Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bail out

I am not any sort of financial expert. I get a headache when I balance my checkbook, I never took economics, and I failed the financial CPCU exam the first time. My point is, what follows shouldn't be viewed as a suggestion, or advice. I had a tough decision to make, but it was worth it to me, so I thought I'd share in case it might help someone else. 

Those Occupiers seem to be making an argument that we all need a bail out. I don't agree with them, and it's been suggested that is because I am "privileged" and don't understand where they're coming from. I'm a spoiled little rich kid who never wanted for anything, and now I'm selfish and I don't want to share.

Judgy, much?

Let me be clear - I am spoiled. That's not exactly breaking news. I am 37 in my mid-thirties, and I get better Birthday and Christmas presents from my father than most children. I wanted for very little as a kid, rarely heard the word no, and had an awful lot handed to me.

However, I was also taught that this was a privilege for people who worked hard, and who earned what they had. I was never taught to expect a handout. The minute my dad thought I was expecting too much - he put on the brakes, and told me to go get a job. I was 16, and I've not been unemployed for even a day since.

But that doesn't mean I don't have financial worries. No matter what anyone tells you, divorce is expensive. I didn't spend a lot to get divorced (because I didn't marry an asshat who went looking to make my life difficult), but it was hard adjusting the household budget (which didn't change all that much) to a single income.

Plus - I made some bad decisions. By that I mean I spent my way out of a depression. Retail therapy is actually a thing.

But while I was stimulating the economy, I was also racking up debt that I wasn't prepared to handle. When I finally snapped back to reality earlier this year, I was already in over my head.

But I didn't go looking for a bail out. I didn't beg for debt forgiveness, or occupy any grass near the capital, waiting for my government to pay for all those shoes. I bailed myself out, by cashing in a portion of my retirement.

It wasn't an easy decision. I've spent all this time building that fund, and cashing it in not only means the money won't be there for me in retirement, but I will have to pay a huge penalty for taking it out while I'm still working.

On the flip side, it's my money, and I worked hard to set it aside. Yes, it will be helpful in retirement - but I need the money now. Tax shelters and retirement savings are valuable - but putting an end to the stress I was under is priceless.

That sealed my decision, so I cashed in the fund, and paid off the debt that was crushing me. At the same time, I calculated my new monthly budget, to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Some might say that I'm "lucky" I was able to do that, and not everyone has the option to bail themselves out. To that, I say - bite me not true. I haven't been employed steadily for over 20 years because of "luck." In fact, for over two years now, I've been getting up every day and going to a job I hate, just to continue to earn a living.

I'm privileged and spoiled in a lot of ways. But a strong work ethic and a willingness to make a steady contribution to society? That's a privilege available to anyone.

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