There are several channels on television that Paul knows to stay away from if he is aimlessly looking through our guide for something to watch if I happen to be in the room. As the remote control pages through hundreds of channels, my interest peaks at such series as “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant”, “Hoarding: Buried Alive”, and “Snapped”, and I excitedly tell Paul to turn the channel on and the volume up. Undoubtedly he will roll his eyes, perhaps letting out a defeated sigh, and start to talk about how he doesn’t want to watch that crap. And he’s right; it is almost always crap. But why can’t I seem to tear my eyes away from watching other people’s trainwrecked lives?
I always tell people that one of the most life-affirming, stress-relieving experiences is to come out of a dark, dank, movie theater where the latest horror flick has been playing into the open air of the movie theater parking lot; it’s like opening up a can of sardines and letting them smell the fresh air and see the light of day once again. If the movie was good enough (and it is difficult to find a good horror movie nowadays), then I come out of that experience thanking God, breathing in the fresh air, feeling like my life is absolutely wonderful—because hey, at least I am not being chased around by werewolves, or stuck in the psychological corners of my demented brain.
Call it an hour-long anthropological study of people in their own habitats, or a sick sense of justice in 30-minute increments based upon poor decisions, but Americans like to watch trainwrecks. Just look at the quickly-deteriorating contestants chosen to be on reality t.v. shows. Each season of Rock of Love, or The Bachelor, or Megan Wants a Millionaire boasts contestants with new extremes of qualities that include them in the category of trainwrecked. Personally, I am utterly fascinated by how people end up 500 pounds overweight, or happily pregnant with 8 children (having all ready had 6 at home), or with 1X1 square foot of living space with ten years worth of trash ogreing over them. I want to know the steps that led them down this path, I want to know why they took those steps, I want to know what unexpectedly happened to them. In essence, I am a people watcher, and I want to learn.
I especially enjoy dissecting financial trainwrecks. From years of watching callers on the Suze Orman show, listening to the Dave Ramsey radio, and watching the eyes of couples deep in debt light up as Gail Vaz-Oxlade reveals to them the extent of their debt on ‘Til Debt do Us Part’, I have learned that there are typical patterns that people exhibit when heading towards financial calamities. In other words, if you can avoid some or all of these, then perhaps you won’t find yourself nodding in understanding during one of these awful, crappy shows.
- Financially immature…together
- One person in a relationship is completely blind (and oftentimes willingly) to what is going on financially
- Making the Spendthrift the head of household finances
- Keeping financial secrets from one another
- A Thrifty person purposefully sabotaging finances by spending lots of money as a tit-for-tat with their Spendthrift partner
- Ignoring bills
- Complete and utter ignorance about how much money they are actually spending
- Frugal person in relationship has no backbone
- Not having similar financial goals, or life goals
- Financially immature…with no back-up
- The belief that they will meet a mate with lots of money, who will magically (and happily) wipe away their slate of debt…and therefore they can just keep spending
- Believing that student loan debt is not actually debt
- Ignoring bills
- Complete and utter ignorance about how much money is being spent
- Forgetting that one day they may want to buy a house, a car, start a family, etc. and therefore not saving for these goals