The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, August 31, 2001

“I want to own nothing, but control everything.”

And yet one more annoying item from todays phone bill. This time it's “Pay by Mouse! And Save a Tree!”

It's not that I'm against saving trees, but I'm noticing a very disturbing trend towards paperless currency. Direct deposit, direct billing, credit cards, even the toll roads now have transponders so you no longer have to stop and toss a few coins into a basket or towards the toll collectors. Every month I get bulletins and news slips extolling the virtues of never having to deal with checks again! Never have to lick those nasty stamps! And heaven forbid your check is lost in the mail!

I want to own nothing, but control everything.

—John D. Rockefeller

I suppose it's a form of Ludditism in me, but I'm comfortable with cash. It's anonymous, and at least it's still tangable, even if it is back only by the full faith in the United States Government.

I've had this conversation with a previous roommate many years ago, and it revolved around my fantasy of buying a car outright with cash (that I was actually able to fulfill two years ago) and that was a very stupid thing to do. It is, if you are filthy rich. If, on the other hand, you're in the lower income brackets or, like me, just really dislike car payments, then paying cash is still the best thing.

But why, if a person could easily afford it, not buy a car (or a house, or, well, anything)? Because that would mean they lose that money! For instance, if you have a spare $40,000.00 laying around (and come on, we all have that problem) then you can easily afford a nice Corvette. But but it outright, and you are out the $40.000.00 in cash you had. But instead, put down about $5,000.00, get the rest on a loan. And since you're obviously wealthy, you get a nice rate, say 7%. Take the $35,000.00 you didn't spend, and if you invest it you can get a rather conservative 20% return on that over the period of your car loan. You end up with one Corvette and $4,550.00 at the end of the car loan, instead of just a Corvette.

Okay, that $4,550.00 will probably be eaten up by insurance costs, but you get the idea. The money that otherwise would have been spent is instead invested and thus the rich get richer. Sweet deal if you can swing it.

One other aspect the very rich do (if they're smart) is to hand all their assets over to a trust, which they run. Any money they give to such a trust is tax deductable, and if you give enough of your income over to the trust, your personal tax liability goes down to nothing! Now, the trust may have to pay taxes, but the trust can do things to decrease its tax liability through business expenses and since you run the trust itself, you give half your income to it, then draw an income from it, and buy everything through the trust and write it off …

Hey, it worked for Nelson Rockefeller, who not only legally didn't have to pay taxes, but was also the unelected Vice President of the United States.

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