Congratulations on Your Debt

we get rewarded for debtThe salesman said it.

The sales manager said it.

The finance lady said it.

Even the insurance company rep said it.

“Congratulations on your new vehicle.”

I wondered if it was part of the post-sale script, part of the plan to eliminate buyer’s remorse.

“Yeah, whatever,” I thought.

“Thanks,” I said.

Congrats seems to make a little more sense when you buy a home, because it is an accomplishment of sorts. After all, not everyone “qualifies” (interesting word which makes it sound like you won something) to borrow so much.

“Congratulations on your new home! You have been deemed worthy of borrowing so much money it will take you decades to pay off according to the plan we’ve laid out for you. When all is said and done you will have paid far more than the listed purchase price. Enjoy. You should go out and celebrate. If there’s still room on your credit card.”

But congrats for a vehicle?

“Congratulations! In ten minutes when you drive away, your vehicle will be worth somewhere between 10 and 25% less than you just paid, depending on how good of a deal you actually got! (But we’re not telling you.) You will then owe more than you can sell it for, and this state of upside-downness will continue for quite some time. Are you sure you don’t want that extended warranty which will add 20% to your cost?”

I heard recently that we have been programmed by marketing to derive pleasure from spending. Hence the concept of “retail therapy.”

In order to be truly successful with money, we need to somehow rewire our brains to derive pleasure from saving, from not spending. (Scottish therapy?)

But no one congratulated me for driving a 15 year old pickup, maintaining zero balance on my credit card or investing an unexpected windfall.

And what gets rewarded is what gets done.

Turns out it’s not just the greatest management principle in the world, it also explains the economy.

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