Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Financial Woes and Related Stress

So much has been going through my head lately. So many things have been frustrating. So often I find myself feeling like a victim of circumstances beyond my control. I HATE that feeling. To make it worse, I know that I am personally responsible for how I feel. No one can MAKE me feel anything - I choose to respond to these situations in this way. While I may know that's the common pyscho-theory on the matter...it's not so easy to change how I feel.

Let's re-cap, shall we?

My husband was fired in May for an incident that occurred in April. This incident involved him getting stabbed IN THE NECK by a shoplifter. He was fired because he should not have been involved with the shoplifter in the first place. Granted. But one of his employees had run after them and started an altercation - in a moment of indecision he was hit over the shoulder with a large brandy bottle by one shoplifter while his employee grappled with the other (he was a manager, and thus responsible for this employee's safety). What would you have done? Walked away and called the cops from a safe distance? Stayed where you were when the employee ran off and watched from a safe distance? I hope not. What would you have wanted him to do if the employee in the altercation was one of YOUR loved ones? I hate that MY loved one got into such a dangerous situation, but I also hate that we've become bystanders. We'd rather watch people break the law and potentially hurt others than get involved and risk personal injury or lawsuit. When did we get so lazy? It was 2 shoplifters. If all of the employees worked together they'd be outnumbered! When did we start letting the infractious few run the show? I could go on, but this rant isn't the point here. So, TH was fired. Which left us...royally screwed financially.

Let's be clear, I am a Ph.D. student in Geography. I make money doing this; yes, that's right! They PAY me to go to school, pay for my tuition AND pay for my health insurance. Wild, I know. But, the pay isn't much. Certainly not enough to pay our bills, even with the pittance of unemployment benefits BBBB received after being fired. It would have been easy enough, then, to have just stopped paying the mortgage, and walked away from our house. We love our house - it's beautiful, but it's almost 50% underwater. Not so pretty there. Did we stop paying our mortage then? Nope, we did not. We cut back on everything. Raised the thermostat so it was ungodly hot during the day and just barely liveable at night. We started really planning our grocery trips and LIVING on leftovers. Eating out was allowed once a month, and then only some place cheap. We cut back, we made it work. And in August TH found a job!

He's now working that job - it's a bank teller position. He loves it. Which is fantastic, as he had hated the other job. The catch? This job pays literally half what he made before. Our current combined income is LESS than his salary at the old job was alone. We took out student loans to make up the difference this semester. I can't fathom doing that again. But for now, we're still current on all of our financial obligations. Yup, wild, I know.

Why would we do this? When the rest of the world seems to be giving up in even easier circumstances? Well, three reasons really. One is integrity. We took out the loan...we feel we should do anything in our power to keep up our end of the obligation. We don't feel we're ENTITLED to the house or even to taking out a loan. We got the loan based on good credit - we'd like to preserve that credit. Two - TH would like to be a police officer. Defaulting on a loan won't help that goal, especially right now when it's so competitive and cities mostly aren't hiring. And three - we really do love our house. It's terribly saddening to think of giving it up.

But here we are - taking out debt (student loans) to pay debt. It's insane. Meanwhile, we have been trying to get our bank to modify our loan. Normally, we'd try to sell the house in a situation where we could no longer afford it, but in this economy and being so far underwater, there's no way it'll happen.We qualify for one of the government programs, but the bank has been less than co-operative. Supposedly, as of yesterday, we are finally being "processed". We'll see where that gets us.

So, here's where we stand. TH has applied to be a police officer, and should find out this week if he's invited to test. If he is not, then we will most likely foreclose on the house. Even if we got the modification we'd still be strapped financially. And as TH put it - we'd be sinking all of our money into the house, which is still upside down, instead of ENJOYING life and LIVING AND saving for retirement (which we really need to start doing). It just doesn't make sense. If he IS invited to test...well, then there's a lot more waiting. We wait to see if he makes it through the testing process. And if he does? Well, he'll make a lot more money than we're making now. We could probably afford to keep the house. But should we? 45% updside down people. It's a tough call...we could do some really important things with the money we'd save by living somewhere else (ie save for retirement by living in an apartment).

I think it all comes down to what I want to do when I graduate - which should be spring of 2012 or 2013. Probably 2013. If I want to be a full fledge professor at a university, we'll need to be able to move then. Will our house have re-gained enough value for us to sell? Hard to say...but probably not. Not in 3-4 years. MAYBE, just maybe, we'd be able to break even...but then we're still out all the money with nothing to show for it. No money saved for retirement. Just our integrity and credit intact. No small things, for sure...but...I don't know. IF, instead, I'm okay with teaching at the community colleges so that TH can work with his police department for 5-10 years...well, then maybe we stay in the house. In 5 to 10 years it's a lot more likely the housing market will have recovered enough to *maybe* make it worth our while. At least in light of the fact we'd keep our credit score and integrity. Maybe. But I don't know if I'd be happy with teaching at the community colleges. It's fun...but will that stall my career permanently? Would I then find it impossible to work at a university, if in 5-10 years I wanted to do so?

Lots of questions for us to think about. But first, we need to know if TH will even be invited to test...

Meanwhile, as if all that wasn't enough to worry about, we've been dealing with our state government trying to get an application through for government health insurance for TH. While he was unemployed and uninsured (we couldn't afford COBRA, sorry...we were trying to pay the mortgage) he developed a BAD ear infection and went to the ER. The bill is $1200. That's after they reduced it some. And on top of the $145 we paid the Urgent Care for them to tell us - "we can't treat him, take him to the ER". Well, let's just say that if our dealings with this government entity are anything like what the proposed health reform will cause - we're all going to be royally screwed when it comes to health care. It's been a 3-ring circus dealing with these people!

The first document we got from them after our application was sent in had a mailing date printed ON THE LETTER of 8/6/09. In the letter it said we had to contact them by July 31, 2009 or be denied our claim. WTF? It's been like that ever since. We're requesting a fair hearing, but will probably just end up seeing what the hospital can do for us because it's gotten absolutely ridiculous and neither of us has the time to deal with these people.

Meanwhile, this was our original timeline for starting to "try" for a baby. Yeah...not exactly the most reasonable thing to try for now, is it? And yet...it feels so unfair and frustrating that we have to put that on hold for this other BS. What is more important than having kids? Well, obviously we want to have kids in a responsible way (or else we probably wouldn't have waited this long, right?) but seriously! We're not getting any younger...

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About this Blog

I have a journal. You know, the real kind...paper, bound in a book form...nice leather cover. And I do write in it...every few months. I like it, but somehow I find it hard to keep up regularly. I'm at a computer nearly all the time, so I find it easier to keep up on this blog. So, that's what this blog is for. To help me journal when I'm away from my journal. A place to collect my thoughts before I lose them to the chaos of my mind.

Or see my first post here. That's why I started this blog.