The Luv Doc: A Drunken Sailor
If you’re looking to avoid a shark attack or a tsunami, Kansas is the place to be
Dear Luv Doc,
My friend from college (let's call her "Margie") has always been terrible with money. It wasn't a big problem back then because her parents had a lot of money. They supported her after college, helping her buy cars and helping her put a down payment on a beautiful house, but in 2020 her dad's business went bankrupt and left her parents deeply in debt. They literally had to sell their nice house in Houston and move into a two-bedroom apartment. So now my friend has no financial support from them. Her and her husband both have decent-paying jobs, but they barely make enough to pay their mortgage and they now have two children in private school. She is always complaining about how broke they are, but yesterday at lunch she told me she is on the waitlist for a new Tesla. Her current car isn't even five years old! She told me not to worry because she is going to sell her current car and use it as a down payment. Great. And then I had to pay for lunch because "she forgot her credit card." She is going to go bankrupt like her parents, but I can't get her to admit she spends too much money. What do I do? I'm worried they are going to have to move in with me when they go broke, and although she's a good friend, I don't want to be her roommate again.
– Lunch Is on Me
Kansas Senator Bob Dole always liked to say that the Democrats like to "spend money like a drunken sailor." It made me chuckle every time (and for you kids, "chuckling" is a mild form of LOLing). Now, this is just a guess, but I am betting there aren't a lot of sailors in Kansas. It's about as landlocked as a state can get. If you're looking to avoid a shark attack or a tsunami, Kansas is the place to be. One has to assume that Bob Dole, other than the boat ride he took to get fragged in Italy back in World War II, probably didn't have a lot of experience with sailors. He did, however, have a huge amount of experience being bored stiff for months, arguably years, at a time, in a place where the most exciting activity is dodging the occasional tornado.
My point is, of course, that if you take a perfectly reasonable, fiscally responsible person from say, Russell, Kansas, and drop them onto the Vegas Strip, or Bourbon Street, or South Beach, there is about a 50% chance they are going to spend the whole time walking around in wide-eyed disbelief, clutching their purse/wallet like a church lady in fear of being swindled by a roaming band of Arkansas Travelers. There is also a 50% chance they are going to wake up in a jail cell covered in neon blue vomit and embarrassing tattoos just like a sailor. Why? Because they just discovered an alternate universe. It's basically the plot of The Wizard of Oz, give or take a few thousand flying monkeys.
Now, I don't know if Bob Dole ever got swindled by a roaming band of Arkansas Travelers, but I do know that Bob is what folks in the money management business like to call "a person with a low tolerance for risk" – at least that's what they call them when they're not drinking at a financial planners convention in Vegas. There's nothing wrong with being a Bob Dole, but you have to assume it comes with a lot of unnecessary anxiety. A drunken sailor, on the other hand, well, she ain't tripping – figuratively at least.
It seems clear that your friend and her husband are untroubled by their overextended, profligate lifestyle, so why should you be? America is teeming with people and businesses leveraged to the hilt, seemingly on the brink of financial ruin, and yet somehow, people, and even the country itself, manage to bounce back. That may be a foolishly optimistic outlook, but I think it's grounded in the fact that, in a place that seems to be all about the money, some people realize it's not about the money. In the words of the great poet and sexy motherfucker Kris Kristofferson, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." You can't control your friend's behavior, so work on being at peace with her lack of financial anxiety. Also, remind her to bring her goddamned credit card the next time you have lunch.