Rejecting Expensive Christmas Gifts: Admirable or Insulting?

Expensive Salvatore Ferragamo WalletI’ve got a habit that drives a close friend nuts. She always buys me an assortment of Christmas presents every year, and every year I end up returning at least one of her gifts because it is way too expensive.

This year she got me a $390 wallet by Ferragamo (picture). I used to have a Ferragamo wallet three years ago, but it got lost or stolen in a tennis locker room one day. I was so mad because the wallet was a present and also very expensive.

I’m not into name brand items, although I do appreciate well crafted things. Quality, not quantity is something I’ve learned to cherish the older I get. For the past two years I’ve been happily using a $30 Fossil wallet everywhere I go. If I lose it, no big deal. My friend wanted to treat me since she knows how little I treat myself (she’s read my entire Budgeting & Savings category).

When I opened the present, my immediate thought was, Sweet! But this wallet could feed a lot of starving kids. Gotta return it.

My friend could sense my desire to return the wallet so she made a preemptive blurt, “No! You aren’t going to return this gift! If you return it, you will make me very sad!

The last thing I want to do is make a thoughtful person sad. But at the same time, $390 is a damn lot of money for a wallet! I don’t want to be one of those folks who totes around luggage that costs more than the items inside. My Fossil wallet has been working just fine. No, it won’t get looks from the ladies when I whip it out to pay the bill, but who cares when I’ve got a sexy smile?

I began to rationalize with my friend why she would feel sad if the wallet was returned. I told her, “Is it because you feel bad facing the sales clerk?

She immediately said, “No, it’s not that at all. I just want you to want to have it! I enjoy giving you something I know you’ll like and use. You always return my presents!

I told her I appreciate her thoughtfulness, but the cost is just too much for me to accept. I bought her a gift worth roughly $125. The only way I would feel OK is if I bought her a present of equal or greater value. But then the cycle would never end until we both go broke!

The best solution to our gift giving quandary is to stop giving each other gifts. I stopped exchanging gifts with my parents and adult relatives long ago. Instead we just go out for lunch or dinner when we’re in the same city and fight over the bill. I would propose the same to my friend, but she just loves giving and receiving gifts. It’s been a part of her upbringing. It wouldn’t feel right to ask her to change.

The second best solution is to present the situation to all of you and ask what would you do if you were me? She earns an above median income for San Francisco, but is not rich. If she was a multi-millionaire or had a huge trust fund I honestly wouldn’t feel as bad.

She says the gift makes her happy, but the gift makes me feel guilty. So wouldn’t logic dictate she should return the gift if she wants me to feel good as well? I also get a thrill out of returning things because it feels like I am or my gift giver is saving money. And we all know that saving money makes us happier!

Have you guys ever rejected gifts or asked the giver to return the item because it cost too much? How did you go about rejecting the gift while demonstrating your appreciation without making the gift giver feel bad? What type of compromise did you make?

Average Inheritance Amounts By Country: Have You Had The Talk With Your Parents Yet?

Average Inheritance Amounts By Country ChartIf there’s one topic more uncomfortable than discussing how much money you make or where babies come from, it’s the topic of inheritance. Talking about inheritance just feels wrong due to the greed it connotes and the finality of it all. But 100% of us will die, and 100% of us should be thinking about how we should give our assets away in an equitable manner. The best withdrawal rate in retirement doesn’t touch principle so we can ensure there’s money left over for others.

Dave’s post on taking care of his 97 year old grandmother got me thinking about a curious outcome that may occur. No matter how much love and time Dave gives his grandmother, her irrevocable trust will likely stay the same. Most of her assets will likely go to her son, Dave’s father who has financial issues of his own, and then her grandchildren. I’m sure grandmother appreciates all of Dave’s efforts. But at the age of 97, there’s no changing the will/trust to reward Dave for all his hard work during her most difficult years.

I’ve never had the inheritance talk with my parents because to discuss such things feels like extremely poor taste. Besides, they should have decades of healthy living ahead of them.

