This post was written in aggravation at 3 AM by yours truly.
There are barrels of good people out there under a mountain of usurious debt north of six figures. You could argue until the cattle turn into jerky whose fault it is at the core for anyone north of negative six figures to get themselves into that situation.
For me, predatory student lending practices would be my first tick off the row of boxes given. Then you have the medical emergencies, family tragedies, personal struggles, surprise unemployment, and using once so often credit cards to make sure ends meet. These are real-life reasons.
Buuut, occasionally, you come across the special category of not-so-sympathetic ”frivolous” spending that makes it hard not questioning what it is that they’re actually thinking. I personally don’t know anyone who has shopped themselves into a negative six figures (thank goodness) but one beautiful fool who comes magically close to defying all money logic.
This moonchild goes by Soapy.
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For those of you who are new here, here is a synopsis of my friend, Soap. She is one of the many colorful characters I’ve noted in my life.
I added this portion so no one is missing a piece of the puzzle:
Soap is one of my best friends. She is also the daughter of a very affluent, multi-millionaire family. She grew up in Salt Lake City. Her childhood was what one would call pure opulence and she had many privileges most people can only dream of.
(Think Crazy Rich Asians…)
Her sister is married to the wayward son of a Chinese billionaire and Soap herself…well, she is in her 30s with a drinking problem. She has terrible health and cannot hold down a stable job. At age 30, she started with $80,000 in refinanced consumer and medical debt and some unpaid taxes as well.
Although her parents can easily wipe the debt away, they think it would be better for Soaps to learn how to manage her own finances by learning to live frugally and focusing on her career and education. Both of Soap’s parents fall under what you call, the sensible rich.
Soapy’s parents immigrated to the United States from China in the 1970s. They’re open-minded and highly educated (in contrast to my own immigrant parents). They educated themselves, worked very hard, and became successful engineers and then entrepreneurs within two decades. Now they want to pass on their successful international trading business but to no heir.
Soap was the only heir of choice but she repeatedly declined to learn her family’s business. Now her parents have stopped asking. To Soaps, her parental life work has no appeal what-so-ever. It is not how she wants to live her life, even at the guarantee of wealth.
Read the complete set of Soapy’s Odessey:
- 21 Frugal Pantry Staples List on a Limited Budget
- Practical Budgets For People Bad With Money
- How To Effectively Overcome Credit Card Addiction
- 3 Signs When Frugality Isn’t Worth It & What To Do
- Why You Still Need An Emergency Fund While In Debt
- How Soapy is Geoarbitraging in China
- What Am I Doing With My Life? I Need Help With My Life.
- How It Feels To Resent Someone For Being Spoiled
Her cell phone service was shut off. The phone company won’t let her get a new phone number until she pays for the old balance and pay for a new phone line to be opened. It will cost $400 from start to finish.
Not having a phone and job searching is obviously a no-go. You need a working phone to look for any job.
But not all of our conversation is surrounded by money or job. She hates talking about it and I don’t want to be a stick in the mud.
Financial responsibility is for those ready to receive it.
We talk more about dreams, food, family, relationships, work, miscellaneous dumb things, and girly stuff — this time, I was chatting about shoes. Just…you know…normal girl talk.
I didn’t want to make her depressed so any talk not on the subject of money is a better one.
I guess I accidentally pulled her into a safe spot with a mention of sneakers because…she told me about her $800 shoe purchase last month that I was NOT aware of before.
I guess she didn’t feel like telling me because…well, you can imagine, I would be angry. I guess she treats me like her mother too, hiding bad money and new debts.
“I agree it’s overpriced but I still got it.”
Yeah, but what in the world did you get an $800 one for? What’s wrong with $50 shoes? This is a sickness. It’s sick!
These are “Yeezys” below. (Yeezy = a very overpriced clothing brand by rapper Kanye West. It’s hard to tell if these Yeezys were new, used, or barfed in with the naked human eye.)
