Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / December 30, 1997 / 1 Tevet, 5758
Buy Stuff Now
Forget that mutual fund! It's time to get invested in floormats
WASHINGTON -- THIS IS THE TIME of year for you to start thinking about getting your pathetic financial life in order, so here is my advice: Buy stuff now.
Yes, I know you think that you have just finished buying a lot of stuff for the holidays, but ask yourself this: Do you have any savings left? If the answer is yes, then you have not spent enough. I'll tell you why: Let's say you have $20,000 sitting around in some stock or mutual fund. What has happened to it lately? That's right. Because of some crisis nobody understands in Korea or Japan or some other place in the Far East, the value of your investment has gone down, let's say, 15 percent.
OK, now try my Buy Stuff Now Theory. With my theory, you take that $20,000 and you go and buy a car with it. Doesn't matter what kind of car. Any car you like. And when you wake up in the morning and turn on the radio and some broadcaster is chirping that the "Kung Fu Index in Sumatra plunged overnight, throwing Wall Street into a tailspin with some stocks going down 15 percent," you run over to the window and look out at your car.
Is 15 percent of it gone? No! The car is all there! (Unless you live where I live, in which case the wheels may be missing, but that's another story.) If your money had been invested in stocks or mutual funds, some of it would be missing. But since you were savvy enough to Buy Stuff Now with your money, you've got an entire car to show for it. And so you drive to the office, where everyone is gathered around the TV watching the stock ticker on CNBC and moaning about how his kid's college fund has been wiped out. But you just laugh! "My new Honda hasn't been wiped out," you say, slapping your thighs. "And my kid is too stupid to get into college!" Then you laugh some more.
OK, so maybe that is an extreme example. But I do not see any fundamental flaws in my theory.
I say this because I have told myself it is time to take my money out of my submerging market mutual fund and buy a new car with it. Though my current car is 11 years old, it has never given me a bit of trouble, and I do not really need a new car. But if I leave my money in the stock market, it will probably disappear entirely. My car will stay around until somebody steals it.
There is also another reason I want a new car: before I die, I actually would like to get a car in the color I want. Never in my life have I been able to do this because I only get cars when I desperately need one and all the cool colors are gone from the lot.
"You want Metallic Crystal Azure?" the salesman always says to me. "Who doesn't? Sure, I can get it for you, but it will take four months."
I can't wait four months! I say. What colors do you have available?
"Desert Bronze," the salesman says.
What's that? I ask.
"Brown," he says.
So, I get a brown car. I have always gotten brown cars. But at least I always get screwed on the price. One of the many things my father did not pass along to me was his ability to bargain on cars. My father would go onto a car lot and kick the tires, slam the doors and look under the hood of each car. What this told him, I do not know. But he would go to the salesman and say, "Give me a good price, and I will take this piece of junk off your hands so you can make room for next year's piece of junk."
And the salesmen would laugh and joke with him and knock thousands off the sticker price. And just before my father was ready to sign the deal, he would stop with his pen poised about a quarter inch above the paper and say, "And you're throwing in the floor mats, right?"
And if the dealer would start to say, "You're killing me here. I'm not making a penny on this, I swear, and what's more... " he would look up, and my father would be halfway to the door.
"Wait, wait, wait!" the salesman would yell after him. "Hey, I'm kidding here. Come back. Of course, I'm throwing in the mats. We're friends here, aren't we?"
Would it surprise you to learn that never in my life have I ever gotten the mats thrown in? I sit at the little desk with my pen poised, and I tell the guy he's got to throw in the mats, and he yawns and says, "Naw, mats are extra. And we got to charge you Mat Shipping, Mat Finance and Mat Dealer Prep. Comes to $285. Today only. Tomorrow, it'll cost you $312."
Well, then, I might just walk out of here! I say.
"Free country," the salesmen says with another yawn. "On your way out, just tell the next sucker it's his turn in the barrel."
And so I end up buying the mats.
This time, though, I will have a whole different attitude. Under my Buy Stuff Now Theory, I am happy to buy mats. Because no matter how much the mats cost, I know that 15 percent of them will never disappear. (Though they do tend to curl up around the edges.)
And this time, I've taken a precaution. I called my car dealer and asked him what the hot new colors will be for '98.
"Icicle White, Verdant Rainforest and Cerulean Mist," he said.
And what's available? I asked.
"Mocha Sand," he said.
Let me guess, I said.
"Right," he said. "Brown."
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind