Saturday, October 6, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Before I get started, I wanted to ask a favor of all of you. If you notice a typo on any of my posts, please leave a comment so that I may edit it. I take great pains to ensure that my narrative has no errors. I read it about three million times before I put it up, but things slip by. I just found a redundancy in my last post ("newspaper paper") that I have now corrected. Thanks!

I will have more time tomorrow or the day after to tell you about the events that led up to the shortest close in the history of multi-family properties (maybe not, but it sure seemed like it). It was the first apartment we sold on August 31. You know, just days before everything fell in on us with those properties. It was a miracle.

Since I don't have much time today, I thought I'd be preachy again. I know that I risk losing all of my two readers, but I'll go out on a limb anyway. Believe it or not, I do have another question of the day: What is up with our culture keeping personal financial information so secret? We hate talking about our money so much that even big corporations, who are obligated to public disclosure, lie.

So, let me get this straight: we never talk about money with our friends, acquaintances, relatives, or children, yet our country is laden in consumer debt. Foreclosures have become an epidemic. Keeping up with the Joneses is a favorite past-time. But don't ever think for a minute that I will tell you how much money I make or the cost of my house. And I'll never discuss my struggles with you or get your advice because the money topic is off limits. Puhleeeze!

I don't know if this is true, but I heard that in some Asian cultures, people state their annual incomes upon introduction. "Hi, I'm John, $100,000." Does that replace the last name? For us Americans (the greatest country on the face of the planet, by the way!!), it is so taboo to ask someone about their finances that you risk being ostracised by the mere thought. Talk of money is so private that a neighbor used to say, "Little Lori went down the slide in her dress, showing everyone her 'bank account.'"

When my friends first logged on to this blog, they probably felt a twinge of embarrassment as they read about our ordeal. Many of them were already familiar with the struggles that we endured with our multi-family properties, but may not have known all of the details (we prefer not to depress our friends every chance we get). I'm not embarrassed at all (I am more disgraced by my published typos, actually). The bottom line is that we bought two businesses (for which we had high hopes) that both failed miserably while we were at the helm. It happens. It stinks. It's past. It made us stronger. We learned. To discuss the financial details is an opportunity for everyone to learn. My husband and I frequently talk about money, investments, real estate, business, you name it with our children. We believe that it will make them more responsible adults, and, God forbid, if they fail, they know that the world won't end. Failure is a reason to find new opportunities, like we did (I'll save that for a future post).

It doesn't make much sense to me that most Americans have enormous car payments, large mortgages, credit card debt that they can't pay off each month, and horrible stress, yet it's completely out of bounds to talk about it. Maybe they think that if they tell us how much money they make, we'll assume that they're rich and hit them up all the time ("Come on! I know you can buy more than one candy bar for Suzie's fund raiser.") But don't they know that their opulent, yet unaffordable, lifestyles tell us just that--they have more money to spend than we do?

For the most part, I am an open book. I will divulge all I can remember about our apartments. It's not all pretty, but it is interesting. So, I know you may not read it to gain an education, but you will as a voyeur. More power to ya!