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Archive for August, 2013

Catching up with Current Events

August 21st, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Currently I am at my parents' place recuperating and availing myself of their premium cable television. In a way, I feel as if I am catching up on current events. So often my colleagues would discuss television shows and movies that I had no inkling of. Magazines are my only link to television. Yesterday, I watched a bit of the series "Girls" on HBO. I tuned in out of curiosity since its creator has received so many accolades from magazines on her courageousness of exposing her unconventional body and the realness of her show. After being visually assailed by one of the most graphic, unflattering scenes that I had ever witnessed on a television show, I want to voice my opinion that there is nothing courageous about a woman showing something that millions of women do without special lighting and positioning.

I was probably hallucinating on the painkillers, but I found myself oddly transfixed by "Rock of Ages." It was the eyeball bleaching I needed after watching "Girls." In this day of reality, it was such so pleasant to watch a movie with two idealistic, squeaky clean leads in a debauched world. Even the debauchery was cleaned up with Tom Cruise's character getting it on with a Rolling Stone reporter who was wearing stylized granny underwear under her miniskirt. Watching this cleaned up version of the 80's metal scene made me reflect on how people were less materialistic then than they are today. I think a huge factor in people worrying about money is the rising cost of living. Back then, interest rates on student loans were double digits, but people graduated with loans that were equivalent or less than a credit card today.

People worry so much about survival that they make their choices based on safety, like moving back home or remaining on their parents' health insurance. I'm not big on political debate but I think it is nuts that our society is stepping backwards to allot for people remaining reliant on their parents at a time that they should strike out on their own.

Anyway, watching these kids move to the Strip to take crappy jobs and pursue their dreams of making it big in the music industry made me misty eyed and nostalgic. Now it seems, the pursuit of dreams is something only kids from wealthy families are permitted to do. Kids from middle class to poor families need to major in something practical if they want to be employed. Only rich kids or those who attend Ivy League schools are allowed to major in Medieval Studies or Music. Only kids who have parents with deep pockets can move to NYC and take on a low paid or free magazine internship and build the creative career of their dreams, unsaddled by student loans, rent worries, and covered by their parents' health insurance.

In my way, I have tried to make my life similar to the life I should have led when I was in my 20's. Throughout my 20's and mid 30's, I always had my own place. I also had a job that provided health insurance and a 401(k). Now I stay with my boyfriend and pay the equivalent of early 90's rent to live in the heart of the West Village, in an apartment that has not been renovated since the early 90's. A 20 year old would think it the ideal situation. Unfortunately, no older person lives with the freedom that a 20 year lives with. Maybe it's a Zen workout for the mind, but the hardest thing in this situation has been letting go. My boyfriend is an older man. He doesn't have much debt, but he makes a moderate income in a city that demands a high income for basic needs. He also lives in an area of the city that is dotted with expensive restaurants and boutiques; a walk around his block forces him to acknowledge that he can't afford an $11.00 juice or $20 yoga classes. An environment in which one constantly sees what one cannot have breeds dissatisfaction. It is hard to maintain a positive disposition when you are constantly confronted with what you lack.

There are kids all over the West Village partaking in the expensive goodies. I used to be one of those kids years ago when I was in college and my parents were giving me spending money. I remind my man that the kids look happy because they are young and don't necessarily think about consequences. Many of them are just charging those dinners and drinks. A few of them may have rich parents or decent paying jobs, but most of them just charge the fancy clothes and outings. It's very important to keep appearances in perspective when you are NYC.

Watching the television has been reassuring. When you live in a bubble, it's difficult to see what your life really looks like. I can step back and see that my life mirrors television, and in many ways it is a lot better.

The Illusion of Having One's Act Together

August 20th, 2013 at 02:43 pm

Yesterday I was tooling around on LinkedIn when I saw an old article on the new way women curse. This article discussed a January Glamour magazine cover in which one of the featured titles was "12 Ways to Get Your Sh*t Together." The LinkedIn article was about the decreasing shock value of expletives. I was more interested in finding out what the article said. Unfortunately Glamour didn't put the content online, however from my Google search, I found many other websites concerning one getting one's "sh*t" together, including an actual website called http://getyourshittogether.org/ which provides guidance on life and death planning that most people neglect when they are healthy but can leave a huge mess for their descendants.

