Monday, October 30, 2006

A Financial true story.

My husband and I have been plagued with bad luck, since we got together in 1997. Except for the death of my husbands much-loved brother, at least for the first few years, we got along OK.... I went through periods of unemployment due to medical reasons, had surgery to try to fix one of those medical reasons, and we fought to try to get our credit cards with which we bought groceries during the leanest times, paid off. We were making progress and it looked like we could get them paid off in another year or two at the most. We wanted to stop paying rent, so we began looking for a home we could live in for only a little more than our rental fees.

At a point where our finances were improving, one of the worst things imaginable happened.

My husband's beloved sister was killed in a murder/suicide, and her children were removed from the state by those who were not their legal guardians. Despite the fact we were not well off, my husband and I were in the best shape financially in the family, and had a credit card I'd been carefully using only when it could immediately be paid off, to try to build my credit back up.

Funeral expenses went on this card. There was no way to pay that off quickly, and add another large minimum payment due to our list of credit card debt. Lawyer fees were also required in order for us to get my sister-in-laws children back from the family of her murderer, and back to my other sister-in-law, who was named as guardian in both parents wills. We helped with these as well.

THEN we bought our first house. It's a fixer-upper indeed. We knew we needed to do things like add in central AC (which we thought would be easy, as part of the house was a mobile home, which had AC vents already in place.) but it turned out the place was in much worse shape than we were led to believe before we bought it... Both from the previous owners 'full disclosure' that was written illegibly, and we were never given the promised legible copy, and from the inspectors completely inept job of doing his job. (How hard is it to tell that the 'electric water heater' which was 'not leaking' and 'in good condition' was a GAS water heater, rusted out and leaking??)

After we moved into our home, the money we had put aside for necessary expenses such as AC (We live in Texas, and the house has few windows) and electrical corrections such as bringing the house up to code went instead to things such as a new hot water heater and miscellaneous unexpected expenses... leaving the electrical work and other unexpected but serious problems like weak floorboards unrepaired.

Then, about a month later, My husband, who had had the same job for almost 7 years, and was steadily climbing in pay and looked good for a promotion to supervisor.. Got laid off. Even with me working full time, his income had probably been about 3/5 more than mine. My husband tried to get a new job for a full year... but local jobs such as he is qualified are few and far between and highly sought after... and with a new home to pay off, a non-local job was problematic... he did apply for ones that would pay sufficiently that we could afford payments on 2 residences until the new home had been sold... but with no luck.

Needless to say, bills suffered severely at this point. I contacted the credit card companies anytime I got a little extra funding at one time, such as income tax refunds, to try to get a reduced pay-off amount... as everything I owed was interest. I was always told I didn't qualify.

A year later, My husbands old job hired him back at a substantial pay-cut. He still made at least 2/3 more than MY full-time income. Also, at this point, my husband was hospitalized with heart issues, that ended up being a combination of anxiety and an adverse reaction to medication. During this time, the taxes on our fairly worthless home were raised substantially, raising the payment well above what we could have easily paid with my husbands PREVIOUS wage. My husband and I fought on. We paid for our home, utilities, insurance, and as much as we could on our credit cards.. which often wasn't enough to keep them current... we held out hope that my husband would begin getting raises again. As for necessary medical expenses, like dentistry, to complete some half-done root canals, and repair some cavities? Well, we have to consider them unnecessary, until we have extra funds...

Finally in 2005, a bit of wonderful news, that was at the same time horrible news financially. I was in my late 30s... but I'd finally gotten pregnant with the child we had wanted and tried for since 1998.

The pregnancy was simultaneously perfect and horrible. I had no SERIOUS medical conditions... the baby stayed in good health... But I was plagued by migraines and morning sickness throughout, and missed a lot of work. My husband missed some work as well, when I was at my sickest, because the sweetheart didn't want to leave me alone.. also he had some illnesses thrown in there as well.

Dental work at this point was reaching critical need... but still no money, and now the extra fetal consideration that would have made it problematic even if we'd been swimming in cash.

