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48 Comments

  1. Thank you for mentioning procreating when you’re broke. I’m always mentioning that America has a 40% out of wedlock birth rate. Researchers from across the political spectrum are all finally admitting this is a disaster, financially, and in a lot of other ways–yet I never see many PF bloggers mention it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      It’s so frustrating. On the one hand, our betters tell us that a single-parent household is just as valid and worthy as a two-parent household. But on the other hand, our betters tell us that those who grow up in a two-parent household are “privileged.” Meh. So what is it? If a single-parent household is so awesome, why do the children raised in them have such a hard time adopting sound financial skills and attitudes?

  2. I loved the “Blamers Gonna Blame” comment; that would make an awesome T-shirt!

    Blaming others for your short-comings is an easy way to pass the buck. Years ago I was prone to such thinking: life’s unfair, the American Dream is dead, and wealth is essentially the result of stealing from others. Then, I traveled by bus around Central America and Mexico for 9 months. Boy did that open my eyes to all of the possibilities that America offered. Later a trip to Brazil and another to India showed me what a truly tough life looks like.

    After those experiences, complaining about how bad I had it in the U.S. became embarrassing. (Have you ever seen a guy brushing his teeth in a mud puddle by a busy road? I saw that in India. How about a 3-4 year old trying to sell you chicle for a few pesos? That used to be a common sight in Mexico) Instead of groaning and moaning, I upgraded my education/skills and got a real job paying a whopping $18,000 a year! Eventually, I stumbled into the Prime Financial Culture and “figured it out.”

    How do we get people to step up their Financial Culture? Not easy, but your PFC list rings true and is a great start. Great post. Ed

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Ed. Those were very sobering stories you shared. I remember years ago going to the Norfolk Navel Base for a tour of some of our ships. When we were on the bus returning to the visitor center after the tour, our tour guide, a Navy seaman, stood up and made a little speech before he let us get off the bus. He said he had been all over the world–Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. He then relayed some anecdotes that put into stark relief the conditions of most of the world’s inhabitants. And believe me, those anecdotes were every bit as horrifying as yours. Finally, he concluded with these stirring words: “Thank your luck stars you were born in America.”

      Most of our thought leaders cringe at the notion of American Exceptionalism. And because of this, they’re very reluctant to show how good we got it compared to most of the world. The end result is that the typical American compares himself only to the One Percent and concludes his life sucks and all opportunities for advancement are gone. Sigh.

      Thanks for stopping by, Ed. It’s always great hearing from a great educator like yourself.

      P.S. Espanol es muy deficil. Lo voy a aprendir un dia

      • Loving the conversation here. As you know, travel is one of my biggest passions. Not for the escapism, but for the education I receive every time I step foot in another country. “The typical American compares himself only to the One Percent and concludes his life sucks and all opportunities for advancement are gone.” THIS. People hate the word “privileged” but we have built an immunity to the hardships that are ACTUALLY hard. Life threatening. Not having safe drinking water, not having ANY water. No homes. No education. And that is not only in other countries, we certainly have it here in the US as well. That is hardship. Not shitty wifi or overcooked steak. Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy with our political climate by any means, but I thank God I was born here in America.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Hey, Miss M. Excellent points. I think if you have an income of $34K, you’re in the top 10% of income earners in the world. Americans have a very skewed view of hardship. And traveling certainly helps to rectify that. I remember being in Cancun about 15 or so years ago. We were going from the resort to downtown Cancun by bus and we passed a road crew putting down asphalt. Some of the guys in the crew were barefoot. Very sobering.

    • I say the same thing all the time, Ed. I’ve traveled in Latin America and when I read Americans whining about Americans who say it’s impossible to save money, etc. I tell them they all ought to take a trip to Latin America and see what the people in even the better off Latin American countries do without–and they’re just as happy or happier than we are. This is not to glamorize poverty or low living standards, but people really need to get a grip.

      • Mr. Groovy

        “…[P]eople really need to get a grip.”

        Thank you, Mysticaltyger. American poverty is the most wimpiest poverty in the world. Someone has to point this out. I’m glad you and Ed just did.

  3. Well my favorite has GOT to be #4 which is procreating mindfully. Not sure why it seems like such a controversial topic but the word self servitude comes to mind. I knew a few low income kids like myself who had children around high school/college age. It perplexes me to no end – of all people shouldn’t they see they’re doomed to repeat the same struggles as their parents? It boggles my mind and I’m not PC about it at all.

    I have very wimpy vices. My parents were total gamblers back in China. I’ve got a good self control and a total nerdy personality. I don’t even like fictional drama, GoT is too much for me haha. Why can’t they all get along and have some tea???

