This blog is entitled ‘Get Smart’ for two reasons: first, it is a continuation of our series of television show-based blogs; second, it’s about getting debt help and ‘getting smart’ with your money!
This blog, unlike our Friends-based post, might resonate better with baby boomers than a younger crowd. For those born after 1965, Get Smart was a wildly popular late-60s TV series that parodied the James Bond film franchise over five seasons and 138 episodes. The hero of the show was Maxwell Smart, a.k.a. Agent 86, a secret agent working for CONTROL, a covert U.S. secret counterintelligence agency led by The Chief. CONTROL’s nemesis was KAOS, an “international organization of evil” led by Ludwig Von Siegfried. Other characters included Agent 99, Max’s accomplice; Agent 13, who was often hidden in mailboxes, drink machines, and other unlikely spaces; and Shtarker, Siegfried’s ruthless henchman.
Let’s get into our current, debt-focused episode entitled ‘KAOS Creates a Financial Crisis.’
Agent 86 (on his shoe phone) – Hello Chief… this is Max.
Chief – Max! Where are you, I haven’t heard from you in months!
Agent 86 – Chief, I’m trying to unravel a diabolical new financial plot unleased by KOAS. They’ve recruited a top European agent called ‘VISA’ to run this scheme. I’ve been testing it out, Chief, and it works. It’s extremely dangerous and addictive.
Chief – That sounds frightening, Max. Tell me how it works.
Agent 86 – Well Chief, VISA stations people everywhere you go in everyday life, and these people approach you and offer you a seemingly harmless piece of shiny plastic called a ‘Credit Card.’ They tell you this card will give you more power than you ever imagined possible. They say it will allow you to purchase whatever you want, whenever you want it and pay for it using the card.
Chief – That’s outrageous!. You can’t buy things using a piece of plastic… it’s not real money! How is it supposed to work?
Agent 86 – That’s the scary part, Chief. They’re telling people they can buy whatever they want, make a very small payment, and then keep what they bought and continue buying more!
Chief – But how?
Agent 99 – Chief, Max is right. VISA has a brilliant system in place called ‘Minimum Payment.’ As long as you make your minimum payment, your card will remain in good standing. They’ll even allow you to spend more money before paying off what you owe! But there’s a big problem, Chief: eventually, you do have to pay the full amount for what you bought; the minimum payment really only covers the interest charges on your card. If you don’t pay off the full balance every month, the card is like a loan with a very, very high interest rate – up to 29%.
Chief, I’m worried that people will buy so much on these credit cards that they’ll never be able to pay it back. That could drive us into a financial crisis! Thousands will need debt help!
Chief – That’s terrible, 99! How can we avert this crisis?
Agent 99 – It’s a real problem, Chief. VISA loves the minimum payment because they make a lot of money off those interest payments. The problem is people don’t understand the cost of their credit cards. They’re convenient because you can get something you want or need today and pay for it next month – at least in theory. But if you can’t pay cash for something today, how do you expect to pay for it next month? People have to learn to follow a budget! They need to learn about things like Needs versus Wants! A Need is something you can’t live without, like food or shelter. A Want is exactly that: something that you’d like to have, like a new computer – you might want it, but you can certainly live without it.
Chief – So, 99, it sounds like financial literacy is the key. We have our work cut out for us – we need to teach people important financial concepts to help them CONTROL their financial lives so they’re not thrown into KAOS. We’d better unleash our secret weapon, Caplan Debt Solutions. With Caplan, people can work through their financial problems, educate themselves about personal finances, and get the debt help they need when times are tough.
Max, why weren’t you telling people about Caplan Debt Solutions? That seems like the answer!
Agent 86 – Chief, I was about to, but you beat me to the punch. [Holds thumb and forefinger a quarter inch apart] I missed it by that much!