My world is changing, yet much remains the same. Good news arrived, unconstrained, without need for qualification. More good news is expected, equally unburdened. My prelude to optimism is being followed by an opening chorus of a significant jump in work, and therefore income. I might even be able to pay the homeowner’s dues in a month or two. Another bit of good news waits in the wings, ready for its cue to step out, sing out, and actually pay my mortgage – assuming the mortgage servicer likes what it hears. I sit in my house on a rainy Saturday morning, knowing that I just have to take one day at a time, yet wondering how much my life is about to change. Losses are usually quicker than gains, but both take adjustments. This adjustment is so long in the waiting that it is accompanied by a tone of disbelief. Time for me to believe.
Calling today a rainy Saturday morning is like describing the current economic climate as unsettled. The mountains surrounding Seattle are expected to receive 10 inches of rain. The winds across the waters are expected to gust to 55mph. There’s a tiny rain shadow that will protect the normally desert-like retirement town of Sequim, where even they’ll probably get a half inch of rain. One in seven Americans are living in poverty. Student loan debt swells because education costs rise while college degrees don’t guarantee jobs – leaving a generation working very hard to get very little and losing ground every day. But there are enclaves that are mildly impacted yet evidently feel besieged.
Today’s weather will pass. Maybe these progressively stronger storms are only in our perception, or maybe they are the beginning of larger and more systemic changes. (Step away from the blog to check the long term forecast. Good.) The storm and the ones that follow only last until a few more days. After that the forecast is only for rain. Hey, this is the world around Seattle, the Puget Sound, the Salish Sea, the Great Pacific NorthWet. It is almost October, rain is normal. So is a bit of sun. Some day next week the sun will come out enough for homeowners to jump into a weather gap large enough for us to tax our lawnmowers. Storms come in and leave in little time. Cleanups take much longer.
My financial storm has lasted years. Yesterday there was a major break in the clouds because one of my major clients, the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum, agreed to double my hours. There’s more than enough work to do. Step one is basically finding enough money to get that work done. (If you were in a classroom as a teacher or as a student anytime between 1960 and 1990, this Virtual Museum means to chronicle those experiences. We learned a new way to learn. Care to contribute your time, story, or maybe even help fund the work?) My storm is the oft-referenced Triple Whammy. My recovery has slowly been gaining speed and just shifted into a quicker tempo. At this rate though, I’ll still be singing this song for years.
The good news is that there is more potential good news, but I don’t want to play that tune until enough of the key people chime in.
The other good news is that there is actual good news. My portfolio did nicely last week, thanks to GERN (which I sadly sold half of recently) and RSOL (which moved without news and I won’t complain.) That increase in liquid net worth is about as much as my increase in income; and with extrapolating and compounding could quickly become the stronger driver. Ah, but we investors and mathematicians know that extrapolation is risky in planning; yet, as I’ve said in my semi-annual review, just getting back to a rational market valuation for my portfolio, “I’d have enough to catch up on the mortgage and even pay off the credit card debt.” Getting to a rational market valuation by the end of the year would average out to much more than a thousand dollar a week increase.
Many who have listened to my tale have celebrated the good news, and I agree. I might even have a fine beverage this evening that isn’t from a box. (Actually box wine is fine, but there is a ritual to the sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle.) There will be a celebration if I manage to remove the threat of foreclosure. (A dance party may break out.)
Many who have passed through poverty share the celebration, then pass along the caution. Recoveries take a long time. Celebrate? Yes. But there’s a lot of work to do after the party.
One of the laments of any homeowner is the daily chore of maintaining the home, and keeping up with repairs. People who can’t pay their bills can’t pay for repairs. Years of deferred maintenance aren’t resolved with the first paycheck. Money alone does not solve all ills. Time must be spent re-arranging priorities, shuffling some of the larger items back to the top of the stack. Repairs take more time and money than maintenance, which means recoveries also cost more than just a few missed oil changes.
My good news is that next month I’ll be allowed to work more hours and receive more pay, which will arrive in the first few weeks of the following month. My meeting with the mortgage servicer is in four days, and may focus on my inability to meet the payment schedule that is due in two days (which also involves a letter apologizing for making an error in the payment estimate while not telling me what the new payment number is.) I may celebrate today, but the real improvements from this news are weeks away.
My recovery will take time. Storm cleanup will take time. (Ask anyone in Boulder.) The nation’s recovery will take time.
This blog is about life and money and personal finance, but rarely about equations and frugal lifestyle tips. At least for the last few years, this blog has been more about the emotional side of personal finance. We hear that finance is to be handled without emotion. I believe that should be true for professional money managers so we can better assess their skills, strategies, and tactics. But the personal part of personal finance must involve emotion. Compassion during the tough times. Celebrations when there’s good news. Coping during any time of stress; and stress exists whenever there is change whether for bad or good.
I sit here in my home this wet morning, practicing yet another change. This is the first day in months when I feel secure enough in my house that I don’t feel the need to retreat to a workspace ten miles away. I am back in my home and am beginning a recovery.
So nice to see your perseverance paying off with increasing work. And even your stocks are finally deciding to help you out. You certainly deserve to hear that nice pop when the cork leaves the bottle. Enjoy.
Great news, Tom. Your ability to persevere should be a lesson for us all.