Saturday, November 01, 2008

Save your money. Pay down your debts. Secure your job.

Save your money, pay down your debts and secure your job is the advice financial gurus are giving lately to help us weather the storm in these turbulent economic times. I can't help but think this advice is timeless. I thought of it often while reading Karyn Bosnak's quirky book Save Karyn.

Karyn moves to NYC in May 2000. Over the next couple of years, she racks up $20,000 of debt and loses her job. Ultimately, she becomes a cult figure after soliciting donations from her website Save Karyn, where she asks people to help pay off her debt. Her plea: if 20,000 people each give her $1 she'd have enough money to pay off her entire debt. She also sells most of the stuff she bought incurring the debt on eBay.

How did "Not saving her money, paying down her debts and securing her job,” impact her situation?

Save your money:
Kayrn moved to NYC with virtually no savings. She didn’t even have enough money to make it to her first paycheck, forcing her to take an advance on her American Express card to pay for apartment necessities. Once she started receiving a paycheck, she began a downward spiral of excessive spending and charging; buying furniture for her apartment, designer clothes, expensive makeup, beauty treatments, a health club membership and a weekend summer vacation package she used only once. She didn’t save $1.

Pay down your debts:
She moved to NYC with unpaid balances on her credit cards. When she received her first paycheck she was surprised to see how much money was withheld for taxes. She hadn't budgeted accordingly. Instead of realigning her budget to her actual paycheck, she kept spending and charging. It wasn’t long before she couldn’t keep up with her monthly credit card payments and still pay her rent. She began missing minimum payments, incurring late fees, interest and over limit charges. Eventually, she finds a new job and begins earning over $100,000 a year. Even then, instead of paying down debt she continues her spendthrift ways thinking why shouldn't she, she makes over 100,000 a year.

Secure your job:
She remained in denial that her job was in jeopardy. After September 11th, the job market for TV production in NYC virtually dried up. Ratings for her show were low. New management was brought in; they asked everyone in her department to sign a new, less favorable employee agreement. Refusing, along with her fellow contending co-workers, she was let go. She hadn’t thought this through completely, she now firmly believes if she would have asked for her job back her boss would have given it to her. At the time, however, she didn't like her job and thought she’d be able to find another one within a month. She ended up being out of work for four months, when she finally did find a job it was at a substantially lower salary than what she had been making before.

The results:
She was no longer able to pay her rent and her credit card payments without overdrawing her checking account. She took steps to get control of her finances; consolidating her debt, finding a roommate, canceling her health club membership and even making her own coffee. Not making much progress and feeling overwhelmed she dreamed up the Save Kayrn website and the rest is history.

Overall, based on the subject matter (financial irresponsibility) I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It was filled with financial lessons. My professional organization is planning a workshop to teach financial literacy targeting college sororities. After reading this book, I can’t help but think perhaps they are right; young adult women do need financial literacy training. I know where they should start: Save your money, pay down your debts and secure your job.

1 comment:

  1. I could never get myself to read this book because I was annoyed that anyone actually sent this woman a buck. Talk about rewarding idiocy! But based on your review I might still have to try it...and figure out ways to get people to send ME money!