Anonymous Mailbag

It’s Tuesday, time for the anonymous mailbag to sweep away your doldrums and leave you as entertained as possible.

Before you get started reading the anonymous mailbag today, I want to encourage you to check out my Wins and Losses podcast. Last week’s guest, and he was great, was Kirk Herbstreit and this week’s guest is Bobby Bones, and he’s also great. 

I’m sensing a theme here.

Go listen and subscribe to the podcast. (And tell your friends about it too. Especially if they hate me. Or love me. Basically if you think they’d listen).

As always send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

Here we go:

“Can we finally settle the question of what makes someone rich? 

First of all, I ain’t rich. I make $50k working at an SEC school, own a house, and have a family. I’m tired of these fucks writing in: “I make $100k and my wife makes $50k and wants to quit her job but we’ll be so poor cuz my boat, my 2 brand news cars, my jet skis, blah blah blah.” 

$150k is the top 11% in America. See the link if you don’t believe me. 

If someone is in the top 11% earners in the wealthiest country in history that makes them rich. I ain’t hatin on the rich but let’s call a spade a spade. What say you King Solomon?”

I don’t think you can be considered rich (or wealthy, which to me, is even higher on the scale than rich) unless you could stop working and still have your same lifestyle.

So defining whether you are rich or not based on your income isn’t that reliable of a way to establish your wealth. The reason is pretty simple: many of us in American society today, even the well paid, could easily lose our jobs and then be unable to find a job that pays you anywhere near the same amount, and before you know it you’ve gone from “rich” to poor in the space of a few months.

I think there’s a great deal of economic insecurity that isn’t necessarily tied to income in this country. In fact, defining your stature in life based on income is downright dangerous because that’s often based on labor and the value of your labor, particularly in the world we live in today, can rise and fall dramatically in relatively short periods of time.

I think what’s far more important is your wealth. And I define wealth as income you receive that has nothing to do with your labor.

I make quite a bit of money now, but it’s all based on my labor. I’ve moved from the tenth percentile on income to the 99th percentile, but if I stopped working most of my money would dry up before long. Sure, I have assets, but I don’t have enough liquid assets to retire. When you can stop working and your lifestyle doesn’t change, that’s wealth.

I’m rich, but I’d need wealth to feel truly comfortable.

Wealth is generational money, riches can be very transitory, here today gone tomorrow.

So I don’t consider anyone rich based on their income. I consider them rich (or wealthy) based on their assets.

Given your example above, if a company downsizes and that guy making $100k loses his job, his family can go from well off to struggling in a hurry. Especially if, as is often the case, the family is living based on the money they make right now as opposed to living on part of their income and trying to protect themselves in the meantime.

Most people in America spend everything they make.

That’s crazy, but it’s what happens in a capitalistic society where we’re all trained to be consumers.

I try to live on about half the income I make and keep a buffer zone by investing the other half. My hope is that in the next several years I’ll have enough put away that if I needed to retire I could. And I don’t mean retire and move to a Central American country, I mean retire and live essentially as I live now, except without any jobs to worry about.

So to me until you’re wealthy you should definitely be concerned about money.

Especially when, as is the case now, everyone is a viral Facebook post away from losing their job.

“I am a married 39 year old dude with two daughter’s (13 & 6). My youngest daughter came home from her summer camp today singing this song that goes as follows:  “Pecker Dick, Pecker Dick…Pecker Pecker Dick Dick.” All while doing some weird looking Egyptian dance.

Now I pride myself on my sense of humor and admit this was hilarious, however, my wife and I were mortified! She said she learned it from another little boy. My thought is said kid learned it from a older sibling probably an older brother? How does a dad handle this?  I mean I can’t have my six year old daughter running around dancing and singing about peckers and dicks!” 

When we were out in Colorado, my boys were yelling penis jokes in public at restaurants and I knew it was time for me to sit them down and try to explain that they couldn’t yell dick jokes in public.

I have never felt more like a hypocrite in my life.

That same week there were some teenage boys sitting next to us in a Denver amusement park and they were playing the penis game — you know the penis game, where one of you starts off saying it lightly and then you keep saying it louder until one of you says it so loud he (it was always guys doing it) gets in trouble for it. And while I was kind of laughing at their game, I was also trying to get my four year old to eat and there’s no way that’s happening with teenagers screaming penis at the table next to us. Eventually I was thinking to myself, “OH MY GOD, I AM SO OLD NOW THAT I’M NOW THE ADULT WHO HAS TO TELL THE KIDS TO STOP PLAYING THE PENIS GAME. WHAT HAS MY WORLD BECOME?! (I think in all caps in my head when my mind is blown).

And I felt bad for all the teachers in middle and high school who had to discipline us for this when deep down they had to love it too.

So I think what you do is sit your daughter down and tell her those are two slang words for the penis and she shouldn’t say them in public because grown ups will know what those words mean and think she’s not very well behaved.

You can also tell her people make up lots of words to describe private parts, but no matter what they are, it’s not appropriate for little girls to sing them in songs. (Leave out the part about how she can do it when she grows up and if she does it really well she will make millions of dollars. She can learn that later.)

