This experiment began several years ago when I received a brochure in the mail advertising silver bullion coins as an investment vehicle. The “hook” was, “We will sell you two silver eagles for the price of one, if you agree to read our special report on silver.” When I saw this, I thought, “I could give one of these coins to a friend who was having money problems as a touch point for her prayers.” I sent her a coin and a notebook with instructions. Every day we prayed that the Lord would grant her wisdom in the area of finance. Every day she made an entry in her notebook.
The initial experiment was extremely successful. At the end of six months, her attitude towards money was radically different. She began to systematically eliminate her consumer debt. She changed some behaviors that were sabotaging her financial situation. Then towards the end of the six month experiment, she was able to move into her own home for the first time in her life.
Finally, when the participants are ready, they will give their coin with a blank notebook to a friend or a family member who is ready to change their relationship with money. In this way, friendship and blessings will keep flowing forward forever, even into eternity.
Yesterday I needed to make one of those financial decisions that could be right or could be wrong. Only time will tell. We have two cars that have only required minor routine maintenance for about five years. Well, some noises started coming out from under the front end of our 2000 Altima that had to be investigated. The verdict was a few dollars shy of the $750 mark.
Now what? In retirement, we simply do not need a second car. However, my wife is not ready to accept that idea even though she now has a personal chauffeur on call 24/7. The Altima is 17 years old! But it only has 125,000 on the odometer. Since 1988, I buy new and then keep the car for twelve years or 180,000 miles—or more. The car is worth around $1,500 in a private sale. Obviously, putting more into a car than the car would be worth after it is repaired isn’t going to happen, but where to draw the line? I was expecting somewhere in the $400 to $500 range, but in my mind, I drew the line at $1,000.
My logic? If I don’t repair this car, my wife will want to purchase a second car. This will cost $20,000 or more to buy something that I don’t believe that we need. It will also reduce the available funds to purchase the planned “car of a lifetime” that I hope will replace our 2010 Acura at some time in the distant future. My wife, who happened to pick up on the other phone when I received the bad news, expressed her concerns in a manner that reflected her sentimental attachment to this particular automobile. My hope is that the repairs to the Altima will keep it on the road for at least another two or three years. Given how little we drive our cars in retirement, this is not an unreasonable expectation, but with a 17 year old car, I really can’t complain if this conclusion doesn’t pan out. Hopefully in that time, I will be able to convince my wife that we can get by with one car.
And then what? Since I was in junior high school, I have loved cars, expensive cars, fast cars, beautifully engineered cars. Like most people, I never had enough discretionary money to purchase one of these cars of my dreams. Now I am in a different chapter of my life, one where I have the free time, money, and health to indulge myself a bit. There is no guarantee that this will be true tomorrow. The car that replaces the Acura might well be the last car I ever buy. I want one that has a C or an E, or a 5 or a 6, or 400 on the back side of the trunk lid. If you know cars, you know what I am talking about.
Don’t worry. After a lifetime of pinching pennies and squeezing nickels, I don’t plan on doing anything silly. I have never made a car payment. I paid $600 cash for my first car and I have paid cash for every car we have purchased during our 42 years of married life. Avoiding the car payment is one of the secrets to finding financial freedom.