One of the drawbacks of being a therapist (or former therapist) is that many of my friends seem to think I’m their personal therapist. And the fact that I’m now a personal finance blogger just means that I get the money drama AND all the other drama. This weekend was no exception. I’m tired, cranky, and behind on the things I really need to accomplish. Here are three of the reasons why. (Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the ignorant.)
Tale One: The Woman Who Couldn’t Be Alone…. With Her Wallet
Once upon a time there was a woman named Nancy. As far as lives go, Nancy’s was pretty good – she had a beautiful home, an adoring husband, and a college education that led to a challenging career. One night, Nancy came home from work to an empty house. Her husband had met his soulmate and would be filing for divorce. Nancy became depressed, drinking every night and crying herself to sleep.
No one was surprised when Nancy was fired from her job. She moved back home with her parents, and while she was able to find employment quickly, she began contemplating bankruptcy less than a year after her divorce was final.
“Where is all your money going? Shouldn’t you have plenty of savings?” her friends asked.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” Nancy responded. “I just can’t seem to get ahead.”
But Nancy had a secret. Two secrets, to be exact. The first was her fear of dying with no husband and no children. In an attempt to remedy this, Nancy went on date after date. She didn’t give herself time to heal from her divorce, resulting in a Freudian dance in which she inadvertently chose narcissistic, selfish men just like her ex.
The second secret was the doozy. Because Nancy wanted so badly for one of her new romances to end in happily ever after, she developed a habit of spending money on the men she dated. She wasn’t content to buy dinner or spring for dessert – those were amateur tactics. Instead, Nancy sought out men in dire financial situations so she could “save” them. She paid off their personal loans. She financed vehicles. On two occasions, Nancy even caught up her beau’s child support. All this for men she barely knew, who would later cheat on her and dump her.
When Nancy presented for her free therapy session, she was distraught. “I’m nearly $60,000 in debt – none of which is actually mine – and I’m STILL single!” she cried. “What will it take to find a man to care about me?” For some reason, she didn’t like the idea of actually healing her wounds (and her bank balance) before looking for Mr. Right. If only she cared as much about buying her therapist’s affections….
Tale Two: The Man Who Cured His Work Allergy with Handouts
Once upon a time there was a man named Roger. His charming personality (and creative resume-writing skills) landed him dozens of great jobs, but Roger quit every one of them after only a few months. You see, Roger had a problem – he believed he had a calling far greater than any dumb career. He was going to be a world renowned songwriter; he just needed the right person to witness his amazing talents.
In the meantime, Roger relied on the generosity of others to pay his bills. He offered to write songs for his friends’ weddings and birthday parties at “discounted” rates. He told his story to anyone who would listen, painting himself as the victim of a music industry that refused to give him a chance. When all else failed, he point blank asked people for money. Part of Roger’s interpersonal style involved a complete lack of respect for social and ethical norms.
One day, Roger convinced an acquaintance to front him the money for some interview clothing. “It’s time I made up for all the years I’ve wasted,” he said. Except Roger had no intention of using the money for a suit. Instead, he purchased a set of turntables – if he couldn’t achieve his dream of becoming a songwriter just yet, he’d settle for being a DJ.
Roger sucked as a DJ. In fact, he sucked so bad that his own mother wouldn’t listen to his mixes. But because Roger was an expert when it came to making excuses and inducing guilt in others, he continued to find DJ gigs – usually ones in which he over-promised and under-delivered. He never apologized, preferring to accept his role as “still better than the stuff on AM radio.”
Despite his repeated failures, both financial and social, Roger came to therapy with ZERO insight. He boasted, “I’m so awesome, it’s just a matter of time before I make it big. Who needs a job when I can get what I need from other people? You have to walk all over the mountain if you want to get to the top.” I declined his offer to DJ my son’s graduation party at a discount, possibly severing our therapeutic relationship forever.
Tale Three: The Woman With Amnesia. Or Akathesia. I Forget Which One.
Once upon a time there was a woman named Tabitha. No matter how hard she tried, Tabitha couldn’t get rid of her addiction to material objects. She loved collecting various things; for awhile it was every episode of Friends on DVD. Then she moved on to designer scarves. Then jewelry from QVC. After every shopping spree, buyer’s remorse would set in – but not until the credit card statement arrived.
Every month, Tabitha appeared to go through the stages of grief. But just as every mourner experiences a loss differently, Tabitha’s grieving process didn’t follow the “typical” pattern. She began each cycle (right after an overdraft fee or large credit card payment) in the bargaining stage. Once her bank account recovered, she went through a long period of acceptance mixed with denial (“That happened last month, but I’m just buying ONE scarf this time!”), then experienced a rapid journey through anger and depression when she realized she’d overspent yet again.
Tabitha’s spending rollercoaster continued for years. Her children quickly learned to time the dips and barrel rolls. By the time they were teenagers, they knew exactly when the bills would arrive and made sure to stay with friends for a few days during and after. They also learned that their mother was completely unreliable – when they needed something, they turned to neighbors or teachers for help.
One day Tabitha cried so hard during free therapy, she nearly threw up. “I’ve ruined my relationship with my kids! I’ve ruined my credit! I’ve spent all my money!” She vowed to stop shopping once and for all, because no piece of plastic was worth all this. Then, like a caffeinated ADHD Gollum in a room full of jewelry, she proceeded to take a weekend shopping trip to reward herself for her breakthrough.
Heard or witnessed any tales of financial insanity lately? You may not be able to confront the stupidity in real life, but you can rant here!