I. Can’t. Even. (SCOTUS/Kavanaugh Nom, Bad Financial Decisionmaking, Et Cetera) AKA Why Debt Sucks, Part 6 of Many

***Full disclosure: I have been away for a week now because MY COMPUTER DIED. Like, totally died. In fact, IT DIED WHILE I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING THIS BLOG POST 7 DAYS AGO. Motherboard went out, BIOS crashed, the whole nine yards. Expensive to fix. Which is why you have money set aside for emergencies, folks, because SHIT HAPPENS. Hence, be frugal. Okay, back with your regularly scheduled program!****

—-Trigger Warning!!—

For the record, I do not like or want to be political on this blog. This blog is for everyone, in all countries, in all states, who want to improve their personal finances. I don’t care who you vote for or where you live, I just want to help you get a better handle on your money. (Because that’s good for everybody!)  So if you might be bothered by the fact I am bringing up the very (strange) and likely self-destructive personal financial decisions of a current Republican U.S. Supreme Court nominee onto this blog for the purposes of ripping them apart, you are welcome to stop reading this post right now. (Perhaps you will find some of my other posts interesting).

Image: U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Meets With GOP Senators On Capitol Hill

(I am only talking about finances here, folks, FYI, Judge Kavanaugh’s politics are mostly off-limits here, except as they relate to his VERY, VERY BAD/STUPID/SMELLY/RISKY MIS-MANAGEMENT OF HIS PERSONAL FINANCES. I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice guy (or maybe not, I don’t care), he just obviously has never learned Why Debt Sucks).

Ahem.

Sooooo, multiple news reports came out the other day that Judge Kavanaugh had between $60,000 and $200,000 in credit card debt in 2016 (disclosed as required by law since he’s a sitting U.S. judge). When pressed, the White House said that Judge Kavanaugh incurred this astronomical debt sum buying—wait for it—baseball tickets.

BASEBALL TICKETS????!!!!!!

(commence banging head against wall, then on desk, then on floor)

GAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

(Full disclosure, I’m a baseball fan. But dropping 200 grand on baseball tix in a single year is completely obscene for anyone to do, let alone a sitting federal judge. Besides, if you’re gonna drop that kind of coin on baseball tix, you could at least buy season tix to a team that actually wins something on occasion, unlike the Washington Nationals. Yeah, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan.).

Seriously? WTF??!! 200 freaking grand on baseball tickets in a single year? When you’re a lifetime civil servant, and that amount of money is roughly equivalent to your annual salary as a federal judge? (DID I MENTION THIS GUY IS A FREAKING FEDERAL JUDGE???!!!! SORRY IF I SOUND REPETITIVE.)

NOT. COOL. AND NOT GOOD JUDGEMENT. And having good judgement is kind of um, important, when your current occupation is federal circuit court judge and you aspire to be a U.S. Supreme Freaking Court Judge. I mean, you would expect this kind of bad-judgement behavior from a spoiled frat boy who lives on his trust fund and has never had a real job, or maybe from a drug addict, or maybe even an overextended twentysomething who grew up in a family that never discussed or taught sound personal finance, as I was once upon a time, but to be fair, I never dropped 200 grand on baseball tix. BUT A FREAKING FEDERAL JUDGE DID THIS????!!!!! DID I MENTION THAT FEDERAL JUDGES RULE ON THINGS LIKE, UM, NATIONAL BANKRUPTCY AND CREDIT LAWS??

Whoa, Nelly. Now this is highly irregular. I for one would not want to have a judge with such poor financial judgement (see what I did there?) deciding any cases that affect me. (And since he wants to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and I’m a U.S. citizen, any case he decided would affect me, but I digress….)

Judge Kavanaugh’s entire net worth is only $65,000 even after he (supposedly, and very, very suddenly) retired the 200 grand in debt (which begs the question, not only why he incurred it so fast, how did he pay it off so fast on a judge’s salary? That’s another question for the U.S. Senate to figure out during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, I won’t speculate on it here.) That is a shockingly low net worth for someone who is in his 50s, has degrees from Yale and has had high-paying (relative to most Americans, anyway—not necessarily compared with private-sector lawyers) legal jobs in government.

