September 24, 2012

A friend of mine received a call the other day from his 34 year old daughter, Renai. She was in tears when she revealed, “My mortgage payment and car payment are due and we don’t have any money. Our credit cards are maxed out. Can you help out?”

This wasn’t the first time he got a call of desperation over money. Before she had children, her high school-sweetheart now husband, Ray, and she danced a variety of tangos, fox trots, jives and the twist with credit cards. The good news – they managed to buy a house. The bad news – the price was too high.

What is tragic about this coming of age tale about youth was how her life was derailed by a drunk driver. My friend explained, “You see she was soooo good with money when she was a teenager. At sixteen she got a part-time job and bought herself a car. What a great way to liberate yourself from your parents.

After graduation she took a job with Vancity Savings because they would pay for courses that would eventually lead to a degree or professional designation. Her husband, who came from a background of shortages and poverty, followed her example as he planned to teach P.E. Then, on that one fateful night, she picked Ray up at 11pm on a Friday night from his place of work. On the way home she stopped for a red light. All of a sudden the clashing sound of metal thunder hit her ears and rocked her almost unconsciousness. Later it was discovered that a drunk driver crashed into her car at a speed approaching 80km per hour. Ray was unhurt.

To make a long story short, they purchased a house with the ICBC settlement. She continued her career with the banking industry but she has struggled ever since with clinical depression. They got their dream house through a car accident, not a financial plan. That night Renai lost her mojo, her zest for life, her ambition.  She slipped into a world of gossip, complaint and blame. You see, the clinical depression was much worse than the car accident. What a price to pay for home ownership.”

Gradually their expectations for the future dwindled to making ends meet between pay cheques. My friend exclaimed, “After having two babies they started a small business and didn’t tell anyone. Can you believe it? Ray quit his good paying job as a manager at a retail office supply warehouse, financed a new truck and promptly went into the landscaping business.”

There was a long pause as my friend shook his head in disbelief before saying, “I still can’t believe it. Why not ask for some advice from your parents first? I mean, had they had asked me I would have said – show me your business plan. Who is your market? What is your start up costs? What are your revenue projections? How much capital do you have to carry everything for the first 6 months?” another pause,” I suppose they didn’t ask because they didn’t want to be asked any questions. As far as I’m concerned this is an excellent illustration of the instant gratification culture – close your eyes and hope for the best – if you dream hard enough dreams will come true – quit your job and start up your own business if you want to get ahead – but if something should go wrong, call your parents.”

Read Part 2

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