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Financing a violin


pandora
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Have you had any experience with financing a violin? How did you do

it? Business loan, personal loan, a local or national organization

like the "musician's credit union?"

What options do you know of for the sort of folks - both teachers

and students - who play well/seriously enough to need/deserve a

decent instrument (say, 6,000 - 14, 000 $ range), who are not

wealthy enough to simply plunk down the cash, but are also not

prodigies, minorities, photogenic, young, or broke -- and therefore

out of the running for beauty pageants, specialized scholarships,

and student loan programs?

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This is a real enough problem for many would-be students, even if you describe it in a slightly light-hearted way.

Many dream of being gifted with a fine instrument, by a relative, benefactor, a legacy or bequest.

Dreams rarely come true, however.

Again many young professionals make big sacrifices to acquire an expensive instrument in lieu of a better motor vehicle, other appliances or comforts, better accommodation, holidays, et cetera.

What exacerbates the problem further is that the financial rewards for a career in music are not always commenserate with the investment in training and equipment relative to other professions(?)

It would be nice to think more retired players or collectors would consider loaning out instruments, but human nature being what it is............

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Personal loans are available, although you have to shop around because not every lender will handle them. Personal unsecured loans are fairly easy with good credit, although the interest can rival a credit card. My husband did manage to get a loan once with another (paid for) instrument as collateral, but that seems to be a rarity. Home equity would be another way to go, although I don't know about the long-term wisdom of borrowing against your house.

The problem with retired players loaning out instruments is that usually they acquired those instruments by sacrificing on areas like, oh, retirement savings. They have no choice but to try to get some money out of instruments in order to have a retirement income.

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I remember a story about a famous writer and violinist meeting for lunch.

The Writer asked "Who made your violin, it sounds so beautiful?"

The Violinist replied "Your books are wonderful, what brand of pen do you use?"

So - Do you really need a violin costing $6000 - $14000?

I have a few violins and my favourite is a George Kloz copy (late 1700s) bought for $100. It had the scroll broken off through the A peg hole. After reglueing it and plating the peg box on the inside at that point, I have a beautiful old violin and will not be paying it off for the next twenty years.

I feel sure that a very nice instrument can be found for a fraction of the cost you invisage. There are many fine old German violins available - Try and try until you find one yoiu love. Good luck.

Busker.

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You probably won't like this advice, but here its is. I suggest that you start visiting dealers and attending auctions to see what you can get for $5,000 or less. And I would also start now a savings program instead of focusing on a loan.

In my experience, loans should be used only for truly necessary items (auto to travel to work), preferably those that appreciate over the life of the loan (a house). Until you have saved the money, you can get by with a inexpensive instrument, probably the one you are now playing. If you think my financial advice is unreasonable, keep in mind that I was able to retire comfortably when I turned 59. Not bad for an academician.

Mike

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quote:


Originally posted by:
pandora

Have you had any experience with financing a violin? How did you do

it? Business loan, personal loan, a local or national organization

like the "musician's credit union?"


I have a good deal of experience working with advanced conservatory students and young professionals who are trying to obtain appropriate instruments. While there are a few foundations specializing in instrument loans, the need outweighs the supply by a long shot.

In many cases, due to the tax advantage, parents of gifted students (who are about to, or already are, paying tuition) choose to use an equity loan against their homes. A few schools have funds available for instrument purchases (they often work like student loans).

For Pros: Some orchestras have loan programs for players who have won a contract. I also know of a few players who have managed a "business loan" from a bank, using the instrument as collateral (but this is difficult...).

When I was with Shar Fine Instruments, we worked with a bank to develop a program for purchase loans and leases. This worked for a few years, but as the trend these days is for large banks to swallow small ones, the program disappeared after one of these mergers. I know a couple other large dealers who have, or are trying to, work out similar situations with local banks. This usually requires the dealer to guarantee the value of the collateral (in other words, if the purchaser defaults, the dealer pays back the bank for the balance due in return for the instrument).

