Some straight and simple rules to live by
This summer it was announced that Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, would be stepping down from her enormously popular daytime show after 25 years on the air. While my current job has made tuning into her afternoon show difficult, as someone who was raised on her no-nonsense common sense, I still catch episodes now and then.
It may sound silly, but I actually learned a fair number of money truths from her and her courtroom reality show over the years. I thought I would share a few of these with you, since very soon, you won’t be able to learn them directly from the show anymore.
• No. 1: Living together is not the same as being married. A few weeks back I wrote on the importance of married couples working together on finances, and viewing all assets and liabilities as shared. The exact opposite strategy should be used when unmarried.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of unmarried litigants have gone before Judge Judy seeking reparations for bills and loans incurred by their significant other. Virtually always, Judy’s response is the same. Don’t play house and pretend you’re married if you’re not. She often explains the courts do not have the time nor the desire to divide up property and bills that should have never been combined to begin with.
• No. 2: Get it in writing. I cannot count the number of times plaintiffs have lost their cases for lack of evidence than an agreement ever existed. Saying “I trusted the other person” is not a good defense for not having a written contract for arrangements of a financial nature.
A simple text or email stating what each party has agreed to is often enough to keep a disagreement from becoming a lawsuit. That’s why when making a deal with another person always put something down in writing.
• No. 3: Giving and receiving money from friends or family is dangerous. Judge Judy has been quoted on her show as saying that “a gift becomes a loan the second a relationship ends.”
This is a very true statement and why I believe one of the best ways to maintain good relationships with others is to keep money out of them. I have seen so many relationships torn apart over a few bucks.
Why risk it? Help those close to you in ways other than financial assistance whenever possible.
• No. 4: If it sounds too good to be true it is. Other than domestic squabbles, the most common disputes that Judge Judy is tasked with settling are between consumers and vendors. More often than not in these cases (because it’s a TV show) the defendant is a con-artist who has made outlandish promises to an unsuspecting person, and then taken them for all they were worth.
The solution for these kinds of situations is simple. Aside from following rule number two on my list, always be skeptical when being offered the world.
If I am honest, part of the reason I have always admired Judge Judy is we have a very similar worldview and personality. Although the character she plays on TV is more abrasive and confrontational than I usually am, common sense and straight talk are rules we both live by. While it’s true my opinions probably rub some of you the wrong way at times, the fact that I have so many people come up to me to say they enjoy my columns tells me I am at least making a very small difference in the lives of those who read them.
The same can certainly be said for Judith Sheindlin. Aside from providing decades of entertainment to her audience, she has been a phenomenal role model to millions of girls with strong personalities and been a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonable world.
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.)
Luke Davis is the director of operations and compliance at Stewardship Capital in Independence.