2009 personal finance lessons from the rich and (in)famous
I am honored to be included in Triaging My Way to Financial Success’ best of blogs 2009. There are lots of good articles and tips from each of the bloggers and I would encourage people to read through all of them. With the year ending about Tiger Woods alleged ability to, ahem, multi-task on and off the golf course, 2009 is truly about exposing the life of celebrities trashy tabloid style. After all, with the economic picture so dark what are people to do but to be noisy about the lives of others?
Amid all the scandal through, there are actually personal finance lessons to be learned from the rich and (in)famous this year. A few examples immediately come to mind.
Jon and Kate Gosselin. The craziest parents ever to raise 8 kids taught us a valuable lesson this year about joint bank accounts when Jon emptied their joint bank account of $200,000. But for a court order freezing that account prior to the withdrawal (and Jon having to return the money lest he be found in contempt of court), Kate would have had no recourse. The morale of the story is truly trust the co-signatory of your bank account since there are few controls over one party withdrawing money against the wishes of the other. Having said that, what you can do is have the bank notate that any cheque or withdraw over a certain amount of money requires dual signature.
Miley Cyrus shut down her twitter account this year. Supposedly, she figured out if you tell people the most intimate secrets about your life on the internet, they actually become public knowledge and can be used against you. Like, this is so shocking! O-M-G. Tell your BFF!
With tale after tale about people losing their jobs or insurance benefits over improper use of social media, let us remind ourselves that social media, despite its utility, can be an invitation into your private life and all the consequences, good and bad, that come with it. Parents- please do have a conversation with your kids about social media; it is the Trojan Horse to your privacy.
Glenn Beck, voice of the American political right, is getting flack for alleged conflicts of interest in promoting the purchase of gold on his shows. His reasons, as I understand it, to buy gold is that gold is the only true investment when the economic system collapses. There’s two interesting lessons here.
Glenn Beck may be great at being a media personality but I am not sure he’s the best investment expert out there.¬† But there’s a certain strain of personal finance that worships the cult of the expert (self-declared or not) over prudent strategy. If 2008-2009 taught us anything, experts are just as fallible as the non-expert; they are just better at getting attention. Strangely, this lesson does not seem to be sticking. Secondly, when main street starts telling you to buy gold, it may be a sign that a gold bubble is forming. Answering the question “when” is just as important as “what” in personal finance and life in general.
Michael Jackson and Ed McMahon both passed away this year. Both made literally millions over the years. McMahon died broke and Michael Jackson died a lot poorer than he should have been. The lesson yet again is it is not what you make but what you keep that matters.
Finally, Tiger Woods crashed his GM SUV while going for a drive/escaping from his enraged wife/under the influence/insert own TMZ inspired story here. Now there are whisperings the sponsors may be leaving the Tiger Woods brand as stories circulated that Tiger may have allegedly kept 10(!) mistresses. The lesson once again is character matters first and foremost in life since money comes and goes but character is forever.
On a lighter note, after Tiger crashed, the air bags failed to deploy. Onstar did not switch on and the front door was jammed shut. This all despite the police reporting the crash was at low speeds. Is this the final confirmation that the GM bailout was not a good idea? No wonder the CEO of GM quit soon thereafter.