“OK just stand still.“
“OK,“ 30 something dad stood still.
“Now, just let me strep this onto your back just like this. OK, now I’m going to fuse the front straps together so that it will be impossible to ever take this off. Good, now we are ready to move on to the next stage.“
“I’m not sure I like the way this sounds but you seem to know what you’re talking about. So I guess you know what’s best for me?“ 30 something dad asked.
“Of course I do.“
“And who are you again?“ 30 something dad asked.
“I am no one of consequence. Now, turn around so I can start loading up this backpack. The concept here is not necessarily to fill the entire backpack. It’s more about weight. What we are trying to do is make sure that you are weighed down enough so that you could not possibly swim.“ No one of consequence said.
“I am the kind of guy who goes all out. Fill it up. Why exactly do you want to make sure that I could not swim with this on?“
“Oh, that is the question, isn’t it?“ He drop something into the backpack. 30 something dad could feel the weight but wasn’t quite sure what it was. A textbook? A large rock? Possibly even a fat cat. “You’ve definitely got the right spirit. Let me see how much I can fit in here and I will try to make sure that everything has the maximum possible weight.“
“I am sure this is supposed to signify something but I guess that is what I am supposed to learn from this object lesson.“
“No, I just want to make sure that you are weighted down enough that you can’t swim.“ No one of consequence made sure to reiterate.
“You keep saying that. I’m not sure what that metaphor is supposed to mean,” 30 something dad said. He felt several more objects drop into the backpack.
“Well, some people are content to wade in slowly and get used to the water while filling up their backpack casually. It’s a much more subtle approach and they tend to slowly overwhelm themselves. You have already taken a different approach and since we know there is no way out with your approach, might as well go all in.“
“OK,“ thirtysomething dad agreed half heartedly. Several more objects dropped into the backpack until he could no longer move his feet off of the floor of the helicopter. They were hovering over a large body of water which made him wonder even more about the comments about not being able to swim. “So, when you say you don’t want me to be able to swim, you’re not talking about that big lake down there with the steam coming up off of it, are you?“
“Yes, of course I am. What else would I be talking about?” No one of consequence said as he shoved 30 something dad out of the helicopter and into the water. A wave of hot steam washed over his body before 30 something dad crashed into the scalding water. His body burned as he sank below the surface and landed just a few feet below. Even as shallow as it was, the backpack weighed too much for him to swim back to the surface which was apparently the whole point.
After a few minutes of flailing his arms and scrambling to get his feet underneath of him, 30 something dad stood up only to find that his face just barely cleared the surface of the water. Immediately after taking in his first breath of air, he let it back out as a scream for help. Through burnt eyes he saw several other men and women standing around at various levels of depth but no one seemed anxious to help or even respond quickly.
“Oh, hey there, buddy,“ a slightly larger gentleman called from off to the side.
“Help me. I can’t swim. I’ve got this backpack strapped on me and they filled it with something. I don’t know what it is but it’s too heavy. I can’t move.”
“How’s it going there bud? You must be new here. My name’s Bud. Is it ok if I call you Bud?”
“That might get confusing,” 30 Something dad commented. He could barely keep his mouth and nose above the water to breathe and talk. If Bud hadn’t sounded so calm about the situation, dad might have started to panic but even everyone else seemed content to stand in the scalding liquid.
“Oh, that don’t matter. This whole thing confuses the crap out of me anyway. So how long are you in for?“ Bud asked.
“How long? I need to get out of here now. I’m going to drown. I can’t last more than a few moments in here.”
“Whoah, wait a minute. You sound like a ten yearian. What are you kind of crazy? Go thirty. That’s what everybody else does. They say you might end up paying more in the end but I don’t do numbers.“
“What kind of work do you do?“ 30 something dad asked
“I can’t stand this. This water is too hot and I can barely keep my head above water. I don’t know if I can keep breathing. I’m standing on my tiptoes now. If there’s even a ripple in the water it’s gonna go down my trachea.“
“I don’t know anything about a “trachea“ or even what you mean by “tiptoes” but you’ll be fine. You’re in the same situation the last guy that stood there was in. He had a 30 year mortgage and student loan debt with credit card and some other type of debt that didn’t make any sense to me. You’ll be fine.“ Bud said.
“What happened to that guy?“ 30 something dad wasn’t sure he wanted to ask but he couldn’t help himself.
“Hmm, he was just there a few days ago. He’s probably down there at the bottom somewhere.“ Bud smiled.
“Hey Bud, catch,” someone from the edge of the water called out.
“What you got for me, Bud?“ Bud asked.
“It’s a Harley,” Bud from the shore call back. “Go long. This is a big one.“
Bud took a couple steps further out into the water and sunk down to his waist in water. He cringed a little as the hot water burned through his skin and boiled his blood. He caught a miniature motorcycle and immediately stuffed it into his backpack.
“Aren’t you going to ride it?“ 30 something dad asked.
“No time. I’ve got to work to pay it off.“
“Then why did you buy it?“
“It’s a Harley. What kind of question is that. Where is yours?“
“Hey Bud,“ another voice called out from behind. “I heard you got a Harley. Nice. Me too.“
30 something dad slowly turned so as not to let the water flush into his nose and mouth. He saw the other voice owner, another middle-aged man or at least his head. This one was standing further in the water with obviously more in his backpack. He didn’t seem bothered by the heat or the depth of the water either.
