Friday, September 19, 2008

I Read the News Today. Oh Boy.

You pay the minimum balance on your Master Card bill with a handy Discover Card check. You have just enough to make the minimum on your other Master Card. You're left with so little cash that you need to use your Visa to buy groceries. It can sometimes seem you’re allergic to money. Be grateful that it’s only metaphorical in your case.

There are people who are physically allergic to the stuff. The irritant in question is nickel, which not only shows up in the coin of that name, but also in paper money. A report in the August 1991 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that people with nickel allergies can get stubborn rashes from handling legal tender.

So you’re broke. You think you’ve got an original problem here? You’re going to have to try a bit harder. If you’re talking to creditors on the phone on a regular basis, you’re not the exception—you’re the rule! And perhaps it will please you to know that there are people out there who have the same problem as you with quite a few extra zeroes at the end.

You’re surely better off than Mr. William Stern who filed the largest bankruptcy in British history in 1978. Before he went bust, the property mogul bragged that banks competed to loan him money. (This was in the 1970s, before those Lending Tree commercials hit the airwaves.)

At age 43, Stern had managed to rack up liabilities in excess of 100,000,000 pounds against assets of 10,070. Hearing the case in London Bankruptcy Court, Mr. Alan Sales was unfazed. “This bankruptcy has been described as the world’s biggest,” he said, “but really it is a very ordinary bankruptcy with noughts at the end.” It might not impress the collections department, but you’ll feel better.

Speaking of the collections department, if you are late on your payments to five creditors and they call you every day, count yourself blessed. In their book The Best, Worst and Most Unusual, Bruce Felton and Mark Fowler list one Yosjiyuki Yonei, a salesman for a Tokyo tool company, as the “Worst Creditor.” Yonei was arrested after he harassed a delinquent customer to the point that his wife had a nervous breakdown. Yonei called the customer 4,190 times—340 in a single day!

Given all that debt stress, it’s easy to see how a cash-strapped person can make choices that they later regret. In 1890, a Swede named Albert Vystroem signed a contract with the Royal Swedish Institute of Anatomy. In exchange for some cash in hand, he gave them the right to use his body for scientific study after his death. In the intervening years, Vystroem came into a small fortune and decided he wanted his body back. So in 1910, he suded the organization. Not only did the Institute successfully defend its position, it was awarded damages for two teeth Vystroem had had extracted with its permission.

A Day in the Life (Beatles Cover) - Beck

P.S. Separated at birth? Sean Lennon and Project Runway's Daniel Franco?