I woke up this morning in the silence of the cabin. Silence in the sense of the noise that clutters our minds. No traffic, no TV, no loud alarm clock, no buzzing electrical appliances. Just the sounds of the birds singing and the cat wanting her breakfast! I got up and did my standard morning routine, which starts with the sound of “Across the Universe” from my alarm clock at 6:30am. The bathroom, start coffee, feed the cat, take vitamins and catching up on Words With Friends games that accumulated overnight.
As I was curling back up in bed after starting my morning coffee, I said to Steve, “Here I am at the cabin, which is supposed to be rustic, and I have everything I need. I have electricity, internet and running water. I am only missing the things I don’t miss. I have to take a three-minute shower because our hot water heater is tiny. I have a composting toilet that takes a bit more maintenance that a regular flush toilet. I plan meals ahead of time because the microwave is no longer in the building. I wash clothes in a manual washer and hang them all to dry. I have everything I need, and I am happier than I have ever been.”
I think back to being younger and thinking I needed to create the American dream. I needed the job, the house, the cars and the stuff to show that I was successful. I had those things, and I was profoundly unhappy. I thought that each increase in wages, that resulted in more material stuff would make me happy. I thought I deserved to have a better house and a new car because I had worked hard to get those things. Borrowing money was just the way it was. You can’t reach the American dream life without incurring a bunch of debt, right? The mortgage, the car payments, the credit cards, the 90-day “no-interest” furniture loan that there was no money to pay when the 90 days rolled around. Even the student loans felt like they were choking me.
I would lay in bed at night worried about having enough money in my checking account to pay the mortgage. What if I didn’t have enough credit left on my credit card to put gas in my car, or to pay for a hot water heater when mine decided to die? There was a Lending Tree ad on TV years ago, where Stanley Johnson talks about his lovely life. It ends with him on his riding lawnmower, smiling and saying “I am in debt up to my eyeballs. Somebody please help me”. (click the quote to watch the ad!). I remember feeling that way. It was exhausting. I can’t imagine going through the uncertainty which is the year 2020 with that level of debt.
Right now, I am in a group on Facebook of people who are waiting on unemployment payments in the state of Wisconsin. Due to the pandemic, the number of people applying has caused extreme delays in payments. There are people in this group who have waited 14 weeks or more, and still have no payment, and are not back to work yet. Many will not be called back as businesses are not reopening or are scaling back their number of employees.Many are dealing with evictions, foreclosures, phones being shut off and not having funds to even buy groceries. These are people who were doing fine with their full time work, but are now needing to apply for fuel and rent assistance through no fault of their own. A realtor friend of mine told me that the number of houses going into foreclosure is also starting to rise. The fallout from this shutdown will not stop with economies reopening. It could take years.
One of the things people are talking about a lot in this group is the need to have an emergency fund. During the good times this seems unnecessary, but during the lean times having this set aside can help you to sleep at night. The financial gurus Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman talk about this all the time. I tell my clients as well, but it has typically fallen on deaf ears. Now is the time to start looking ahead. We may be looking at an economic recession or even a depression due to this pandemic. Are you ready?
Over the last 5 years, we have paid off every bit of debt we have, other than a little bit of student loan debt that is currently at 0%. We put every dollar we could towards cars and mortgages. We have saved money for lean times and put funds into our retirement accounts at an increasing amount. Why do I tell you this?
It has made a profound change in my mental health and anxiety levels. I know, even if I lose my job, or Steve’s business doesn’t do well, that we can afford to live. We can eat, drive our cars and pay our cell phone and utility bills. We can make the choice to leave a job if it doesn’t feel good. Neither of us is forced to continue doing something we hate, or take a difficult client, just because we need to make money to pay a mortgage or car payment. Honestly, this is the most freeing feeling ever. This is what we all deserve. We have been fed a pile of lies.
I thought I deserved the bigger, better, newer, nicer house. I thought that next new car would make me happy. I was pretty sure a new bed, couch or the newest washer and dryer would be the thing that made me happy. What I have found is the simplicity of my life now is really what I deserve. I have worked long hours in my life. I have stayed at jobs that didn’t feel good because I had to. I have exactly what I need, and it feels good.
If you are ready to make changes in your financial life, please reach out. I would love to help you create a mindful money management plan. To create a plan to create more cash flow, to get rid of the unnecessary debt, and to learn how to find peace again.
Have a wonderful day!