While every situation is different, I agree in principal with Mr. Molnar. Why go into debt if you don't need to? I've seen some rather incredible violins from makers in China (I'm not talking about the commercial ones most are used to seeing... I'm speaking of makers like the one who took the silver medal at the '04 VSA competition). These instruments are generally available between $5K and 7K... and should (and do) make some US and European makers nervous. There are also many dealers who specialize in instruments uder 10K... many more than those who sell more expensive instruments.

The picture changes if we're speaking of players who are competing in major competitions, etc., but that's a very different situation.

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I have been blown away by some chinese violins, and I am talking about really blown away. Lucky enough I have teachers with some pretty expensive instruments, one of whom has an impressive collection of modern instruments and I must say that for $5000 or more you can get some wicked violins from makers in ShangHai (that I know of).

Of course, once you start competing in big competitions as Jeff talks about, things change. By that point it is easier to get a patron or someone interested in your playing. Owning a good instrument is a great joy but can be very difficult, which is why modern violins should be right on your list. You cannot get a "good Italian violin" for anything resembling cheap or affordable. Consider the many fantastic makers in the more sensible price brackets.

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I have known a chap for about 30 years now, now in his 70's, I guess, who has a room full of instruments. He rarely plays himself, now, I would think. OK, some of the stuff in of no great value, other instruments are not in good condition, but there used to be some fine fiddles as well among them. A Grancino, a Guadagnini school, a Gagliano and a few others........

So what does he do with them? Family does not appreciate them, I would not think. He probably would like to have liquidated some of them to provide finance. A dealer thought of making an offer for the collection, but it came nowhere near his expectations, and the dealer let on at least, the condition of the instruments was not great.

In the end he may have to settle for less. While they sit in his cupboards unused, they could at least be in the hadns of players who cover the insurance and pay some rent, but I guess the nature of collecting is that you like to have them around you, like pets? Still there must be some pleasure in seeing and hearing your assets put to good use in the hands of a competent player....... Guess this is where the conversion from collector to philantropist takes place?

What would I do if I were in his position? Not sure about that.

I was thinking it would be fun to approach a number of shops, dealers or collectors I know personally and ask for a gratis loan of something nice for a few weeks - something they had trouble moving and wasn't in demand outside the audition or exam season. In my case I think they would oblige. But there again, I am not a young struggling student, rather a "mature" amateur with a goodly number of contacts and good will.

I have done this for a student or two without any problems, but only pro tem., not on a long term arrangement.

I suggest you and keep your ears open and start asking around - older players, professionals and tell them of your plight. You might be surprised what turns up.

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Depending upon how critical it is for you to go up to the $14,000

instrument, and if you are the average consumer with a job and

possibly a house, there are many ways to free-up cash.  If I

were you, I would take the advice on looking for an instrument in

the $5000 range (that can be put on a credit card, if all else

fails) and then save for a future purchase.

If you think you really need the $14,000 instrument, then take a

look at your house, your car, your bike and any item you currently

own that you think you either could do without or could trade down

on.  Home equity loans, and selling a higher priced

car to buy a cheaper car are very common ways to get cash

quickly.  You may even consider something as simple as a

garage sale to get you started.

Remember, instrument prices are set by several market forces, a

couple of them are a buyer's perceived value of the instrument and

their perceived need for it.

.  

Regards,

-S

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Boy, is it interesting to compare your responses:

-----quote:-----

...many young professionals make big sacrifices to acquire an

expensive instrument in lieu of a better motor vehicle, appliances

or comforts, holidays, et cetera...

....Do you really need a violin costing $6000 - $14000? I have a

few violins and my favourite is a George Kloz copy (late 1700s)

bought for $100...

...You probably won't like this advice, but here its is. I suggest

that you start visiting dealers and attending auctions to see what

you can get for $5,000 or less....In my experience, loans should be

used only for truly necessary items (auto to travel to work),

preferably those that appreciate over the life of the loan (a

house). Until you have saved the money, you can get by with a

inexpensive instrument, probably the one you are now playing...