“You guys are deeper in the water and waited down even more. You don’t have time to play with your new toys since you have to work all the time to pay them off. It’s a vicious cycle that’s only going to get us in more and more hot water. We’ve got to get out. We can do this if we work together,” TSB said.
“I’m not gonna give you any money, Bud,“ Bud said. “I’m barely getting by as it is. This ain’t no hippie, liberal, socialist society lake, alright? We watch fox new down here.”
“Why do people keep saying that to me? I don’t mean give each other money. I don’t want some type of welfare system. That’s what’s wrong with this country.”
“Now, hold on just a minute, that’s my retirement plan.” Bud said.
“What I meant was we can help each other be accountable for spending habits. Share ideas on debt reduction and side hustles for more income.“
“Now, listen to you. accountability? Debt reduction and side hustles. You better watch your language. I’ve already worked too hard. I deserve nice things. If I can afford it, I should get it. It’s not like I’m renting an apartment or something. I’ve got a mortgage which means that I am paying some on the principal, therefore eventually I will be set for retirement. I will own my house. I can get a reverse mortgage and live off of the equity for at least a good five years and that should pay for my medical bills during retirement for at least a year.“ Bud said.
“Hey Bud,“ Bud from the shore called out. “I got another one for you.“
30 something dad couldn’t watch anymore. He tried to take a step. The weight in the backpack was too much and he couldn’t even lift his feet off the bottom of the pond. He knew he had to get rid of the weight before he swim, before he could get out of the hot water. If only he could flip over and dump everything out but things just don’t work that way. He couldn’t take the backpack off. The only option was to make a hole and try to get some of the weight out.
Luckily he hadn’t cut his fingernails for a while. 30 something dad started scratching at the bottom of the backpack. At first it didn’t do any good. After a while it still wasn’t doing any good and after quite a while it still wasn’t doing it good.“There’s got to be a better way,“ he told himself. Off to his left he saw Bud stepping further into the water and loading more items into his backpack. Off to the right the other Bud was doing the same. They were both about neck deep in the water now and talking about their next big purchase. 30 something dad kept scratching at the back pack.
His fingers grew raw and he knew for certain he didn’t have any finger nail left on any of his digits. Then something miraculous happened. Almost nothing came out of the backpack and fell into his hand. It was almost nothing but it was something. The backpack didn’t feel any lighter and 30 something dead still wasn’t able to move any further into shallower water but almost nothing had come out. It was almost encouraging. He kept scratching.
Almost nothing happened again and then it began almost happening at almost regular intervals. Finally after the opposite of before he knew it, almost nothing had grown into a very little something.
Nothing happened suddenly and 30 something dad was conscious of every little change now. After quite some time, he had his head fully above water. The backpack still weighed him down but he could breathe with a little more ease. Then Bud from the shore called to him.
“Looks like you’re ready for another one. Just something small. How about a laptop or an tablet.” Bud from the shore called out.
“No thanks,” 30 something dad answered.
“How about a MacBook or an iPad.”
“Oh, well, maybe.”
“Here you go, you can finance both for two years and …”
“Oh, no thanks. I have an old one in my backpack and I didn’t even finance that one. I think I’m good.”
“Well you need a new phone,” bud called out.
“No, I’m good.”
“How about a new iPhone?”
“Oh, well, maybe.”
“Alright. Now your talking. And you can still keep your head above water, sort of.”
“But I was starting to make some progress. Maybe I should wait.”
“Why wait. Buy today and pay tomorrow. Don’t worry, if you get in over your head there’s still bankruptcy,” bud suggested.
“Watch your language. Besides, most of mine is student loan debt.”
“Oh, well your screwed anyway. Might as well go all in,” bud demanded.
“No thanks,” 30 something dad started scratching again.
“I can get you a loan on anything. 90 days no interest. Wanna finance a new t-shirt?“
“No thanks,“ 30 something dad felt a little more almost nothing come out of the backpack where he was scratching.
“Come on, Man,“ bud from the shore called out.
“Yeah, come on, man,“ bud from over to the left called out in agreement. “How’s the guy supposed to make a living if he can’t trick you into paying him a little extra money so you can have everything you want right now instead of saving up for it.“
“That’s right,” Bud from the shore shouted as he tossed another gazingus pin to Bud over to the left.
“I think you’ll be OK. I think, I will be OK. You, on the other hand, well, I wish I could help you. Maybe someday I can, just not with money.“ 30 something dad stood a little lighter now. It wasn’t much but it was just enough that he could move. He took a few steps to shallower water.
Everywhere around him everyone was catching more weight to stuff into their backpack and stepping deeper into the water. Their movement caused the water to flow in their direction and 30 Something dad walked against it. After a little while his shoulders were above water and the backpack was ever so slightly lighter. He still saw no end in sight but he could imagine it. He could think it. Maybe someday he could think and grow rich but right now all 30 something dad wanted to do was think and grow broke.
Through the sea of consumers he saw another moving in the same direction toward the shore. And then off to the other side another one. He nodded and acknowledgment to them. They all nodded back but never said a word. They still felt the encouragement of each other. They couldn’t change the flow but just their existence gave each other more encouragement to push on.
Just as he was about to end the chapter, 30 something dad saw someone from the shore who’d just emptied his backpack climbing onto a surfboard and filling his backpack back up again. Somethings different this time. He tight strings to the backpack and let it go. It flew up into the air and pulled him along as he kite surfed through the sea of debt.
“It’s called leverage,“ He called out to those walking against the flow.” It’s good debt, investment with other peoples money. Just forget about it for right now. You’ll learn about it in a few chapters.“