Thinking about inheritance is similar to how folks under 40 think about Social Security. There might be something in the end, but nobody counts on it. The only people who seem to talk about inheritance are super wealthy families with family businesses succession plans or people who are financially struggling and have no shame to ask their parents for more.

NO EXPECTATIONS SINCE COLLEGE

Personal Finance Advice For Couples: When One Partner Isn’t Interested In Finances At All

Divorce Rate Declining

Source: StateOfOurUnions.org

The following is a guest post from reader, Erin Opalek. Erin is a married 30-something saver who engages in synchronized saving and other questionable leisure sports. 

Over the years, I’ve had a bunch of married friends express a desire to get their personal finances in order. Pretty much everyone agrees that financial uncertainty is stressful, and following a plan is a great remedy for that stress. So what’s the biggest obstacle I’ve heard about getting started? Surprisingly, it’s not that one person is a buy-like-you’re-dying-tomorrow wastrel. Instead, it’s usually been the fact that one partner hates the thought of even talking about money. So how does a couple tackle their finances when only one half is interested?

It’s a question that I’ve pondered a lot lately. Because, here’s the deal: while I think personal finance is neat-o, it’s not really my husband’s cup o’ tea. But we’ve been able to stick to a financial plan, save a ton of money, and never worry about how to pay for expensive surprises like that furnace that crapped out on us a few years ago. How have we made it work? How did we get here?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

The Stealth Wealth Compendium Of Useful Phrases To Deflect Attention

Invisible Man Memorial Ralph EllisonThe Rise of Stealth Wealth is here to stay as long as there’s an ever growing government and widening income inequality. It’s only a matter of time before enormous social unrest wipes the country clean of the wealthy like a tsunami. “Be rich, act poor,” is a mantra to protect our families and our finances.

The people who are ruining it for the rest of us with their “look at me” attitudes all have one thing in common: insecurity. Psychiatrists point to the need for people to overcompensate in order to prove they are not failures based on educational or socioeconomic “deficiencies.” There’s always a story behind each target-basking person. We should reach out to help, which in turn helps others survive.

I’ve provided specific reasons for why you want to join the Stealth Wealth movement along with 15 suggestions on how to blend in better. Now I’d like to propose some common phrases we can use in every day conversation to help deflect attention away from the curious and envious.

There’s a fine line between being modest, and being obsequiously modest. If people can tell your false modesty, you’re no better off than telling them you are the bomb shit.

USEFUL PHRASES TO DEFLECT YOUR WEALTH AND SUCCESS

The Rise Of Stealth Wealth: Ways To Stay Invisible From Society If You Have Money

Invisible Man in Boller HatBecoming wealthy has never been easier in America thanks to quantitative easing, improved financial education, an improving economy, a widening safety net, and a bull market in stocks and real estate. Surviving as a wealthy person on the other hand, has never been tougher. The government goes after you if you make much more than $200,000 a year (medicare tax, AMT, deduction phaseout, credit eliminations, education tax, etc). If the government doesn’t get you, regular citizens will. Who did you cheat or rob to get to where you are? This is a real problem for those who want to make it big in the land of dreams and hand guns.

Freedom is one of America’s greatest attributes. Yet, if you go too far on the income curve you’ll start feeling like a prisoner to society. Despite the rich giving more to charity in one year than many others will give in their lifetimes, people will protest their wealth and hate them forever. Class warfare is no fun, even if you do have the financial means to own a bazooka.

Most readers here are ambitious folks who want to improve their financial health. In a recent survey about whether there is a correlation between the number of credit cards one owns and net worth, a good 22% of you indicate net worth amounts over $500,000. Another 13% of you have a net worth of between $250,000 – $500,000. Those are great figures for the average reader age of between 27-34. In another 10 years, I’m sure everybody is going to be that much wealthier. But once you get to where you are going, you’ll wonder what’s next. Never lose site of the fact that it’s really the journey to financial independence that’s most rewarding.

When society turns their back on you for being successful, just recollect on all your struggles and take a deep breath. Be proud of your accomplishments because you know you’re not just doing it for yourself, but for your family as well. You don’t have to be ashamed for not being the dumb ass in high school who thought it was cool to skip class every week to smoke weed. You shouldn’t feel bad that you worked summer internships during college while your buddies went off to play. And you should certainly not feel embarrassed by your frugal habits and smart investments once you found a job.