    • Mr. Groovy

      Ah, Lily. You never fail to put a smile on my face. And you are so damn right. When Mrs. G and I were in Louisville a few years ago, we entered a White Castle and had nice conversation with the cashier while we waited for our order. She was a lovely person and not without some smarts. But here’s the problem. I don’t know how old she was, she looked 17 or 18, but she already had two kids. No husband, of course. And grandma watched the kids while she worked. And, man, did this piss me off. Like I said, she was a sweet young lady. And she had the brains to be more than a cashier in White Castle. But because she decided to have kids while she was young and broke, she will probably have a very difficult time rising above the cashier level. Sigh. But let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings. All financial cultures are equal.

    • Louise

      And “children” includes pets. They are, or can be, expensive and long-lived. Choosing to “parent” them has to be done mindfully.
      Pet-ownership trends seem to run in families? Or is that just me?

      • Mr. Groovy

        Nailed it, Louise. Pets can be very expensive to have around. And there’s no law saying you have to have them. So as it is with children, becoming a pet “parent” should be done mindfully.

  4. This is a very unique and insightful take on human behavior. Brilliant.

    To springboard on something Mrs PP says below, Malcom Gladwell wrote about “accumulative advantage” in his book Outliers. My clumsy interpretation is that circumstances like birth order and family culture often influence an outcome as much or more than self-determination. In the context of Subprime Financial Culture, perhaps people raised in that environment are more prone to repeat those patterns. However, all of the tenants in your post can certainly be adopted with awareness and discipline, making a Prime Financial Culture within reach for everyone.

    Sorry for the ramble. I look forward to sharing this, with full credit to the author of course :).

    • Mr. Groovy

      No worries, my friend. Rambles are welcome here. And I totally agree with your points. Here’s our problem. The subprime financial culture sucks. And the prime financial culture is free. It doesn’t cost anything to adopt it. But our thought leaders don’t have the balls to tell those with an SFC that they’re doing it wrong. Telling SFC people that they should renounce their culture and adopt a PFC would amount to cultural imperialism or some other bullshit excuse. So rather than hurt peoples’ feelings, our thought leaders would rather see SFC people languish in financial hell. Meh. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. G. I love the cut of your jib.

  5. It’d be interesting to see the subcultures and mishmashes and try to compare how they work out – like the Martin Shkreli’s of the world. You can work hard, be a prick, and be financially successful.

    But damn if I don’t believe that being nice still makes your success a bit more likely. I don’t believe in karma but I do believe in the power of networking and community!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Is Martin Shkreli loathsome or what? Spot on, Chris. If I had children, I’d much prefer that they were honorable and middle-class than dastardly and rich. I’m a firm believer in honor before wealth. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Excellent comment as always.

      • Methinks the “dastardly and rich” vs “honorable and middle-class” tradeoff is a false dilemma. Dastardly does not tend toward rich, but honorable does. The virtues associated with wealth accumulation include frugality and industry directed toward helping those nearest to you. And when you help those nearest to you, they provide certificates of appreciation with presidents’ portraits engraved thereon (dollars).

        Dastardly tends to gain you short-term benefits that are dissipated as folks take their custom elsewhere. Conversely, given the choice of two vendors, I’m always well advised to opt for the more honorable of the two.

        • Excellent point, Steve. Thanks for the clarification. Absent coercion, honor does attract money and dastardy repells it. Free people much prefer to do business with the good than with the sinister.

  6. Nice post, Mr. Groovy,

    #5 on PFC, the wimpy vices may vary by state 🙂

    When I read through the SFC, I started having political thoughts and have used will power to restrain myself from opening my mouth..lol..

    –Michael

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Good point, Michael. A wimpy vice in Las Vegas is probably not so wimpy in Des Moines. And I hear you about holding your tongue. It’s hard to do when you come across faulty logic or outright stupidity. The problem is that most people don’t react well to criticism. I try very hard not to be typical in this regard. I don’t want to be right. I want to get it right. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s awesome having you back in the game.

  7. I agree with you on this one. Your financial culture depends so much on your upbringing. Everyone can make a change for the better if they educate themselves, though. I should thank my mom. She’s a saver and is very conservative with money.

    Everyone’s net worth should get better over time. If that’s not true for you, then you’re doing it wrong. Fix it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly, Joe. It’s pretty straightforward. If your net worth is rising over time, you’re probably doing something right. If your net worth isn’t, you’re probably doing something wrong. And, as you so succinctly said, if you’re doing something wrong, “fix it.” The big problem is that too many of us are enslaved by our cultures and our egos. “My way of life can’t possibly be detrimental to my well-being!” Meh. Like you, Joe, the financial culture I inherited wasn’t perfect, but it got the big things right. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you. Cheers.

