No-spoiler alert: This post is NOT about the final episode of the Sopranos.
I'd never heard the term "Brokester" until several months ago, when I read a New York Times article titled Some Made Men Struggle to Make Ends Meet:
Some mobsters reap millions from rackets, and in some cases from legitimate enterprises, but many struggle to maintain a middle-class existence, and some are routinely broke....
The archetypal Hollywood image of a wiseguy with prodigious appetites, swaggering in a finely tailored suit with a diamond pinkie ring and a fat roll of 50s, conceals the more nuanced reality of mob economics, according to some prosecutors, federal agents, organized-crime experts and a few mobsters. Crime figures are not immune to ordinary financial burdens and woes, like struggling to make car payments and finding money for groceries.
No self-respecting mobster wants to be seen as a brokester -- nor would he want his peers to think he struggles to keep up with his middle-class suburban neighbors. But the pressure is great as well to keep up appearances as a successful criminal. Mobsters have even been known to borrow money from loan sharks to throw it around on the street -- and to pass it up as tribute to superiors -- while at the same time scrimping in the privacy of their home.
This article really got me to thinking that mafia guys are an underserved community in terms of personal finance information. We have lots of resources targeting the special financial needs and interests of women, recent graduates, parents, baby boomers, Christians, couples, the LGBT community, etc., and we have blogs written by people of every age, sex, orientation and ethnicity. But are there any blogs called "Mafia Money Matters," "Wiseguy's Open Wallet" or "Goombah Moolah?" Who's out there finding the best deals on pinkie rings and leather jackets? Who's investigating the best strategies for tax evasion and money laundering? Who's telling us the best ways to pinch pennies at the prison commissary? (Don't go when you're hungry!)
I don't think anyone has addressed the particular questions, needs, and differences in terminology that arise when you are dealing with the finances of la Cosa Nostra. So in case I have any cash-conscious capos or insolvent soldiers among my readership (yet another reason to blog anonymously), I would like to help raise awareness of these concerns within the personal finance blogging community by offering:
The Top 10 Reasons Personal Finance is Different for Mobsters
- All cash transactions: it's great that they're not traceable, but think of all the credit card rewards you're missing out on: cash back, frequent flyer miles, etc. And by not keeping money in banks, you're losing ground against inflation.
- Before you become a made man, you have to remember to ask if the family offers a good 401k and health insurance. Because if you try to change jobs later in search of better benefits, you'll probably get whacked.
- The average person's reluctance to divulge their salary might seem comparable to omertà, but if you're a mobster, the don is going to want to know how much his share should be.
- A "zero percent balance transfer" involves sticking a gun in someone's ribs and saying "ok, 'lend' me everything you've got."
- "Credit repair" means giving Vinnie all your wife's jewelry.
- The typical mobster ride is a big gas-guzzler like a Cadillac or a Lincoln, but it's hard to find more fuel-efficient cars with trunks big enough for dead bodies. Rising energy costs have also cut into the profits from garbage hauling.
- A new identity in the witness protection program makes financial record keeping complicated. That is, if you'd been stupid enough to keep any records in the first place.
- Your chances of success as a Prosper.com lender are remarkably high.
- When researching the best places to retire, you have to check their extradition agreements.
- "Wait... did just you say something about a RICO score?!?! What the... Where's the wire?! Where's the f***ing wire, you punk, I'm gonna f***ing rip your legs off!"