Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Freedom .
“Is there anything in particular I should be looking at between now and the end of the year?” I asked my new “coach,” a professional advisor-slash-counselor I’ve retained to help me look at specific life issues objectively and keep me on track in my busy life.
“Yes! Between now and the end of the year, focus mainly on 1. home and 2. balancing your accounts.” She laughed before I could protest that I’m already doing that.
But she was uncannily accurate when she said that three weeks ago. Her advice has since been echoed by my intuitive friend, Mariah, and then, of course, by Life itself.
The focus has indeed been more on money recently, especially money related to the home. I’ve given up on getting my insurance company to do anything at all about the damage endured in three separate hurricanes, and so I’m roof-shopping again. I can’t afford to fight it anymore. I’m in the queue for having repairs done on the inside and in the back yard, but it’s been extra hard to get repairmen to cooperate since there’s so much post-storm damage to wade through on the Gulf Coast and a job I’ve been trying to get done since March 18th is still waiting, this time for the third or fourth promised repairman, but at least this one will be worth waiting for and can work on my house without being constantly supervised, dropping cigarette butts in my front yard, or leaving beer bottles on my kitchen counters. I’ve given up on the handyman who was supposed to come back and finish installing my new light fixtures, so I’ll be trying not to electrocute myself when I hang them myself.
The office AC is working again, which saves a thousand dollars, at least—or $6,200, depending on which rip-off artist you ask—so that’s one less expense. And I may have found a great little lawn service that just wants to make a living and not a killing and won’t mind the Summer heat or the mosquitoes.
I’ve got one last check for $35,000 to write to my ex as part of our settlement, and I’ve mortgaged the house to set that up, along with the college funds. As for the college funds I set aside on March 16th per my divorce decree, my ex and I finally agreed on how to handle the funds and I’ve now set up separate accounts for both my daughters. Somewhere in there, I opened another IRA, set aside property taxes, got some professional advice, and moved any spare savings to an account earning 4% instead of …what, maybe 1%? I even cleaned out the car and deposited the spare change in the mom-and-girls-going-to-Disney-for-a-weekend account. Made sure all credit cards were paid off. Put $33.33 into savings for every evening meal we had at home in the past week—a little game I play to remind myself that it pays to eat good food at home, teach the girls to cook more, and not just rely on convenience because I have other work to do. Set up some new Spilled Candy accounts that will be more economical for daily business. Busily working toward my goal of scrimping and saving a year’s salary. Yes, just balancing those accounts as suggested.
So what’s the lesson? These are big expenditures (for me, anyway). I think it’s more along the lines of being reminded to take care of business and get back into the practice of knowing where my money is…or isn’t. I was good at that a long time ago and made some good investments, then abdicated my financial expertise to my spouse because, well, it was his career field and I was so busy with other things. But I’ve taken that back now, and I’m very aware of where my assets and liabilities are now. That’s a far cry from a year ago when I was negotiating my divorce settlement and figuring that I’d have to cut my own hair for the rest of my life because I’d never be able to afford a salon ever again and that I’d have to get used to banana sandwiches and water because I’d never eat-out ever again. So I think this particular money lesson, for me, is about staying on top of things and staying balanced. And not giving it away to shysters.
Money lessons seem to be in abundance for everyone around me. For the past year, I’ve been watching a man at work lose everything he owns through no fault of his own except generosity to the wrong people. His financial stability has always been his bedrock, his self-confidence. Now, without it, he’s learning how little it takes for him to live and focusing more on relationships than on assets. He’s been a wealthy man in our community for a number of years, and his pride keeps his real situation hidden. As a result, he’s refused to let his colleagues know how badly he was hurting and has become withdrawn. Better to spend his Saturday nights home alone than incurring more debt drinking with buddies or wining and dining a potential girlfriend. And, he thinks, better to be alone than honest about his situation. He’s learning instead about relationships, about deepening his friendships, and being valued for who he is rather than for the money that people think he has. The people who know his situation and are sticking around care about him regardless of his bank account. It’s a tough lesson, but without it, he might never have known who likes him for him and who just wants a free ride.
A Circle-mate of mine just bought her first house and is squeamish. She’s been broke before and she knew getting the house of her dreams would be tight, but she took the leap of faith. Now, it’s major repairs and high gas prices. Her lesson is again in faith, self-confidence, and letting go. She’s scared to death of staying on a tight budget, and yet, the funny thing is, she’s always been on a self-imposed tight budget. She’s learning that she can do it…and realizing that she always has.
And then there’s a minister friend of mine who just loves to tell me how I should lighten up about finances and not w-o-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-y about making ends meet. He likes to tell me that God will provide. As proof, he tells me often that he’s been able to survive for years on nothing but love offerings as he does God’s work full-time. Except that he’s suddenly in a financial panic. I expressed my concern to a mutual friend and learned for the first time that he and his wife have always lived rent and utility-free in her parent’s guesthouse and that she’s working full-time in the medical field to support them both. He’s now in a panic because he’s almost 40 and has only now faced his first real financial responsibility. He opened the religious business he’s always dreamed of, signed on the bottom line, and is depending entirely on its meager revenues to pay the utilities, the bank loan, the employees, the insurance…and it’s more than he can handle. He’s learning a lot right now. Responsibility being one, but above all, I think he’s finally learning compassion. He never before really understood why his congregation was so uptight about money and couldn’t easily let go and let God when it came to figuring out how to pay the mortgage. Now he understands because he’s been there, and he’s deep in it at this moment.
Money isn’t the root of all evil. Money’s not even the issue when it comes to these hard lessons. Instead, it’s simply the medium.