How Much Did This Election Really Matter?

We just experienced a big day for the United States. Throughout the country people cast votes for new laws and elected officials, including the president. Common people electing officials….it brings up a question: does this mean anything to your overall plan?

For my friends Tim and Kathy, you wonder. They have two young children and make $85k per year. According to them, they have credit card debt of around $6,000. They don’t save, although they could. When we piece together their financial picture, there’s a clear pattern:

 

Credit Cards:

 

They love high end restaurants.

“Why?” I asked when we were playing games together one night. Kathy asked me if I could find her a lower rate credit card and handed me their latest bill.

“We eat dinners out because we work hard all day. We’re both absolutely fried when it comes time to make dinner,” Kathy replies. “It doesn’t make sense to be tired all night so we’re tired the next day at our job. Everybody’s had enough, so we head for a nice meal out. We’re happy sharing our day together instead of slaving over prepping a meal.”

That sounds nice, until you read the bottom lines: $48, $53, $79.

“We try to stay away from alcohol during those meals,” Tim quips. “That helps keep the price down.”

Down?

Further down the bill, I see department store shopping.

“It makes it so much easier to get the stuff at one place. Saves us time,” Tim explains.

“I hate shopping,” Kathy says defensively.

 

Utilities

 

Tim has an addiction: sports. They have the MLB network package that allows them to see every game in the league each night.

Cost? $120.

Each weekend during the fall, he’s watching several games, courtesy of NFL Sunday ticket.

“It’s for my league,” he says. “I’m in this fantasy football thing. $100 to get in. If I finish in the top three I at least get my money back. Then he points to the television remote. “If I win, it pays for about three years of this.”

Cost? $140.

Has he ever won?

“This is the year!” he smiles.

 

House/Lawn Work

 

When I drive by their house, a team of high school age kids is cleaning their lawn. I asked Tim about it at a party we were both attending. “The kids needed the work. It was nice. They came to the house and asked. It’s only $20 a week. Saves me all that time….and gas.”

Speaking of gas….they live in the country. “No high city taxes.” Both Tim and Kathy commute over 20 miles to work. They must spend a couple hundred dollars in gasoline a week.

On my personal Facebook account, Tim made his politics known leading up to the big vote. “We’ve gotta get the President out of office. He’s costing this country dearly. We can’t afford four more years.”

I think there’s a bigger question: Can Tim and Kathy last four more years whether the President won or not?

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Author: Average Joe

A 16 year veteran of the financial planning and financial media circus. Lover of hamburgers and ice cream.

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33 Comments

  1. Amen brother! I heard another story just like that from my coworker yesterday. His friend was saying the same thing about Obama. Of course, they bought a new jag, went overseas twice, and his wife got a boob job among other things.

    No matter who wins, the president is not going to make or break your personal finances. (If he could, that would make him king, not president.) You are the only one who can control your own spending and saving habits. Nobody else can do it for you.

    BTW – I’m not sure if I should apologize or be given a high-five for saying boob job on your site. Ooops, I just did it again! (Good grief, I’m totally immature.)
    Greg@ClubThrifty recently posted..Election Day: Do We Really Have a Choice?My Profile

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    • Apologize for not finishing it off with a picture of the offending material….that’s what a real friend would do.

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  2. Your friends are still on The Nile. How do you see the progress of their finances, steady deterioration until eventual BK, or a sudden implosion?

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    • I’m slow. It took me about 1/2 the day to realize where “The Nile” actually was (in this instance). Nothing to see here….move along…..

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  3. Your friends will be worse off in four years if they keep spending like this, whoever wins today! I never felt that a government had a big impact on my finances, only when we changed to the Euro currency, life became much more expensive because people rounded up. Otherwise, I can do much more for my finances than my government. Unless the implement mandatory financial education in high school or something.
    Pauline recently posted..November goals and October goals reviewMy Profile

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  4. Great story, Joe. The thing most people don’t realize is that we have control over our own destiny. If Obama wants to tax the daylights out of me…he can…and I’ll still get ahead. If Romney wants to take away all of my deductions…I’ll still get ahead. Saying that, it IS important that everybody votes for the candidate they think will best serve this country and get us back on the proper footing. :)
    Jason @ WorkSaveLive recently posted..Recipe: Corn Chowder with ChiliesMy Profile

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  5. Haha – I have MLB.tv and Sunday Ticket. But hey, I was runner up 2 years in a row in Fantasy Football (this year? Fighting to stay out of the basement…). The fantasy baseball team has been middling – I keep picking Cy Young winners, but I can’t crack the top 3.

    Already voted in a state where it probably won’t make a difference!
    PK recently posted..Election Live Blog: 11/6/2012 Presidential ElectionsMy Profile

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    • Don’t out yourself, PK. I wanted to just write “PK” but decided “Tim” might disguise it.

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  6. I so agree. So many people feel like they can blame the results of their bad financial habits on the president. (Who is alone in making fiscal policy, apparently?)

