Have you seen that intriguing ad on television that encourages you to refinance your loan? You are given two reasons for wanting to do this: Your monthly payment will be smaller and your loan will be paid off quicker.

You and I have friends who can be convinced that a smaller monthly payment will pay off a loan in less time.

Perhaps I am missing something here, but the only way I ever paid off an installment loan before I had to, I made larger monthly payments.

Yes, I am familiar with the old story called “Stone Soup,” in which a hungry man tricks some people into sharing their food. So, under fairy tale conditions, it is possible to make something out of nothing.

You might even suggest that if the interest were low enough, it could result in paying off the loan in less time. But how many altruistic bankers do you know? You might well ask how they scrape up cash for the expensive television ads if they don’t raise the interest a percentage point or two. Someone pays for those commercials. Do you think it is the financial institution or the customer?

Over 30 years ago, I spoke at an association meeting of Maine bankers, and it was there that I first realized how much the setup of a banquet hall had to do with the success of a humorous after-dinner presentation.


The officers of the association were seated on a platform where they could look out over the assembled tables in the hall.

Every time I’d come to the punch line in a very funny story, the people who were not association officers would look up at the stage to see if any of the directors were laughing. You see, it might not be politic for a cashier to laugh if the bank’s president was sporting a face of stone. All hands were taking their cues from the directors.

The directors did not laugh at my stories either, probably because they were afraid they’d look foolish up there at the head table on the platform, laughing their heads off at nonsense in front of all their cashiers and loan officers.

Because the officers bit their lips and did not laugh, the tellers in the audience did the same.

Since then, whenever I have been asked to stand at a head table and speak at any association with five officers on my left and five officers on my right, I have asked the officers to leave the platform and take seats in the audience. Or else I have retreated to the side from where I could attack both ends from neutral ground.

You might correctly point out that if you need laughs, bankers are an exceptionally tough audience just by the nature of their work. Bankers do not laugh, no matter where in the audience they are seated. It is a conditioned non-response bankers learn early on. They know that if they were, for even a moment, to betray an iota of humanity, a friend might hit them up for a low-interest loan.


Nowadays bankers can print off reams of paper to justify high rates of interest or sound reasons for denying loans.

But back when loans were determined by your reputation in the community by a loan officer who had probably known you and your parents and your grandparents for most of his life, they say there was a Rockland banker who had a borderline customer.

The loan officer couldn’t decide if he should take a chance on his neighbor or not. So he finally said, “Tell you what I’m going to do. You probably don’t know this, but in 1918 I lost an eye in the Argonne Offensive. If you can tell me which of my eyes is glass, I’ll give you the loan.”

The young man said, “Oh, I already know. The right eye is glass.”

“That’s amazing. How could you tell?”

“Easy. I could see a bit of compassion in the glass one.”


All of this came back to me in a flash when I saw the television ad that guaranteed you’d pay off your loan quicker with a smaller monthly payment.

What do you think? Would a person have to be numb, pretty desperate or both to spring for a deal like that?

What kind of person can be convinced that they can have their cake and eat it too? Our friends who can do this are truly gifted because they can hold two completely contradictory beliefs at the same time and believe that are both true.

For lack of a better word, I’d call the ability to do this “doublethink.”

Here’s another example of “doublethink.” You see it all the time on television. A man, microphone in hand, stands up before a crowd and says that he’s going to increase the size of America’s military even as he lowers taxes.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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