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How to Live on $0 a Day: My Expert Advice to Tim Geithner

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Tim, Tim, Tim. You've been throwing around a lot of scary words like "disaster" and "hardship" and you seem a little tense. Don't freak out. I know things are looking pretty dark right now, but I promise, even if you've got to default, you'll get through it. I had my very own economic disaster not too long ago that threatened not only my economic future, but that of Citibank, Chase, my landlord, the electric company, ATT, my hairdresser, doctor and dentist, and guess what? We're all still here. You're a babe in the woods when it comes to financial hardship, so let me guide you through this.

Tap dancing as fast as you can
First your creditors will start calling. They'll leave a recorded message asking you to get in touch for personal business.

Don't call back.

Try to drag this out for a week or so until the phone calls become so insistent, you spend most of your time cowering in the corner, shaking like a whippet. You may consider throwing yourself from a ladder when the phone rings in the hopes you'll break your spine and be able to sue your creditors for causing the accident. Don't do it, it rarely works.

At one point, you'll realize this can't go on and you finally answer the 10th phone call of the day at 9AM. You'll probably get a recording either asking you to pay by phone or online immediately. Hang up and continue not answering your phone for another two weeks.

Now the phone calls should be coming about every 5 minutes from 6AM to 10PM both at work and at home. The only way you'll find peace is to talk to them. Getting really drunk is the best way to prepare yourself.

Expect to wait on hold for anywhere from a half hour to a millennium before you reach a human. When you do, tell them you mailed the check last week. Blame it on US postal service cutbacks and casually mention you'll talk to President Obama about firing the head of the USPS (a little name dropping never hurt).

Ask them to wait until Friday and if they still haven't received it, you'll cancel it and send them a new one. That buys you another week and a half.


Desperate times call for desperate measures.

If after this grace period, there's still no resolution on the debt ceiling thing (or they've reached the wrong one as far as you're concerned), start by trying to work something out with your largest creditors. Remember, the Chinese and Japanese Secretaries of the Treasury are just a regular guys like you, trying to do a job. Don't get mad at them. It's not their fault. They've got bills to pay too. They doesn't want to cause a global economic meltdown any more than you do. Weeping often helps.

A show of good faith can sway some creditors. Show them you're doing everything possible to pay them back. If you don't have the $110 trillion minimum payment on the due date, send what you have, even if it's only $100.00.

Offer them some sort of barter deal... you'll do odd jobs like their laundry or gardening at an agreed upon hourly rate, which can be applied to the debt. Get serious and have the Congress and Senate help. It will give them an opportunity to do something meaningful and truly serve their constituents for a change.

Sure you'll all have to work a little harder, do a job below your education and experience, sometimes at little to no compensation. But you've got to be willing to work a little harder in these trying times. Look at it as an internship program that allows you to learn an entirely new skill. Maybe you'll discover your true calling.

If all else fails...
If you're having problems getting your creditors to cooperate, maybe it's time to engage a credit adviser/debt counselor.

Sure, a lot of these companies are non-profits that employ advisers who haven't even graduated from a reputable university and have never worked for a Fortune 500 company. Don't worry, their advice can't possibly worse than what you're getting now.

Of course, there are some organizations that only exist to exploit human misery (you may be lulled into feeling like you're working with a bank). That's why reading the fine print is all-important. Don't treat the agreement like your income taxes or TARP... be diligent!

Most of all, remember It's not like it's the end of the world if you're forced to default. Take it from one who knows. As long as you have your health insurance, you have everything.

In these trying economic times, a lot of people are looking for new careers to sustain them. Read about mine.