    In regards to the president not mattering, the boyfriend watched some movie called Obama Deception. It’s all about the oligarchy and the last president actually voted in by the people being JFK and that’s why they shot him, etc. Now I “have” to watch it. So I think that’s what we’ll be doing tonight after they announce who won.
    femmefrugality recently posted..Lifestyle Carnival 27th Edition: Holiday StressMy Profile

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  7. Funny thing is we hear this type of commentary all the time. Many people don’t realize that changing the president wont have any real bearing on your finances if you are always spending what you bring in, this week we may go to a cheaper restaurant than when Obama was in office. When you finally try to reign in your finances will you learn realize how much uncle sam is taking from you. I think the majority of people just run their mouths and gibberish comes out…and they do not have any idea what this or that president does to their take home pay.
    Christopher @ This that and the MBA recently posted..Essential Bankruptcy FactsMy Profile

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  8. Isn’t it easier to blame someone else instead of making changes and altering the way we do things?

    We all know that with a few adjustments to their lifestyle it wouldn’t take them very long to pay off $6K.

    The thing is that the $6K isn’t bothering them enough to make serious changes. It just gives them something to whine about.
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..10 Ways to Boost Your ProductivityMy Profile

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  9. Woahh! That makes me jump out my skin to read that people spend so much on eating out! I just cannot justify it… I end up sitting in a restaurant working how much it would cost for me to make it at home!
    Savvy Scot recently posted..The Benefits and Risks of ContractingMy Profile

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    • Great minds, Brent, great minds….

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  10. No matter who wins, it always comes down to making sure you take care of yourself first. You can’t expect someone else to solve ALL your problems. Sure who we vote for has some affect on our lives, but I think we have more power in ourselves.
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..Paying for ConvenienceMy Profile

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  11. I have a theory that many people who loudly proclaim their political choice actually want their candidate to lose. That way they can blame al their problems on the candidate they didn’t support. I think that is one of the biggest problems in our society is that no one takes any personal responsibility. Too fat? I have a thyroid problem. No retirement? My bills are too high as they smoke their cigarette and check twitter on their iphone. Living in America means you can make any choice you want, but if you make a bad one, don’t blame the President.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Rental Property Series: Let’s Drink to Having TenantsMy Profile

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  12. Although this are changes government may make that can affect us individually, it is all up to the individual. The last time government did something that has had a long term effect was 1986 tax change.
    krantcents recently posted..How Do You Prepare for the Unexpected?My Profile

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    • Those had MASSIVE implications. I was still dealing with those in the late 90′s with clients.

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  13. Tim and Kathy are “indulge ourselves because we deserve it” folks. When mid life and later rolls around and they have no savings or investments and those yummy meals are long gone, they will wish they’d saved a bit more!!
    Barbara Friedberg recently posted..WEALTH IN LIFE; GIVEMy Profile

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  14. Like most presidential elections, I don’t think we’ll know how much this one will cost us until several years down the road. That’s true especially when analyzing the Affordable Health Care Act. A lot of the provisions don’t even go into effect until 2018.
    JW @ AllThingsFinance recently posted..Betting On The Presidential Election: IntradeMy Profile

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  15. Haha! I laugh because I had this exact conversation with a friend last night. We were talking politics waiting for election results and then that very thought occurred to me. Does it even matter? People are in trouble because they cant’ stop spending, they can’t stop pulling out their credit cards, they can’t stop taking out loans on houses and cars they can’t afford… I’m not sure this problem is a political thing so much as an ‘instant gratification’/'i deserve it’ American mentality thing. Obama, Romney, someone else… it doesnt’ matter, we as Americans gotta get our finances in order, personally! And ditch the instant gratification mindset!
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..What Do You Do When You Smell Marijuana?My Profile

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  16. I’ve never met, spoken to, or seen in person either President Obama or Romney. It doesn’t make sense to me how I could blame one of them for my financial issues. However, I have met you, Joe, and you claim to a free financial advisor, so regardless of the fact that you’ve never been my financial advisor, I think I’ll blame you next time I look at my credit card statement and realize how much we’ve spent eating out. ;-)
    You good with that?
    shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet recently posted..Using Halloween Candy as a Distraction from PoliticsMy Profile

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    • Wow! Time to leave the blog already? I’d love to be responsible, but gotta go……

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  17. It’s so easy to look for external reasons why the family finances are in shambles. But the fact is that No president will fix their spendthrift ways. They should try some freezer meals. They can prep them on the weekend and then not worry about cooking during the week. i do hope they can get their spending under control.
    Mandy @MoneyMasterMom recently posted..Slaying the Grocery Bill DragonMy Profile

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  18. Tim would be better served to read free blogs and websites for his fantasy sports advice rather than wasting time and money to watch all those games on TV. This is exactly what I did to dominate my Fantasy Nascar league the past couple of years.

    Other than that, the election absolutely matters, no matter which way it goes. They all matter. But the ramifications that result are mostly out of the control of the average citizen.
    Matthew Allen recently posted..Why You Should Avoid Credit Card Debt as a Young AdultMy Profile

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