Do You Suffer From Money Envy?

Oh, my friends, I am overwhelmed with feelings of envy.

Let me make this perfectly clear — I am very happy where I am. My husband, my grandkids, my own two kids. I couldn’t ask for more.

Yet here I am, asking for more.

I think I watch too many TV shows where there are actors making $20,000 an episode, the CEO of Ceasar’s Palace and the Vice President of Food and Beverage at Ceasar’s judging Hell’s Kitchen finalists, Gosford Park where the really rich do nothing but eat and languish while the servants have a world of their own, restaurants that serve exquisite meals that make unique appetizers at $30 a hit, people who vacation in Hawaii then the Alps then France and barely feel the breeze on their hair.

I am suffering from rich people envy.

I will never be in that world. Point blank. I will never have the money to stay at an exquisite resort in the Rockies or have a beach front apartment in Honolulu or have a cocktail at the top of the Eifel Tower. And in some realms that is okay.

I have taken the slow road through life. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, I have worked all my life in order to have a comfortable place to call home, send my kids to school, pay for their sports and their pizzas and some of their college. I tried starting my own business, which didn’t take off as I thought it would. So backwards the finances went, until I found a job at a catalog distributor.

I will never be able to take off for the weekend to New York City or dine at Guy Savoy’s in Caesar’s Palace. Most of those things don’t matter to most of us. And it doesn’t matter to me most of the time.

But now and then I feel a bit melancholy that I never became a money maker in life. That I never became a vice president or executive director of anything. I never became a famous author or consultant. I never have been able to live in the top third income bracket.

Yet I am okay where I am today.

Maybe it’s because the road in front of me is shorter than the road behind me, and you can’t change your past. I suppose if I were to do my life again I’d change a little bit here or there, but I would still go bowling with friends where I met my husband and driven my kids to school every day just so I could have a conversation with them.

Would you change any part of your life? Just a smidge?

Do you ever suffer from “money envy”?

Sometimes I’m ashamed that I envy the money life. Why be envious of a life you will never have? Your family never had? Would I trade anything I have today for that golden ring?

I think a lot of this insecurity comes because I’m almost old enough to retire, and my past was never on the money path. It’s easy to look back and think I should have done this or that and it would have made a difference.

But that’s not true.

I may not be an executive of a company, but I’ve worked hard and well in all my jobs, traveled to Cancun and Las Vegas with my husband, I go camping and on ski weekends and I’m blessed to have both of my kids in the same state. I may not vacation in the Bahamas but camping in Sturgeon Bay is just as rewarding.

I think we all suffer from money envy from time to time. It’s what we do with that envy that counts. Acknowledge it, thank it, and get on with your life. You can’t change your choices, so embrace the ones you’ve made.

You’ve made them for a reason.

If It Breaks, We Cover It…Kinda…Maybe

Scare tactics. Do they work?

Most of the time, I would say yes. Especially in the insurance department.

No one wants to be hit with a big bill on top of the big bill they’ve already accumulated. If you are like my family, lightning will miss the 1,001 people standing around you in order to hit just you.

So is the way with insurance. These days you can buy insurance for almost anything — from life, to cars, to cell phones to alien abductions (it’s true!) any device made by God or Man can be replaced — for a fee.

In some cases you need to buy this kind of extra protection. Health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, all protect you from being that guy, and provide you with a safe financial haven. Insurance companies play the odds; they take in more than they have to pay out. So for all the people who pay buco bucks to insure their homes from tornadoes and cars from crashes, insurance companies compensate very few. That’s how they make money. I get it.

Then comes the secondary market; appliances. The whole gamut from dishwashers to lawn mowers offer some sort of extra insurance policy. Afraid you’ll take your brand new appliance home and it will clunk out in two days? Well, for just $$ you can buy insurance for the first 1-3 years. It’s that fear of clunking that encourages some of us to shell out an extra $$ for safety’s sake.

Then there’s insurance for my cell phone. Granted, it’s not a $700 iPhone, but it’s a Samsung Galaxy X6, a pretty fine little machine. I’ve insured my phones (and my husband and son’s) for years now. $8.99 per month times 3. And yet, when my phone started acting up, the fine print said I had to meet a $150 deductible before they would take a look at it. So all those years of $8.99 per month times 3 meant nothing when it came to fixing my phone. It was cheaper to sign a new deal and slip the payments into the phone bill.

So for the past 2 years my phone company has made $9 x 12 months x 2 years x 3 phones, all tax free.

