We’ll be able to laugh at this years from now. Why wait? Let’s start now. I even get to do it in public, laughing at it, that is. The “it” is the world, the wild, dysfunctional world of finance that may not look any different, but which has been hit in the face with a cream pie and is staggering around trying to miss the banana peel it knows is around here somewhere. I think there are monkeys on the sideline, snacking, and adding to the mess. If we held our breath until after the fall, we might find that we missed the best opportunities. There are some silly things playing out, and the local library system is giving me the opportunity to stand up there and tell some of the tales. It’s healthy to laugh, and I’ll start by making fun of myself.
One of my favorite Spider Robinson quotes; “If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron.” In 2008 I published my book on personal finance for frugal folk, Dream. Invest. Live. After a blue-collar childhood that I considered rich, I retired at 38. Frugality is powerful. Retiring that young prompts a lot of interest and questions. I knew others who had done something similar, or far better, so I didn’t see a reason to write about it; but evidently I had and have some skill in describing finances simply. I wrote the book. The market crashed. Irony. Hence, the talk; From Middle Class to Millionaire to Muddling By.
It is tough enough touching on the taboos we have about money. It will be tougher standing up in front of an audience and playing with the funny bits because they are going to be my funny bits, I mean my private parts, I mean – oh dear. This may be difficult.
As a society, we are carrying too much stress. Pick your problem. Weather, climate, food, energy, society, and the economy all have enough fear wrapped around them that psychiatrists and pharmaceuticals have more than enough business. And inspired Pretending Not To Panic.
(Insert your favorite rude noise here.)
A friend was dealing with a terrible commute, made more frightening by aggressive drivers. He was getting closer to road rage, but he was a geek. Spock saved him. Instead of getting mad, he became dispassionately derogatory by considering the other drivers as a species to study. Fascinating, and highly illogical. He said it aloud, in his car, and meant it as an insult. He did it again. It became a joke. He continued to do it, and after a while found that Spock was right. These other creatures are fascinating and highly illogical. Taking his anger, turning it into a joke, and playing with it led him to compassion. He found himself wondering why someone would drive that way. Their actions looked highly illogical, but they probably thought they were acting rationally. There’s a Robert Heinlein quote that I can’t readily find, but it is something like; “Everyone always does what they think is best, even when they know it’s not right.” In other words, they didn’t want to do it, but felt they should. Humans are amazing at rationalization and justification. Knowing that makes others easier to understand.
A story I’ve mentioned here before is about the guy from the mortgage servicer. Take the story from while it was happening, and it was the opposite of funny. For several months I couldn’t pay my mortgage. When the mortgage servicer decides it is time to start default and foreclosure proceedings they have to do some strange things, one of which is proving the house is occupied or not. Some days I work from home. I watched a car drive up and block my driveway. The driver got out, sprinted to the house, touched it, sprinted back to the car, and sped away. Unnerving. By the time I told the story to a friend it was fascinating. After thinking about that’s guy’s life considering that guy’s job, the story became more thoughtful. Now, I see it as bizarre, feel sorry for the guy, and would have fun making a slapstick video of the event. I couldn’t get to the thoughtful end if I didn’t put laughter in the middle.
The healthiest jokes are the ones where we laugh at ourselves. I’ll start by making fun of myself because I am an easy target. I know my stories and I know which ones are getting funnier over time. Then, it’s your turn, whether you tell them to anyone else or not.
If you want to hear the stories, come by the Langley Library on Whidbey, Friday, April 3rd for the 6:30pm free talk. If you’re amazingly patient, wait until the sequel to Dream. Invest. Live. comes out because that’s where the best stories are headed. If you want to hear the stories sooner, well, let’s see what we can do about booking an event.