The Cost is Measured in Dreams

I’m about to admit to doing something really stupid. Really, REALLY stupid. Yeah, I did it, it took me a long time to do it, and I’ll pay the consequences for it.

It’ll take me a long time to recover from it too.

But I never should have gotten here. I know better. Although a dollar figure can be attached to it, the actual cost is measured in something far more valuable. The cost is my dreams.

The stupid thing? Debt. Revolving credit. Yah, I have some. Stupid. We can manage it…fortunately that’s not beyond us (yet), but it’s still stupid. It still has a cost.

That cost? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but that cost is this:

The cost is in dreams

I’ll get to more on this picture later.

They make it so easy. Life practically requires you to have a credit card. Seriously. It’s very difficult to fly without one. You cannot rent a car without one. Those of you that “road-trip” know how helpful they are. On-line purchases can save you a bundle and open up things you could not easily get locally, but you have to have a card. They encourage it. It’s easy. It’s necessary. It’s convenient.

We have the cards. As a matter of fact, we have four, mainly because it’s handy when traveling to have a couple different accounts. They made that easy too…with introductory rates and all.

We managed them correctly for a long time. Use them for what they are useful for, pay the bill every month. That’s easy too.

Then there was the emergency. A couple of them actually. What they were doesn’t matter. Everybody has times when carrying a balance for a month or two is helpful. We have good credit. The rates are reasonable. What’s the harm?

Then, slowly…a purchase here, a car repair there, the balances start to climb. It’s not a problem. We can pay the bills. We deserve a steak dinner tonight; maybe a new television would be good too. That trip. Those projects. What’s the harm?

Beyond our means. Not much, just a little, but the balances climb higher. Uncomfortably higher.

We’re not stupid. Just comfortable. Complacent. Confident in our income and our place. Then one day we wake up to the balance sheet. “Hello, what’s this?”

No problem. I’ve been poor. I can do without. Tighten the belt a bit. Start paying it down. Eliminate the debt. That’s a good thing right?

That’s when the purveyors of this easy credit show their true colors. They’re nothing less than drug lords gone legitimate. Hmm…dunno. That may be insulting the drug lords.

My balances start to drop. I’ve quit using. They notice. My rates skyrocket. Seems a large amount of available credit can damage your “score” as much as late pays. One card suddenly started charging me 33% interest at the same time they upped my credit limit by over $10,000. The others soon followed suite.

If a loan-shark were to charge that rate, he’d be under the jail for racketeering. For the credit card companies it’s legal. See, big business runs the government, and the credit card guys can afford lots of lobbyists.

Now I have less available money to address that debt with, much more goes to interest instead of principle, but I’ll plod on forward. Wipe it out. They won’t catch me again. Bastards. They almost overwhelmed me. Not quite though.

Awake and aware, we’ll take care of it.

But then comes the true cost.

Work is flaky all of the sudden. Despite being needed and skilled, my company is outsourcing and I am unsure I have a place in the organization after this summer. My 21 years of dedication, hard work, and experience are irrelevant. Even if there’s still a place for me, I’m unsure it will last. The method and philosophy being exhibited are very clear.

There is a settlement from work based on years of service if I’m outsourced.

I have to reapply for my own job. I forfeit the settlement if I do so.

The wife and I examined our options. We could get out. Take our skills, tools, talents, and drive and do something for ourselves. Take the equity in the house and the settlement from work and set ourselves up in something that would pay while we work it, and allow us to pursue our interests. Work for ourselves instead of at the whim of someone else.

Move somewhere cheaper. I could write more and push the Life Is a Road stuff. We’d still need to earn a living so what would work?

We found the pictured building. We could fix it up and rent the apartments out. There’s a restaurant we could lease to somebody. We’d live in the owner’s apartment in the larger building. There’s another retail space we could use for a coffee shop, online hotspot and the like. We could feature my books. I could write more, and work on projects in the 2000 square feet worth of garages and workshops in OUR building.

OUR building.

I wouldn’t have to stress myself into an early grave anymore for a living. Yes, it’d be work…physical work. I can do that. I’ve done it. I enjoyed it. It’s good for me. Physical work doesn’t give me an ulcer. Physical work doesn’t keep me lying awake at night.

The place has character. It has potential. We could do this.

We crunched the numbers. The building could support us comfortably. We have the tools. I have the skills. We both have the desire. Added benefits are that it would get me out from behind a desk and into a healthier lifestyle. This desk is killing me.

