February’s (Financial) Retard of the Month


Breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) of Champions.

Breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) of Champions.


These never get old, do they? We could run with one of these for our (Financial) Retard of the Month, every month, until the sun burns itself out. We’d never exhaust the supply. The Indebted Overeducated Female Personal Finance Blogger is now officially a stock character, cousin to the Absent-Minded Professor, the Renegade Cop Who Plays By His Own Rules, the Hooker with a Heart of Gold and the Wise Asian Kung Fu Instructor.

Presenting Catherine at Plunged In Debt, not to be confused with Blogging Away Debt, Our Debt Blog, Debt Sucks Blog, My Journey To Eliminate Debt, The Debt Princess, So Over Debt, etc.

How far in debt is Catherine? Oh, not that much. Just $300,000. She explains her story:

I wanted to go to university, actually it wasn’t an option, I was going to university

(Note: “University” is the Canadian colloquial term for what Americans call “college”. In Canada, “college” is the equivalent of “community college” in the U.S. Also, they call Canadian bacon “back bacon” and call a house a “hoose”.)

Wait. Why? Why was it “not an option”? She doesn’t explain, but given that it was mandatory, she must have saved up enough money to pay for it, right?

I just didn’t have any money to pay for it.

That’s the very next line, by the way. But Catherine has a point. Why should you be denied something just because you can’t afford it? That’s the same argument we’re going to use when we visit our plastic surgeon and demand rhinoplasties.

By the end of my undergraduate degree I managed to rack up $32,000 in student debt and probably $2,000 in consumer/credit card debt.

Catherine is exceedingly detailed in the composition of her family, her insistence on getting a tertiary education, etc., but she omits one crucial detail. Exactly what was that degree in? It shouldn’t matter. One’s as good as the next, right?

Catherine mentions, when prompted by a commenter, that her undergraduate degree is in biology. She started what should be the productive part of her life $34,000 in the hole. Or $34,000 poorer than her high school classmates who didn’t earn useless degrees.

Here’s the funniest line we’ve ever quoted in the Retard of the Month series:

What’s even worse is that, although no education is wasted, my degree wasn’t going to get me much beyond a minimum wage job

Read that again. Here:

What’s even worse is that, although no education is wasted, my degree wasn’t going to get me much beyond a minimum wage job

So an education that isn’t “going to get (you) much beyond a minimum wage job” isn’t wasted. Chew on that for a minute. Now swallow.

Imagine buying a brand-new house that, it turns out, was built by an unlicensed contractor who used balsa wood for the frame and didn’t know how to reinforce a load-bearing wall. One day when you’re at work (at your minimum-wage retail job), the whole thing comes crashing down. But it’s cool, because no house is wasted.

Don’t be stupid. You can’t compare a commodity like a house to something as important as an education.

Why not? You can talk about intangibility all you want, but both the house and the degree are a commodity to someone. Try paying your tuition bill with poetry and freshly picked hydrangeas if you don’t believe us. You wouldn’t expect a consumer good to be worth thousands less than you paid for it, yet people implicitly expect their educations to be worth less than they paid for them all the freaking time. Catherine just admitted as much.

To her credit, she came to her senses and realized that despite her B.S., and also her Bachelor of Science degree, she needed to earn money and immediately:

the only option I had was to further my education.

Or not.

So Catherine became a dental hygienist. We’ll leave out some intermediate details, but just know that she finishes up by saying:

By the end of my second degree, before my life had started, I now had $106,000 in debt.

She’s married. Let’s read about her rosy-cheeked “hubby” (her emasculating term, not ours):

Hubby went to university, then college, racking up a total of about $10,000 total in line of credit and student loan debt. He has a credit card maxed at $2,000

He went to university first? Again, no mention of his major. But, as the above sentence ends:

not a huge deal.

Compared to $106,000 in debt, no. Kind of like how a person who’s 40 pounds overweight can point to Manuel Uribe and say, “My waistline? Not a huge deal.”

we also owe another approximate $5,000 in various credit that we can’t really account for.

By “can’t really account for”, does she mean “can’t really justify”, or can she literally not account for it, i.e. can’t tell you where it came from? Oh well, who cares? It’s just $5,000.

now that we have a baby (and I’m on maternity leave) extra funds for additional payments beyond the minimum for credit cards is near impossible.

