Thursday, November 10, 2005

But the home's on a golf course ...

I'm rather surprised that none of the financial blogs I follow have mentioned this story from USA Today:

"With $200k in Debt, Where Do You Start?"

(Or, if they have mentioned it, I missed it completely.)

This might just be the worst "real life family" financial situation I've ever seen brought to light in ANY national paper. And that's saying a lot. The Hetmers have the market cornered on debt and denial — that's for sure.

A few ironies that jumped out at me:

1) They have four kids, and needed a lawn service?

2) Both are real-estate professionals ... who refi'd to interest-only a few years ago and have zero equity in their home.

3) The financial planner suggests that they rent their current house and lease a cheaper one, saying that the couples' real-estate experience could allow them to pull this off. Really? Like it allowed them to do so well on their in-the-red current house and their multitude of other money fiascoes? (We'll not even talk about how their entire existence — jobs and all — relies upon real estate: their jobs, their only decent asset, etc.. Good thing real estate only ever goes up.)

4) They have a timeshare in Hawaii they can't afford to use, and their idea of cutting expenses is dropping their YMCA memberships and newspaper subscriptions.

In the article, the list of financial missteps is seemingly endless. I'd like to respond to a few more items:

  • On why the Hetmers have no home equity: "We don't have any equity because our market is so soft," Debra says.

    Right. Not because you're leveraged to the hilt, anchored to an interest-only refi on a home you can't afford, and living a lifestyle that's in an altogether different universe than are your financial means. "Honey, get the door. It's denial."

  • The Hetmers traded their Ford Expedition SUV for a 2005 Buick Terraza minivan with a 0% interest, five-year loan and better mileage. "With six people, you can't buy a car," Debra says. "They don't fit."

    I'll tell you what doesn't fit: your spending and your income. Because it would be absolutely shameful to purchase a used vehicle for cash. Well ... if they had any cash, I mean. And with that zero-percent auto loan, they're practically getting the car for free, right?

  • She's also considering selling the family's time share in Hawaii. They pay about $400 a month on the time share, plus annual maintenance and taxes.

    Considering? Considering? You don't think USA Today could've made this up, do you? Is anyone really this stupid?

  • Debra Hetmer has looked into swapping homes but wants to stay in her current school district so her children don't have to change schools. So far, she hasn't found a home in the district but says she'll continue to look.

    Guess that answers my last question.

    Interesting aside to this story: A popular internet message board (which shall remain nameless for now) first directed me to this USA Today story. By the time I got to the related message-board thread, it had mushroomed to a ten-page length. The readers of this particular board tend to not be dumb people, nor are they terribly forgiving of stupidity.

    Thanks to the beauty (horror?) of the internet, and of archived web pages, the folks on this particular board had tracked down the address, phone numbers (home and work), and everything else related to the Hetmers. They dug up websites from prior employers, email addresses, you name it. They even found the name and location of the Hetmers' church ... which, appropriately enough, is apparently only too happy to receive prayer requests from its congregation.


    On the one hand, I shake my head at the overwhelming ridiculousness of the Hetmers' current situation. And I also wonder, thanks to the USA Today story, how much worse did their lives just get? Internet roamers and marauders can be relentless.

    (By the way, I'm told that shows the Hetmer household to be located just a short putt from a country club and golf course ... thus the title of this article.)

    Lots of stuff to think about, huh?

  • — Posted by Michael @ 12:03 AM


    Great post!

    It's kind of funny. It's like they think they're smart because they're "realtors". Their actions certainly tell differently.

    Glad it's not me!



    Ugh. That's just inexcusable.


    Missed that one, but you did a much better post than I could have ever done - thanks for the entertainment!


    What message board are you referring to? I'm kinda curious now


    Me too! I looked at the ones you linked to, but couldn't find this particular discussion. :)



    It's a message board that has . . . VARIED subjects. *I* don't care for it, because the people on there tend to be rude and they think they're funny. Lots and lots of trolls. But I guess, on occasion, something legit is posted on those boards.

    I'll leave it to Michael to decide if he wants to share. He's probably worried they'll find out about his website/blog and flood his life with crap (*I* would worry!).


    Anonymous Michael's wife
    , at 9:33 AM, November 17, 2005  

    I'll post the link, but be warned:


    (Cut 'n' paste into your browser. That's actually a URL that redirects to the message board.)


    You know nothing.
    They are not making any new land.
    Tectonic shifts aside, of course.

    Anonymous Anonymous
    , at 11:53 PM, March 21, 2006  

    Here's the original Hetmer thread from the mystery message board. Enjoy.

    Anonymous Anonymous
    , at 10:08 AM, March 22, 2006  
    ** Comments Closed on this Post **

    Thoughts on my personal finances, goals, experiences, motivations, and accomplishments (or lack thereof).

    My financial life began turning around when I took responsibility for it.
    — Dave Ramsey


    Start (2005-12): ~$21,900
    Currently: $0
    [About Our Debt Paydown]


    Savings Goal: $15,000
    Currently: ~$15,115
    [About Our Liquid Savings Goal]