I saw Satan on TV (and he's a little dork)

by Tracee Sioux

I was watching a PBS documentary, Secret History of the Credit Card, when Andrew Kahr appeared on my screen and my first impression was, “Huh, that’s not at all how I pictured Satan”. I thought he would be a sexy and dangerous “bad boy.” This little weasel was short and scrawny and a total dork.

Kahr, a credit card industry consultant, makes the Mafia look like Girl Scouts. He was touting some of his achievements: convincing credit card companies to drop the minimum payment to two percent, thus enslaving borrowers with more interest for much, much longer. He’s also the evil genius who started the zero percent mass mailings that nearly everyone has fallen for at least once (you know where if you don’t pay in full by the due date the interest goes up to 30% and is retroactive). Also one of his favorites is raising your interest rate arbitrarily on money you have already borrowed because of some obscure information they have received about other of your credit accounts, without having to justify themselves. He’s also the little demon who kept thinking up great “fees” to appear on your bill and then gather still more interest.

Now, this bit of information doesn’t directly affect me because I don’t have and never will have another credit card as long as I live. Mind you, that’s not because I’m exceptionally wealthy or particularly financially savvy. Mostly it’s because I’ve tasted first-hand the bitter-bitter fruit of credit card debt and come out the other end of a bankruptcy. I’ve paid all the stupid tax to those loan sharks I ever intend to pay.

Before you go thinking, well, of course you don’t have credit cards they won’t give you anymore after a bankruptcy – think again. We weren’t two months out of our bankruptcy before we began receiving the same avalanche of credit card offers in the mail. We are actually their preferred customers, contrary to their statements (read: big fat lies) in front of the current Senate Banking Committee investigation into credit card practices.

We’re exactly who they look for in a customer. We, and probably you too, meet all the desirable credit card customer criteria:

1. We want more than we can afford to buy.
2. We don’t make enough to buy what is considered basic stuff for the American middle-class lifestyle like a house and decent cars.
3. We are gainfully employed and therefore have an income to pay minimum payments with.
4. We graduated from high school and college without an understanding of how they calculate an APR or any other interest. Also without any understanding of how much money we could actually make in our careers.
5. We are forever hopeful and optimistic about our future earning potential, meaning since we expect to make more money in the future and work towards that goal, we believe we’ll be able to make future payments with greater ease.

The Senate Banking Committee is Examining the Billing, Marketing, and Disclosure Practices of the Credit Card Industry, and Their Impact on Consumers, in their current hearings on Credit Card Practices. I would love to be more optimistic about any legislative bills that result from this, but mostly I heard a lot of qualifying about how credit cards are good for Americans, even though there are some disturbing trends.

The chairman of this committee is headed by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut. He makes a statement on his website supporting credit card companies even while he investigates their questionable practices.

“I support them. I strongly believe in the product and its potential to give consumers greater convenience and access to capital.”

He goes on to warn:

“If you currently engage in any business practice that you would be ashamed to discuss before this Committee, I would strongly encourage you to cease and desist that practice. Irrespective of the current legality of such practices, you should take a long, hard look at how you treat your customers, both in the short term and the long term.”

Wouldn’t it be lovely if strong encouragement was all it took for amoral and emotionless credit card corporations to stop screwing the American family? Not to mention that Satan himself, Kahr, is a kajillionaire precisely because he could care less about the nightmare many families face every day at the mailbox.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where debt and credit card companies are the biggest reason couples get divorced. More than half the couples in this country are divorcing. Now, since I had to take College Algebra rather than anything useful like “how to manage your personal finances,” I can’t do the math of exactly how many actual families are destroyed by credit cards and their evil poster boy Kahr. But, I can tell you that if half the families are breaking up over debt and money problems then America is suffering from some pretty serious mental and emotional issues that center around money and we need to get a handle on it.

The average family living in the United States has over $9,300 of credit card debt. In comparison, the median household income was about $46,000 in 2005. So for all the people out there who find themselves in debt anxiety, otherwise known as hell – and statistically, that’s most of you – don’t hate your spouse, hate Andrew Kahr and the credit card companies that employ him.

Also, get some help. My husband and I took an invaluable course called Financial Peace University that educated us about personal finances and it’s changed the way we manage our own money. Dave Ramsey teaches the course in little satellite classes on DVD that are offered in community centers and churches all over the country. The class costs about $100 depending on how many students enroll and I promise you will make up that $100 in your first year of Zero Based Budgeting.

