Good Person, Bad Credit

So, wifesy and I had a wonderful day yesterday.  We played two hours of tennis and watched lots of tv.  We caught Oprah’s Oscar special.  She interviewed Jonah Hill, Octavia Spencer, and most notably – Viola Davis.

After we listened to Viola for 3 seconds, I said to wifesy, “Fast forward it to Viola’s interview.  I only want to hear that one.”  There was something about Viola – everything she said was infused with this deep intelligence and wisdom.  She was electrifying to listen to.

Let me break for a moment here – If Viola Davis does NOT win “Best Actress”, I will personally find each of the academy members and flick peanut butter at their stupid foreheads.  For she is BRILLIANT.  I haven’t even seen, “The Help” – only the scenes highlighted in the Oprah interview.  But, those were enough.  She’s one of the most intense and spot on performers I’ve ever seen.  She’s in a league with Meryl.  I have seen, “Doubt” – a movie in which Viola Davis has about one scene that lasts for 11 minutes.  It’s one of the most gripping scenes of the film.  Ok, I’ve said my piece.  Now, back to my original thought.

In this interview, Viola talks about having low self esteem when she met her husband.  Oprah asks her why she had low self esteem and Viola says, “Because I had bad credit.”

Oprah asks her to explain that and Viola says, “Well, I’ve been an artist all my life.  As a result of that, I had bad credit.  So, I felt with him (her husband) I wasn’t bringing anything to the table.”

Man, oh, man.  Preaching to the choir.  I completely understand what she means.

Your FICO score can f*ck you up.  It really can.  And no one really explains to a person – who is going into the arts – how to deal with their credit.  There’s no class on planning for a life that will involve very little money in the beginning.

Since I often give advice to my future child on here, my gayby – if you will – I thought it would be a good idea to talk about this.  I haven’t been the best with my credit.  I annihilated it right out of college.  Then I sort of fixed it.  Then I f’ed it up again.  But, I have learned.  If I could do it all again or better yet, if I could suggest a different path to my gayby, I would gently suggest the following ideas:

You are not Spike Lee.  Don’t put your bullsh*t on your credit card.
I think Spike Lee funded Do the Right Thing all on his credit card.  Don’t do this.  Your idea may be great and maybe it will even make money, but there is kickstarter and other  raise-the-funds programs for this type of stuff now.  So, Do the Right Thing and raise money for your project like you did when you collected all those pennies for Unicef as a kid.

Work first, then go to college.
Now, I’m not saying don’t go to college.  And I do realize that not going to college right away can make an American child feel like they f’ed up and got pregnant or something, even if that’s not it at all.  It can feel like a shameful punishment, in other words.  However, I do feel – very strongly – that we all go to college way too early in this country.  There’s no gap year where you see the world or engage in a year of community service.  There’s only right from mommy’s house to the big party house that mommy pays for.  Stupid.  Work first.  Raise some funds, then go to college.  You’ll go with more of an idea as to what you want to do or at the very least you’ll know what you DON’T want to do.  This will help you.  You’ll also be a bit older and that will help you actually make use of the college’s resources, as opposed to spending all your extracurricular time perfecting the keg-stand.  There is an exception to this rule and that is – if you have a Tiger Mom or Dad/ College Professor at home.  If your parents were always harping on your grades and “what do you like” and “what do you want to do when you grow up” then you might be more prepared then most.  If you felt like your childhood experience was one long talent assessment exam then that would mean jumping into college right away is a decent idea.  But, for most 18 year olds – work somewhere or work at something FIRST, then dive into your higher education.

Don’t trade your good credit for a candy bar
When you go to college, there will be scores of folding tables set up outside the dining hall where credit card companies will try to lure you into signing up for their cards by giving away free candy bars.  They’ll give away free candy bars, free sh*tty duffle bags or backpacks, and maybe water bottles.  You’re a college kid, you’ll want the free stuff.  Trust.  It’s not worth it.  You can’t pay for anything yet.  So, like a fat kid in the candy aisle, put down the application and walk away.  Do the sensible and therefore, unappealing thing – wait until you have a job.

Credit is NOT extra money
It is a loan to be paid back in 3 weeks.  So, if you don’t have a check coming in over the next 3 weeks that can pay back the money you’ve spent, then you don’t have the money.  I never used to think of it that way.  I used to think, “Well, I have $300 in my bank account and this $30,000 credit line.  So, I have $30, 300.”  No!  No, you don’t.  You have a three week loan.  That’s it.  Of whatever you can pay back.  Nothing else.

What’s flav’s fico score?

Don’t try to keep up with the Datsuns when Datsun’s daddy is paying for everything.
There will be kids and adults, as this never stops, who will try to make you feel bad because they have x,y,z, can buy x,y,z, or do x,y,z.  For example, I have a friend.  We’ll call her Datsun.  She has a $10,000 dining room table and a closet full of Manolos.  She lost three jobs in a row.  She had NO savings.  No savings, yet a closet full of Manolos and a $10,000 table.  She should’ve lost her condo.  She should’ve become destitute, but she didn’t because her dad started picking up her mortgage payments and her car payments, etc.  Datsun’s daddy was footing the bill.  You are not in the same league as Datsun.  But, don’t worry the people who are in Datsun’s league usually are d*cks.