But we came up short. We can’t purchase the complex, get it started, AND have living expenses for the months needed. It’s a near thing.

It’s a very near thing.

But we missed.

By how much?

I nearly sob to think about it. Almost to the dollar, the exact amount we owe on the short-term, high interest credit. If we didn’t have that debt, we’d be on our way to independence, freedom from this spiraling, uncertain mess we call the IT workforce, and into a healthier, more enjoyable life, more secure life.

Bastards. They know when you’re down. They just kick you again.

Save yourselves. Don’t let these guys get a hold on you. The cost is high.

The cost is no less than your dreams. As I put another stress-filled, overly long work-week in behind this desk I realize something. It might not just be your dreams…It might even be your life.

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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12 Responses to The Cost is Measured in Dreams

  1. Jim Barbero says:

    Dude,

    Call your credit card companies. If you are up to date on the bills, and you talk to their Customer Service section, they can lower the interest rate….By a lot.

    I had one card at 21%…a phone call later it was at 11%.

    Alternately, do a balance transfer to a low interest card, and cut it up……

    Mav

  2. Cattman says:

    I feel your pain. Mine are on 2 cards that I am slowly whittling away on. It sucks to be us right now. I used them for emergency car repairs, ( $6000) in just 6 months, and college expenses for the youngest. I keep telling myself 2 more years and then I can get them knocked back to $0 and plan on never having credit debt again.

  3. Scott in Ok says:

    Been there my friend, and it totally sucks. I survived it, and so will you. One thing is certain though, whatever you are going through, you ARE going through it. You’ll come out on the other side bro, no doubt about it!

    Keep the faith, and keep dreaming!

  4. fnsmoak says:

    I feel your pain. I’m an IT type also.
    I lost a retirement to keep my current “position”. Now the position sounds a lot like it’s at your workplace. I’m ready to change up to something else, too. Yes, it’ll be scary.

    The debt you will work through if you keep your attention on your goal. Don’t let go of the dream just yet. If this building gets away, another will be in a better place.
    I’m praying for you.

    Now, pull that card out that the green-eyed red-head left in your pocket. Just may be one of her friends can get you connected. (That was a true story; Right?)

  5. catfish says:

    Daniel, we’ve been there. What we did was take an introductory offer if we transfered x amount of money for a low interest rate. Plus a free Dell laptop to boot. We put 3 credit cards on a locked in rate, payment is less then the 3 together. Interest is low so I can add extra to the monthly payment, the balance is actually getting low. One credit card that I had told me they don’t lower per customer request, when I transferred it, all of a sudden they have a low interest rate. Go figure.
    I know it’s tough, but some how if it was meant to be it’ll be.

  6. Jus` Valkin says:

    I’m praying for you also. I’ve also been though this a couple times.

    And your right! Snip “They’re nothing less than drug lords gone legitimate. Hmm…dunno. That may be insulting the drug lords.” end snip

    Keep the dreams though you’ll need em’ when all of this is history.

    Too bad you don’t know if you’ll be staying at your current job because you may have been able to take a loan against your 401k to pay the cards and pay yourself back the interest. That one doesn’t show up when you apply for a mortgage or car loan.

    Keep on writing, the books and stories are great! We’re all pullin’ for ya man!

  7. Bob E. says:

    Daniel…I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there now. When I married my wife 3 years ago, she was swimming in debt from trying to get by as a single mom on minimal and unreliable child support from her ex. She was working, but had a house payment, car payment, daycare, bills, etc. Not only that, but she has a real shopping problem, like a gambler or . And as a result, she fell deeper and deeper to the tune of about $26,000 in credit card debt. I had great credit, so we took out a consolidation loan one of my credit cards was offering at 7.xx% and have been paying about $500 per month to pay it off. It should be gone in about 3 more years. And it has been rough, I have to say. That’s alot of money that we could use for fun things, or expanding our house, or whatever. But what can you do? We’ll get through it and so will you. It just takes time.

  8. Six Pack says:

    Don’t go insulting the Drug Lords, at least they work for a living!
    We see “Credit” as “Free for now”, (pay?) “Later”…its human nature, and a Heck of a temptation!
    But with a zero balance the CC Companies will do almost anything you ask.
    I took out a conventional loan and cancelled all but two cards.
    I have a low Fixed interest rate (versus a variable rate) and a $2000 limit or “Cap” by my request on them both.
    Now the conventional loan is paid off, and I have my freedom back!
    I DO pay off the cards each month..in full…they are a great convenience when used correctly.

