I often receive letters from readers asking questions about personal finance. This is partly due to my reputation as an expert in the field of passing familiarity with money matters and partly due to there being a personal finance guru across the street with a confusingly similar mailing address. But even when the letter is not addressed to me, if I sense that the letter writer has a particular problem, I feel it is my duty as a busybody to deliver any information that may be useful, especially if they’ve enclosed a check. “He who helps others may help himself” is one of my guiding financial principles.
To wit: I received this optimistic plea for help from a hopeless case named Jim.
Dear Ms. Orman:
I am recently separated. I won’t go into the reasons why, except to say that she prefers the company of others. Literally any others. She says that, if given a choice between spending another five minutes with me and joining the Taliban, sign her up for forced marriage. I told her she’d fit right in because she’s already got a great head start on the beard.
So we still like to flirt. But we have been butting heads over the subject of the house. She has proposed a deal in which she gets the house, and I get to I live in a gutter on the street. I would prefer to live in a small, sparsely furnished apartment. What should I do?
Staying clear of the storm drain,
And my reply:
First, let me tell you, I sympathize with your predicament. While I cannot say that I myself have ever been on the losing end of a comparison with the Taliban, I can say that, in all honesty, I am not you.
Now on to your specific inquiry. There is absolutely no reason why you should have to suffer the indignity of living in the gutter when America has a surplus of millions of cardboard boxes. These boxes are freely available for Amazon Prime members, who collectively have taken in enough cardboard to resurface the moon. The small apartment is asking a bit much, though. If you feel a cardboard box will not meet your needs, try supplementing it with a shopping cart, which you can also find for free in many dimly lit parking lots.
With great love,
As you can see, I like to help people, even if some critics would say that my advice is “irresponsible” or “uninformed” or “a telltale sign of sociopathy.” So if you would like to share your own financial problem with me and you don’t mind having your embarrassment magnified when I share your story with millions of readers whose addresses I may or may not have procured on the dark web, you can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course there is no need to send me a check. You will have already done me a great service in writing half my column.