  8. Interesting post. In some cases it might be good vs bad. In other cases, it might be enlightened vs ignorant. I imagine if you fall far enough down the financial scale, ignorance can lead to doing bad things. To change, it normally requires a bottoming out process and a willingness to start following what those in the prime financial culture are doing.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, Dave. In some cases it’s good vs. bad. In most cases, however, it’s enlightenment vs. ignorance. And that’s our conundrum. How do we get the ignorant to forego their birth culture and and start nibbling on enlightenment? Meh. I guess if I had the answer to this I wouldn’t be a little ol’ country blogger from North Carolina. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Always a pleasure.

  9. It’s more like being a good person vs being a greedy nasty person. I think people CAN possess both traits. Donald Trump comes to mind. I’m sure the guy worked hard, but IMHO, he’s an ass who doesn’t treat people well. So although he did well financially… 🙂 Also, some poorer people who have made some mistakes in their life ARE genuinely good people who made some bad decisions.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Yes! You are so right. I loathe the evil rich. Although Donald Trump doesn’t immediately come to mind when I think of such unsavory characters, I see your point. When I think evil rich, I think of drug dealers, mobsters, and third-world dictators. Chris from Keep Thrifty also mentioned Martin Shkreli. That’s a great example. And that’s why I added “making money honorably” as a key codicil in my prime financial culture. Thanks for stopping by, Tonya. I love the way your mind works.

  10. I think generationally it’s hard to break out of, because that’s your norm. It’s hard to get over the mentality of “If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. ”

    My family was a family of 5 and my dad’s income was around $55k/yr. We struggled to keep utilities on, groceries in the house, and cars running. It sucked.

    Looking at the 3 kids and how we turned out, I put myself thru college and grad school, working full time, but still living subprimely mostly #7 – paycheck to paycheck living. Spending more than I make and subsidizing it thru credit… sheesh.
    I ultimately, ended up in a great job, and now even better job, have no debt except for the mortgage and am positioned to be able to retire by the time I’m 42.

    My sister is awaiting trial and looking at 5-10 yrs in prison for her poor career decisions – “she was an importer/exporter” lol. She never escaped the victim mentality and I felt like making her a shirt that said, “Blamers gonna blame”.

    My brother went to culinary school and has had good jobs since then, but I can’t get him to save anything. He just keeps telling me, “I’ll never retire” yet he can afford other things. He could, it’s just all about priority and saving isn’t one of his.

    Generationally, we all were raised the same, but I didn’t want to keep living like how I’d been raised. Since I felt I was doing way better than what I grew up with I thought I was still doing well financially. I didn’t realize my version of “doing well” still sucked in general.

    Had I not met Mrs. SSC, totally different story. She was the key catalyst in me financially turning around. Otherwise, I’d have a truck, a boat and probably a sportscar of some sort too. Not worried about retiring early or planning for the future beyond my work 401k.

    She helped switch my financial perspective from subprime to prime. Without a catalyst like that in someone’s life, you need to be like your friend and want it yourself. I also moved away and made better choices than my family did, but it was still far from a “great model” of living within my means.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Mr. SSC. I really appreciate your sharing a little of your family dynamic. It’s amazing how siblings raised in the same environment can adopt wildly different financial cultures. I was the late bloomer in my family. My sister and brother got their financial acts together much sooner than I (in their 20s rather than 40s). And like you, my financial awakening came about because of marriage. If Mrs. Groovy hadn’t come along, there’s no way I’d be retire right now. I’m sure I’d have my share of frivolous man toys, ample debt, and little in retirement savings. It pays to marry well. Great comment, my friend. I always feel enriched whenever you stop by.

  11. Seems to me like you are a culture snob…groovy.

    Agree on most points, though if 3 part time jobs are all you can get then go for it. As for me, I may go part time at some point in the near future, but that still equates to working to 50 + hours a week taking care of patients…ah the joys of doctoring.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! I’m definitely a little snooty when it comes to financial cultures. I think the key is to work at least 40 hours a week. And by work, I don’t necessarily mean a job. If all you have right now are minimum wage skills, you got to devote some portion of your non-sleeping hours to acquiring more valuable skills. And I hear you about the joys of doctoring. My niece’s husband is a resident in Tucson, Arizona. I think his schedule is 12-15 hours a day, six days a week. Yowza.