We always talk late and I, once again, put the phone down and decided to just not speak to her for the rest of the night until I calmed down. I had to physically SEPARATE myself from my phone in a thwarted attempt not to scream INTO it with my husband sound asleep next to me.
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Honestly, the purchased item in question doesn’t really matter. People have and will continue to blow money on silly crap, that’s not news. I just never known an otherwise intelligent human to be THIS self-destructive. It’s shocking to me.
If you are following along with the saga that is Soap, you may know she owes a bunch of financial sources and friends (myself included) a few thousand dollars that she has not paid back.
It also reminded me of my list of punchable financial offenses. If she told me she bought $800 shoes in real life, I would have slapped her.
I’m not grumpy at this point over a few thousand dollars. If she could be more responsible with her money and cut back, she wouldn’t have money issues.
She was living on cereal for 2 weeks because she told me she ran out of money.
I assumed she ran out of funds…not that she ran out of funds because she spent it on $800 shoes.
By the way, she wanted everybody on this blog who are broke to know how economical and “frugal” it is to live on cereal because a big box of sugar “can last surprisingly long”…
(P.S. her definition of frugal is so wrong. It’s what the common masses THINK frugality is: living in misery because you’re poor. SO FREAKIN’ WRONG I CAN’T EVEN UGH!)
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But Not Bankruptcy
Don’t think badly of Soaps. She doesn’t want personal bankruptcy even…though at this point…even I think that’s the only choice left.
Initially, I assumed it’s because her mom is a cosigner for her major debts. With her parent’s wealth and assets, there is no such thing as bankruptcy anyway. But more so, Soap does not consider bankruptcy as an option because she was taught that bankruptcy is immoral.
“It’s…I don’t know…it feels, feels like stealing.”
She was taught to believe that you can’t let someone else handle the baggage. Isn’t that so mature of her?!
Which is even more confusing because if she understands THAT, why dig yourself even deeper then?
This is a life staging form of modern art, right?
I mean…it’s NOT “easy” spending $800 on a pair of shoes when you’re north of six figures in debt without a job. That takes an incredible, extreme amount of irresponsibility to throw around that nonsense. This isn’t a money issue, this is a mental issue that…like if we were on Dr. Phil, he would be like:
A reader bought up the fact that she might have a mental illness and initially, I thought “nah” because Soaps is in all areas a very normal, very happy person
When the conversation is not about money, we joke and laugh about typical things. She’s happy with most of her life besides the ‘needing more money’ thing.
But now I’m not so sure. There might be something psychologically wrong with her. No clue what but I can think of 30 different mental barriers a person would need to break to be that stupid. Soap just FLYS through them all.
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Here are the major steps a person needs to overcome in order to be OK with spending $800 on footwear while $100k in debt:
*Give Into Hopelessness
THAT is what makes up a good percentage of debt holders’ mentalities when they’re struggling in $100,000 worth of any debt. Soap included.
It’s so hard with Soaps. I’m split between flaming anger, sadness/pity, and if there’s enough room…a whole lot of disappointment.
But don’t judge her based on that huge number. It’s pretty hard not want to call it quits; unless you’ve been there without a planned path, no one gets to say or pass judgment. $100k is a hugeeeeeeeeee number. If the situation looks hopeless and life is miserable for the near and distant future…what’s another $800 for shoes up against $100,000?
*Maxed Credit Cards? Blow Cash
Look no deeper. Tell the head doctors that they’ve met their match. Soapys money management is something ridiculous. I’m wondering what two wires are touching in her brain that shouldn’t be touching. But I’m the only one here doing interpersonal counseling. If she can get something she wants with the cash she has in hand, that’s the moment that matters and she will get it. Those shoes were good as bought the moment she got her bi-monthly payout from her last side hustle.
