“While I don’t believe that money guarantees happiness, I know it helps. Because money can buy you the freedom to live life 100% on your own terms.”
– Brian Tracy
I’m loathe to confess this, ducklings, but it’s the truth: I’m a walking cliche. Money concerns have stressed me out over the past year and a half, and it’s probably made me a bit less good humored. Winding down my first Real Live Grownup job is contributing somewhat to that stress. I know it’s the right time to leave, J. has a signed contract to start a new position in mere months, we’re not going to starve and we’ve planned pretty wisely for it, but the truth is I’m a bit freaked out.
Getting our student loans for J.’s graduate degree and then immediately turning around and paying it to a school was a whiplash inducing experience: I’d never personally handled that much money in my life and in a matter of weeks it came and went. Our usual expenses became much more tightly managed with those loan payments every month. We’ve streamlined and budgeted and still almost every penny is spoken for each paycheck. It’s a satisfactory but not very reassuring state.
Here’s the thing – we’re good with money. Really! I put 10% of each paycheck into savings without exception, I pay into my 401k and have made smart choices in managing it, we take care of our property for reselling when it becomes necessary, and we’re not extravagant. J. and I both operate under the frugality now, security later mentality; we believe in delayed gratification. But money and its management have gotten a lot more complex over the last few years and frankly I now understand why my parents (who were not wealthy but were very comfortable when I was growing up) were always talking about it and making financial adjustments and budgets. It doesn’t matter how good you are with it, I think money is terrifying, especially when you don’t make much.
And I don’t. Part of the reason I feel it’s the right time for me to try and move on is because I don’t think I’m paid enough – which feels weird to write. I spent the first couple years of my job just thankful to have it, but I’ve watched duties and responsibilities add up without review of what those jobs are actually worth and it’s been frustrating. The university doesn’t do merit based wage increases and the opportunities for raises are almost nonexistent. My boss actually told me at my last annual review a month or so ago that if I were staying they probably would have had HR come in and complete an inquiry to see if my salary should be raised. Which is nice to hear, but would have been nicer a year ago when my duties were upped significantly after Hennessy quit. I know that I’ll probably start whatever job I take next at a much lower rate than what I currently have (which, I promise, is saying something), but I’ll be willing if I have the option of merit based raises, especially since I expect to start at a bottom rung wherever I get a foot in the door and am willing to work hard to move up.
I graduated just before the financial meltdown, I got a job literally just as Lehman Brothers collapsed and when faced with the pretty terrifying prospect of joining my friends and associates in parents’ basements or collecting unemployment, I chose safety and stayed where I was. Probably longer than I should have, if I’m honest. Nowadays I’m ready for a bit more risk.
A few financial boons have eased the nervousness somewhat as we plan our escape and next stage. Dad found an old bond in my name that I can collect on (after completing the task of tracking down who holds it now since the companies and ownership have transferred quite a bit, especially since the Recession hit). That baby is going straight towards loans and savings! J. picks up odd jobs where he can and assisted writing an article for a business magazine which brought in some extra income. We’re not starving – if I’m objective and rational we are a long ways off from it.
But. If the last four years have taught me anything, watching my grandparents’ retirement vanish practically overnight with the financial collapse, feeling my financial obligations grown disproportionately to my income, working on the MP and seeing how hard hit some professions in particular have been by the new financial reality…it’s that I know exactly how quickly monetary security can go away. I think I’ve become just a little more paranoid.
Weigh in, minions, and be honest! Have financial concerns taken on a different hue to you because of external forces? What have the past couple of years looked like for the Minion Coterie? Do money and financial planning cause you stress, even when you’re good at it? Am I unnecessarily paranoid – or is this worry common? Talk to me, I’m really interested in a broad perspective here.
PS – As a further effort to cut expenses I just made my last want-based purchase for the entirety of 2013. Hold me to it, minions, if I breathe a word about shopping in anything but hypothetical terms before Christmas, strike me down!