Yes, I often imagined myself bending over the toilet, phone in pocket becoming phone in toilet. Or dropping it out of a fishing boat. Or left in a pocket to be washed and spun dried. But that never happened. Even when I was fed up with my phone and tempted to run it over with my car, the thought of $150 deductible put a halt to my dastardly deed.

I know, $150 is better than $650. Yet something irks me about being guided by fear of the unknown dollar. For the insurance fee you pay never really makes up for the balance of your debt. Your hospital bill of $30,000 now is $5,000, which you still cannot afford. The tooth you had to have replaced at $2700 is not covered because the dental insurance that you pay for every paycheck considers it cosmetic surgery.

And even if I outlive my current life insurance policy, I’ll have to pick up another one at a higher premium just so my husband can cover my final arrangements. And all those payments for the last 20 years will have gone straight into the pocket of the insurance company.

I don’t have a solution for the lopsidedness of insurance coverage. All I know is that it’s just another business trying to make money off of people who have none to begin with. That’s why we buy insurance.

But I do know that if some little dude assures me that I can make silk out of a sow’s ear, and if I buy insurance and can’t make any silk I can have my premiums back, I’m gonna take it.

Cuz I really don’t know how silk is made…

 

To Win or Not To Win

money tree plant 3I’m not going to talk about it.

I’m not going to dream about it.

I bought one.

Enough Said.

Really, I bought two.

How many houses can you buy with $1.50 billion anyway?

How many islands?

How many pizzas? Martinis? Mocha Lattes?

Deep down inside, my muse is telling me I really don’t want to be a single winner of this out-of-control Powerball thing. After taxes and lawyers and doctor bills for the heart attack I surely will get, I might not be around to even SPEND money.

I mean, with all the poor, struggling, lost people in the world, how can one even enjoy 1/4 of a ridiculously ridiculous sum of money? How can you fly to Hawaii on a whim when there are driveways to be shoveled and PTA meetings to attend?

I’ve heard tales of people who have won — normal people — who have had strangers throw themselves in front of their car, slip on their driveways, and/or even fall in front of their desk, threatening to sue the winner for all the money they had. I’ve heard of groups of people suing a single winner, claiming they contributed to the purchase of the afore-mentioned winning ticket.

I’ve already dreampt away millions of dollars on wasted two dollar investments. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve published, how many museums and churches I’ve visited in France and Italy, how many Scottish moors I’ve wandered through, how many pubs I’ve visited in Ireland and how many Buddhist temples I’ve visited.

I suppose if you win half of the pot — $700 million — there’s a few more places you could call home.  You could build wings on hospitals and update falling apart nursing homes and create 10,000 scholarships in 10,000 schools.

Do you see what I mean?

I already have an ulcer just thinking about how many good things I could do for the country, for the world.

My blood pressure is rising as I barely touch on who I would share the money with, how far my personal connections would reach. Kids? Grandkids? Friends? Friends of Friends? Kids of Friends? Grandkids of Friends?

You see, it’s much too much for me to think about.

Better to be poor and calm than filthy rich and confused.

I bought two.

Enough Said.

 

Money Money Money Mooonnneeeyy…

money_dollar_sign_rotate_hb_1_Wishful thinking or Wasteful thinking?

Wasting Time or Planning Time?

Sitting looking at at the lottery ticket I just bought, I wonder — what would I do if I won a million dollars?

What would YOU do if you won a million dollars?

It just be the dog days of summer.  The hard, long, tedious few months of my job where data entry becomes paramount. Too many mosquitoes out to enjoy a lovely evening, trying to fall asleep when the sun hasn’t set yet — daydreams are made from this.

I don’t often buy lottery tickets. I know it’s easier getting struck by lightning, but I’m not one to press my luck during a thunderstorm. So as I sit and look at this little slip of paper that will no doubt take me nowhere, I wonder what I’d really do if I won a couple of million dollars.

Of course, lotteries these days are tens of millions of dollars; for simplicity’s sake, let’s just call it One Mil. You get approximately half of that, so for more simplicity’s sake (I’m really that simple?) let’s say $500,000. Clear hard cold cash. What would you do with it?

The first think most people would say is “quit my job.” Many say that’s not practical (probably my hubby is in that crowd). But for me, being closer to retirement than my 40th birthday, it seems a viable option for me.

“Give to Charity.” God gives to those who gives to others. It is better to give than to receive. Well, sometimes I consider myself a charity case, so I’d choose my philanthropy carefully.  I’d rather contribute locally — an animal shelter, children’s daycare. Something where I could see my money work right here and now.

