More Telling Than a FICO Score

I’m about to become a landlord for the first time in my life. It’s a strange feeling. It took me 54 years to scrape and claw myself up into the middle class, and now here I am trying to judge the content of someone’s character based on their FICO score.

And I must say, it’s a very telling reference point. From it you can determine if one pays their debts, does not spend beyond their means, and basically if that person is a good financial risk. You can also get a sense of their level of discipline, their ability to hold a job, their integrity and responsibility. It’s not a perfect metric, to be sure. Life happens. But it’s better than flying blind.

Of course, we are using an application and doing a credit and background check as well. I’m trying really hard to look at this as a business, not as an emotional thing. As in, “I really like that couple. I want to help them.”

It’s really hard to pass judgment on someone you’ve just met. And it’s really important to me to do my best not to be biased. It’s not easy. But someone else gave me another measuring tool that is turning out to be even more telling than a FICO score.

When a couple is looking at your rental place, how are they talking to each other? Do they do so with respect? They don’t necessarily have to be affectionate. Some people are much more private than others. But are they being respectful to one another? Because if they can’t maintain that respect with the person that they supposedly love most in the world, then they’re not going to respect your house, and may not respect the need to pay the rent on time, either.

This makes perfect sense to me. And I think I’ll be using this yardstick in other walks of life as well. Because it’s true, when I see people who tease each other to an extreme, or are downright rude or cruel to one another, as a general rule, they’re not the type of people who I want to have in my life. How you treat your loved ones says a lot about who you are, deep down.

Respect. The ultimate FICO score.


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noun. plau·dit \ ˈplȯ-dət \

1 : an act or round of applause

2 : enthusiastic approval —usually used in plural

  • received the plaudits of the critics

Plaudit is one of my favorite words. I wish it were used more often. I love the sound of it, but I especially love the sentiment behind the term. It’s all about giving credit where credit is due. That doesn’t seem to happen enough these days. Those who take the time to make the world a better place, even if they aren’t looking for kudos, deserve applause as far as I’m concerned.

There are so many opportunities to show appreciation to people. Do you take those opportunities? Have you thanked someone today?

Here are some plaudits that I’m sure everyone can agree with:

  • To all veterans and first responders for being heroes.

  • To teachers, for spreading knowledge and influencing all of us to be the best we can be.

  • To volunteers, for being so generous with their time.

  • To owners of rescue animals, for saving lives and providing them with safety and love.

  • To artists, for making life worth living for the rest of us in so many ways.

  • To friends, for being supportive.

  • To farmers, for providing us with sustenance.

  • To writers, for making us think.

  • To listeners, for listening.

And I’d like to send out a very personal and heartfelt plaudit to you, dear reader, for making this blog such a pleasure to write, and for giving me feedback and sharing it with others. I wouldn’t be here without you. So thanks!

Who do you think deserves plaudits?


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True confessions: When I’m angry, frustrated, upset, or feeling helpless, I either eat or spend money or both. I don’t need to be hungry or in need of something. I just do it. I know this about myself. I know it even as it’s happening. But I can’t seem to stop. (What a First World problem to have, right?)

After a recent, really, really bad day, I ordered three Japanese Maple trees (one yellow, one orange, and one red) and one Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar for my new yard. To the tune of $250. I have the money, but I really ought to spend it on something that’s a higher priority right now. This was not the wisest budgeting decision.

Yes, I’ve always wanted these trees. They’ll look great. They’ll result in less mowing and more privacy. But I only ordered them because I was pissed off.

It’s really rather interesting that when I’m angry or upset with someone or something else, it’s me whom I punish. I either spackle the fat directly to my hips or fire a cannon ball directly at my finances. Better to do that, I reason, than lash out at someone else or actually be assertive for a change.

This is not healthy. And in the end, it really doesn’t make me feel any better. I berate myself. I lecture myself. I take myself on an epic guilt trip. And I pay. Oh, do I pay, in so many ways. And yet, I’ll do it again, no doubt.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of my shenanigans aren’t at the $250 level. I actually have stellar credit. Usually It’s more like a late night drive to Wendy’s for about 1800 calories worth of junk food and the accompanying regret. But it’s still self-destructive.

It could be worse. I kind of understand people who cut themselves. I just don’t like pain. Or blood. Or awkward explanations. So I cover myself in a layer of fat and financial stress instead.

Even so, I really am looking forward to planting those trees…

Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar. Needless to say, mine will be much smaller.

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Okay, Now I Can Die Happy.

I just had the most gratifying conversation with an old friend from college. He told me I had a huge impact on him, and that I made him socially conscious. Wow. Just… wow.

I had no idea. And I’m all the more honored because I know him to be a very socially conscious person. I can’t take credit, really, because I’m sure it was within him all along, but if I was the catalyst for bringing that to the surface, well, that’s gigantic.

And it surprises me because I’ve always sort of felt like a quiet background kind of person. I don’t think of myself as a mover or a shaker or an influencer (to coin a term). I stand on the periphery a lot. Somebody has to prop up the walls.

So hearing this from my dear old friend does my heart good. A long-standing item on my bucket list has been to have a positive impact on someone. That’s no small thing. I have no children of my own, so the opportunities for substantive impact on my fellow man are few and far between.