    Of course the CC Companies know this…..and they know human nature even better…they bank on it…literally.!

    To think, It only took me a lifetime to learn this?
    I’m looking forward to reading more of you. Keep it going man!

  9. Duane Albers (Duey) says:

    Hang in there. Get that debt paid off and get rid of those cards you don’t need. 2 cards with about $3000 or less limit will take care of most things you need. That’s all we need to run our trucking company with 2 trucks and 3 drivers.
    I was in exactly the same position as you. I was in denial about loosing my job. I worked for Northwest Airlines! Now I have been unemployed and on strike since August 2005. Who would think that the #4 airline in the USA wood layoff and downsize by over 50%. We took that one head on. Thank God we only have a little bit of credit cards and the high mortgage to worry about. If the mortgage company continues to deal the way they are we will have to sell our home of 11 years. They just want their money and arn’t interested in waiting till we can catch up.. Crooks!!! We got a lawyer to help keep them off our throats for a few months..
    Now we are trying to get back on our feet. But we will never have a big debt again if we can help it. Our primary goal is to pay down the mortgage and pay off the credit cards asap. When the credit card companies raise our limits we call and tell them to just leave it low. We don’t need a $10,000 limit.
    Hope your dreams come true!!! Chase them down and make them happen if you have to……
    VRCC 20588!!!!

  10. WordFaery says:

    Yup. I know right where you are. Been there. I am still working my way back from the brink. One more payment and I will have retired a $6K card. Still have a bit more to do. Two years max.
    But you know Dan, a door closes and another one opens…… it’ll work out.

  11. xs750 says:

    Man, I can feel your pain. I’ve always paid off mine on time. Then marriage. She’s charged so much I’ve had to consolidate 3 times. Cut the cards, she phones and gets new ones. NY state, she can rack up debt on me until I file separation. I have 3 young ones 2 with health issues, so I just work to death. Heart attack, knee surgery, back is a wreck. Did I mention I’m a correction officer? Average age of death is 58 1/2. Be lucky if I make it carrying this load. Retirement is no longer expected. So I buy life insurance so the kids can get by.
    Keep the faith and the dreams

  12. Phil Cooper says:

    Wow– not only is this blog VERY interesting– it just saved me a ton of money.

    I have two credit cards– I’ve been there, too, folks– these are both “starter” cards- when I signed up the interest rate was 18%, each with low credit lines. Yeah, it sucks- but coming from buried you have to start from somewhere, right? Plus, in my line of work it is required to get a credit card [well it wasn’t required when I started, but getting these cards and staying mostly on top of them ended up being VERY fortuitous- as just last March the company started requiring all engineers [I’m an IT engineer, for a certain large organization. ‘Nuff said 😉 ] to get a company credit card or hit the road.

    I spent about two months in a cold sweat after that email came across my screen, wondering if the financial demons of my past were about to fry me just as I was winding up for a killing blow. Luckily, I received the card along with a letter stating that “owing to your financial history, we can only offer you a $4,000 credit line at this time”. I’d been told they wouldn’t pull my file- everything would be based on the company’s standing, not mine– which was apparently not true– but at that point, I wasn’t about to stir the pot. I’d just bought a house and happen to enjoy such extravagances as paying my mortgage, keeping the lights on, and eating.

    I have had exactly three hiccups with my payments– one of which was due to not knowing what day it was due to my wonky schedule [changes about every 4 days- project is 24/7/365 and undermanned] and getting my payment in 30 minutes after my 15 day grace period expired. For that I got a late fee and a bump on my interest rate to 27%. @#$@#%#$^!!!!

    Well, got my tax refund in last month and I paid both cards off entirely. Well I owe one of them $7 owing to monthly participation fee, but just mailed them a check for the next year’s participation fees and a nice letter to basically “don’t bother me till this is gone”. They charge me $5 to make a payment online, no way I was goint to do that for $7 as month. So I got to reading the previous entries- -namely the one about calling them up and having leverage when you owe $0. Talked to the nice lady [who I suspect was reading from a script– FAR too chearful- oh sure, they’ll kiss your ass when you don’t owe ’em money. Along the lines of how you’re a bookie’s or a crank dealer’s best friend when you pay on time.]- and just like that, just for the asking– my rate was cut down to 12%.

    I never would’a thunk it. Thanks folks– first round’s on me!

    Dan-o: got the books- can’t wait to read them [they’re in my queu- but I’m way behind…].

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