The Road to Riches

2011-12-07 11.04.54 HDRThis is the most money that I’ve ever held in my hand at one time. $10,000. It was a deceptively small stack on $100 bills. A stack of 100 $1.00 bills seems much thicker and heavier.

What would you do with $10,000 cash?

I got to pay the IRS. Again. As I did every year.

Owning a small business, in our case, a Christian school, is very expensive. The federal tax rate was 40%, on top of Social Security and Medicare, both the employer’s and employee’s portions for the owner. But it never seemed like enough. I always owed them between $6k and $10k. I don’t know why. Every year the person who did my taxes came up with something else that I had to pay for.  It wasn’t for a lack of planning, as far as I can tell. I’ve already told you about my experiences with CPAs and “professional” tax preparers (Lions, and Tigers, and Feds. Oh My!). If I’d have had any brains I would have bought Turbo Tax for each of those years and redone the taxes to see where they may have screwed me and I actually overpayed.

The previous year, I had to take a $8k loan on my 401k. The year before that I did some work for my brother-in-law that gave me what I needed.

I asked my wife where we were going to come up with $10k. She said, “It’s sitting in the driveway.”


I loved my Avalanche. It was the first, and only, truck that I’d ever owned. It was my chariot. It had four doors and could carry five people. Or two people and a couple of dogs. The bed had a removable cover so we could shop all over town and fit everything in one vehicle and keep it protected. If I folded down the back seat and the back wall I could fit 18 large buckets full of glass, crystal, silk flowers, and other things we needed to decorate the gymnasium for a graduation reception for over 300 people, along with a bunch of other tables a banquet of that size needs. It took three trips to get everything there. My wife knows how to throw a party. It was big and aggressive looking, and more importantly, my wife loved it too. It had been paid off a year ago and it was really nice not having a car payment.

But all three of us, me, my wife, and my mother-in-law, were having increasing difficulty just getting in and out of the thing. It was seven years old, had 70,000 miles, and never had a problem. I knew I could get top dollar on it as a trade-in. The dealership manager put up a valiant fight, but I walked away with $10,000 and a substantial down payment on a new car.

100_5381.jpgThat Dodge Avenger lasted all of about two years.

It was Christmas Eve 2014. We found ourselves suddenly hosting the family and in order to have everything we needed, a trip to Von’s was necessary. So off my wife went on an errand of culinary mercy.

On the way home, she ran into the rear end of a Dodge Durango with a trailer hitch. Unfortunately, there was a Honda Civic in front of that, both stopped at a stop sign. The Durango looked like it hit a fly in the front and got hit by a rumpled up piece of paper in the back. The back end of the Civic had some obviously preexisting damage. I’m reasonably certain it had no real new damage from that particular crash.

Nobody was seriously hurt. My wife had seatbelt and airbag bruises, but that was the extent of it.

Someone gave me a ride the 5 blocks to where the car sat leaking radiator fluid. The ambulance, fire department, tow truck, and police officer all came and went. We loaded up the groceries and went home.

Where we ended up not using a single thing she went to buy.

Yea, I thought that was pretty funny to.

It took the insurance company three weeks, but they eventually totaled her out. When they finally did, they were talking about a $9,000 settlement. I was dumbfounded. When the adjuster starting outlining the justification for the paltry amount, he stated the car had over 35,000 miles on it. When I corrected him and proved that it had less than 20,000 miles, I got much, much more – $1,000 more than I owed on it, and I was happy.

In truth, the only thing my new car lacks that the Avenger had was the 30 gigabyte hard drive that  had all my music on. Fortunately, I had that backed up. A word to the wise for anyone considering an Avenger. Unless they change the design a bit, visibility through the back quarters sucks. Backing out of a parking spot is as dangerous as running a red light.

2014-07-30 13.25.35I don’t miss that car. It had to be my least favorite of all the vehicles I’ve owned. My favorite is the black 1986 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. When I bought it, the paint was so thin that you could see the primer underneath. I bought it under the condition that they repainted it. The dealership had a full body shop on site and the arrangements were made. When I took the car in, I asked the body shop manager to keep all of the badges off. Which he did. It was a beautiful car. Too bad I don’t have a picture of the actual car. They gave me the option of waiting a short time for the new 1987 model. It had an intercooler for the turbo and they thought it was much sleeker looking. I didn’t. The few horses weren’t worth giving up this kind of style.

This all happened years before I met the one who would be my wife. Years after I married her, the body shop manager married her sister. Small world, eh? Oh, and he’s the guy that gave me a ride out to my wife’s wreck.


But I got this beauty as a replacement for the Avenger. My wife says I look good in it, and the turbo charged 4 banger has a sufficient combination of power and gas mileage to suit me. The black paint is metallic, so it hides the dirt really well, as long at it stays even.

I got a good deal on it. I was the finance manager for the largest dealership in the county. I know how to play the game. But I violated the first rule: I got tired and let them wear me down a bit. I know I could have gotten the alarm thrown in too without much of a fight.

Who is to say what is good fortune and what is bad? Had we not had to sell the truck, might my wife have rear-ended the Durango in it? Someone might have actually gotten seriously hurt.

Do you think that some misfortune has befallen you? Consider what happened, or didn’t, happen down the road. Maybe minutes, maybe years. Did you make a wrong turn, but miss a pileup down the road because of the extra miles? Did you break up with someone you loved to learn later that he was a felon or a wife-beater?

Tell me here. Share with us. And give us courage to examine our lives.






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