About Me

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Five years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!

Friday, October 21, 2011

I am debt-free.

It’s been a long, hard slog. Ten and a half years ago, I was debt-free, with no credit history. So I got a VISA card, and my first activity was the co-payment for my gallbladder surgery. The second purchase was significantly higher, for the interview suit (from the late, lamented August Max Woman) which helped me get my job.

I was making a little over half of what I’m earning now. I still had two children at home. Child support was minimal. Gradually that balance crept up, until I realized that it made more sense to take out a line of credit from my credit union at work and pay 8% than to pay whatever the credit card company was charging at the time. Whew, deep cleansing breath, which lasted a couple of weeks until the children’s father lost his job and was out of work for over a year.

Rather than tell the children that we couldn’t afford something as basic as bras, I put a year’s worth of child support onto my newly-clean plastic. At the end of that year, I had a car payment, the line of credit, and credit card debt. My debt load was roughly half of my yearly gross salary.

And every time the Brethren preached that we needed to get out of debt, I squirmed.

I paid off the car (Earl, after the song by the group that I really liked until their ignorant comments on their concert tour right after 9-11), but because I hadn’t had enough cash for regular oil changes, not to mention regular maintenance, Earl only lived a year after he was paid off. At which point I acquired Lorelai and had only one child at home. The children’s father had reached the magic age of 65, which meant that instead of his having to pony up for child support, Uncle Sam stepped in until LittleBit graduated from high school.

I moved into this duplex after she graduated, because the space was smaller, the rent was lower, and it’s in a blissfully quiet neighborhood. No more neighbors tap-dancing in the kitchen upstairs at 2:00a.m. or flinging F-bombs over the balcony onto unsuspecting passers-by.

And since then, my financial situation has waxed and waned, but the general trend has been upward. If you count my 401K’s (regular and Roth), I have theoretically been in the black for a long time. Cash flow has been another matter.

This week I reached the magic age of 59.5, which means that I could draw from my 401K without an additional 10% penalty, just the 25% against my tax return next spring. While listening to General Conference earlier this month, the impression came again that I should do precisely that, and get out of debt now.

I know that this flies in the face of conventional wisdom. I know that at least one of my children is shaking her head. But I am the one who got the impression, and I am the one who has the peaceful feeling for having followed through.

I increased my 401K and Roth contributions last week. They will be effective next paycheck. Doctors without Borders and Feeding America both got a raise. And I sent a donation to Rising Star Outreach, which supports children and families affected by leprosy. (I did not see a way to set up a monthly debit.) I also increased my contribution to two of my three savings accounts. And I still have money left for inconsequentials like food and gasoline!

The numbers may get shuffled if things go forward with the new guy, but at least I will not be bringing debt into that hypothetical marriage.

He is out of state as we speak. The chemo pump came off yesterday, and last night he flew out to where his mother lives. People from his mother’s ward (congregation) will be loading up a truck today. Then he and one of his sisters will be driving it to Texas, starting tomorrow. He hopes to be home Sunday night or by mid-day on Monday. The anticoagulants he is taking twice a day mean that he has to get out of the car every two hours and walk for 15 or 20 minutes. That will slow them down. But he has his road music: bagpipes, zydeco, and the Green Bay Packers’ fight song. His mom will fly out here on Tuesday.

He has his appointment with Social Security next Thursday. And the Thursday after that we get the word on his CT scan. Thirteen days. Yes, I am starting to count them.

He is having a rough go of it, this time around. Even tap water is too cold for him, and when he got in the car yesterday to go have his pump taken off, the steering wheel was painful to touch. I reminded him: cold hands? warm wife.

I spoke with 2BDH yesterday. He did not wipe the old computer when he transferred my files, but he has a program which will do so. Therefore, I will be schlepping the old CPU over to their house bright and early tomorrow morning, and then it can go out on the curb next week with its dinosaur of a monitor.

A modicum of knitting progress yesterday. Still loving the yarn and the pattern. I have nothing on the books for tonight, and very little for tomorrow. The computer gets wiped, Lorelai gets an oil change, I buy groceries and do laundry (though I might do both of those tonight). I foresee a lot of happy knitting in my immediate future!


Lynn said...

Alison H. responded (and I fat-fingered my phone while trying to publish it): "Congratulations on overcoming and being free at last! Wonderful!"

Kristen said...

Well done! We actually became debt-free (including the house)this month also, thanks to listening and following advice from past General Conferences.