Money matters

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 6, 2012, 11:19 PM | comments: 0

It's weird to think back to the mid-90's, when I was buried under student loans, credit cards and a car payment, not to mention rent. At the time, I just sort of accepted it as normal, and didn't worry about it that much. Today, the idea of being in that position is completely horrifying.

About the time Simon was born, we were in a pretty ugly position, with two mortgages for houses we weren't living in. Our cash flow was fine, and we certainly weren't going to starve, but when you're having a child in your late 30's/40, and you haven't done a great job of saving for retirement, your priorities for saving money change dramatically.

That was a turning point for me, and I committed to a completely different attitude toward financial responsibility. I might even have taken it too far when we decided to move back to Cleveland. My goals for saving for Simon and retirement are obvious, but then I also became obsessed with trying to figure out how to get to a point where our biggest expense, a house, could become our smallest. The game plan was to save literally half of every paycheck, so that we could in a few years or less sell this house and put an enormous down payment on a house somewhere that would be our own, free of the legacy and baggage of Beaumont Drive.

It's not lost on me that a lot of people would love to have my "problem," but this isn't about empathy, it's about the standards that I have set for myself in my new age of responsibility, and the self-loathing that comes when I can't maintain them. There are two major problems that caused me to miss my mid-year goal. The first happened before the year even started, when that crazy asshole crashed into our car on Christmas Eve in Tennessee. I dipped into the savings for the replacement car downpayment. Then I discovered just how much my health insurance sucked, covering little and pushing a huge deductible. I kick myself for not thinking more about this in the salary negotiation.

I started to wade so deeply in the angst over the situation that it was starting to adversely affect my mood toward everything. I'm not sure why the pressure around this was so great, considering I wouldn't think twice in my 20's to charge $40 for dinner and then drop another hundred at Best Buy for DVD's or something. How did I become such a miser?

The first obvious reason is Simon. While I want him to have the opportunity to fall down and be challenged, I also want him to have a stable environment in a good school district. Also, I want Diana to have the total freedom to be with him until he starts school, because I can see how important it is to have that deep connection with your child in his earliest years. I think the biggest thing, however, is the intense desire to get away from this house. It represents the reason we left Seattle, and it's not "our" house. It might be where my life began to improve in every way, but it's also where it fell apart. I'm just done with it.

At the end of the day, I had to let all of this anxiety and angst go, because I can't change it. So I'll be two months behind my intended goal, and it is what it is. The final straw was when I was stressing over buying plane tickets for us to visit Seattle. I couldn't let my issues get in the way of what we think will be the highlight of our year, in terms of travel.

My parting advice is to have fun, and don't be stingy when it comes to friends and charity, but don't be a moron like I was in my early post-college life. Everything is more complicated later on.


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