Chapter 8: It's Time To Take Charge Of The Charge Cards

Red, the straight-A student who loves history, would normally love to engage in a conversation about history. But in the midst of her crisis, preoccupied with trying to deal with her family's financial situation, she didn't have the desire nor see the point in getting a history lesson. And from her sister, no less, who hates history. But that should have been Red's first clue that it would be very pragmatic, highly relevant, and "instantly translatable" to her situation and daily life.

P.S. – Black's history lesson would change how Red looked at credit cards, not only then but to this day. And based on feedback from others (men and women of all ages, and even students), something as unexpected as understanding the original purpose of those little plastic cards (and now mobile wallets, although we both still do it the old-fashioned way) can dramatically change one's perspective on how to use them.



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Quick call. I think it be might be helpful for you to understand the history of credit cards.


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What ever happened to "Hello?" I'm trying to come to grips with our own personal credit card history, and even that's more than I want to know. I don't think knowing the history of credit cards is going to help me deal with our personal dilemma. I'm not sure anything will help.


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I know you feel overwhelmed, and I have no desire to continually look backwards, but sometimes understanding history helps you. It did when we looked at the history of your spending habits.


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It doesn't sound like you're going to drop this, so can you at least make it quick?


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First, there were gas charge cards, which eventually lead to general purpose charge cards, like American Express. Keep in mind these were charge cards, which meant they had to be paid in full every month. They were created as an alternative to having to go to a local Western Union office to wire for money, which is what people did instead of carrying large amounts of cash or trying to cash out-of-state checks. Then in the late 1950's Bank of America issued the first "credit" card – meaning they were extending credit to the cardholder – and initially promoted it to people traveling, in particular salesmen, who could not easily access their home banks.


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That makes sense. I remember Mommy telling me how when she and Daddy traveled out West in the 1950s for three months, they had to use Western Union to cable Grandma and Grandpa for money on a regular basis. Now this is all very interesting and will be useful if I find myself on a game show, but what, pray tell, does this history lesson have to do with my credit card debt?


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Patience, grasshopper! The point is credit cards were started as a business tool to save time and provide convenience. Credit cards were NOT initially designed as consumer debt or financial aid.


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That may not have been the initial plan, but times have changed. Nick and I, and our mountain of credit card debt, are proof of that!


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True. But if you returned to the original purpose of what credit cards were meant to be – a convenience so that you did not have to write lots of checks or have cash available all the time – you might find that you use your credit cards differently. Rather than looking at them as a line of credit or endless funds to buy things, you would start to view them as simply a convenience tool, nothing more.


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You mean actually pay off what you spend each month? All the time? Do people do that? It's an interesting concept, though perhaps not very realistic, and an entirely new way of looking at credit cards.


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Actually, it is a very old way. The original way. And, that is the point I am trying to make. Think about it. Mom and Daddy always paid their credit cards off every month, and even today, Mom only carries about four credit cards, if that many. I think it is important to remember the history – and true purpose – of credit cards.

It was extremely annoying when Black was always right. Especially when I thought I finally had the better of her, and then, she proved me wrong. Understanding that credit cards weren't originally intended to be used as long-term debt makes a huge difference.

Chapter 7: My Husband Gets In Hot Water – I Want To Make Soup!

One of the hardest lessons Red had to learn during her crisis (partially because she was adamantly resisting it) was one that Black couldn't believe she didn't already know – that marriage (and relationships) isn't all flowers and romantic dinners, but is about teamwork, with an emphasis on work. As well as realizing that life isn't fair, which means teamwork can be 50-50 one day and 90-10 the next.

P.S. – Over the years, Red learned that the concept of teamwork applies to families, not just marriages. Although she sometimes gets so focused on the challenges of being a single mom that she forgets Black's analogy about teamwork. So, falls back into the habit of acting (remember, she was a theater major) the martyr rather than being part of a team that works together.



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… Stop complaining that your life is no longer perfect. Shut up, suck it up and work at it.


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Thanks for the sugar coating! And for the record, I don't mind the work. What I mind is that I feel like I'm the only one working.


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That is because you are doing more than you are used to doing and you do not think Nick is doing anything extra.


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True. And I don't think it's fair!


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Yes, it is. It all averages out. The first few years I was racing the Ferrari, my crew did not have to do much to the car on race weekends. Basically "nut and bolt" her, fill her with fuel, and clean the windshield. The car was new, I kept my nose clean and stayed out of accidents and away from the walls. Then late one afternoon I had a minor "sharing of paint" with someone, and they needed to stay late and work on the car. I apologized to the crew. My crew chief, Scott, explained that was their job. The fact that it had been easy up until then was fine, but they were always prepared to do whatever it took to keep my car racing. A marriage is no different.

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I don't think you can compare racing a Ferrari to a marriage. One is an expensive hobby, and one is your life!
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Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

The last thing Red needed in the middle of her "crisis" (her husband being unexpectedly fired) was to get sick, but that's exactly what happened. (Is there ever a good time to get sick?) And although she had walking pneumonia, her instinct as a mom was to put the needs of others, especially her children, ahead of her own. Luckily, Black, being pragmatic and unemotional, knew the advice she was about to give her sister would initially seem counterintuitive, so included what she hoped would be a memorable analogy …

P.S. – Even if Red didn't realize it at the time, self-care has always been important. But it became even more important during the pandemic (especially emotional self-care) as many of us have had to "to be" there for others – whether our loved ones, neighbors, community.


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You must be joking. Dr. Fields means well but doesn't understand that doing nothing is a luxury right now — not an option.


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Well, "Wonder Woman," I think it is you that does not understand. It is not an option. It is a necessity. Let Nick handle things for a few days. Trust me, everyone will survive.


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But there are so many things I need to do. Life doesn't stop just because I'm sick.


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True. But the bottom line is that unless you take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your family.


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I understand the logic, but it's difficult for me to just stop and crawl into bed, as much as that's what I want to do. I feel like I'm letting the family down. I'm not trying to sound like "Wonder Woman," I'm just being honest.


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Let me give you an analogy. If you were on an airplane with the girls and you lost altitude and the oxygen masks came down, would you put the mask on yourself first or the girls?
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Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List

"Once upon a time" is how fairy tales begin, but once upon a time in Red's life, she had lots of things to do but was able to fit everything into any given day. And her worst-case scenario? Something might slide but would still get done in a timely fashion. But when her husband got fired, her fairy tale life ended and she had to take on more day-to-day responsibilities, which meant Red soon began to run out of hours in the day, the week, the month. Luckily, Black's advice about how to manage her time, although not an obvious "approach" until it was explained to her, made a big difference.

P.S. – If Red thought she was busy when her husband got fired, she had no idea what busy was until years later when she had to juggle being a single mom with being the warm and fuzzy half of Red & Black. In fact, this new level of crazy busy (Black likes to clarify that it's "good crazy") has now become the "new norm", which means that Red still struggles with way too much to do and way too little time to do it in. It's then, when she's really stressing out, that Black often has to remind her of the original advice she gave Red, and usually tells her she needs to re-read this excerpt …


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I do have one question. What exactly did you mean by time management? I understand there's a limited amount of time in the day, but unless I give up sleeping altogether, I'm not sure how to find the time to do everything on my lists. I'm already getting up at 5:00 a.m. (and this morning even earlier!) so that I have some quiet time before I start the "mom" thing. Any suggestions? And just this once, skip the smart-ass comments!


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If I could tell you how to create more time in your day, I could make a fortune. There are countless books on time management, but I doubt you will find the time to read one, so I will tell you what works best for me.


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Type faster. What's the secret?
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