There were a number of other sites that discussed ways in which one can get his or her act together. It was very amusing and somewhat affirming that according to many of these sites, I actually have my act together as I am not on drugs, have a planner and a work bag (!).

As I reflected upon that, I realize that having one's act together is entirely perception. I know many people here may not feel that I have my act together because I buy lunch out. Yet when I chop my fruit in the morning and put it together my brought from home items of whole grain cereal and cottage cheese, many of my colleagues comment on how healthy my breakfast looks.

Also keeping with the "illusion" of having my act together is my planner. I don't have a formal budget but I spend the same on a weekly basis for transportation, food and gym. My expenses decrease when I am not working. In my planner I record all my outstanding debt, when my payments are due and my weekly take home pay. As I make my payments, I subtract the money accordingly from my available money and keep a running tally of what I have left to live on until the next paycheck. I also keep a running tally of my total outstanding debt as well. Since these are all in writing, I can see my progress or lack of progress. Some credit cards have increased while other have decreased. Overall I am $4,000 less in debt than I was the previous year.

In my case, the mere act of writing down my debts and looking at them makes them less scary and manageable. I've been a temp for over five years. Many of my colleagues have put their student loans in forbearance and have watched their loan balances swell. Mine are decreasing and it comforts me that I have been able to make payments on the student loans, and all my other bills, in spite of working as an independent contractor.

Hit the wall

August 18th, 2013 at 10:24 am

I've been thinking about money long before I've chosen to blog about my money issues. Working as a temp changes the way a person thinks about money. At least it did for me. Back in the day when I had a permanent job, I could count on a certain amount of compensation on an annual basis and was compensated for vacation and sick time. Even though my income is arguably steady, I've never thought of it as something that could be relied upon. It changes so much from project to project. However my fixed costs are such that they require steady compensation. It's difficult looking at a minimum of $1500 a month in expenses, including $900 for my student loan.

Recently I had surgery and I was fortunate that my project wrapped up two days before my scheduled surgery. I'm in recovery and the doctor recommended that I take 2 weeks off, but I can't see myself having no income for 2 weeks. Since I am in between projects, I have some time to recover, yet I am looking for work as well.

Many times I feel as if I "hit a wall." I start out with the best intentions that I will save money and not use my credit cards and then life gets in the way. The combination of unsteady income and high fixed expenses and life circumstances can derail the best of intentions. Sometimes the only thing a person can do is stay positive and ride it the lean times and try to make up for it when times are flush.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I have not put my student loans in forbearance or defaulted on my credit cards. I have been able to keep up with my expenses in spite of short times.

I do get frustrated at the thought of limitations. Worrying about small things like lunches, transportation or little indulgences is frustrating to me because I do make good money even though it disappears quickly.

Trying to stay positive for now. I just finished paying my monthly bills and I am happy that I have paid everything for August and the beginning of September.

Back where I began...

August 1st, 2013 at 11:40 am

When I was in my 20s and starting out, it was pretty common to exist with $10 in my bank account and wait for pay day. After years of having credit card access and having developed the habit of making purchases on credit cards if I didn't have the cash, I have forgotten what it was like to have to wait for pay day.

So I'm in that position now. I am not making as much money on this project as I had for other projects and I only have $5 left in my checking account until this week's check gets deposited. This week I had $70 to live on. Sounds like a princely sum until you factor in a lunch with my colleague at a place that was deceptively pricey. Maybe I should have requested a cheaper place to eat, but I hadn't seen him in a while.

I made a vow not to charge groceries and transportation on my credit cards so I live on the money I allot for my weekly budget and not a penny more. It has been frustrating though because I worked on lucrative projects in the past and it feels wonderful to have enough money left over after paying bills and daily living expenses to put away and not feel deprived.

My colleagues and I were commiserating about our financial situations. Many are relying on their credit cards to see them through the lean times. I am happy that I am not using my credit cards as a crutch, but it is very difficult at this time.