Why all this brassy testicular machismo bravado today from the obviously estrogen-powered Chloe? Because I can’t seem to get the phrase “Ovary Up!” to go viral. I’ve tried in vain for years now, but it just won’t catch on. So, as they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
No. That’s not quite right. There are definitely times that, no matter what the cost, you shouldn’t join ‘em. You definitely shouldn’t join ‘em if joining ‘em costs you your integrity. Nothing is worth your integrity. The saying should go:
If you can’t beat ‘em, and joining them will cost you your soul, then give the hell up and try something else.
Remember that fire sale I mentioned last week? Well, the sale is on right now and there’s never been a better time to buy!
First to go? This house we don’t need.
If It Seems Too Good to be True, Then It Probably Is
I LOVE my house. I remember the first time we drove up the steep driveway in 2004. The front yard alone, with its towering circle of cedars creating a curtain of privacy from the outside world, was bigger than many neighborhood public parks in our hometown of San Diego. No more listening to our noisy neighbors six feet away. No more nosy eyes peering into our lives. (We thought.) The house seemed like heaven; we believed we’d found our own personal Shangri-La.
Lesson #1: If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Your Problems Don’t Happen in a Vacuum
On January 2nd this year my husband and I realized that our lives had spiraled out of control. The years of worry over our son, taking care of my mother, and my depression over the fact that nothing I’d worked for all of my adult life had turned out anything like I’d planned had taken their toll. My way of coping was to draw further and further into myself with writing as my escape. My husband sought solace on the stage with his microphone and was muchly rewarded there. Deluded by our seriously rockin’ sex life, we didn’t pay any attention to the obvious signs that something was amiss between us.
But there were issues. Issues surrounded in shame, with undercurrents of hopelessness, and an overriding sense of personal powerlessness.
The Money Pit
In 2004, we sold our house in San Diego at the top of the market, then turned around and put the money we’d made into this house. It seemed wise at the time. Then, a la HGTV, we made major upgrades, partially redoing the kitchen, putting in wood floors, remodeling both bathrooms and the laundry room, putting on a new roof, upgrading the sprinkler system, and spending lots and lots of money maintaining that park-like front yard.
And then 2007 happened.
We watched in horror as the value of our house tumbled, erasing our equity.
Our (evil) health insurance company denied our medical claims for our son’s months in residential treatment, and we were both too emotionally exhausted fighting for our son’s life to fight them, so we ended up paying out of pocket.
My mother’s illness and financial catastrophe was expensive for us, too. I was denied FMLA by my employer and wasn’t paid a penny for the month I was in Tennessee before she was strong enough to bring her back to the mountain with me. During that entire month, I had to rent a car and stay in a (cheap) hotel because her house was unlivable.
Then there was a wedding on top of that.
Total cost for 2007?
$200+K in lost equity in our home + $100K in expenditures = Wowza.
The good part is that we make good money. Despite the financial set-back, we figured we’d eventually dig ourselves out.
Looking to find our bearings and reconnect with each other again, we traveled around the world, ate out whenever we liked, and enjoyed our lives. We felt we’d earned it. Hell, we were earning it. We could afford the lifestyle we were living, but both of us began to worry about the future. Would the housing market rebound before we retire? Would we even be able to retire someday? We have retirement accounts, surely that would be enough, right?
Financial issues are a major downer, and so we didn’t talk about it. Neither of us admitting to the other how much the worry was eating us both up inside.
On our first date, Jeff and I went to see The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. What we both thought at the time was merely a somewhat amusing B movie, we now see as prophetic.
The reality is that it will likely take a decade or more for the economy to recover here on the mountain, if it ever does. The political climate here eschews any financial growth. The powers that be do not want any industry, clean or otherwise. That, coupled with the town’s remote location, does not portend well for an economic rebound in time for us to recover our financial loss on the house in time for us to retire.
And what about retirement? With the mere 15 years we have left where should our money go? What is a wise investment now in this new economy?
Tough decisions must be made. Jeff and I now find ourselves in the position where we must decide whether to nut up, or shut up and let the current of non-decision take us where it will. I think my long-time readers can probably guess that passivity is not my strong suit.
Houses are just places where we keep our stuff. We can love them, but they don’t love us back. We can own them, but they should never own us.
*Inspiration for today’s blog comes from Jessica Bern. Thanks Jessica!