Thursday, August 14, 2008

When it Rains, It Pours, and No One Believes Us

Personally, I have no trouble believing all of life's little tragedies that befall JW and family on the Need to Be Debt-Free blog. But according to the comments, his voluble and judgmental readership sure does.

Once again, I am reminded that most personal finance bloggers are still in their twenties and thirties. They think they know life, but many of us who are coming from ten or twenty or (ahem) even thirty more years of financial experience than that, may be experiencing a slightly different take.

We don't just have one child, usually young. We have teenagers, or we have adult children. Or we have both. We have grandchildren. We have cars that we hope will limp along just one more year. We have houses upon which we have deferred maintainance. We have appliances that implode with regularity, and why not, since all of them are more than ten years old.

We have retirement funds that demand a whole lot more than $100 a paycheck if we're going to have any kind of life after work.

Mostly, though, we have had a lot more time to screw up our finances, accumulate debt, and rear families that impact our spending in large ways and small.

JW tithes--something that seems to set many of his readers' teeth on edge. I'm not that religious so tithes aren't an issue for me, but I do finance community college for my children and grandchildren. There are lots of reasons why JW would have more money available if he didn't tithe, and I could contribute more to my debt reduction if I didn't have quarterly tuition bills to handle.

Somewhere along the way, certain expenses have become non-negotiable for both JW and myself. I think we both have personal commitments to honor. And I think that's fine.


Which is not to say that life doesn't hand out financially destructive, random events that make me want to scream.

The whole point of blogging, at least for me, is to get all these financial issues out in the open where not only I can see them for myself, but others who may be in a similar financial place can see that they are not alone. Or maybe others can see that they are a lot better off than I am and advise me as I struggle to get to where they are.

Maybe it will turn out that JW is a fake, but I wouldn't predict that on the basis of his posts so far--he's just blogging real life. Into which a fair amount of rain has fallen.

Believe it!


Anonymous said...

Well said Grace. I, too, have been following JW's saga for over a year now. And I do believe it. We fiftysomethings really do have different financial lives than those in their twenties and thirties.

I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.


louise said...

Hi Grace,yes it's an interesting read thats for sure!

I agree that the issues really are different for those if nearing our fifties, sickness, adult kids, ageing parents, jobs losses, repairs for older homes and cars, health problems,& trying to fund a retirement, it's very different than being young and single.

Also there is so much variation in incomes amongst pf bloggers. I started my blog with a combined income of over $100,000 per annum, overnight it halved when hubby lost his job and last year we survived and sent a child to university on $52,000.

I think it's very difficult for people to understand unless you've been there yourself.

DogAteMyFinances said...

Sometimes I think JW is embellished a bit, but maybe not. I certainly hope his lack of retirement savings is an exaggeration.

JW was one of the bloggers that convinced me to blog because sometimes his readers are whip-smart (and whip-nasty!) and know exactly the solution.

I just don't understand how JW deals with all the rain. If an agency forgave and then un-forgave my debt, I would call them twice a day. If a dealership's stolen car wrecked my car, I would be at that dealership talking to the manager every day. Hello, if you're a pest enough, he might even give you a used car.

mOOm said...

It's not the bad luck ... maybe it's his writing style or naivete. I'm 43 years old. It's probably true. Most of the blogs people couldn't believe were true like Casey Serin's were.

Scrumpy's Baker said...

I think that you have some really valid points.

However, my issue with JW is that is appears most of his debt has come from HIS inability to properly do his taxes and HIS acceptance of unemployment while he was working on the side. Yet he has such a victim mentality about his current state.

True, those things have nothing to do with his car accident, but when you have a "woe is me" attitude, life has a way of handing you lots of blows. He needs to take responsiblilty for where he is in life.

Anonymous said...

I stopped logging onto JW's blog because it was getting a bit ridiculous. He gives believing in God and Jesus a bad name.
When I saw the new caption (post) I wasn't going to read it until I read your own post today. Oy vey!