...Why go into debt if you don't need to? I've seen some rather

incredible violins from makers in China for $5K -7K that should

(and do) make some US and European makers nervous....The picture

changes if we're speaking of players who are competing in major

competitions, etc., but that's a very different situation.

...Owning a good instrument is a great joy but can be very

difficult, which is why modern violins should be right on your

list. You cannot get a "good Italian violin" for anything

resembling cheap or affordable. Consider the many fantastic makers

in the more sensible price brackets.... $14,000 is not worth

getting into debt over. You can get great violins at a 3rd of that

if you will buy from a Chinese maker.

-------------

Huh. Sounds like we don't really need violins over 5K at all.

Wonder what the BSO or Vienna or NY Phil would sound like if they

were all playing Juzeks?

But why should only people who are competing/playing for others

have excellent instruments?

Aren't my own ears deserving? Or my students'?

I've been playing the same perfectly decent German violin for MANY

years (actually it's Czech, but you know what I mean) and it

suddenly came to me: I spend HOURS teaching every week with my

violin in my hands, I take great pains to get my students onto

instruments that will actually respond to the physical signals they

are learning to give, and yet I've never taken the time to find an

instrument that really responds to ME. I can outplay, out-nuance my

own instrument, and it's time for a change. Maybe it's a midlife

crisis. Downgrading the car isn't an option since I've always

driven humble (I buy them used, for cash, at over 100,000

miles and make them last until the odometer rolls past 200) and

taking out a home equity loan isn't an option - I rent, since the

area I live in is one of those picturesque places where the housing

costs are spiraling up to the heights where the second-home owners

live, and humble public servants (cops, firemen, music teachers)

have a hard time buying.

I've looked at any number of instruments, and I'm just not finding

anything that sounds good/responds well enough for under 5,000.

What I AM finding, though, are instruments that sound terrific and

would be worth 15K and up if they weren't ugly, unlabeled, or made

by unknown Joe Shmoes in places like Boise and Pittsburg.

So no, I'm not looking for "old Italian" by a long shot, but:

Chinese violins make me nervous - and it's not the workmanship,

it's the wood. Somewhere along the line I picked up a feeling that

the jury's still out on these. Yes they sound great now, but has

the wood been treated right? Will they hold?

Anyone want to comment on the merit of getting a new Chinese vs. an

older "proven" instrument, assuming that sound is the ONLY concern

(not visual aesthetics, not provenance, not resale or investment

value) ?

And back to the original question:  haven't any teachers

bought instruments with business loans? Seems to me a violin is no

different than, say, a copy machine or computer network -- they're

all tools, we're all small businesses.

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I have to agree with you on the Chinese instruments though some I've played are very good. I prefer a 100 yr old beat up but true and playable German violin over a new Chinese instrument any day.

As far as instruments over the $5K price range that are sold at most violin shops I've seen would be very hard to justify buying. Most are money traps waiting to sping on the violinist who (like me) are lusting for the joy of owning and playing a supreme violin. The price tag on most all 2k-20k violins are inflated 99% of the time and deflated 99% of the time after purchase (unless you buy a Strad, Del Jesu, etc..., but those prices are 50k++). The problem is finding that 1%. The real value of a violin is how easy it is to sell for the price asking inside the time you need to sell it. Example you can unload an expensive Strad in 1/2 the time at or even more than the price you paid for it where a lesser Italian violin in the 10k-20k range would take for ever to sell. Most 2k-20k instuments will never resell for what you would pay for it from a violin shop inside the time you would need to sell it. There are a lot of invaluable violins that owners would never part from originally bought for less than 2k, but owners tend to sell more costlier violins due to circumstances and then sold for a big loss.

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The wood these top makers use is very good, from the Croatian mountainrange ( I think), exactly what most of the modern italians use. Most of them have studied in one of the prominent schools, like with Morassi for example. I can guarantee that you will find something you like.