  12. This goes beyond Karma, but I’m a strong believer in doing the right thing is always the right thing, and being happy brings happyness. It always plays itself out. Unfortunately, not many have the self awareness to deploy what the world needs. This message needs to reach more of the masses.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, FTF. I think we got to do both. We need wealth studies in our schools and our broader culture (art, movies, music, literature, news, etc.) has stop its obsession with victimhood. I watched a YouTube video the other day about American poverty and it featured a woman who had two kids, no husband, no skills, and a smoking habit. And the whole tenor of the video was how the American dream is dead. Really? This woman had absolutely no culpability in her situation? It was all society’s fault?

  13. I think adopting a subprime financial culture will keep you down, while adopting a prime one gives you a chance to get ahead. However, as Mrs. PP brought up, it can be difficult to make that move if it’s all you’ve ever known. I imagine there are additional reasons why it might be difficult to make that change, but I’ve been privileged enough to live within a prime culture bubble for most of my life.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Totally agree with you, Gary. Moving from a subprime financial culture to a prime financial culture is not easy. I had an easy time of it because I grew up in an environment that was far closer to prime than subprime. I think a start is to avoid telling comforting lies to those with a subprime financial culture. Telling someone with a lot of bad financial habits that some “ism” is holding him or her back isn’t very helpful. We assuage the ego but fail to heal the root cause of the problem. Sigh.

  14. I think your analysis is spot on Mr. Groovy! And my hunch is that most people who read this will also agree with you.

    But I do wonder how the tens of millions of Americans who don’t read personal finance blogs would feel about your discussion of prime versus subprime financial cultures. There are certainly millions of people, many of them our family, friends, and neighbors, who live a more subprime financial existence (hopefully without some of the most negative tendencies you outline). I wonder if most people who tend towards subprime financial decisions would view your descriptions as a call to arms to consider changing their ways, or as something that would be impossible for them to achieve, for whatever reason.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Ah, the chains of birth, culture, and ignorance. Totally agree, ROMT. It’s a very tough problem. I’d love to see Wealth Studies introduced to secondary and post-secondary education. We know the traits of the “millionaire next door,” and we shouldn’t leave the discovery of those traits to chance.

  15. To answer your question – you’re definitely right!

    I particularly like your point about “Always be blaming.” If I had a dollar for every person I’ve encountered that uses the I’m-a-victim excuse to do nothing, I would have FIREd years earlier than I did. It’s a Financial Independence killer.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Mr. FF. Excuse making is a cheap way of salvaging one’s ego. It feels good, but chronic excuse making is the road to ruin.

  16. Thank you so much for the mention and some reassurance that we’re doing alright with this parenting thing. There are definitely some days when it feels like we’re on the verge of a mutiny. Although the twins were a surprise, we did put a lot of thought into our procreation plans, like signing up for the “Gold” health insurance plan and making extra contributions towards the Health Savings Account.

    I love that you included being nice in your prime financial culture. It makes think back to that classic tale about Scrooge. All the money in the world isn’t going to make you happy if you’re an a$$hole to everyone.

    • Mr. Groovy

      My pleasure, Harmony. I really admire what you and your hubby are doing. Keeping the crew from tossing the captain and the first mate overboard isn’t easy. And thank you for noticing the “nice” component of my prime financial culture. Wealth isn’t the only measure of success. Every vicious dictator in the world is a multi-millionaire.

  17. …this post makes me feel so triggered…

    Seriously, the only thing you can control is your attitude, your choices, and your conscious actions. Sub-prime financial cultures depend too much upon others’ actions to live like a free man instead of a slave. (And I mean man in the same sense Thomas Jefferson used it to mean human. Just so you can feel triggered, too.)

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! So true, Steve. Why are people triggered by the truth? You play stupid games, you get stupid prizes. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s always great hearing from someone who knows the true cost of adopting a subprime financial culture. Cheers.

  18. I really like this. One of the many, many causes of generational poverty is the culture that many families follow. After all, that’s the example you’ve been handed, so it’s easier to fall into a subprime financial culture. However, all people are able to change. Hell, my Dad came from a dirt-poor subprime family and was able to get out of that mess–but it wasn’t without a lot of work and distancing himself.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Nailed it, Mrs. PP. The culture you were born into is definitely the fly in the ointment. I was very lucky. I wasn’t born into a subprime culture so my climb to a prime culture wasn’t so great. But how do you escape a subprime culture if you’re born into it? I know this is horrible to say, but you got to develop the courage your dad had and drop your family and friends. I had a coworker who moved from Buffalo to Charlotte. She said her only chance to get ahead was to move away from her family. Meh. Generational poverty is a tough problem. Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. PP. I really appreciate what you added to this conversation.