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*Have No Priorities
There is two main reason why people continue to put charges to their credit cards: buy themselves food and electricity to make it through the month OR buy something happy to get themselves through the day. There’s a big difference in paying your grocery bill versus paying for a mall trip. Logically, money goes to groceries first, not Yeezys. Logically, making rent goes before an Icelandic vacation pipedream. (She’s been crazy about Iceland for some reason. Another escapism daydream in this ridiculous artist life.)
I feel like a lot of rich children don’t seem to have a strong sense of priorities. It’s always fun first because the repercussions were never there for them to be afraid of. Because I was poor, I only saw repercussions and no upside. Maybe that’s why Soap thinks I’m a wet blanket…
*Have No Money Sense
Life is like a game of Minesweeper, full of little landmines. You can get better by gauging the potential and likely mines. There’s no guarantee – most of these happen to people out of the blue and once you’re knocked down and it’s hard coming back up. That’s how the system is built, it can happen real fast. My own family was on the teetering edge of every single one of those landmines for…uh, my entire life? I understood that reality since I was 10 years old and I lived with it every day.
Money is either lost or gained. The effects compound regardless but there are only two ways money moves. It takes a strong person to dig OUT of negative six figures and they get bragging total rights. I don’t see it happening here…
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*Eat Cheap to Survive Afterwards
Just a day before the whole “Yeezy” shoe confession, she told me she’s been living off cereal for 2 weeks after running out of money. It honestly pulled at my heartstrings initially when she told me…because I love food. Like…hello, have you met me? I almost PayPal her money for her to buy groceries. But now, after finding out about the Yeezy shoe thing, it would be kinder to just let her starve and learn a lesson.
*Wait for Parental Bail
Her family can be generous. 2 years ago, after her last financial bailout, her mom gave her $20,000 and told her to use the remainder to start an emergency fund and open a savings account. That was the last fresh start she got from her parents.
2 years later, she has doubled that debt with 2 more tax bills that go unpaid. What did she do with the $20,000 her mom gave her for an emergency fund and rainy days?
No one knows, not even her.
She spent it on a new Xbox, knock off hoverboard, random dumb things she can’t remember but she confessed to that it was junk. Not to mention the other things she continues to purchased since then that aren’t necessities.
It’s hard to see a cent from her unless she got a fantastic, six-figure size bailout from her mom but it seems like her mom has had enough of her antics too. There have been too many bailouts to list.
It’s always sad to see parents “give up” on their own kids and this is they’ve basically given up on her / not too sure what to do now. Soap asked me why her mom hasn’t cleared her debts yet when she is clearly struggling. Soap doesn’t understand this but I’m seeing her parents stuck in suspension because they ran out of ideas.
I’m more or less joining her family on that front. I’ve only known her for about 5 years. Her mom and dad raised her from baby to 18. If Mr. and Mrs. Sensibly Rich quit, what’s my advantage for nagging about financial responsibility?
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- How To Make a Roll of Paper Towels Last Embarrassingly Long
The universe somehow placed us together and forged a friendship worth almost 5 years of time. It’s like we’re the stars of an alien reality TV show. I’ve reached a level of Zen with her. I honestly don’t care anymore. I care about her as a living person but I don’t care how she’s going to pull out of this or any hope she can with the actions she’s taken over and over. Now it’s less about how to change her behavior and more “I wonder what season 6 is going to be.”
I hope this was entertaining! She’s the best expert out there at bumming life. Don’t you just love her artistic approach to life? It’s a breath of fresh air in these personal finance neck of the woods, am I right?
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Accidental FIRE says
The Saga of Soaps contiues…. sigh. You have a lot of patience and she should appreciate you as a friend.
She doesn’t need me haha, she has plenty of friends
Half Life Theory says
ooooo, i just love Yeezy’s LOL! I joke, i joke haha… The story will never change, most of the people that are drowning in debt keep making decisions that will dig them further into the hole.