Unfortunately, society has a fantastic way of discrediting your achievements. “Nobody is self made,” and “You didn’t build that,” are my two favorite retorts. Just try taking yourself completely out of the equation and see where that logic goes when there’s nobody to think, dream, and execute. When you are outnumbered, resistance is futile. You must blend in and rage with the rest of them. Or you can Go John Galt to protest government waste.

With the below suggestions you’ll be able to better walk amongst the shadows without fear of retribution any longer. Your family will be more guarded from bullies lurking to recondition your children every chance they get. Once you finish reading this post, never speak of its matters beyond your immediate family and friends again. We’ve got to protect our own little community on the web.

Should I Ask Someone For Their Credit Score Before Getting Into A Serious Relationship?

Average Credit Score By Age ChartA very good friend of mine will only marry a woman with at least a Master’s degree from a top 25 school. Given less than 10% of the western world has a Master’s degree, it’s kind of curious why he’d want to limit his pool of mates given he’s still single at 35 years old. The answer is that he has a Doctorate in Medicine from Columbia and a cardiology fellowship from Cornell.

As any good friend should, I’ve made fun of him for years for being so picky. He’d always retort, “Look Sam, I’m a catch! If a woman wants to date me, they’ve got to be up to snuff.” He’s hilarious and I love him for it! I could never quite understand his insistence for a highly educated woman until I finally got an 805 on my credit score this summer. (How To Improve Your Credit Score To 800+)

The difference between an 805 credit score and a 770 credit score is negligible. You still get the best rates by lending institutions who gladly open up their coffers. But to go from a high 700s level to over 800 takes years. The process feels like plate tectonics where land moves only one inch a year. So being the very honest person that I am, I suddenly started thinking questions such as:

“Should I figure out someone’s credit score before I marry them?” 

“Should I set a minimum credit score limit for a woman I plan on dating?”

“Should I raise my minimum credit score hurdle rate for prospective tenants to 760 from 720?”

“Can I fully trust someone with my financials if s/he has under a 700 credit score?”

“Will TransUnion send me a framed copy of my credit score if I ask?”

I’m suddenly an arrogant bastard! I went through some very similar thoughts after I finished business school as well. Suddenly, everybody without an MBA didn’t seem as smart, especially my bosses who just had undergraduate degrees and not even CFA designations. Despite my more experienced bosses bringing in more revenue to the firm, I mentally discounted their achievements. The air of superiority only lasted for a couple months before I returned to a normal cog in the wheel. (Should I Get An MBA To Find A Wealthy Husband Or Wife?)

The more you achieve, the higher your expectations of others. I kind of feel sorry for children of very wealthy parents, brilliant entrepreneurs, celebrities, or double PhDs.

EVERYTHING IS A SCREENING MECHANISM

Feeling Down And Out In This Perfect World

Frowning French Bulldog On A LeashYou can’t deny how someone feels. They just do and you’ve got to accept it. Maybe the color blue looks different between two people. We’ll never know because we can only know ourselves.

I started this site as a way to deal with the agony of the financial meltdown in 2008-2009. I needed to find a way to let the pain escape in a healthy way. Drugs and booze were not an option although tempting they were.

This site has always been about introspection. To understand why we think the way we think. To understand our inconsistencies. To talk about issues that are on so many people’s minds but cannot be publicly discussed due to fear of persecution.

Since my very first post over four years ago I’ve been able to reconcile the stupidity of my multitude of financial mistakes. I’ve met many friends online who are also on uncertain paths to financial independence. We’ve shared victories and defeats, but I thought there would be more people like me who fear being alone, going broke, or being a failure to our family. Lately, I feel like I’m the only loser around.

THE PERFECT WORLD FULL OF PERFECT PEOPLE

My Fear Of Becoming A Father

The Kiss At Bay 2 Breakers SF

“The Kiss” At Bay 2 Breakers SF

Some of you have privately inquired what’s gotten into me lately, writing so many relationship type posts. The simple answer is that I’m petrified about being a father. More specifically, I’m worried that I am going to be a horrible father to a daughter. Women are complicated enough. To add a daughter into the mix is absolutely terrifying.