And now, he's on a moped. Brilliant.

Stupidity has nothing to do with God. JW would be better off praying to God for wisdom. Jesus doesn't like to see his followers as victims. He wants them to live well and be shinning examples to others.

Take JW's website with a grain of salt. I think the guy is possessed by the devil!

Shevy said...

Very well said.

It's true that JW's life seems to resemble a soap opera but I think most of us who have reached a certain age have had some pretty diverse and unsettling things happen in our lives, sometimes one thing after the other.

JW's problems seem to be a combination of his own poor decisions, other people's issues, accidents and a lack of balance and follow through. I think that makes it harder for him to just buckle down and get rid of his debt.

But this isn't unusual for PF bloggers in general. A lot of us, including some who are successful and well-known (think Trent at TSD) started blogging after having real financial challenges.

In my case I'm 15 years from retirement, have 3 grown children, a kindergartener and 3 young grandchildren. Because my first marriage broke up when my 3rd child was an infant and I spent about 16 years as a single parent I have next to no retirement savings.

However, I have a paid for home in my chosen retirement area, we live with one of my adult children in a major metropolitan area (where we work) and have a decent amount invested in their house so I'm not as badly off as some by any means.

On the other hand, we'll reach retirement age as our daughter goes on to post-secondary education and starts thinking about getting married.

My parents have both passed on but I spent more than 5 years figuring out how to keep my mother from having to go into long term care. My husband's parents are reaching the point where their health is failing and the responsibility is going to fall mostly on him.

I don't think very many 20 somethings can really understand the challenges I have to deal with, but I hope we can all learn things from each other.

CT Mom said...

You stated it well, Grace! I've been following JW for about 8 months, and I still shake my head at some of the decisions he's made. It's been entertaining, to say the least.

JW said...

Grace I have enjoyed reading your blog for a long time now. Additionally, I appreciate your understanding our predicament regarding life's demands and retirement.

My wife and I have been both blessed and surprised by the comments that we have received on the blog over the years. For example, your comments have helped us on many occasions and another time we were blessed to meet a very good attorney that helped us eliminate $17k of debt from the UIA. On the other hand we were both shocked and displeased when someone posted our person information. I have come to accept the good with the bad when it comes to blogging.

Personally, the blog has been an excellent "cooping mechanism" for me to let off a little "steam" from our daily challenges in life. For whatever the reason I feel a mental release after writing about our life.

Lately, what I find interesting is that some of the comments that I've read question the validity of our circumstances. Having done volunteer work for the United Way and various other Social Service groups in the past, I've seen literally hundreds of situations much worse than ours. In all honesty, there are many other issues that we are dealing with on a DAILY basis that I don't post about at all. This is either because I feel its too personal or I've given my word not to mention it.

Love your blog and thank you for your support.

Grace. said...

Thanks, JW--one way or the other, we'll both muddle through.

Shevy--like you, I didn't realize I was supposed to CHOOSE whether to be a young mother and have all my parenting done by age 40 or to be an older mother, having had all those free earlier years. OOPS! That would explain why my oldest daughter is 40 and my youngest is 18!

Bouncing Back said...

Grace I think you said it very well in an early post that the Baby PF Bloggers sometimes can't relate to us Boomer PFBloggers on a PF level. Our lives are very different. Don't get me wrong, I love reading the Baby PF Bloggers, I get a lot of ideas and inspiration from them, but I can see how many of them just can not relate to those of us who are the "Boomer Bloggers"

I think you hit the nail on the head too, many of us have personal commitments we have chosen to honor, I know I have. Money spent to honor those commitments could be sitting in my savings account or emergency fund, but I made the decision to honor a commitment and I have very few regrets (if any about that).

Excellent post, really excellent post.

tmbf57 said...