To Dodd and his Senate Banking Committee, I think I’d like to see less strong encouragement and more actual LAWS to govern the corrupt credit card industry. I’d also like to see Andrew Kahr given a life-sentence to solitary confinement for the horrible crimes against humanity he has committed – the committee should at least fine him a kajillion dollars.

And for Heaven’s sake don’t click on all the Google ads that will pop up on this blog as a result of my writing about a credit card problem. You don’t want any more cards, credit is not your friend, and I don’t need the income from clicks to credit card ads.

To find the Financial Peace University course nearest you just enter your zip code at this link:

To find out more about the terrible trauma Andrew Kahr has directly caused in your life:

To find out more about the Senate Banking Commitee Hearing on Credit Card Practices, maybe even shoot him an email:

9 replies
  1. Rebecca says:

    Rebecca wrote:

    So did I tell you I am reading the Total Money Makeover and have officially jumped on the bandwagon, drunk the kool-aid, whatever you want to call it? I don’t agree with every single thing he says but I def am on board with Baby Steps. And Bret is too! We’re going to start aggressively paying off our student loans and cars. Luckily our cars are paid off pretty soon anyway, since we bought them over 3 years ago. Whew.

    Anyway, my student loans are worse (altho much less) than Bret’s, since his huge loan is interest free to his dad. But I can’t WAIT to pay his dad off much earlier than expected. But that loan is at the end of the snowball for sure!

    And Bret is totally on board too. I’m also getting Nine Keys to Financial Success from Suze Orman. She’ll be a good counterpoint to Dave I think. I am so excited about being debt free! If there’s one thing about Dave Ramsey, he def gets you excited. And this is just from reading the book, not even listening to him! Isn’t that funny?

    Then later she wrote:

    You know, I really think I need to read Suze Orman’s book about women’s emotions and money. I think I have lots of weird emotions tied up with money issues. I think some of them come from my childhood and most of them are b/c of my prior marriage and divorce.

  2. So Sioux Me says:

    I watch Suzy Orman, but I think she gives terrible credit card advice. I’ve heard her tell people who are about to lose their jobs or be laid off to stock up on credit cards while they can to tide them over. I think that’s terrible advice. But, I like her anyway. I like her “can I afford it?” She has a show on Saturday nights on CNBC or something – I don’t know what channel. And she does this schtick where someone calls in and says hey I want to buy a Hummer or diamond earrings or take a trip to Paris, but I don’t have any savings and I bring in $3,000 a month and I owe $6,000 on credit cards – Can I afford it?

    It’s pretty amusing what people fixate on that they think they
    absolutly have to have. It’s almost tragic really that we’re so invested in things to define us in America.
    Actually, I have a suggestion for a resource for our regarding our relationahips and messages with money It’s written by one of the teachers of the secret. Loral Langmeirer is her name. On The Secret she said she grew up with “You have to work hard for money” and she changed it to “Money comes easily and frequently” until it became true. She said 80% of her business is exploring how people feel about money – stressed due to past divorce is something I can definately relate to, we don’t have seperate accounts because when we began there was no money to put in accounts and the only way we could pay for anything was jointly. Sometimes I think I would feel better in our marriage if I did have the leverage a seperate account provides. I went to her website and there are many books to choose from and a ton of other resources. I signed up for the e-newsletter.


    I’ve also read The Millionare Next Door – fantastic way to look at mortgages and cars and wealth building.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I set the dvr to tape Suze Orman’s show. yay. very excited.

    I just heard back from another one of my really old friends who I kindof lost touch with over the years, we were friends at cfni. Anyway, she and her husband are really huge Dave Ramsey fans and she was telling me about that. When he came to Houston she and her husband came from Austin to see him, and we met for lunch. I shoulda gone to that too. Oh well, no looking back. I have a tendency to focus on things I’ve done wrong/poor choices in the past.

    Bret and I are going to have the big “talk” tomorrow. Not sure what he’s going to suggest in terms of the banking situation. I would prefer to keep separate accounts if only for incidentals/lunch money, stuff like that. Like maybe we each get an allowance, and that can go into the separate account. Then you can blow it/spend it/save it, whatever. The bottom line is, we need each other’s income to be able to pay off our debts, it doesn’t make sense to do the snowball separately. We’ve been totally separate so far. And what we desperately need is a budget. Especially me b/c I have the worst spending habits out of both of us.

    Anyway, I figure we can scale back pretty drastically over the next couple of years. Once that happens we will be really in a good place. It’s just getting there. It’s so insidious how our culture is so things-driven. We received some money over xmas, and we spent it on a big-ass tv lcd flatscreen and nice sound system. We’d been wanting a big-ass tv forever, and we absolutely love it. Naturally, now that we’ve read Total Money makeover I can’t believe we bought it. That $ could have paid off my bar loan. Isn’t that incredible? Paying off a loan instead of buying the tv never even crossed across our minds.