To be honest I always hear from 9/10 violinists that they have this "great" German violin... everyone knows they are just above entry level instruments, yet you always hear that the person has the "exceptional" instrument. Whenever I try these it's always the same, a very mediocre instrument. Try some stuff out... I can guarantee that it will be better than the average "fantastic german fiddle".

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quote:


Originally posted by: pandora

I've looked at any number of instruments, and I'm just not finding

anything that sounds good/responds well enough for under 5,000.

What I AM finding, though, are instruments that sound terrific and

would be worth 15K and up if they weren't ugly, unlabeled, or made

by unknown Joe Shmoes in places like Boise and Pittsburg.

{[endquote}

Personally, think that a cheap violin that sounds terrific but is unlabeled or made by an

unknown Joe Schmoe in places or Boise or Pittsburg is exactly what I would be looking for if I was a promising but impoverished music student. Come to think of it I would like to find just such a violin and I am neither impoverished nor a student nor promising.

My teacher plays an unlabeled violin that might be Italian but defies attribution. It sounds great and I wish I had one like it.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
pandora

Huh. Sounds like we don't really need violins over 5K at all.

Wonder what the BSO or Vienna or NY Phil would sound like if they

were all playing Juzeks?

So no, I'm not looking for "old Italian" by a long shot, but:

Chinese violins make me nervous - and it's not the workmanship,

it's the wood. Somewhere along the line I picked up a feeling that

the jury's still out on these. Yes they sound great now, but has

the wood been treated right? Will they hold?

Anyone want to comment on the merit of getting a new Chinese vs. an

older "proven" instrument, assuming that sound is the ONLY concern

(not visual aesthetics, not provenance, not resale or investment

value) ?

And back to the original question:  haven't any teachers

bought instruments with business loans? Seems to me a violin is no

different than, say, a copy machine or computer network -- they're

all tools, we're all small businesses.


Are you reading or skimming?

To site your own original question: "What options do you know of for the sort of folks - both teachers and students - who play well/seriously enough to need/deserve a decent instrument (say, 6,000 - 14, 000 $ range), who are not wealthy enough to simply plunk down the cash, but are also not prodigies, minorities, photogenic, young, or broke -- and therefore out of the running for beauty pageants, specialized scholarships, and student loan programs?"

One of the quotes you used was mine.

Speaking for myself, I answered your question based on the criteria you provided. I don't see anything about the BSO, Vienna, or NY Phil. in your original question.

Also, I believe I was clear about which Chinese instruments I was speaking of. To quote: "I'm not talking about the commercial ones most are used to seeing... I'm speaking of makers like the one who took the silver medal at the '04 VSA competition." I have no idea if you've seen one of these... so I can't comment on why you're nervous. Frankly, I find them better in quality than most everything I see offered between 5 and 7K... pretty wood, well seasoned, and excellent workmanship... so maybe you should take a second, or first, look.

Next; If one purchases an instrument from a decent shop, with a trade policy, if the violin changes (or the financial picture changes), I don't see that there is a problem... and "no" I haven't seen problems with the Chinese makers I'm speaking of (and there are a very few that I am speaking of).

Last; I did mention business loans.

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"Are you reading or skimming?"

I'm reading, Jeffrey, believe me, especially anything you write (I

am not being facetious here) but I'm not doing a very good job at

writing these days - maybe it's this head cold? the weather?

Whatever. In any case, I did read your mention of business loans,

but I also recall you talking about how hard they were to get

(mergers, canceled programs). I'd love to hear from a teacher or

two that was able to convince the local bank that a violin is a

loan-worthy business tool.

" Personally, I  think that a cheap violin that sounds

terrific but is unlabeled or made by an unknown Joe Schmoe in

Pittsburgh is exactly what I would be looking for"

Finprof, that IS what I'm looking for. (Sorry if that wasn't clear,

apology again). The only thing I care about is sound, not

a particular maker or town or color or perfect beestings or

succulent scrolls. I've played some VERY nice instruments in the

5-7K range that, according to the dealers, "would be worth five

times that if they were old Italian/had a  label/didn't have

that gouge.

