Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Money, money, money
(It's All Titillation Week, Day 2. For a fuller explanation, see yesterday's posting.)
Today, I'd like to talk about a topic that rarely gets talked about: money.
It rarely gets talked about because we've all been told NOT to talk about it.
Because we don't talk about it, I have no idea how my net worth stands up against my friend's net worth. Or my coworkers, my relatives or even my neighbors.
I have no way of keeping a scorecard. A man needs a scorecard.
I don't know if I can ease up on the gas pedal or slam it to the floor so I don't end up in a dirty nursing home under the sloppy care of Raul, the loose-change stealing orderly.
I'm so unversed on the topic of money that everything I have learned about wealth and the acquisition of wealth comes from the Parker Brothers.
It all comes from Monopoly.
Years ago, my wife and I found ourselves with two mortgages.
One on the house where we are raising our two daughters and another on a crappy little condo in south Culver City or North LAX-adjacent. We had, as my uncle coins it, fallen into the business of 'Tenants and Terlets.'
Only this additional property was not Broadway or Park Place. It wasn't even the desirable greens or reds. Our 2 BR flophouse in Fox Hills was more the equivalent of the cheap purplish properties that frankly no respectable Monopoly player wants to own.
Before renting it out, we interviewed many candidates including an older African American couple with a 14-year old son. The mom was sick and the dad had been unemployed for more than 5 years. They were on Section 8 Federal assistance. Their credit score wasn't low. They didn't even have one.
Not the ideal candidates by any stretch.
A day after meeting them, we received a handwritten 3-page letter begging us for the apartment. Naturally I was reluctant. But my wife -- who many people refer to as a saint, for obvious reasons -- convinced me it would be a mitzvah.
Turned out, doing good by them, did well by us. Section 8 was a blessing in disguise.
Every first of the month we got a check from Uncle Sam for 99.9% of the rent. It was so automatic it became very easy for me to let the tenants slide into arrears for 6 or 7 months. Their share never amounted to more than a couple of hundred bucks. And they were very sweet people who took great care of the property.
The point is, making money as a land baron is a lot easier than making money as a copywriter. So when the ad agency world finally discovers that I'm just a fraud, and they will, I'll have my landlord career to fall back on.
Where is all this leading? Well, several weeks ago, my daughter went on a camping spiritual retreat with her high school classmates. They went to rediscover their relationship with Jesus. My daughter went for the smores. When they returned there was a welcoming reception reuniting the parents with their born-again children.
At the party I had a chance to corner the Principal of St. Monica's Catholic High School. I told him the Monopoly anecdote I just told you. I also suggested the school look into ways of developing a formalized curriculum of financial education.
He agreed the students and many of the teachers knew little or nothing about banking, checking, mortgages, the stock market or even mutual funds. He said he'd run the idea by the monsignor.
Monsignor: "Oh really, which parent came up with this novel, yet-completely-unfeasible idea?"
Principal: "The Jew." (I'm positive that's how they refer to me.)
Monsignor: "Mmmmm, on second thought…."