Toxic Thinking

After having a flat tire repaired recently, I opened my car door to find a largish sheet of paper set over the floor mat of the driver’s side. At first blush, one would think that this is their way of saying, “Hey, we realize we’re pretty messy – it’s sort of your car’s fault – but we didn’t want to get your car dirty and have to pay for a carpet cleaning.” Good form. What was actually written on the paper is what made me laugh: in big letters right smack in the middle were the words “Eco Barrier”. Eco barrier? Are they trying to tell me that the mechanics are wearing hazmat suits and walking through toxic waste and biological ooze that would best be kept from making contact with the carpet in my car? If that’s the case, is a piece of bleached white paper really going to act as a “barrier” against such an eventuality? One word: marketing. Someone in the corporate office was sitting there thinking, “There will be people stepping into their cars, reading the words ‘Eco Barrier’, and saying, ‘Thank all that is holy that they spared my car from possible toxic contamination.’ I should get a healthy raise for that little piece of brilliant word play. That’s way better than Bob’s idea of writing ‘Stain Stopper’ on the paper mat. Way too pedestrian!”

Marketing makes sure just the right word or words are used to paint an enticing picture. For example, that gas-guzzling, blind-spot-the-size-of-Texas vehicle that is so ever present on the road isn’t called a PSW (Pregnant Station Wagon); it’s called an SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). Although the name may be completely off the mark, we want to feel like it perfectly defines our tastes and who we are. But seriously, who are we kidding? If going to the grocery store and taking up two parking spots – because you can – is an NCAA-sanctioned sport, then okay. Or, if driving around the block by yourself to a Pilates class is classified as a utility, fine.

Clothing companies employ armies of wordsmiths to come up with thirty-seven different names for the color red. They’re not about to tell you that the shirt is “orangeish red” – if they did, they could only charge you a mere fraction of the price they’re trotting out there. The shirt you are considering is “heather cayenne”. “Heather cayenne? That color could only come from blind monks who dye each yarn by hand high up in the Andalusian mountains and carry them by mule down to the nearby town to sell in the market square. At $274, this T-shirt is a steal. I’ll take two.” That may not happen with anyone you or I may know outside of Hollywood, but it’s the stuff of marketing folks’ dreams.

As a result of numerous things that have happened and continue to happen in the world, we’ve been “marketed” to believe that paying cash is best. I’m not here to tell you that buying things with cash is evil and that you should put everything on a credit card – certainly not. But there is a very good argument to be made – and one that can be supported with data – that paying cash for a house isn’t always the smartest move when one of your goals is wealth building. With interest rates at record lows compared against a very conservative investment strategy, someone who has enough cash to purchase a house outright is better off taking on a 30-year mortgage and making their mortgage payment out of the proceeds of their investments – and still be better off. Added bonus: you get the tax advantage of writing off the interest each year. Having your money more readily available allows you more security to handle unexpected costs and emergencies; if you’ve paid cash for the house, you can’t pay for those emergencies – your money’s “in the walls”.

This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, but it is something a lot more people should consider. Come in and we’ll help map it out for you. If you want, you can sit on an Eco Barrier – we can’t always vouch for who sat there before you.

Leave a Reply