Popular culture can't seem to get enough of otherworldly creatures, such as vampires and zombies. Perhaps this is just another symptom of the dismal economy -- when reality is no fun, people naturally retreat into fantasy.
Of course, if there were various types of non-humans living among us, it would explain some of the bizarre financial behavior of recent years: massive mortgage defaults, student debt up by 50 percent in less than five years, people signing up for credit card interest rates over 20 percent when deposit bank rates are less than 1 percent. What world are they living in?
If your financial situation makes you feel you are living in a world that is not your own, here are some of the signs that you might be a financial vampire, werewolf, zombie or alien:
- Vampires. Vampires have a passion for blood that is constantly pursued but never fully satisfied. The financial version of this insatiable hunger is people who always want to buy something more. Spending is a way of life to them, like a vampire hunting for blood. As with a vampire though, if you are never satisfied with what you have, your constant chase of the next prize is likely to get you in trouble and make you miserable in the long run.
- Werewolves. Werewolves tend to be more forceful and less subtle than vampires about getting what they want. Think of this as the people in the workplace who make a point of announcing themselves as "Type A" personalities. Maybe one-tenth of 1 percent of these people are the movers and shakers who will shape the future of business and innovation. The vast majority of them are obnoxious boors who vastly overrate their own abilities. Remember werewolves, unbridled aggressiveness may prompt your coworkers to load up on silver bullets.
- Zombies. Zombies keep shuffling on through life without really knowing why. Financially, these are people who mindlessly repeat the same habits without ever being conscious that life has moved on without them. Those habits may include still paying for landlines they rarely use, except to hang up on robo-calls. Zombie behavior also includes sticking with the same savings account year after year without ever comparing bank rates, never re-balancing investment portfolios or accepting every new fee that gets loaded onto their cable bills or checking accounts.
- Aliens. Financially, aliens are people who approach money like they just landed on this planet. Their checking accounts are always overdrawn, their credit card rates keep going up and their mortgage payments seem to take them by surprise. If you are one of these financial aliens, don't feel bad -- finance alienates a lot of people. Just remember though, aliens are generally portrayed as smarter than humans -- after all, how else would they get here? Still, if you are going to visit the world of finance, it's a little like visiting earth: You will fit in much better if you bother to study the way things work first.
If you are one of these creatures financially, the hazard you face is not the horror-movie cliché of a mob of villagers with torches hunting you down, but an even more vicious posse of debt collectors. If you incur their wrath, you will find out what horror really is.