Dead Broke in a Beamer

Christmas came early for my kids this year …

Daddy finally got a job.

(Well, to be accurate, 220 hours of community service as part of my Financial Counselling qualification.)

On my first day, the three of them surprised me by getting up really early and having a celebratory breakfast with me (possibly with the aim of making sure I really did have a job to go to).

And when I returned home that night I was greeted — for the first, and possibly last, time — like David Boon coming home with The Ashes.

“Didja have a lot of meetings, Dad?” asked my six-year-old, beaming with pride.

In the schoolyard, real dads go to work and have meetings. (Not bum around the farm in their trackie dacks.)

It doesn’t matter that he can see me on TV, hear me on the radio, and watch me do book signings with lines a hundred deep: when I’m wearing a tie, carrying a keep-cup and battling the morning traffic, I am THE MAN.

So now that I’m a couple of hundred hours into this job I’ve learned that it’s like being a (financial) E.R. doctor.

No one wants to be sitting in front of me.

They’re often embarrassed, humiliated, angry, scared … and completely strung out about their finances.

My job is to sit them down, calm them down, and assess their situation.

It’s basically financial triage: you patch them up, stem the bleeding, and send them back out (where you can). Or, if you deem their situation terminal, you tell their creditors and cut deals on their debts.

(This of course sounds sexy but, trust me, if your life gets to the point where a bank is willing to write off your debts, you’ll be celebrating with spuds and spumante.)

Above all, what I’ve learned is that this job is relentless.

Debt in this country is an epidemic, and people of all shapes and sizes stream through the door.

Like a bloke in his 40s that I saw today.

He arrived to our appointment in a BMW X5.

“Why does this guy need to see me?” I thought to myself.

He sat down, threw his fancy keys on the table, and buried his face in his hands.

He confessed that he’d leased the car five years ago and now couldn’t afford the final balloon payment. (And if you don’t know what a balloon is — don’t feel bad — neither did he.)

The upshot was that he was broke, and the Beamer would soon be repossessed.

Yet you know what?

To the outside world he’s THE MAN. He’s got an awesome car that he drops his kids off to school in.

By the time he came to see me, it was too late for him to avoid his mistakes.

But it’s not too late for his kids.

And what this financial tour of duty has taught me is just how much we need a financial revolution in our schools.

My client grew up thinking that success meant leasing a $100,000 Beamer … and he paid the price.

I want his kids to grow up knowing that success is driving a $15,000 Toyota … that you own outright.

Tread Your Own Path!