It had me thinking about the people that have had an impact on me. There have been quite a few. Have I told them? Some of them. I shouldn’t assume that the rest know. And they deserve to!

Take a moment to think about the people who have made you a better person. Reach out to them. That’s what I plan to do.

And you never know. You might just be giving them this news at a time when they really need to hear it. It’s the most delightful feeling in the world, knowing you’ve made a difference. It’s life affirming.


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Delayed Gratification

I have an 820 credit rating. I’m rather proud of that. I think that’s because I absolutely HATE paying interest for anything. You might say I have no interest in interest. To me it sort of feels like taking that money and setting it alight. Poof. Gone. And nothing to show for it.

So whenever I want to buy something, I put off getting it until I have the cash. I try not to charge anything unless I can pay it off that same month. Of course there are exceptions to that rule. Emergencies, for example, or things that are time sensitive. But my absolute goal in life is to not be in debt. Even a small amount causes me undue stress.

You will never see me rent to own anything. If I need a flat screen TV that badly, I’ll wait until I’ve set aside enough money rather than winding up paying two or three times its actual value just so I don’t miss the season opener of House of Cards in high def.

I seem to be the exception to the rule in this credit-loving society. I give my mother credit for that (pardon the pun). She got me into this habit at a very young age, long before I was old enough to qualify for a credit card or buy a car. It would probably be much harder to adopt this practice once you’ve taught yourself that you don’t have to wait for anything.

Delayed gratification is very gratifying in the end. If you can’t embrace this philosophy yourself, at least try to teach it to your children. They’ll thank you for it someday.

[Image credit:]

Andy Johnson, Take Heed

I have a lien on the home of Andy Johnson, former member of the Florida House of Representatives. He stole $3,500.00 from me, and despite the fact that I won the court case, he refuses to pay me back. Due to his stubbornness on this issue, and the fact that liens rack up a nice bit of interest every year, he now owes me what I consider to be ever so slightly south of a bloody fortune.

This made me wonder how that lien is impacting his credit. According to the Nest, a website dedicated to all things financial, the answer is, basically, a heck of a lot. (And my petty little self can’t resist saying that it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.)

Apparently the credit bureaus calculate liens in with your negative payment history, so “having a lien on your credit history would fall between making several late payments on a credit card and declaring bankruptcy.” In addition, the Nest says that “You could also be restricted from obtaining a home equity loan or a mortgage in the future.”

So Andy may think he’s proving some twisted point by not doing the right thing and paying me what he owes me, but actually he’s only harming himself, and the negative ripple effect of that is that he’s costing himself a lot more. According to, a low credit score will influence the auto loan interest rate that you get, the amount of a down payment you have to pay for a cell phone plan, your ability to rent property for your home or business, and your ability to obtain credit cards. It can also impact your home and auto insurance rate, and the rates of any private student loans you attempt to obtain for your children.

Andy Johnson does have kids, and by leaving such a sickly financial legacy behind him, he also is doing nothing to help them get ahead. I do feel sorry for them, but it could so easily be rectified if he paid up. He is his own worst nightmare, to be honest.

And then there’s his reputation to consider. I will continue to maintain my blog entries about this man and what he did to me as long as he lives, or until he does the right thing, whichever comes first. If you google him, my blog entries come up. As of this writing, 41,400 people have viewed my blog, and his is one of the more popular topics that people check out. The internet never goes away. Future generations will know the kind of man he is.

Face it, Andy, you’ve lost. For the sake of your family, do the right thing. My credit score is 772. What’s yours?

You can read the full and sordid details about Andy Johnson’s underhanded dealings here. Or you can get an abridged version of events here. You can get details on how he blatantly lied about the situation to a reporter and my documented evidence of it here. If you’d like to confront him about this situation, read my suggestion about that here. And if you’d like to buy my judgment at a discount and make a nice profit from collecting the money, read about my offer here. If you would like to talk about other nefarious deeds of his, do so here.


[image credit:]

Throw Me a Bone

I just finished training on the University Drawbridge. That’s two Seattle bridges under my belt. So if you count the three bridges I was qualified on in Jacksonville, Florida and the one in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, that’s 6 bridges I’ve operated, and that includes all three main types of bridge (bascule, lift, and swing). I know of only one other bridgetender who has such varied experience. (If there are any others out there, I’d love to talk to them!) I’m rather proud of myself.

But as I write this, I can’t really show how chuffed I am because I’m in the presence of one of those people who frowns upon kudos, whether self-awarded or not. I’ve heard this called “tall poppy syndrome”. If you stick your head up above the other poppies around you, this type of person will chop it off. I’ve never understood this mindset.

It’s always been my philosophy that you should give credit where credit is due. Not only does that engender positive attitudes all ’round, but also if you allow others to shine, you benefit from the glow yourself. If your team members look good, the whole team looks good by association.

But some people simply cannot throw others a bone. They think it’s more impressive if they hoard them all for themselves. So I’ll do my prideful happy dance when I get home. Until then, I know this is an accomplishment, and no one can take that away from me. Yay!

“…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” ~Marianne Williamson