A lot of people have written in with comments on last week’s article about how the economic stimulus rebate payment schedule is unfairly biased towards sucky people. Reader Erica’s e-mail best summarizes the majority of the comments received:
My Social Security Number ends in the digits 17. Does this mean I’m a terrible, evil person?
Thanks for writing in, Erica. The answer to your question is pretty simple: you probably aren’t a terrible, evil person right now, but you certainly have the potential to become one. In fact, if left unchecked, the evil in you right now may very well transform you into a minion of Satan by next Thursday.
Erica isn’t the only one who should worry about turning to the Dark Side. You may be familiar with the expression “money is the root of all evil” (the full quotation is “the love of money is the root of all evil”). Well, it’s often true. Think of all the rich people you know who are also rather evil:
- Drug dealers
- Terrorist leaders
- Evil dictators
- Most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies
- Lex Luthor
See? Even moderately wealthy people with net worths below seven figures can be doers of dastardly deeds. Yes, that means even you could be evil with your money.
“But Nick, I don’t want to be evil with my money.”
Fear not, goody two-shoes. You can still save your immortal soul and keep your 401(k) well funded, but it’ll take some extra work to make sure your money doesn’t contribute to sin and wickedness. Here are some dos and don’ts that’ll help you keep your money on the path of righteousness.
- DO give generously to worthy causes. The Red Cross is a worthy cause. The American Cancer Society is a worthy cause. The National Association for the Advancement of Robot Hookers—not so worthy.
- DO pay back your debts. You may have read about troubled homeowners walking away from their mortgages as interest rates skyrocket and home values drop. This might be an acceptable alternative if you can no longer afford to pay for your home and you’re on the verge of bankruptcy. But in general, skipping out on your debts isn’t just a poor financial move—it’s also selfish and dishonest.
- DO good things with your money just for the fun of it. Take a friend who’s been feeling down out to dinner, be a generous uncle or aunt for your less-fortunate nieces and nephews, bring in doughnuts for your co-workers. Money might not necessarily be able to buy yourself happiness, but it’s really easy to buy some smiles for other people for a few bucks.
- DO give your business to especially ethical companies. If you’re afraid your money is going to companies that make their products with slave labor, or if you think your dollars are funding terrorism or Communism or some other bad “ism,” you’ll want to check out Money and Values, a website that’ll teach you how to be frugal without dooming 6,000 orphans to work in fields just to make you a pair of sneakers.
- DON’T patronize businesses you know are evil. The diner on Main Street might have the most delicious meatloaf you’ve ever had at a price that’s right, but if that meatloaf is made by the owner’s five-year-old children who work in the kitchen all day instead of going to school while the owner’s other children are off stealing kittens for tomorrow’s batch of meatloaf… yeah, do I even need to finish this point?
- DON’T waste your fortune on vices. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t ever drink or gamble for fun or whatever, but you shouldn’t be dumping your life savings into those habits either. If you can’t help but spend money on these kinds of things, get some help. Don’t worry, I’ll hang on to your money while you do.
- DON’T take advantages of those less fortunate. It might be tempting to take that $50 the little old lady next door offers you to fix her dishwasher, but if all you do is replace a two-dollar part in five minutes, you better not take her money.
- DON’T be a jerk with your money. Yes, you have $8,000. Yes, your friend has $8,000… in debt. No, you don’t need to remind him of these facts every time you see him… unless you’re ready to write him a check.
Now your soul is safe from the stranglehold of Satan, and you’re an even more upstanding member of society than you were yesterday.
And Erica, I was just kidding when I said you might be an evil person. And while I appreciate your follow-up e-mail offering to sell me some drugs, I get everything I need from the guy who runs the diner on Main Street. But thanks anyway.