Sunday, January 30, 2011

Personal Finances and The So Called Church (TSCC)

I've been wanting to write this essay for awhile, but I kept getting distracted.

However, the doggies have pooped outside and mrsraptorjesus is at work, so I have the house to myself. I can collect my thoughts and write while I enjoy a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and a glass of Chardonnay (because I'm klassy).

I got my Master's in Finance because I wanted to try something very different, and while I'm not working in the "personal finance" industry, I keep track of it, and am a big supporter of personal finance education--something that's sadly lacking in the United States of Awesome.

Now, I know that many of Recovery From Mormonism's (RfM or posters are old. Some of them, really old. How they can even use a computer is a miracle having been around when the first computer was simply a very smart horse that was given a carrot everytime she clomped once for "yes" and twice for "no."

*And that's how we got "binary code!" :O

Anywho, the ancient relics of the board probably need not read this, and it will be another of my posts that slowly sinks to the bottom like a person's self esteem sitting through General Conference because old people, like teenagers, know everything.

However, the difference is that old people know what they know because they've spent a lifetime fucking everything up and finally learned from their mistakes whereas teenagers just fuck everything up.

So, talking about personal finance-those who are tempting death everyday just by getting out of bed, have figured out a system that works for them. And I don't want this essay to be mistaken. I'm trying to spread some light on this subject without trying to tell anyone what to do with their money. Excepting of course to give it all to me. Fuck the Mormon concept of one tenth. If you cheap bastards can get a lot of magical blessings with only one tenth of your money, think how super duper MORE blessings you'll get if you give ALL your money to me.

But enough of the pan handling; personal finance.

TSCC does a couple of things right by suggesting that people get a budget that they can live within, have some savings, and avoid debt. However, that's about all that the church gets right.

For my generation, these are the things the church taught without ever going into further detail. Things may have changed (what a surprise would THAT be. The church changing shit??? Whoa!) But that's how it was. The phrases were as simple as "pay the lord first, then pay yourself second." Or another one was "the only two things you can go into debt for are a car and for school."

To be fair, I NEVER heard that second phrase come from anyone else except other peasants-- I mean members, not leadership.

What makes these kinds of phrases dangerous though is their simplicity. Personal finance is not something that can be boiled down to a couple of cutesy colloquialisms. It is especially dangerous when people throw bullshit around like, "money is the root of all evil." Again, it's the simplicity of the statement that makes it wrong. Same with "money can't buy happiness" or "money isn't everything."

The last statement is the jumping point to my diatribe. "Money isn't everything"....unless you don't have any, and then money becomes EVERYTHING.

Several studies have been done about money buying happiness and the studies show that money does make people more happy to a certain point. (I'll link to a news article with an abstract to the article at the end.)

This study from the end of last year puts out some general ideas that I'm going to re-iterate expanding on some ideas. And the article shows that the salary dollar figure where "happiness" curves off is around $70,000 a year. So, a quick summary is that the studies show that people on average are happier making more money until they get to $70,000 a year, and then money doesn't really seem to impact their happiness quite so much.

Now before I go any further with an analysis, I want to put in some clarifications. The study is using average dollar figures for the entire country. So this $70,000 would be a different number in reality for New York City then say Paul Idaho. So, keep that in mind. (And yes, I am aware that unfortunately this mark is well above the average salary that the average American works. However, remember that this dollar figure is NOT the figure you HAVE to make in order to be happy. Rather the point at which more money doesn't necessarily coincide with more happiness.)

My take on this study is that one of the major reasons that people seem happier making more money is that around this dollar figure money becomes less about survival and more about choices.

While Americans make a lot more money compared to the rest of the world, it also takes a lot of money to live here. Food, rent/mortgage, utilities, cars, education-- it all adds up. But after a certain dollar amount people are able to buy things that they want rather than just things that they NEED. Instead of scraping just for rent and food, people can buy books, movies, go on vacation, have hobbies, etc. Again, the pressure of just "making it" paycheck to paycheck eases up.

Now let's shit all over the church because that's why we're really here.

The church wants you to pay your tithing first--10% gross. Then the church wants you to have a lot of kids. Then the church really wants your kids to go to school and get an education, all on one paycheck because "women who know" know that they don't belong at work ( and if you've ever wondered why, it's because they make the most money off of the middle class. They don't make money off of the poor.). So, you start with a 10% pay cut, then you've been told that you need to save 10% of your money, then you need to feed your kids--well, fuck, they can't BE fed unless I stop saving. Then you need to try to find a way to pay for their college--well, if you didn't get help maybe your kids can get student loans like you did-- oh, fuck that's right, I need to make sure I have paid that this month. Well maybe I'll work some overtime--except that would cut into my callings and I've already been reamed out for that. Oh and I really wanted to get that new house too, fucking Jonsons always rubbing my face in their huge ass house. Well, the lord will provide right? I mean maybe if I just got it, he'd help out somehow, I mean I've done everything he's ever asked of me, he owes me doesn't he?

But I don't really have the equity in this one, we took out that other mortgage to pay for the vacation. I really wanted to show our kids Navooooo, would have been nice to have gone to Disneyland. Maybe next year we'll do that. I'll figure out a way to leverage that trip in there. Oh, but Susie's medical bills. Shit, those things keep coming back. Yeah she's a "blessing," but if we hadn't had her, I could have made it work a lot easier. But everyone kept asking us when we'd have another and I didn't really have insurance at the time, but we "felt" that she was supposed to come down from heaven to our family.

Oh god, maybe I can ask the Bishop for some help. No, I can't do that. I can't be like all of the other disgusting cretins that come crawling to him asking for handouts. This church isn't about handouts, it's supposed to be about helping those who help themselves.

The church is a nightmare when it comes to personal finances. Like I've stated earlier, I have never seen any kind of actual education on the subjects, but the average American who makes around $40,000 to $50,000 a year is royally fucked. The pressure can never ease up with 10% cut out of that before a budget is even set.

I don't want to get into personal finance tips--unless asked, but I did want to shed a little light on the subject and why the Law of Tithing actually makes me furious.

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