Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm No Financial Superwoman

I have practically raised my 21 year-old cousin. Well, I guess that's inaccurate - my grandparents raised him. But before he could drive, I took him to all the places my grandparents didn't want to go, like band practice, the mall, and the movies. I helped him with his homework. I let him stay at my house when my grandparents were being "mean" to him (i.e. making him clean his room). I might not have raised him, but I definitely like to think I contributed.

Cousin recently moved out on his own. He has a good job (makes much more than I do!) and some seriously bad financial habits. The disadvantage of living with my grandparents is that he grew up very spoiled. I remember him whining at age 14 when my grandmother bought him socks because they lacked a Tommy Hilfiger logo. Walmart socks just would not do. My cousin has owned probably 50 cell phones, has ruined more name brand clothing than I'll ever own, and got a Mazda RX-8 when he turned 16.

So now I'm trying to keep him from committing the same financial sins that I did. I was able to convince him of the importance of saving, especially since his income fluctuates each week. For the most part, he lives on his base salary and puts the rest in savings. I felt like I was really teaching him some Important Life Lessons.

And then he calls to say he needs a truck.

Not just any truck. A specific truck with specific features that is going to cost around $20,000. I just died a little inside when I typed that. He's having a hard time getting financing because of his limited credit, though he does have $7,000 to put down and more than enough income to pay for the truck.

I advised him to pay $7,000 cash for a decent used truck, then save the $500 a month toward the one he wants. He thinks I'm a blithering idiot. "I don't want a used one," he tells me. "I can afford this; why shouldn't I get what I want?"

Because you don't need a flashy vehicle. Because that is an obscene amount of money for something you'll be tired of in a year. Because you could lose your job or get hurt or get sick. Because you're going to pay ridiculous interest if you even get someone to loan you money. Because you are 21 years old and not responsible enough to adjust your spending to compensate.

In the end, there isn't a lot I can say. He's an adult, as hard as it is to see him that way, and he has to learn on his own. I don't know why people (including me) refuse to take advice in the areas where it matters most. I could save him so much stress. My dad tried to do the same thing when I was making financial mistakes, but for some reason humans seem hard-wired to ignore the most important and well-intended advice.

As much as I love my cousin, I can't don a mask or an awesome cape and save the day. I can only be there when he is ready to listen, and unfortunately, if he's like me, that day won't come until it's too late. Sigh.

Update: He bought the truck. My grandfather cosigned to save him from 24% interest. *headdesk*


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