that you can convince him to shut up and listen.

Chris will tell you that money is meant to be spent. Chris will demand that a night of buying round after round of drinks for his friends is the best way to gain respect and notoriety. He will show you his long receipts from the bar and brag about how much money he made on the last gig. He will tell you that experiences are the best return on investment. He’s not completely wrong. We do need to make sure that life is lived to the fullest. Unfortunately, there are a few too many times that he went completely overboard and blew his monthly per diem over a bar tab. Please tell him to at least leave his credit card at home when he goes out drinking and only take the cash that he is willing to lose. He needs to hear this because he holds onto the following myth.

He will tell you that he can make minimum payments on his credit card. Chris thinks that paying the minimum amount on his credit card is a sustainable way of living. He thinks that as long as the bank will increase his limits in the future, there is no need to pay the full amount right now. Chris has a delusion of grandeur. He doesn’t think that these bills will ever actually come due. Chris will argue that money is just a made-up concept that has no real value. Chris doesn’t yet realize that when these bills come due, it will affect his livelihood, his relationships and his future credit scores. Chris needs to be shown that these expensive decisions have real consequences. Please show him that the three percent introductory interest rate has expired, and the 23 percent rate is crippling him.

He will tell you that he can pay you after the next gig. Chris does this often. He imagines that the money is already in the bank from the next gig. He is preemptively enjoying future riches. He has had a solid run of good luck, but he doesn’t know that two planes will soon hit the twin towers in New York and his entire industry will dry up for a few months. His credit cards are maxed, his rent is a month behind, and his car needs a new windshield. He will go into this situation in a bad spot and come out having learned nothing if you don’t set him straight. He has been able to pay off large sums of accumulated debt in a single payment so many times that he has become accustomed to it. Living like that puts a lot of stress on his well-being. That leads him to drink even more and compound his problems. Please point out the inherent unsustainability of this financial model.

He will tell you that he just needs to work harder to make more money. Chris has only known one equation: work + harder = get more money. He feels good knowing that he is the sole provider for his future. He loves collecting a paycheck and immediately enjoying the spoils of his labor. Sadly, he has no idea that his money could be working for him. He doesn’t realize that his hard-earned money could be put to good use in the hands of another person who is willing to make him more money. Chris didn’t take any financial classes in college or read any books on the topic. He was too busy learning how to hang and point lights at people. He thinks that other people will just take his money and leave him with less money to play with. He doesn’t realize that a financial adviser works for him.

He will tell you that he doesn’t need to start saving ‘til he is older. Chris’ parents told him about 401Ks and investing, but he didn’t listen. He thinks that saving money is what people do when they turn 40. He has no idea how much children’s educations, health care, mortgages, insurance and business supplies are going to cost him in the future. He doesn’t need a rainy-day fund because it never rains. Kevin Christopher, a.k.a. “Deuce,” a 25-year veteran of the industry and a financial planner, needs you to remind Chris that “When saving for retirement, it is definitely never too early to begin, and diversity is key.”

He will tell you that the investing is just gambling his money. Chris heard a story once about a guy who lost all of his money in the stock market. He holds onto that story so tightly that he was unwilling to risk any of his hard-earned cash. Chris will learn much later that you don’t grow if you don’t take risks. Deuce reminds us, “Being leery of being fully invested is not necessarily a bad thing — Google the 2008 financial crisis for reference.” Deuce recommends that Chris “contributes up to the company match in the 401K because everyone likes free money, then allocate the rest of the contribution into an account that sees growth with no risk of loss.”

He will tell you that he knows everything there is to know about money. Chris has a little bit of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. He has no idea that there are professionals who can help him. He doesn’t know that a professional financial adviser can help him pay less in taxes and save that money for future use. He doesn’t know that a good financial adviser has his best interests in mind. He doesn’t know how important it is to like and trust the individual that is planning his financial future. A trusted financial advisor will help guide him to the solution that is right for his future self.

‡‡         What About Now?

We are all in this flood together. Most of us were unaware that our industry could ever be this vulnerable to a worldwide pandemic. Some of us squirreled away enough for two months of rainy days, but one year was unfathomable. We have all had our plastic umbrella yanked away from us by this powerful updraft. It is time to get a team together and protect our precious gear from future downpours. Financial planners like Deuce can help us to remind our current selves that having more than one strategy is important to providing for ourselves and our families in these times of turmoil.

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