Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Left at the Altar? Sue For $150,000!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 48 - wedding vows

I think it was about eight or nine years ago—and it happened overnight, perhaps on a Tuesday—that marriage became all about money.

Consider the case of RoseMary Shell and Wayne Gibbs. You can read the article for the full story, but here’s a quick summary of what went down in short-attention-span format:

  1. Guy likes girl; girl likes guy. Guy and girl date.
  2. Relationship goes nowhere. Girl moves away for $81,000/year job.
  3. Guy proposes a year later. Girl accepts, leaves job and friends, moves back with guy.
  4. Guy wants to postpone wedding. Eventually guy and girl break up.
  5. Girl moves away, takes crappy $31,000/year job.
  6. Girl sues guy, wins $150,000 from him.

It really makes you wanna run out and get engaged now, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I wanted to highlight this story because it provides a lot of great examples of how money and marriage can interact.

  • The debt of one… The girl in the story brought a boat-load of debt with her going into the relationship, though she disputes just how much that debt was. When postponing the marriage, the guy indicated that undisclosed debt was one of the reasons. Lesson learned: Tell the poor schmuck you’re marrying if you have tens of thousands of dollars of debt.
  • Beware of leaving your life behind for love. Regardless of how debt-saddled the girl in the story was, she was doing something about it by making $81,000 a year at her previous job. All it took was a shiny five-figure engagement ring to make her give it all up. (Though you have to wonder why this woman went from making $81k to $31k a few years later.) Lesson learned: Keep your financial future secure before, during, and after any major relationship.
  • If you’re going to pay off someone else’s debt, know what you’re getting into. The guy in the story must be fairly wealthy if he can afford to pay off $30,000 of the girl’s debt and still have enough in the bank to give her an enormous engagement rock. (Or maybe he charged it all on credit cards.) Lesson learned: Marry her first, then give her lots of money.
  • I don’t believe in pre-nups, but… how about a pre-pre-nup? The couple in this story could have benefited from continuing to lead their lives separately until their wedding day. This way, girl would have had her $81,000 a year job to fall back on, and guy wouldn’t be out $150,000. Lesson learned: Have a plan for what happens if the engagement falls apart.
  • And about that $150,000 judgment… what the hell, jury? Engagements fall apart all of the time and you don’t see couples suing each other for six figures. (That doesn’t happen until the marriage falls apart!) In a way, I hope this ruling encourages couples to use their engagements more wisely to examine their relationships and finances; but in another way, what the hell??? Lesson learned: Stay out of Florida courtrooms. Heck, just stay out of Florida altogether.

Oh, and ladies, if you’re having problems getting your man to commit to the idea of marriage now, wait until he reads this article. If stories like this keep making headlines, I fully expect the divorce rate will plummet… because no one in their right mind would commit to getting married!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Here’s A Crazy Idea: How About A Six-Month Prohibition to Cut Debt, Eliminate Alcoholism, and Save Families

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

no beer and no tv makes homer something something

Somehow a conversation at work the other day turned from the subject of women’s basketball to the 1920s alcohol Prohibition in the United States. (I think someone said, “You’d have to be drunk to enjoy women’s basketball,” and things proceeded from there.) A brief survey of all present revealed that most of us like to drink, some of us a lot. There was one member of the group, a quiet girl who usually doesn’t comment on anything more controversial than jaywalking, who admitted that she doesn’t drink and sometimes wishes everyone else couldn’t either. A few hours passed, after which we finally stopped laughing and seriously considered her proposal.

What effect would an alcohol prohibition have on the United States today?

Some of my older, deader readers may recall what the 1920s were like without alcohol: nothing but sunshine, good times, flowers, and bicycles. Well, at least for the first six months. After that, Al Capone became everyone’s best friend, and drinking became more prevalent than it ever was before Prohibition. I suppose the main reason Prohibition failed is that people fond of alcohol really can’t go that long without it, and even casual or light drinkers really don’t want to give up the juice forever.

But maybe there’s a way to achieve all the benefits of an alcohol prohibition while avoiding another speakeasy society. That’s why I propose that the United States institute a six-month prohibition against alcohol.

Okay Nick, What Are You Smoking This Time?

Hear me out! As I mentioned earlier, the early months of Prohibition yielded some success in meeting the goals of eliminating alcohol consumption.

  • Alcohol consumption decreased. It may be true that alcohol consumption eventually rose to its pre-Prohibition levels, but the beginning of the Prohibition era was marked by a general decrease in alcohol use.
  • Alcohol abuse and disease dropped. Livers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief as many alcoholic but otherwise law-abiding citizens gave up their drinks.
  • Many crime levels dropped sharply. The Prohibition era is often popularized as a time of gangsters, shootings at every street corner, and a general sense of mayhem and debauchery. In fact, assault, domestic violence, vagrancy, prostitution, and many other crime levels were cut in half during the 1920s. Even Chicago, the speakeasy capital of the country, saw overall crime levels come down.
  • People saved money and worked harder. By some accounts, savings account balances tripled in the early and mid-1920s, work attendance rose, and many people who had previously let alcohol rule their lives took back control.

Even six months of prohibition could see the start of these benefits in American society. And while the end of that period would likely see some reversal, six alcohol-free months might be enough to break some people out of the vicious cycle of alcoholism that causes deep debt and shattered marriages.

The Return of the Revenge of the Son of Al Capone

But what about all of the negative aspects of prohibition? How would six dry months avoid the same calamities encountered during 13 years of Prohibition? Put simply, the short duration would be enough to spark all of the benefits above while largely avoiding all of the negatives.

  • Gangster crime and speakeasies. As “organized” as organized crime is, it still takes time to start a black market for alcohol. By the time alternative sources of alcohol could be established, the six-month prohibition would end. Thus, it wouldn’t be profitable for organized crime or speakeasies to violate the prohibition.
  • Alcohol industry effects. Thirteen dry years devastated the U.S. beer and wine industries. The best breweries and vineyards packed up and headed overseas, and the quality of American alcohol has never recovered. Today, the alcohol economy is global, so cutting off the tap for six months to 300 million people wouldn’t have such a detrimental effect on alcohol makers as it did in the early 20th century.
  • Government revenue cuts. Tax revenue from alcohol sales would evaporate during those six months. I guess they’ll have to end the War in Iraq a few hours early to make up for the couple billion tax dollars the government would lose.

So what do you think? I hope you’ll respond to this proposal with your answers to the following questions:

  • Would you support a six-month alcohol prohibition?
  • What affect do you think a short-term prohibition would have on you?
  • Could the positive effects of prohibition be realized in such a short time?
  • Would the negative effects of prohibition be realized in such a short time?
  • What other considerations, if any, are missing from this idea?