If I Had $1,000,000   Leave a comment

A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart. – Jonathan Swift.

“Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?” – Ed Robertson, Steven Page

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. The federal government very nicely gifted me deposited my income tax refund in my savings account recently so I’m not feeling as financially stretched as I have been the past few months, which is nice. It means, among other things, that the boy’s request for a class ring – the school very nicely sent home the catalog/price list, and, my G-d, I can’t believe how much these things cost – is a possibility.

The fact I can even contemplate this purchase lets me know how lucky I am not to have to worry about money like I did when I was in my twenties.

When I was first married, the country was in the middle of one of our periodic recessions, and neither my ex nor I had a job. Initially we decided that whichever of us got a job would decide where we would live – Boston, western MA, or Burlington, VT of all places. Which was great until neither of us was offered a job. We eventually decided to stay out here in western MA as it was central to all the places we were looking and reasonably inexpensive. Then I got a job three miles down the road from where we were going to be living, which was a great relief as food and rent weren’t free. The salary was negligible, but it had health insurance and was stable.

We were finally at a point where I would have called us upper middle class in terms of salary and lack of extraneous debt when my ex decided he wanted to quit his job and go back to school. To say this freaked me out is a vast understatement. It terrified me. I was making a good salary, but three of us living off of it while paying tuition and gas money and food and car payments and braces… Well, you get the idea.

When my ex ended our marriage, the strange thing was that while I was frightened for the future, I wasn’t so worried about the present. Annoyed that I had to refinance the house and buy him out, yes – I had nine years left on a 2.65% fixed-rate mortgage; it still makes me clench my teeth to think about it – but worried, no. It was actually cheaper for there just to be two of us on what I was making. And the utility bills went down, which was an added bonus at a time I really needed bonuses.

Right now, while I wouldn’t say the boy and I are well-off, we are comfortable. My job pays decently (if not always up to its frustration level) and child support helps with both monthly and those pesky unexpected expenses (Cough… ring… cough). I own my home, put really good food on the table each week, and can proudly say neither of us have ever gone without shoes or clothes that fit. (Except when I refuse to buy bigger sizes of things when I have gained weight. But we won’t go there…) Each month I manage to put a small amount of money in the 401K that will supplement my town-government-job pension and add a bit to the boy’s 529 college fund, both of which I know will be appreciated in the long-term.

The one thing I haven’t pulled off yet is that six-month cushion recommended by financial experts, but it is something I am working on. Probably not as hard as I could – or should – but I like to think of it as work in progress.

Are there things I could do make progress go faster? Sure.

For starters, I could tell the boy we can’t get him a class ring. Which I won’t. I could also probably cut back on our entertainment budget. We don’t eat out very often – restaurants aren’t really Weight Watchers friendly – but do go to the occasional concert, movie, and science fiction convention. We also knit, although these days that is mostly him, and I have this book habit that cannot always be filled by my place of employment. And to be honest, I don’t see any of these things being sacrificed any time soon.

One thing that could be cut back is our annual summer vacation. We could take a stay-cation and enjoy beauties of western Massachusetts in the summer instead of our planned trip to the Washington, DC Fountain Pen Supershow. (If they ever decide on when it is…) Staying home would make much more sense financially, but really, I don’t want to. I enjoy going places with my son, exploring new cities or revisiting places we have been and loved. I don’t care so much about stuff, class ring notwithstanding.  Neither of us has the newest cell phone, in fact the ones we have were purchased used, and I never bothered to get a data plan to go with them. I want to be the parent who brings my child to new places and lets him have experiences that will aid him in becoming the man I see in him rather than gives him things. Travel is a big part of that.

In other posts I have kvelled over trips we have taken the past three years, but, honestly, the big ones have been greatly appreciated gifts from family or friends. Singapore? Never would have made it there without the generosity of a childhood friend. California? The boy’s bar mitzvah present from our aunt. Our 3 days at Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter Park were courtesy of a lucky deal thanks to AAA, and last summer’s trip to London was both an extravagance and a fluke funded by last year’s tax refund. But those were the exceptions.

Do I wish I could travel more? You bet. The green-eyes monster rears its ugly head when I see friends’ pictures of trips to Italy, France, Iceland, Japan, and many other places I won’t be going any time in the near future. But I know I need to balance the desire to go to all these fascinatingly wonderful places with the need to create a cushion to protect myself and my son financially.

So, while I may sigh over the brochure in my mail from Viking River Cruises, I won’t be sailing on down a river in Europe any time in the near future. Instead, I’m going to work on finding that happy medium of small adventures while building up my bank account to weather whatever financial storms may come our way.

Does this mean I’m going to tell the boy he can’t have his ring? No. The entertainment budget is probably going to stay intact as well. Those things will just be part of my balancing act.

All in all, I think we’ll be okay.

But, you know, I haven’t always wanted a monkey.  And I don’t think I ever will.

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Posted March 15, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

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