“Invest.” Well, paying off my bills would be an investment. Maybe not my mortgage — I’d still need some tax writeoffs. And I don’t think a vacation in Florence or Paris would be a write-off. Oh! But I could start my own business! A travelogue blog! Then I could write off all sorts of travel expenses! After I’m done traveling around the world, I’d close the business and take it as a tax loss too.

All accountants in a 100 mile radius are rolling their eyes at my folly. I’m rolling my own eyes.  I mean, let’s say I was lucky enough to live on 10% of my cash stash. That is $50,00 a year — more than I make a year, for sure, but not quite enough to pay bills AND jet across Europe tasting eclairs and biscotti.

Maybe I’d take all my besties out for dinner and drinks. Like to some fancy restaurant in Chicago. Better yet, I’d make some fancy restaurant food and hire someone else to clean up behind me.

Truth is, with a mere Mil, my life wouldn’t change a whole lot. I’d spend some, save some, waste some. Hopefully I’d be wiser, fuller, and a little more windblown from my travels. I’d still write, I’d still look for strange and unusual art, and I’d still run around with my grandson shooting squirt guns or swimming in Silver Lake.

Life is all about the journey. Not the destination. That’s what they say, anyway.

It sure would be a much easier journey not having to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning, though….

 

Check Your Stress At The Door

teacherWashing my hands in the company washroom the other day, I was listening to two women talk about the most over-used word/topic I’ve heard lately — stress. They were talking about being “stressed” at their job. Fortunately, they parted on a laugh and a “tomorrow’s another day.”

These days everyone is “stressed.”

It’s your job — you are expected to do everything while someone else does nothing. It’s your kids — once out of sight, you have no idea what trouble they’re getting into. It’s your family — your brother/mother/sister/grandmother is out of control again (probably the me-me-me thing). It’s your health — cholesterol is off the charts, need to lose at least 15 pounds.  It’s your age — I’m too old to do this, I’m not old enough to do that. It’s everything around us. Everything inside of us. It’s as common as salt on French fries.

Were human beings always this messed up?

I admit I am one of the first in line to succumb to this dreaded disease. I’m older, I’m heavier, I’m poorer than I was 20 years ago. I have a hard time sitting still staring at a computer screen all day. I have lost a couple of loved ones recently which broke my heart. I have had other close ones have surgery, lose their jobs, crash their SUV. I get tired of everyone else stirring up hornet’s nests and not doing a thing about it. It’s a mess out there.

How did we get this way?

Life has always been life. Kids have always been a handful, family members too. Jobs have been hard, paychecks small. People we know have been dying since we were little. People have never had enough free time, and appliances and cars have always fallen apart at the same time. But our lives have balanced out, too (at least most of the time). We love our family. We have a job. We can afford cable. We can walk through parks and snowbanks and feel the sun on our face and play in the rain. We have quit smoking or picked up a hobby or made new friends. Yet these positive things still don’t make a dent in our over-reacting to the world.

Were our parents this wound up all the time? Our grandparents?

I am not making light of stress…on the contrary, I’m worried about it. Talking to others, there is not enough time in the day (or night) to do what we need to do. No less what we want to do. Companies are downsizing, so a lot of us are doing the job of two or three people. The cost of gas and food is rising a whole lot faster than our yearly cost-of-living raise (if we get one). The cost of healthcare in one form or another is out of control, as one visit to the doctor’s office can cost us a week’s pay. We are paying for car repairs and mortgages and fixing aging appliances and paying doctor bills all from the same paycheck.

No wonder we are stressed.

I worry about this because, the older I get, the less roses I get to smell. I have at least another 20 years of spoiling my grandbaby and trying to grow a garden and I still want to go to Ireland and Italy. And every ounce of stress — I mean the really mean stress — takes me one step backwards from where I want to go.

We can’t get back yesterday, but we can work on getting to the future.  And to get there we have to get rid of this over-used condition. And the catch is, we can’t get “stressed” about it, either. How do we do such a monumental turnabout? Here are my simple ideas.

* Get a whiff of fresh air every day. No matter if it’s frigid, humid, scorching, or grey as flannel. Get out and inhale, deep and long, every day.

* Talk to someone you love every day. Not just like trains passing in the night — like real people. Ask them how they’re feeling. What made them laugh today. That you’re glad they’re in your life.

*Remember that, for most of us, a job is just a means to an end. Some of us enjoy our jobs, some of us don’t. Some of us will make a career out of our choices, some of will just make it a job. Don’t get involved in scenarios you can’t change. Some things are just above your pay grade. Do you best but don’t bring it home with you. It’s just not worth it.

