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 itâ€¦fortunately thatâ€™s not beyond us (yet), but itâ€™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:
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. Itâ€™s easy. It’s necessary. Itâ€™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 tooâ€¦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 Iâ€™ll plod on forward. Wipe it out. They wonâ€™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, Iâ€™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.
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.