At least Soaps probably has a large inheritance coming, some day in the future. Maybe that’s what she is banking on? Anyway, what can you do but be a friend, listen and maybe smack her in the head fro time to time. Good luck with this one lol
I didn’t even know Kanye West had a shoe line. Whatever inheritance (the family is already fighting with each other, as gross as that is) will probably be lost after Soaps. She’s a lucky bunny 🙂
Britt @ Tiny Ambitions says
Refreshing is one word for it! I have a younger step brother who is in a similar (but not as extravagant) situation. His parents keep bailing him out and buying him stuff because he whines about it. That’s not setting him up for success. That’s setting him up for his own financial failure.
Ouch, sadly that is very true. Do your parents know the effects?
Soap really needs an intervention. I commend the parents for no longer bailing her out because it will just reinforce her destructive behavior.
I don’t know how close you are with the parents but someone needs to tell them to set up a trust if they plan on giving money to Soap so that she will never have access to it all at once but is only doled out small amounts of cash at once.
It almost does seem like a mental condition. Some people are pathologic spenders but it’s because they are having inner demons and they are trying to buy temporary happiness from them.
Very sad at the opportunity that was given to her and is essentially wasted. Most people with her opportunities could have set themselves up for a lifetime of luxury with just normal financial planning.
She will get 5 million (as of right now in the trust) but she can’t touch it so it’s rather pointless right now. I think it’s both a product of childhood habits, miscommunication (based on the article link you had on your blog), and some bitterness/anger.
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
Yikes! I agree with the comment above that Soap needs intervention, not just parental, but a professional kind of intervention like a therapy or psychological assessmen.
I think there might be something deeper going in with her life that drives all of these irrational actions. Eating cereal for two weeks and then buying $800 shoes is not.normal behaviour.
I told her to get therapy but she said it doesn’t sound fun. My first reaction is….therapy isn’t supposed to be fun.!
Iceland is awesome. She’d love it and she should go. 😀
Wow, Soap is still the same. She won’t change until she is ready to. She has to make that decision herself.
I wouldn’t get too mad at her. Just accept it and let her deal with the consequences. I think the main problem is the security blanket. She still thinks her parent will bail her out eventually. Which is probably true. What else can her parents do? They should make her go to a good therapist.
Thanks for the mention!
I think she’s getting a bail today! And she’s worth 5 mil right now but she can’t touch it. She’s a very good person despite her financial disasters, she’s not good with delay gratification is all 🙂
I was playing therapist for her the other day and I just got a mind shock that…more like changed my life. I need to update but I think I’m talking about Soap too too much!
freddy smidlap says
is she eating cereal with red wine in the bowl? topped with prosciutto? send her over to dr. smidlap and i’ll straighten her out.
Haha I got you I got you, enjoy your retirement!!
Mrs. Groovy says
If you met someone like Soapy now would you become friends? I don’t think so. It’s hard NOT to think badly of her because, let’s face it — she doesn’t want to change. Given the amount of drama in her life you must conclude she enjoys it. And enjoys the attention. Well, let her be a one-woman show and entertain herself. Who has time for that? Let’s help people who truly desire to make an effort.
It would be different yes but she gave me A LOT of disclaimers before. She was the screw up of the family, her entire life has been a disappointment to her parents etc. She gave me ample disclaimer (which I thought was over exaggeration at the time!)…they’re not exaggerations! She was actually holding back.
Now she does have a very big safety net in a trust so her motivation may simply not be there since she knows she will have cared for all her life. The whole shirtsleeve to shirtsleeve thing is kicking in in real time in front of our eyes!
Your friend reminds me too much of my rich Asian friends too. I always try to educate them on how to spend their money more wisely and ask them questions like “What if your parents are not around one day, what would you do?” and the response is always “Don’t care, they will leave me with their money… No comments!
I’ve heard that too, not from Soap, but she told me the other day – one of her friends stole her parent’s money and the parents had to sue their kid. Sooooooooooooooooooo messed up.
A) I am quite a bit older than you, but I love your blog and sense of humor
B) I understand doing something stupid, but she is 30 years old now. It is time to grow up.