I can imagine my teenage daughter coming home one day crying because her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. I turn to her mother, “Honey, I’ll be right back. I need to go break some bones.”

No matter what I say, she won’t come out of her room so I begin to wonder whether she’s OK. Her heartbreak is my heartbreak. And as a father, I know she will tell me that I just don’t understand what she’s going through.

All I can do is be patient and be there for her when she finally opens up. In the meantime, I pray to God she’s doing nothing to hurt herself. I also pray these are the times when her mother will be able to calm her soul and ease her pain. Feeling helpless to help someone you love is horrible.

I want my daughter to find the love of her life early on and never break up. I want her to be brilliant, beautiful, and happy. By the time she graduates from college, I hope society treats men and women perfectly the same. Let there not be arcane tax laws, pay differentials, and old boys clubs with glass ceilings. I hope she never experiences tremendous loss.

Perhaps I overanalyze things too much. There are millions of fathers who manage just fine. But I’m the student who never believes he’s smart enough to finish an exam with 30 minutes to spare so I check every single answer twice over. My friends say that nobody will ever truly be ready for fatherhood. I know they are right so I continue to write and hope that one day I will better understand.

For those of you who are fathers of daughters, or parents in general, how did you prepare? Where were expectations about parenthood different from reality? What were some things that really came out of left field which left you completely dumbfounded? For those of you with multiple kids, how do you do it?

Thanks,

Sam

In Defense Of Resourceful Women – Let’s Fix The Double Standard

"He said he'd love me tenderly"

“He said he’d love me tenderly”

In “If You Were Broke Would You Settle For Someone Less Than Ideal,” poor Amanda was destined to fail in comparison to six figure earning Victoria the way I wrote the comparison. I didn’t do a good enough job painting Amanda’s situation as a woman who was just getting over heart break and not looking for anything serious. It was easy for readers to paint Amanda as the villain for accepting financial assistance from a potential suitor.

Despite my own admission that I, too, would settle for someone in exchange for financial assistance, it was interesting to see 100% of the assault go to Amanda and not myself. Spend some time reading the comments. Perhaps it’s easier to look down upon a stranger rather than a familiar host. But what I hypothesize is that there is a HUGE double standard between men and women that cannot easily be eradicated.

It’s easy for those of us in good relationships or those who have money to dismiss settling for money and someone when we really can’t say! It’s like a billionaire telling us we should all pay more taxes while he continues to pay a 15% effective tax rate due to most of her income coming from long term dividends. Please don’t judge others if you aren’t in their shoes.

Now that you know the true goal of the “If You Were Broke” post to highlight double standard attitudes between men and women, I’d like to craft an argument as to why it’s OK to be a resourceful person. In the future, I’d like for all of you who love to criticize people about their choices to consistently criticize everybody all the time. Equality for all!

THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING RESOURCEFUL

How To Get A Rich Man To Be Your Boyfriend Or Husband

"She said she'd never let me go."

“She said she’d never let me go.”

Out of the 140 million tax returns filed in the United States every year, about 1.4 million make an adjusted gross income of over $380,000 a year. Now imagine if there were 1.4 million undead zombies roaming the country. They’d be everywhere!

Most would agree that a top 1% income is rich wherever you live. However, some will say you’re just middle class if you’ve got to pay for private school tuition in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Paris, and London! Given it is one of our mantras to always describe ourselves as middle class, being called financially average is a blessing.

Regardless of what your true financial definition of rich is, your mission if you choose to accept is to lock down one of the 1.4 million+ rich people the IRS knows about to marry you. The one tautology about money is that once you have money, you don’t worry as much about not having money. And when you worry less about money, you get to fight more about all the other joys in a relationship.

This article will provide some insights into how single men with over $380,000 a year in income or net worths of over $1 million dollars think about women and marriage. Once you understand such a man’s fears and hopes, you are well on your way to living the good life!

HOW GOOD RICH MEN THINK