Rewarding Idiocy

 
Let me start by saying I’m mad, I’m really mad. I apologize for my tone.

Is idiocy what we celebrate in this country? Are the people who mess up, really mess up, more valued than the people who don’t? Is that why reality television does so well, why someone whose marriage only lasted 72 days is worth millions?

I’m going to try to keep this short but it’s going to be difficult. When I read things about people who are more successful and more respected than I am in spite of being complete idiots, I get mad. Am I being too harsh? You be the judge.

I learned something about a person I respected, Carl Richards, who yesterday published an article in the New York Times, an article that promoted his forthcoming book in a really big way. I would love publicity like that!

I follow Richards, who is known as @behaviorgap on twitter, and read his blog and thought I’d like to be as successful as him someday. I’m rethinking that now – I’m really glad I’m nothing like him.

I truly hope he reads this I would love to talk to him about it. Convince me I’m wrong Carl.

In my book, What Next, I left a section in that my editor suggested I take out. After reading Mr. Richards’ article, I’m glad I left it in. Here’s the pertinent section:

“I’m an example of the everything right crowd. I don’t say this to be arrogant or to boast but to point out that I was never in debt, never struggled with money, purchased my first home very young and otherwise did well, all without rich parents or help from other people…I point this out in contrast to many of the successful bloggers out there who began writing to chronicle their climb out from a financial mess.”

I agreed somewhat with my editor because I was afraid I’d come across, as I stated, as arrogant, but maybe I need to be more forceful in declaring my success. The New York Times article chronicles how Richards, a financial adviser of all things, lost his home, how he did everything wrong, while I was doing everything right, while I was buying more homes, more toys and still amassing a very comfortable cushion in a diversified portfolio. I probably didn’t have as high an income as him either but I’m just guessing.

Let me compare Carl Richards and me and you tell me whose book you should buy.

In 1995 Mr. Richards started working in the financial services industry while I was two years into my career in television. In 1995 I bought my first house, a condo. Just two years later, in 1997, Richards bought his first home. Also in 1997 I met Julie, now my wife, and she owned her home in spite of some serious financial difficulties. Shortly after we began dating Julie lost her house to fire, a devastating loss to say the least. We rebuilt and in 1999 I sold my house for a small profit and we moved in to Julie’s newly built home. How we handled the rebuilding and the insurance money can be a book unto itself but suffice it to say that we invested the insurance money until we needed it and those investments did very well. We turned a bad situation into a good one.

The year 2000 was big for us. Julie and I got married, bought an investment property, a boat, and a timeshare. Richards was doing well as a financial planner in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 2003 Richards was now living in Las Vegas and, as many people did, overextended himself by purchasing a home that he could not really afford, financing 100% of the purchase price. To make matters worse he had a mortgage that allowed “flexibility” in the payments and he chose to pay the minimum that would actually add to the amount he owed, something called negative amortization. Did I mention that he was a financial planner! He justified this purchase by saying “prices kept rising, and when people kept buying that made it seem safer.” Well in 2003 Julie and I were also seeing prices continue to rise, we also had a mortgage that would allow us to pay less than we should but unlike the financial adviser, Carl Richards, we paid more than we needed and in October of that year, just one month after Richards made the huge mistake of overextending himself, and just three years after purchasing our investment property, we refinanced our primary residence and paid off our rental property!

Mr. Richards stopped paying his mortgage and was finally able to do a short sale in 2010. By then Julie and I bought a third house and, with interest rates so low, refinanced our primary residence once again paying off the second rental property. Not only are we not underwater on our primary residence but we have two investment properties paid off!

This is a lot of personal information to share (Julie’s not happy) but I think it’s important to demonstrate just how different Carl Richards, the financial planner who had a 3,500 word promotion in the New York Times, and I are.

Carl will sell magnitudes more books than I will and that is the source of my anger!

Please share this with as many people as you can if you agree with me that people who mess up that much are not role models at all. Please tweet this, post it on Facebook, or anything else  if you agree.


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