C) I had a friend who did get her inheritance. Guess what? She blew through over a million dollars in a little over a year and is broke with no more inheritances.
D) Those are the ugliest shows I have ever seen. Sell them on Ebay and buy some groceries. Ugh!
Thank you for A =) totally makes my day! I’ve been telling Soap my feelings of B for a while now. She’s 30 something now, I know it’s rude to say to a friend but she’s a good sport about it. Soap has about 5 million in a trust for now – maybe a lot later, maybe nothing since it’s all up to her parents! AND I agree with D completely hahaha. They don’t last very long either, maybe 1 or 2 years according to Soapy.
I think we’ve all known people whose spending habits/patterns perplex those of us who are more self-disciplined with finances. I’ve found that most of them just don’t know how to be content with what they have, and they become a bottomless pit trying to fulfill this “need”. I don’t get it…I couldn’t sleep at night. You are a good friend for being there for her and even a better friend for no longer be contributing to the problem.
Thanks Denise 🙂 I *firmly* believe Soap is a good person, smart, sweet, through and through. But she is the instant gratification type. If she can get something now, damn all consequences because she wants it now and won’t settle for anything else. It boggles my mind but one could say her childhood set her up for it.
Maybe with her parents not helping her anymore , she will finally get her s**t together:) They raised her that way and didn’t do her any favor, they are to blame too!
I wouldn’t be too hard on her , she will need a friend more than ever . At some point, she may also be more receptive.
Oh yeah her parents and grandparents are definitely big blames here! I don’t think they did her any favors here! I’m trying to be easy on her because when you’re in an impossible situation…yup.
I think at some point, your friend will have an awakening. There’ll be some sort of trigger and she’ll realize she can’t continue with her current ways. In the meantime, I think you’re being a good friend for listening. I’m sure it’s not easy to hear some of the things she tells you.
You’re right Rody! I think she just got that awakening on Monday after a session with her mom about the future! I’ll update on the next Soapy post!
You are an awesome friend to her Lily by giving advice on her debt situation and really caring about it. Let’s hope at some point Soapy will take action be responsible by paying it down without the help of her parents, that’s a part of being a grown up. Maybe some type crazy financial event or intervention will make her take care of her debt.
I actually know some people that invest their money in these expensive shoes like the Yeezys. The good part about the ‘sneakerheads’ I know is that they buy them online and not have to sacrifice their time by camping outside of a mall and wait for almost a day to buy them.
Haha yup that’s how I do it too! Online is usually cheaper too!
I liked this post so +1000. But never in my life did I want to know what Yeezys are so…minus 1,000,000.
Punch bowl offense.
Hopefully your friend can turn it around but I can’t think of anyone better to take over her parents’ business than you. Get some.
Punch bowl hahahaha love it.
This is actually the second time I’ve heard of the brand “Yeezy”! I saw it mentioned on Instagram (I think Frugal Money Man?) and I had to look it up. I can’t believe those shoes are so expensive. They don’t look very good. Some of them look like shoes you would find in a retirement home.
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early says
This sort of story is EXACTLY why I’m so hesitant when people get so excited about second generation FIRE. Maybe it’s because I’ve known a few Soapys (but not quite as extreme), but they friends we’ve had whose parents have bailed them out in the thousands of dollars never seem to learn how to support themselves / figure out how money really works.
I’m trying to find creative ways to combat the second generation FIRE thing. I should tax my kids hahaha. Soap is very extreme because her grandparents were extreme with the spoilage.
Seems like it’s more about responsibility and basic financial education than anything else. Throwing it away just like that is like, you know, when someone is already hard on drugs and you just take all stuff away saying – now get a job or don’t do this anymore. It’s just not working this way, sadly.
Rohit Joshi says
I have heard a lot of stories about people being in Debt but never really understood their thinking behind actually spending more than they earn while having existing debt