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"Oh Lord, won't ya buy me a Mercedes Benz..."

Surprises abound in my life these days. I used to call them "annoying changes" but my Buddhist teacher has trained me well; I now call them "surprises."

My wife's latest adventure in income-generating real estate investments is chronicled in the nodegel. I expressed my surprise and shock at the confidence with which she embarked on this latest adventure.

God bless her, she knows the value of a dollar far more intimately than do I. Twenty-five years ago, she'd walk to work from her tiny apartment in lower Manhattan all the way up to 14th Street to save the cost of train fare. She never spent much money at all, tucking it all away. Her first venture into rental real-estate came 4 years before we married. The property has appreciated 328% in value and rents have stayed well ahead of tax, utility and maintenance expenses. The building is now owned outright.
 

Evangelical Economics

Well, back to the matter at hand. It didn't break us to escrow the down payment. The mortgage expense will be deductible against revenues. Interestingly enough, there's another benefit that I didn't realize that we may reap over the next couple of years. The right Reverend Al Sharpton, on the radio the other day, predicted that the United States was going to soon endure not only an economic recession, but a depression the likes of which we've not seen since the early 1930s. Where we come in is that he added that the value of real estate will plummet, as the evil banks foreclose on millions of homes.

I thought it funny he should think banks "evil" or even encourage others to think banks are evil. Hell, I can tell you that a bank is your best friend if you want to buy a home/car/vacation residence/truck/boat and don't have the liquid capital to do so. They'll give you the money and charge you for the use of it until you pay them back. And unless you contract with them otherwise, you are allowed to pay them back faster than they require that you pay them back, effectively stiffing them out of thousands of dollars in interest they'd have otherwise realized (this depends, however, on how the loan is amortized.) And please, before you point out to me the usury of the banks, let me remind you that I'm talking a secured, fixed-rate mortgage loan here; not revolving charge cards nor adjustable rate mortgages nor brokered loans with their points and "origination fees."

And if you think the banks are evil, I can tell you right now to whom to go to get a loan regardless your credit score. The problem is that the term is very, very short; typically a month or so, and the interest (in the vernacular, "vigorish") can top 400%. Oh, and if you don't pay on time, the loan officer comes to your home or your place of employment and breaks one of your kneecaps. Or worse.

Oh, yes, back to my point. should Rev. Sharpton's predictions be correct, we could potentially realize a capital loss on this house at a point in time when it will actually be in our best financial interest to incur such a loss. But then, sadly, any economic predictions made by Rev. Sharpton must be taken with a grain of salt, because I don't recall that he took his graduate degree in economics at The University of Chicago, Baruch College, Georgetown University or any other school of that ilk. He attended Brooklyn College. I'd hazard a guess, though, that the bulk of his knowledge has been garnered from the school of hard knocks. I will concede that he has, somehow, from somewhere, gotten a very, very fine education in public relations.

The other interesting thing about Rev. Sharpton's comments were that they were plagiarized nearly word-for-word from a statement made earlier in the week from one of his peers in the pulpit, The Rev. Jesse Jackson. I heard his mish-mash of speech about how the nation's finances are going to hell in a handbasket. Jackson used to be a great orator. I guess he can't afford a good speech-writer because what I heard him saying was just messed-up. Pointless. "The sky is falling!" kinda fearmongering that really irks me. Up until now, it was my belief that the finest advice about economics a man of the cloth could dispense would be "God giveth and God taketh away." Obviously Al and Jesse have been intelligencing themselves on economics (or so they think) via means more elaborate than the Scripture. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear Alan Greenspan talk about religion?
 

Loss Sucks Sometimes, Even When It Ain't Really Loss

Which brings me to the real point of my whine. My wife sold our beautiful Lexus LX470 SUV to a very nice fellow and his wife. We got a very, very good deal on the vehicle, which I affectionately called "the most expensive car I never drove." She got $11,000 more than we paid for it from these nice folks, who still drove off with a bargain. I asked my wife, "why did you go and do that?! It'll take me a year to find another deal like that from a wholesaler!" Her reply was simple: "we're poor and we need the money. I'll let you drive the minivan more often and I'll drive the Camry."

"Dammit," I squealed like a stuck pig (or a small child guided into the 'no candy' check-out at the supermarket), "I'm gonna buy another truck so help me God." And I jumped up and down and held my breath 'til I turned blue.

Now, we need the money. Not really, but it's gonna help with closing costs and repairs to the house, however.

The "we're poor" part was what really pushed my buttons. I'd heard that from my mother for as long as I can remember. So when handed this Depression-era mentality-speak from wifey it was all I could do to keep my composure. Mom installed the buttons and now my wife's found 'em and she's taking a random stab at 'em without knowing what they do. It took fourteen years of therapy before I started to get over what my mother had etched into me for seventeen years. Apparently the therapy hasn't cured me, yet.

In the 1970s, a guy named William DeVaughan hit the R&B charts with a great groove tune called "Be Thankful For What You Got." I played it twice today so I could gain a new, realistic perspective on where my head is over this whole deal with the money and the cars and my self-esteem.

Just be thankful for what you've got
Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin' the scene
With a gangsta lean
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back

You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you've got

Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh-ooh-ooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh-ooh-ooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin' the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh-ooh-ooh

I drove the Camry home tonight. I stood outside, my breath rising in white clouds in the sub-freezing cold. The glow from inside our house looked warm and cozy. I looked up at the sky as I locked the door and said "thank you."

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