The day before my due date, we were hit by a severe hailstorm... totalling our car, which we still drive despite a shattered windshield... and damaging our house roof. Hello leaky roof we can't afford to repair.

After the birth of our daughter, I was on maternity leave... about 1/3 of my normal pay, for a while. I was also highly depressed. My husband missed a bit more work after his paternity leave expired, spending time with us, and giving me time to get over PPD. Then I went back to work.

About a week later, I discover that my job, which I've had about 5 years at this point.. is gone. The business was relocating to Oklahoma. I was laid off in July, just over 3 months after the birth of our daughter.

I looked for jobs for a while, but I found none I was qualified for that would pay me more than I would have to pay for childcare. Rather than working at a loss, I became a work-at-home-mom... doing whatever I can to bring in some income, while at the same time being home with my daughter. I worked short-term with a at-home-receptionist business... but I did good to get 5 hours of work a week, as schedule slots when my husband would be home to care for our daughter were few and far between, and were grabbed by people with more time to wait at the computer for the moment they became available. I now work starting my own T-Shirt design and sales business... There's no start-up investment except time.. and boy have I invested that. Over time, my sales have gradually increased, and the business looks very promising... but so far, I still put in far more unpaid work than paid.

Our financial situation at this point couldn't be worse. My husband makes just barely more than too much for us to get financial assistance from programs like WIC... But if we paid ALL of our income on bills, NONE on food for us or our child.. we still wouldn't be able to pay the house payment and credit card bills to current. And needless to say.. That's not happening. Our monetary priority has been food for our daughter and us.. cheap, but edible and nutritious. Then diapers, and other infant needs, including a little bit of second-hand warm clothing for our toddler for the winter. Gas for the car, as it's 100% necessary for my husband to get to work. Then utilities. Then house payments. Then credit-cards get whatever little is left. That's not much. And, every now and then, when the utilities have gotten behind, our mortgage has had to be put on the back-burner.

Through it all, we've hoped for some kind of miracle to help us get through this... but no. My husband was denied a raise last year, because during my pregnancy, and HIS illnesses, he'd missed too much work. He got high marks otherwise. Then THIS year, shortly before his yearly evaluation, we were notified that next March, his job is closing down, and all employees are to be laid off, except for a very very few who will be kept for a short time longer. He's not among that few.

At this point, two of my three uncapped root canals have broken in half, and I speak with a forced lisp, and have difficulty eating. My other teeth have gotten so painful that TOOTHPASTE hurts.. so I'm making the situation worse by rarely brushing.

A week or two ago, I was served with a lawsuit by one of our credit card companies. At this point, all we owe them is interest on interest on interest. No actual premium there anywhere anymore, yet they'd never deal with us when we had extra money. Now they want to sue us for it when we have none.

Then a couple days ago, we received a notice from our mortgage company. They want $3,400 by tomorrow. Boy, that's a lot of notice. There's no way we can pull up that kind of money. If it weren't for my daughter, I'd let them have this falling-down-around-our-ears thing we call a home, and go live in a cardboard box on a friends lawn.

We are definitely not living high on the hog. We aren't even living low on the hog. Sometimes I wonder if we're getting any hog at all, but then I remember breaking my tooth on a hoof.

My husband and I are straight laced individuals.

We do not drink. We don't smoke. We don't do drugs.

The entire time we've been together, my husband and I have worked very hard, trying to get our feet on solid financial ground. Doing our best to pay our debts, and not making irresponsible purchases, to the exclusion of our bills.

Now, me in my very late 30's, my husband in his early 40s, here we are feeling as if buying a $6 pair of shoes for our daughter to wear this winter is a luxury expense.

What kind of help have we had? Unemployment insurance that pays too little, and lasts far too short of a time? Unemployment Job Training assistance program promises that never materialized? ("Just wait until we call you" every time I'd ask what was going on... well, it's been a year and a half now... they still haven't called.)

I really have to wonder, what kind of karma, or injustice in the political system, can allow this sort of thing to happen to people who are trying their utmost to do their part.

At least hardships are a great source of creative inspiration.

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If you'd like to see my website, where I have links to photos, etc, click here.