What on earth has this guy been doing with his money???!!!

In the interest of full disclosure, I once had credit card debt equal to or greater than my entire annual income (a lot of Americans do, actually)—but I was also 25 years old, had been laid off my job, and I WAS NOT A FREAKING FEDERAL CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE EARNING 200K A YEAR WITH A JOB THAT REQUIRES IMPECCABLE, CONSISTENT GOOD JUDGEMENT. (I had very bad judgement when I was in that kind of debt. However, once I decided I was sick of being in debt, I admitted I had a problem, and learned how to change my behavior so I was never in that position ever again. (Hence my reason for starting this blog, to help others do the same.)

Some pundits and media outlets are saying there is more than meets the eye here, that there may have been something quite nefarious about Judge Kavanaugh’s large and suddenly-disappearing debt.  (For example, public servants who are in substantial debt are at higher risk for falling prey to bribes) While Kavanaugh’s situation is definitely weird as far as federal judges are concerned, I am just gonna assume (for now) that the guy is just bad with money, is addicted to credit card debt and lives beyond his means (as many if not most Americans do).

Let’s unpack what we know about Kavanaugh’s finances based on public reports:

  • He has an expensive home in the fancy suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland that is worth over $1 million—-but he carries a huge mortgage on it
  • He has little to no savings, though he does have a government pension he’ll get upon retirement (assuming he is never convicted of a crime committed while on the job. Not saying that will happen, but again, this whole situation seems weird, so watch that space).
  • His wife works as an executive in a city government, but has a relatively low public servant’s salary of $66,000
  • His current federal judge salary is about $220,000. A good salary by most standards—but not enough to justify being up to your eyeballs in debt and blowing 200 grand on baseball tickets
  • He sends his kids to expensive private school that costs about $20,000 a year for both kids. (I send my kids to private school too. But I don’t spend 20K on it, I’m not in debt, and I don’t drop six figures casually on baseball tix.)
  • I can’t verify this for sure, but I believe Kavanaugh also belongs to a fancy country club given descriptions in the news of the type of socializing he does.

This is a textbook example of somebody who is living way beyond his means. I have no idea why someone would make these choices even when earning a combined household income of almost $300K a year. Why almost no savings at all? Why all the extravagant lifestyle extras? It just defies imagination. The complete lack of savings levels (retirement or otherwise) versus the amount of income (not to mention the very strange debts attributed to “baseball”) also makes me wonder if there might be some kind of hidden spending going on, perhaps in support of an addiction, an extramarital affair, or bad investments.

I don’t know Judge Kavanaugh and I am very unlikely to ever meet him. But if I ever did meet him, I would ask:

  • Why do you feel the need to live the lifestyle of a high-flying CEO when you are a public servant?
  • Have you ever taken a personal finance class? If not, you probably should. No shame in doing so, either. We all make mistakes, and personal finance education in the United States is hard to come by.
  • Have you considered professional counseling? Because it seems to me something is very wrong behavior-wise somewhere in this household (ie, strong indications of some sort of addiction—maybe a shopping/spending addiction?)
  • Have you considered another career besides being a judge? Because while I try not to judge others’ finances, WHEN YOU WANT TO BE A FEDERAL JUDGE, LET A LONE A U.S. SUPREME COURT JUDGE, YOU NEED TO DEMONSTRATE GOOD JUDGEMENT IN ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE. Because that is just a basic job requirement to serve on SCOTUS, right? (Maybe my standards are too high?)

That is all. We’ll return to normal posts later this week.

I remain your Cheap Yuppie Mom.

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One comment

  1. While not trying to be political – I too find retiring all that CC debt suspicious. My tolerance for hypocrisy is shot – a working person who incurs debt and/or decreases income but not spending is a deadbeat. But certain politicians don’t think that term applies to them.

    Like

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