You know I also I'm astounded at the maliciousness of the attacks on JW. I have absolutely no problem believing everything he has been through. At my age (I'm 51), my husband and I have survived layoffs, a bankruptcy (his), legal issues due to his child from a previous marriage. When you are young, you think you can shield yourself from life's little tragedies but experience has taught me that there is always something. You can't judge what happens until it happens to you. Twenty years ago, my husband would be astounded to think that he would be subject to 3 layoffs in 10years, after being such a sucess in his field. Now, nothing surprises us. We find that businesses don't hire older workers, no matter how educated or prepared you are. We have savings and almost no debt thank goodness, but in truth, as you get older you find no matter how much you prepare, life can show you some suprises. As the saying goes, "You plan, God laughs!"

Sharon said...

This is a great post! I stopped reading JW's comments, only because I believe some of the comments are just so nasty. Murphy does visit JW with what seems to be more than his share, but I'm not surprised that it happens. And, like you said, the longer you live, the more chances to go through lifes ups and downs.

Florence said...

We are 60 and 61. In our 20's and 30's we would never have guessed how uncertain and difficult life could and would be. We've been through it all too. Now I am dealing with a neuromuscular disease while I continue to work to get our house paid off. And top top it all, we get to watch our 401K that we sacrificed to fund melt away.

Living Almost Large said...

I think JW's posts are real. I also feel bad for him. Doesn't seem like anything goes his way.

But then there is a lot of stupidity and I'll be honest about it.

One he has a daughter my age who was cheated on by her husband. Instead of telling her to leave the cheating SOB he allows them to move in. Now why take the SOB back?

He could have given her AIDS, Herpes, any STD, etc. Do you really think he was smart enough to be correctly "protecting" himself?

And as a parent you would allow your child to go back into a potentially dangerous situation? Is he really better? Nope he was still looking at porn. But instead the JW and wife suggest counseling.

My mom would have kicked my behind and said are you dumb? But then again I like being healthy and trusting my partners to not disrespect me.

I'm glad JW is volunteering at United Way. But I still feel he could be donating the same amount in time instead of tithing. But heck he never responds to why he doesn't.

So the saga continues.

Anonymous said...

I am 30, and I believe JW. Why are you so condescending towards young people? I really hope your life gets better.

Grace. said...

Thanks, Danielle, for stopping by. If I sound condescending toward younger bloggers, it is unintentional. What I really mean is that life experience is valuable and may tend to make one more aware of how complicated financial decisions can be and how unpredictible life itself is over the long haul.

BTW, I read part of your blog. I especially liked your comment about people taking less fertility drugs and thinking more about adoption. As far as I know, I'm fertile--well, I was back when it mattered! But I adopted five daughters and cannot imagine loving a biological child more than I love them.

Anonymous said...

Add me in to the list of those who don't know what to make of JWs blog. Never meet a guy with such bad luck. His blog reads like a soap! He's like minimum wage with a blog. Which brings the next point he's a very good writer!

What else amazes me is the sheer number of comments the guy gets every post, I mean he's got what 134 readers and often gets 15-20 comments or more, some very nasty, some very thoughtful.

mapgirl said...

I don't think JW's life is fake. I've heard all kinds of true life stories that are just as bad, if not worse. It is life. It is what happens to us.

Thanks for this gem of a post. I don't think your post is condescending towards younger folks like me. (A thirtysomething) I think it's the arrogance or asympathy of the young to judge our elders harshly over money, over politics, over everything. Basically I feel like calling my mom and apologizing for every testy conversation I've ever had with her because more than anything she deserved my sympathy more than my pity or anger. Same goes for JW.

I try to offer him something constructive because all those terrible commenters are there to mock and laugh and entertain themselves at his expense. If anything, his blog is pretty raw with family emotions. (Lest we forget Chekhov, 'Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.')

I admit, I don't read your blog daily, but I like dropping in. I think you're trying to make the best of where you are at like so many of us are, like JW is. While I disagree with the tithing due to severity of his situation, I agree that it's his choice to make it a non-negotiable item, much the way my lunch budget is. To each their own and making do with the best of their abilities. I'm just surprised he has made any progress at all.