Sneaking a Peek into Other People's Finances

Credit cards were the main cause of hardship in these shows.
I'm a fan of those money shows on TV. The ones where there is some family or person in financial trouble and the money lady slaps them (figuratively) upside the head and calls them an idiot. Sadly, wifey isn't so much a fan. She prefers HGTV but will tolerate an episode or two in return of me tolerating a home renovation show.

Talking about our financial situation in public is taboo. No one does it, so no one knows the situation everyone else is in. These shows allow me to be a peeping tom with other people's finances and it's great.

The main thing I'm interested in seeing is what other people are earning. A truck driver earned $100,000 a year, an executive assistant earned $52,000 a year, a sales rep earned $28,000 a year, etc. Sometimes, it's shocking how much some professions would pay. Although, that truck driver is probably one of the lucky ones as I've heard truck drivers being paid as little as 35¢ per mile.

Another great part of these shows is when they get to the numbers. One couple brought home $4,000 a month, yet they spent $12,000 a month! Holy cow! That's $8,000 more than they bring in a month! Where is the money going? Another couple financed TWO cars with $15,000 remaining on each car! We shouldn't be financing one car, let alone two! One couple was spending $800 a month on their cats! Their cats! I get that cats are family members for some people. But $800? Wifey and I don't even spend that much on ourselves. Even when we include the cost of food for four adults, we're no where near $800 a month.

When the curtain is revealed, that's all fun and entertaining, but the real fun begins when hard choices are presented and made. "You need to pick one car to keep!", "You need to choose between your car and shopping!", "You can either keep your motorcycle or your go kart!", yes, a go kart. Most choices are logical. Some made no sense like the guy who chose to spend 4 hours a day with his dogs instead of 2 hours a day with his son. Yes, his son! Very compelling stuff.

At the end, these people usually (aside from the guy who picked his dogs over his son) turned everything around. They stopped using credit cards, they included their significant other in the budgeting process, they started to put more than the minimum to debt repayment, etc.

One thing that shocks me about these shows are the number of couples who maintain separate finances. Wifey and I combined all our finances together. While I'm mainly the one in control of our finances, I include her with all the transactions I make. "I'm putting some money into your RRSP.", "I'm making a contribution to my TFSA.", "I'm buying more ETFs.", "I'm paying off your MasterCard.", etc. We also discuss our financial situation so she knows where we stand.

Overall, these shows are a great reminder that we're on the right track. Although, finance lady advocates 10% of tax home pay savings, the message is basically the same. Don't get yourself deep in consumer debt. Keep track of your spending. Make a budget. While I don't need to listen to the themes of the show, I'm more interested in the financial situations of the people showcased.

Now when I see a guy driving a fancy Mercedes or BMW, I'm assuming they financed their car. When I see a woman pull a credit card out of her Coach bag, I'm assuming she used a month's salary to pay for that bag... the month two months from now. When I hear people talk about talking about renovations, I'm assuming they've maxed out their line of credit. Once you to think this way, you realize that their spending is only getting in the way of their retirement. No wonder the Ontario Government wants to force a pension plan on us simple folk.

I still can't believe that guy chose his dogs over his son.


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