  4. So Sioux Me says:

    One account – big step.

    Really, you already took the big step – two people = one life = marriage right? Money is not going to give or take away your security. Without your seperate account you are still Rebecca, an independent and financially secure person with a law degree and soon with her own law practice.

    Of course you will still have your own money in the form of Blow money – it’s up to you and Brett how much you get to spend in that blow money. We do $25 each a week – but, we have a lower income than you two. And you don’t need two accounts because according to Dave Ramsey’s plan you decide how much you are going to spend and then you carry that much cash around with you and you don’t access your account but once a week.

    And lunches out is a HUGE money waster. We’ve been eating way healthier without the lunching or eating out. Now when we do it – it really is exciting because we don’t do it every other day.

    You, and we, are the perfect examples of highly educated people who don’t understand or deal with money in appropriate ways – thanks for making me take college algebra – that was helpful. Could’ve made me take a year of how to determine an interest rate or what is a financial priority!

  5. Rebecca says:

    Hey girl!

    So, our new budget is up and running as of March 1. We’re using the envelope system and it’s great. We get one restaurant night per week. That makes it so much more special, plus it saves lots of $.

    You want to know something awful? As recently as last month, and it’s happened about 4 or 5 times that I can remember, our t-mobile automatic payment was rejected b/c there wasn’t enough money in the bank. That payment debits on the very last day of the month. The kicker is that we make too much money for us to deduct my student loan interest from our taxes. We make more than the average couple according to TurboTax. Dave Ramsey would have yelled at us in disgust if I’d called into his show. How embarrassing is that.

    some of the people who call in to the show are sooooo sad. Like when there is a couple in their 60’s, who have lots of debt and no savings. Yikes.

    I really REALLY love Dave Ramsey.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Rebecca wrote back

    Omigod. that is unbelievable. I cannot imagine being worried about my mortgage payment. I could not handle that kind of stress. That makes me feel sick just thinking about it.

    Yep, we have very little furniture and I’m perfectly happy with that. Bret insisted in the budget on putting $100 per month into an envelope for “home improvement”, so we’re going to save that up and use that for things here and there such as new doorknobs and eventually maybe a kitchen table and chairs. But the big stuff is definitely going to have to wait. It’ll be so worth it when the time comes! I used to honestly worry about what people would think if they came over and saw our awful couch, but now I couldn’t care less! Besides, I don’t want to be friends with anyone who would care that we don’t have alot of nice furniture. We do have a nice dining table, which we bought pre-dave ramsey, but at least we didn’t finance it. And thank god we didn’t finance our television. But no more big purchases. Time enough for that later! Besides life if great even without all that stuff.

    When i met bret he had these most hideous chairs that i’ve ever seen in my whole life. they were dining room chairs like from the 1970’s, with wheels, and with puke yellow 70’s upholstery all over them. I hated those chairs with every fiber of my being. I made us get rid of them asap. Now those yellow chairs don’t seem like such a big deal! Bret was so frustrated by my hatred of those chairs.

  7. So Sioux Me says:

    Never believe the Jones’s – they are living a lie!! I went to a new friend’s house today and I was a little envious – I have incorporated the Dave Ramsey lifestyle so deeply by now that it usually doesn’t occur to me at first that everyone has financed everything. I was looking at all the expensive details and the nice new furniture and the beautiful art and everything was so coordinated and pretty. I was jealous. Man, how do they have stuff like this on a nurses salary and we don’t have a nice couch or matching furniture yet.

    Then she mentioned that her house payment was only two months late and about a year ago they had all the furniture repossessed and just got this new stuff financed.

  8. jen says:

    Hey Rebecca, I’m pretty sure I bought those puke yellow chairs at a garage sale, and cleaned them up. Then I recovered them with a dollars worth of super cute material I scored at goodwill. Now I have a cute dining set that I invested a total of 25 whole dollars in that the kids can’t tear up 😛

    Tracee, I am so lovin’ your blog. This is all right up my alley. I would love to get together with you and share creative thoughts on all matters frugal. 452-0045


  9. JB Young says:

    I chose to rid myself of credit cards several years ago and have never looked back. The last remaining hurdle was car rentals, and most of them accept debit cards now.

    Some type of “Practical Living” course should be required in high school, I believe. Learning about banks, mortgages, insurance, marriage, divorce, child support, unemployment and so forth would equip us to be much better citizens than another class about the Civil War.

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