I was cheap before cheap was cool. Even though I worked 12 hour days mostly 7 days per week, and made as much as a vice president at Procter and Gamble, even though I was just a foreman, I didn’t spend any money. This was quite different that most of the people that I worked with.
Oh, yes. Tightass. Cheap SOB. These were things I was called often. Most of the people I worked with spent, to put it mildly, lavishly. I had guys working for me that could barely scrawl their names, and they were making as much as a lawyer. Of course to do it they worked 7 days per week, many of them 12 hour days. I do not begrudge these people that money, because Ford treated people like prisinors, and they deserved every penny, and more, just for putting up with Ford’s crap.
But it is what they did with the money, and what I did with the money, that is central to this blog. They bought new cars every year. They took cruises. They bought houses, then bigger houses, then bigger houses still. They thought nothing of blowing a couple hundred bucks on a night out with the boys. Many of them, no matter how much money they made, spent every dime, and went into debt.
The classic was the guy who worked in the press room, dept 250. He was a hillbilly with about a 7th grade education. He owned a new Lincoln, an F150, a camper, an airplane, and a boat. Of course he never got to enjoy much of them, because to pay for them he worked Sundays, holidays, and if no OT was available, would work, illegally, in other departments, out of classification, on OT. When the whole thing collapsed in 1979 he went around the plant begging people “take over payments on my airplane, take over payments on my $400,000 house” But of course we were all losing our jobs because the party was over, and he lost everything. Nobody had any money to take over payments of anything. They were already deep in hock. They thought the party was going to last forever.
I, on the other hand, would not give up a dime if you tried to pry it out of my fingers with a crowbar. You might call me a cheap bastard. But ones attitude toward money is impacted greatly by how they were raised.
For example, when I was growing up, my dream of extreme luxury was a house with indoor plumbing. I got two pair of pants and two shirts a year. At Christmas. That was my Christmas present. We lived in a four room tarpaper shack. I dug coal with a pick and shovel with my Dad in worked out coal mines to earn a living. I know, personally, what “You load 16 tons and watta you get” is all about.
So by the time I got to Ford, I owned a nice home, had a nice car, provided well for my family, and that is all we needed. I did not want a new car every year, a bigger house, a closet full of clothes. None of that was important to me. What was important was escaping from the economic bondage imposed by the American Corporation. Not just Ford. EVERY American corporation.
They give you a job that is not really a job. It is a game. They way it is played is kiss up to the right people. Manipulate the right people. Work your way into the power structure, and the corporation will reward you. Well, sorry, but that is not my idea of “working a job.” So I used my money to escape from economic bondage so I could be free and call my own shots in life.
So I budgeted like I was on welfare and stuck every penny into investments. Where I was going in life was important to me, not how much I could consume while the party was in full force. So I brownbagged it. In all my years at Ford, I never spend nickol one on lunch. I grew most of my own vegetables in the back yard, canned and froze, and rarely had to buy veggies. I bought a wood burning stove, cut and split my own wood, and CG&E got very little of my money.
My wife cut everybody’s hair, and she made most of our clothes. We taught our kids the difference between what they want and what they need, and that they were being manipulated into buying things that they did not need, and contributed very little to their happiness. We lived a spartan life. Where did it get us?
Here is where it got us. I paid off my mortagage, and had no other debts. I paid cash for a large farm in Clermont County. That was 31 years ago. That farm is now worth more than a Ford worker’s entire pension will be, after 30 years on the job, and it has provided a nice income to me for 31 years.
I had a college fund for each of my children that paid their way through college, and they did not have to borrow any money. Then my wife and I started out own business. We have run it now for 24 years. We have everything that we need, and not a penny in debt.
So that is how I escaped from Corporate Bondage at the Sharonville Transmission Plant. True, the guys I worked with got enjoyment from spending all that money. But my enjoyment is longer lasting, and the stuff they spent their money on is long gone. Would I do it all over again? You’re damn right I would.