(One very nice surprise is that I have NOT experienced any snobbery

on the part of the dealers, including some rather posh places. It's

a little interesting to go into a place that has

cabinets worth more than my house and say "do you have any

ugly ones?"

Not that I'm being THAT blunt, but I have been clear that

investment value/aesthetic perfection is not my goal. What I'm

finding is that even the shops with the Strads and DG's, have a

stable of "lower" -end instruments:  some of them exquisitely

pretty but sonically soulless, some venerable antiques with

idiosyncratic sounds, and some pretty darn good playing but not

valuable in any other way. And the sales folks are lovely -

although maybe they're paid to wait till the door shuts behind me

to start cracking up.)

But 6K still means a loan right now. Medical bills, aging parents,

you know the deal.

Auctions are scary if you're not already proficient at "hearing" a

violin - I really need a week in my own living room to feel out

what an instrument can do. And anything that's not already set up?

Nuh uh. I'm not qualified to judge what an instrument's sound

"WOULD be, with a good bridge and better strings."

(I've bought several nice instruments at auctions for a few

hundred, got them set up, and handed them over to students, but

can't take risks on this level, sorry.)

The only thing I can't seem to talk myself into ignoring is age. I

like old stuff - I use my great aunt's kitchen tools and cook from

scratch, the couch is vintage, I still own VINYL recordings

fergoshsakes. So I've been looking at older American instruments

and shying away from newer Chinese AND newer everybody else,

although if somebody wanted to give me one of Sam Z.'s I wouldn't

refuse, but he plays Klezmer and contra and lives in Brooklyn which

makes it all different somehow, that place doesn't exist on the

same space/time continuum as anywhere else.

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Hi Pandora,

I know next to nothing.

With regard to a loan, have you talked to a banker?--to your banker? I believe you are directing your question to the wrong audience. If you have an account in good standing, you have leverage.

With regard to the acquisition of a violin, having just been through this process, I think it is worthwhile to put your trust in a dealer/luthier. Honestly, I think that looking for a luthier will be more productive than looking for a violin: let him, or her, do that for you.They've got the knowledge, the connections, and the time.This is difficult, I know, but at some point you need to decide to trust someone who has more expertise/connections than you have. Don't begrudge them their cut, no matter how much profit they derive from the sale. If they can get you a great instrument within your prescibed price range, their share of the sale is justified. And you can always reject their finds...They will work for you for FREE! It is amazing. (Of course, ultimately a good dealer will make the sale/profit to justify his or her labors).

Find a luthier whom you like & who is willing to work for you (and wants to please you) and decide to trust him. Give him a price range. Since he will undoubtedly bring you an instrument just a bit beyond your maximum price (and since you will undoubtedly fall in love with that instrument), set your maximum just a bit below what you might realistically be able to scrape together (through a loan, stock sale, prostitution, whatever!!!).

Be patient.

Think about the sales tax hit. There are almost always ways to avoid this.

Know yourself. Are you able to haggle? (I'm not). Your dealer will figure this out quickly, probably, and will adjust accordingly.

You won't end up with the sleeper-eBay-bargain-of-the-century. But then, who does?

J.

P.S. As Jeffrey suggests, a lot of dealers or makers will help with financing. When I bought my viola directly from the maker (some twelve years ago), he set up an interest-free payment plan. There are also differences between paying by cash or by credit.

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Not to be a total wet blanket, but you could probably set aside the amount you'd make in loan payments into a savings account and be able to pay cash in 3-4 years time. If you don't have any big auditions on the horizon or anything like that, it might be worth the wait.

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Pandora,

Siding with Erika and others, above, here's another vote against going into debt to get a fiddle, unless you make your living on how your fiddle sounds in public, for the following reasons:

--Primary reason: Think worst case scenario and you find yourself unable to pay the loan back. You won't be able to just sell the fiddle and pay off the loan. Violins are not that liquid. It takes months to sell one, and when you do, expect to lose 20 to 50%, maybe more, of your purchase price.