Lastly…

You are NOT your finances.
Okay, so maybe your credit is so bad that you had to buy your couch from Rent-A-Rac, which means you’ll be paying $5,000 for a $300 couch.  That stings, it’s not good, but it doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person.  You are separate and completely whole – when severed from your bank account.  If you choose an artistic career then, of course, there will be at least ten years (maybe more) where you will make nothing.  This will be hard, as the rest of your peers around you will be accumulating wealth.  Just do two things and you will be okay…

1.  Keep repeating, “I am NOT my finances.” until either a) people think you are crazy and start slipping money into your Starbucks cup or b) Suze Orman appears to counsel you.  Ok, neither of those things will happen, but keep repeating it until you believe it.  Because it’s important.  It’s important that your bottom line never touch your inner pilot light or it will squelch your fire.  You need that fire to make something with no promise of a monetary reward.  You don’t want to put the pilot out and die of a gas leak because you keep telling yourself that you’re sh*t.  Don’t do that.  You are NOT your finances.  You are better than your finances.  Always.

Here’s the second thing you must do…

2.  Create.  Always create.  Don’t just chase dollars.  I made this mistake.  I got away from just creating at one point and focused on making money in my creative field.  I made good money that year, really good money, but I created nothing.  In fact, I propped up other people, instead of pushing my own work forward.  This is stupid.  Create something.  For yourself.  Keep doing that and your self esteem will rise way higher than your FICO.

Hell, you may even win an academy award for it.  Go Viola!

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Sweet Mother is updated daily.  You can follow by clicking the handy button at the above, right of this blog.

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On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who has visited this blog and the new people just checking it out.  This is about my 30th post, which means I’ve been doing it for about a month.  In that month, I’ve been blown away by the thoughtful and creative people on here who are willing to read my stuff.  Thank you for taking the time out of your days.  I really appreciate it.

If you like the above, here are some of my fave pieces so far:

Living with a Skinny Person

Why I love Dr. G

Letters to My Gayby

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Photo creds:  Viola-Davis, Flav

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9 thoughts on “Good Person, Bad Credit

  1. Wow! Lotsa excellent things in this post and well said. Let me just comment on one: “However, I do feel – very strongly – that we all go to college way too early in this country. There’s no gap year where you see the world or engage in a year of community service.” This is advice I have been giving for years. Straight out of high school is too young to know how you want to spend your life and deciding what to study in college. I suggest two years of community service or an internship of some sort. I also preach that college is not for everyone and that is not a bad thing! We need people with skills that college will not teach. In reality, these people keep the wheels of our country spinning. We have done a great disservice to your youth by painting college as the only road to success. Not going to college is not a failure! It is a noble choice and needs to be honored as such. HF

    1. harper, we are kindred spirits on this issue! i could not agree with you more. i always advise as such. i know, i, for one, went to college way to early and what could’ve been a stellar education was really wasted. and yes, you could make the argument that ‘some children are motivated at that age’. maybe, but are they motivated towards what they really want to do or what their parents want them to? there’s a new movement happening in SF where they are actually giving paid fellowships to 20 somethings who do NOT go to college right away and who instead start businesses. i think that is really an interesting idea, as well as uncollege. have you seen them? anyway, great, great, comment. thank you. and thank you for reading.

  2. As Mr. Faulkner says, we’ve distorted the message around college it is not for everyone. But what many people fail to realize is that businesses are given tax incentives to hire college graduates, that’s why you now need a degree to be a receptionist. Can someone point me to “How To Answer Phones 101?” Last time I checked, that wasn’t what was taught in college.

    Student loan interest is also a huge source of income for the government. In other words, the college system is an industry where the individual is being systematically robbed. After three higher degrees I have over 80K in loans, yet the value of those degrees has been diluted because the B.S. is now the equivalent of what the HS diploma was ten years ago therefore my earning potential is not what it could be.

    1. oh, gillian, i so hear you on this one. i have close to 60k in student loans and wifesy has close to 300k. just how in the hell are two working human beings supposed to pay that back? even with good salaries. it’s near impossible. now, wifesy went back to school at 32 and i went directly at 18 – so, i have seen, first hand, the benefits of waiting. she knew exactly what she wanted to do – put her nose to the grindstone and aced it all the way through. i partied. f’ed around with a silly non-major (communications) when i should’ve taken creative writing or journalism or something like that. in my humble opinion, the whole system stinks.

  3. I am not my finances…I am not my finances…tell that to the other person. Just kidding. This is great. I too messed up my credit, but it was before I even got out of high school I think. I had two credit cards going into college, and they were both maxed out by the end of the first semester. What I liked is when I made a payment they would raise the limit. What a great way to learn what not to do so early in life. And then to have to deal with it for almost 15 years now. Things are better now though. Thanks for this post.

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