* There will never be another you. Savor that fact. Learn to hone that self into one that rolls with the punches. You have to. You can’t stop the river flowing, you can’t walk to the moon, etc., etc., etc. Be true to yourself, and flourish within that light.

* Make time for the little things. Watch the sunset, play fetch with your dog. Watch an old movie. Know that the little pleasures are all that matter — that sometimes that’s all you’ll get. And mountains can be made out of those molehills.

We can’t really wash all the stress out of the world. But I truly believe that if we all make an effort we can make it less of a stain and more of a blush. Deal with what you can, let go of the rest.

Your heart, your blood pressure, will thank you.

Looking for the ~Pay Off~

              Sometimes I wonder where I am going with the new “freedom” in my life.  My children are finally on their own, leaving my husband and I to play together and apart, depending upon our moods and which hunting season it is.  I am pulling away from the necessity of being a “perfect” employee and actually entertain dreams of traveling through Ireland or England or at least the Smithsonian. Even though our bills are out of this rarified atmosphere, I still manage to believe that by watching TV in the dark and not turning on the air until it’s 90, I will be able to squeeze enough blood out of the turnip and put it in my savings account for a rainy day.

            I realize that the peak that I stand upon is a precarious one indeed.  Any gust of wind, any fluctuation in temperature, might turn the entire direction of my future upside down, reassuring me of a world of mountainous debt, not to mention being the oldest catalog coordinator in history.  How do those of us caught between Woodstock and Country Thunder survive?  How do we find our way through the maze of downsizing, upgrading and specialization that seems to run rampant through our lives?

            The reality of the “haves” and “have not’s” are no more marked than when I drive through downtown Chicago on my way to football games.  Living in the quiet countryside of rural Wisconsin, it’s easy to forget that there’s a dynamic, yet alternate, reality that is shared by thousands of people making millions of dollars a year or more.  Surrounded by corn and soybean farmers, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole other species that thrive in high rise condos facing the lake and drive Porches and BMWs and take a jet to work each day.  When I drive through the thriving metropolis of the nation’s second largest city, I can’t help but notice the plethora of new structures reaching toward the heavens.  If there is a recession, the area surrounding Soldier’s Field hasn’t felt it yet.  Nor have most prime property locations in any large city.  What do these people do for a living?  What do they do in their nine-to-five lives that enable them to buy designer clothes and eat at Alinea (the most expensive restaurant in Chicago) once a month?  What could they possibly do in eight hours that I can’t do?

            All right all right. First off, they are a lot smarter than the average Joe-lene…or Joe, if you prefer. Private tutors, Ivy League schools, 4.99 GPAs — who knows what extra genes float around in their DNA. Outside their intelligent, futuristic mindset, their choices were different than mine. Their callings more focused. Precise. Obsessive. Sometimes money breeds money; other times poverty does. Hence the buildup of Metropolis. But sometimes I fear this gap between “them” and “me” will burst the few bubbles I have left floating around in my head.  After all, isn’t the preverbal rainbow just around the corner?  Isn’t that pot of gold just waiting for me to discover it? I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in one of those condos on the 56th floor of a building that faced blue water 24/7?

            I want to find a purpose in all my crummy luck. I’d like to think that there will be money left in social security for me and my friends. That I will be able to afford healthcare when I’m 75.  That there will BE healthcare when I’m 75. Economics has never been one of my strengths; I have never been able to understand the Dow Jones or the trading of futures and options on exchanges. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to change my stance in life.  I want my “golden years” to have more of a twinkle of gold than the smudge of soot.  I know that the choices I made in life were the right ones for me. I know that making a little less money through the years is nothing compared to the love and devotion I get from my children and husband and our two stupid dogs.

            But there are times I wonder if I could have tweaked the decisions I made.  That I could have, should have, stayed in the same job a little longer, spent a little less on groceries, or my last trip to Las Vegas.I don’t really regret the money that has drifted through my hands through the years. I’m not sorry having popped for the Renaissance Faire or paid for gasoline that was spent on driving to and from soccer games.

          What I do wonder is how all of this baggage will affect my newfound “freedom” as a woman of the millennium.  How buying clothes for my son from American Eagle balances the wardrobe of a woman going through her mid-life crisis — again.  How I can wear the same plaid booties I saw some young, fresh college thing wearing and not look stupid?

            I naively am waiting for the big pay off.  The jackpot. The book sale that will propel me into the world of Rowling and King.  The winning lottery ticket that will pay off my debt and leave me a little extra for that trip to Ireland.  Until then, though, I will keep working and paying my bills.  After all, my kid reminds me that it will be he who chooses my nursing home.

            I’d better behave.