Good luck.

“I appreciate modern technology as I know you do and I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. But there are negatives – one of which I’m seeing is with professional drivers (and drivers in general) and since you travel, I’m interested in your take.

All drivers – Lyft, Uber, the few remaining taxi drivers – they all use their phone map functions to get you from point A to point B. I don’t have a problem with that. But a couple weeks ago I was in D.C. and my Lyft driver missed a turn to my hotel (despite his I-phone telling him to make the turn). Shortly after the driver missed the turn there was an obvious turnaround point, where the driver could’ve easily whipped the car around and gotten me to my hotel with minimal time lost. Instead, his phone had already re-routed the trip and told him to cross the Potomac River in the opposite direction of my hotel, which he did over my objections. This resulted in a 20 minute ride around Georgetown before the driver’s phone routed us back to my hotel.

Is technology replacing common sense? What about the cab drivers back in the day who you just got in, told them where you wanted to go and they got you there – they did it without smartphones and I can’t remember having many problems. It’s not just drivers – have we as a society conceded thought and judgment to our phones?”

This reminds me of a great scene from “The Office” where Michael listens to his Garmin — this was before phones had every direction for you — and drives right into the lake.

The app I use the most when I’m driving is Waze because I’m less concerned with getting places — I tend to know how to get to where I’m going — and far more concerned with how to avoid traffic on my way there. I trust Waze blindly. I mean, I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve found myself in the middle of nowhere driving down an out of the way road to avoid an interstate accident just because Waze tells me to do it.

Last week there was a great article in the Wall Street Journal about all the errors in mapping. And how often people blindly follow that direction wherever it leads.

The problem comes when you rely on your phone over your own intuition. If you miss a turn the best way to get back is to make the next earliest turn possible. This is common sense. It’s also true that we sometimes do risky things when we miss turns and so the app will reroute you in the safest way imaginable rather in the way that most drivers would correct their error.

(In your example, having gone to school in Washington, D.C., I can easily see how if you miss a turn right before a bridge over the Potomac, the next best route becomes to drive over the bridge, turn around, and come back through Georgetown.)

I feel ancient because when I worked on my Jim Cooper’s Congressional campaign here in Nashville — before I wrecked the congressman’s wife’s car and got fired from the campaign — one of my jobs was to plot the drive to wherever we were going. I had a map of all over Nashville and had to search the ways to get places before we left. (We also had Mapquest, but often we’d be out on the road and get a new destination so I had to use the old maps of the city).

Does anyone still do this?

I remember being a kid and having those big Rand McNally atlases and how much fun it was to watch your drive by flipping from one state to another as you crossed the border.

The thing I wonder is this, do you really learn how to get places by following apps all the time? As opposed to driving it yourself?

It’s kind of like how you can probably remember all sorts of phone numbers from before you got a cell phone, but don’t know anyone’s number for the last 15 years.

Ultimately, sometimes having more information can cause us to freeze and make the wrong decision instead of making the right decision.

“Huge fan of your new podcast “wins and losses”, look forward to it every week just to make work go by a little faster. My question is this; one of my friends (from the South where football is king) is getting married on a Saturday during college football season (should be illegal) and this is where it gets weird. I’ve never formally been asked to be a groomsman but I went to RSVP on their website and was looking at the wedding info, I see my name listed under groomsman. This was a complete shock to me and seems like something that has probably been planned for a few months at a minimum. I’ve never been formally asked, it’s never been talked about between us and I don’t really want to be a groomsman for a few reasons .. 1) buying a suit. 2) being at the forefront of the ceremony while I’d rather be checking scores. and 3) just the overall feeling of being way more involved than I had ever imagined. 

Do I just suck it up and play along as to not cause any more issues for the bride and groom? Is there a play for me to get out of this without damaging our friendship? Just a weird situation all the way around. Thanks for the advice.”

The easy solution here is just suck it up and be in the wedding. If you’re already planning to be at the wedding you’re already ruining a perfect fall Saturday anyway. Do things really get better for you if you can check your phone during the wedding?

I don’t think so.

It is a bit odd, however, that your buddy hasn’t even asked you to be a groomsman and the website already has your name on there.

My bet is his fiancee is far better prepared with her list of bridesmaids and she told him she’d need a list of his groomsmen by a certain date. He agreed with her to have his groomsmen picked by that date and then totally forgot about it until she put him on the spot.

Flustered, and not wanting to get her mad, he gave her all the names of his groomsmen, told her he’d already asked them when she demanded to know if he’d actually asked them, and he didn’t even know these names were going up on the website yet.

My bet is he’ll eventually ask you.

As for the cost, it’s $150 tops for a tuxedo rental.

#dbap and save up for this.

I don’t really see much difference, honestly, between attending a fall wedding and being a fall wedding groomsman.

Both really, really suck.

But if you’re already going you might as well be a groomsman too.

Good luck with the bridesmaids and make sure you get your bets in the night before.

As always send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

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