Now they’ve gone from being merely stupid to being straight-up bad human beings. Because there’s no better time to have a kid than when you’re $106,000 in debt.

“Who are you to tell her when she should have a baby, you insensitive clod?”

The inescapable truth of the matter is that babies cost money. Lots of money. Not only that, they preclude your ability to earn further money.

How do we know this? A) It’s obvious and 2) Catherine said so herself (in a manner of speaking.) A couple of days ago Plunged In Debt ran this lousy sponsored post. Here’s the money quote from the Indian remote assistant who wrote it:

[Y]ou have to consider that raising children will increase your family’s monthly expenses dramatically. Secondly, just the medical bills from giving birth alone will rack up a good chunk of debt. If you are not in control of your debt and have a tight budget before you have children, you could quickly find yourselves in a downward financial spiral afterwards.

In 2013, we have bloggers who run sponsored posts that warn you to avoid the detrimental activities that the bloggers themselves proudly undertake. This is what it’s come to.

Still, at the very least, by now Catherine finally figured out that she and Hubby need to be hyperfrugal for the next…well, until their kid is driving and registering to vote.

Not quite. Check out this post, improbably titled “I WILL Partake In Lifestyle Inflation”, and the all-caps emphasizes her point. Catherine lists all the things she’s going to do once she pays off that $300,000, which will never, ever happen. She fantasizes about vacation savings accounts and second cars, much like a maximum-security prisoner will close his eyes and think of Mexican beaches and consensual heterosexual sex.

As for that projected second car, she spends 2 hours a day on the bus, which is depressing enough when you’re in high school. In adulthood it’s just embarrassing.

We’re not in this situation because of any vast overspending or living beyond our means (not to say we haven’t put stuff on credit that we shouldn’t have)

Is there any self-awareness anywhere, or did it all disappear with cassette tapes and floppy disks?

Honey, we hate to be the ones to break this to you, but you’re in this situation ONLY because of vast overspending and living beyond your means. Your parenthetical comment contradicts perfectly everything it follows in that sentence. But hey, you’re going to have a vacation savings account one day. When you’re 130, but still.

From later in her About page:

I’ve always loved…budgeting

We give up. This crossed into self-parody several (Financial) Retards of the Month ago.

Oh, quit fanning yourself on the fainting couch. This isn’t about those nasty 1-percenters at Control Your Cash making fun of the downtrodden. This is about people who willingly, methodically, and purposefully dig themselves a hole, jump inside, throw handfuls of dirt on themselves and then bitch that they’re being buried alive.

If you want to build wealth, the following steps are guaranteed not to work. They are 100% foolproof:

  • Go to college for no particular reason (i.e., just to defer life for 4 if not more years.)
  • Finance said education.
  • Use credit cards for things you can’t afford.
  • And again.
  • Justify your awful mistakes and convince yourself that you’re right. (Catherine says she “doesn’t regret anything”, and if that’s true, why did she bother creating her blog?)

But if you are serious about building wealth, pull your head out and deal with the following unchangeable truths:

  • When your liabilities outnumber your assets, and you subtract the former from the latter to determine your net worth, you’re left with a negative quantity each and every time. You don’t need to go to college, or university, to know this. Any elementary school will teach it to you.
  • Therefore, it makes sense to acquire as many assets as possible while eliminating as many liabilities as possible.
  • A (post-secondary, nonspecific) education is not an asset in any financial sense. Its benefits are largely psychological. If you don’t believe this, reread the excerpts from Catherine’s delusional blog.
  • A debt is a liability, if you don’t have any cash flow to cover it. Catherine and Hubby don’t, or they’d have paid off their credit cards and student loans by now.
  • If you concentrate on acquiring assets (real estate, retirement accounts, mutual funds, securities) and cut out as many liabilities (credit card balances, etc.) as possible, you’ll build wealth in spite of yourself.
  • If you start off by incurring a giant debt (e.g. a 6-digit tuition + interest bill) before you begin earning money, it’s like lining up for a 100-meter dash 20 yards behind the start line and the other competitors. If you do this, it means you want to lose. You want to be broke. In fact, you want to be less than broke. Admitting this is the first step, but why would anyone want to admit it? It’s depressing!
  • Convincing yourself that your bad decisions are good doesn’t make them so.

Buying our book is a cheap step in the right direction.

Her grammar needs work, too.

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