--There are some really nice fiddles out there, new ones, some by local amateur makers, some from China, in the 2,000 to 4,000 dollar range that would serve very well if the concern is sounding good for yourself or to the student standing next to you, and your concern is not sounding great in a concert hall. If you pick carefully, you'll get a violin with good response, decent sound, and maybe not a whole lot of projection, but you don't need a lot of projection. In other words, this fiddle won't hinder your development as a player.

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quote:


Originally posted by: skiingfiddler

Pandora,

You won't be able to just sell the fiddle and pay off the loan. Violins are not that liquid. It takes months to sell one, and when you do, expect to lose 20 to 50%, maybe more, of your purchase price.

q]

The reason that skiingfiddler just posted is why violins make lousy collateral. If a bank makes a loan they

want collateral that can be sold immediately and at nearly full value.

A short lesson in Finance - It is very easy to borrow to start up a restuarant. Banks will lend 60-80% of the value of the property because even though the restaurant will probaby go broke, they can turn around and sell the assets to somebody else that wants to start a restuarant. There are tangible marketable assets to serve as collateral. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to borrow from a bank to start up a software company or a biotech because the software company's assets are not tangible or marketable in the event of failure. So, generally, the amount that you can borrow depends on the marketability of tangible assets that the bank or other lender can claim in the event of default.

Jeffrey's earlier suggestion about the dealer serving as loan guarantor is very interesting since the relationship between a prominent dealer and a bank can be used to the dealer's advantage. However, the dealer would be reluctant to serve as a guarantor unless they had prior business dealings with the purchasor and had a good estimate of the purchaser's ability and willingness to pay. The dealer would probably be more than happy to finance her markup if the purchaser is willing to contribute equity equal to the dealer's cost.

Sorry if you find this boring. Finance is intersting to me, at least.

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Huh.

Let's just think about this for a moment. The current money machine

will GLADLY, HAPPILY lend just about anyone 10,000 bucks or more

(often MUCH more) for a CAR - maybe for business, maybe for

pleasure -  a mass produced machine that will almost

definitely be an (officially) worthless scrap heap in, oh, say ten

years....but it's a dicey proposition for a working professional to

borrow a lousy 7K for a necessary tool, one that will be used for

hours a day, every day in the direct practice of said pro's

business. A tool that MAY depreciate, will likely at least hold

level if bought wisely, and may even seriously APPRECIATE

(something a Toyota never does)

God forbid the economy supports something not disposable.

It's interesting that any number of well-meaning and intelligent

folks both on this forum and in my own neighborhood have questioned

a 7K lifetime purchase, and suggested settling for a 3-4K

"good-enough."

If you have a fast enough computer/internet connection to spend

serious time on this forum, than it's a pretty good guess that

you're driving - like my "live" friends - a "normal" car. Say, a

Subaru bought used, or maybe a new-bought Corolla. NO one questions

the purchase of this type of car and it's dead normal to purchase

one with a loan - which means the additional expense of collision

insurance.

I have NO debt right now. None. I've never gotten caught up in the

credit card thing, and (Erika, et al:) I've just bought (again) a

used car with cash that I let accumulate (that's why the reserves

are down, that and family/illness obligations.) It's an older

Jetta, goes like a bat out of Hades, humble but still shiny and

will last for years. If I traded it in tomorrow for a new Camry no

one would blink.

What does it say about our society when an endless succession of

disposable 15K cars goes unquestioned, even though all they do is

get us soullessly from A to B, but the search for ONE lifetime

companion - used daily in the creation of something supremely

human, a process that happens at the center of our being - is

somehow suspect?

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BTW, Finprof and other economists, I don't find finance boring, and I'm not questioning the mathematical sense of loan policies. I am questioning the system's karma, though. A second BTW to car lovers, too: if a certain car touches your soul and makes you simply happy every time you drive it, then god bless -- you're a different breed of driver and have a right to go for what feeds you. No one has the right to question anyone else's love interest. But I wish we'd all question what we're asked to spend on the things we DON'T love a little more often.

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