Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Financial Awakening

I just finished opening every single envelope with a bill inside. Then, I identified the duplicates and shredded the older versions. With what was left, I made two piles--one for regular monthly expenses and one for just outstanding debts (mostly medical bills, credit cards I no longer use, and real estate taxes). I finished off my financial inventory extravaganza by creating an Excel spreadsheet (with the help of Angel Liz), itemizing my income and expenses.

In other words, I took a hard and deep look at what I make and what I owe. And, guess what? One number that is supposed to be smaller than the other is actually larger than the other. Much to my dismay, I have become a statistic. I, Julie, suma cum laude college graduate, am a victim of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. I bought my condo 2 1/2 years ago, 6 months after separating from my ex-husband when I was afraid that the kids and I would be homeless when we sold the "marital" home to split the proceeds. Except there were no proceeds. (We're lucky we sold it at all!)

So, there I was: A single mom of 2 kids of different genders, and the proud owner of a 2BR condo that is basically an apartment. I had two mortgages for more than the condo was worth, and no money to pay off the one that I thought was temporary. Oh! Did I mention that I somehow missed the fact that the largest loan had a variable interest rate and that neither mortgage included real estate taxes?

So, here I am: It's 2 1/2 years later, the interest rate is going up, up, up, the condo fees have increased, the tax bill is overdo, and my expenses have increased with all the medical bills that aren't covered by insurance.

But, you know what? I feel good. I wrote it all down and I have the two piles. It's out there. It is known. Things always look better in the light. I have identified the elephant in the middle of the room. I have taken the first step. AND, after celebrating with every platitude I could remember, I called a non-profit, FREE debt/mortgage assistance company I read about in a "Those Poor Victims of the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis" article in the Globe. I completed all the online forms (using my new spreadsheet as a reference tool), and made an appointment for a telephone counseling session on Friday.

I am letting it go. I am prepared to take whatever steps necessary (walking away from the condo or staying in the condo, consolidating debt, calling lenders, etc.) to finally be a grown-up with money. I am not asking anyone to bail me out and I am not playing the victim anymore.

I've been beating up on myself for 2 1/2 years for making the bad decision to purchase this condo. Well, you know what? I'm done! Regret is a total waste of time and it doesn't change anything. The only thing that changes anything is doing things differently. So, that's what I'm doing. (And, besides, if I could go without sugar for 16 days and counting, I can certainly do this!)

I don't know what the future is going to bring. None of us do. But, with MS, there's even more uncertainty--or at least the PERCEPTION of uncertainty. So, since I don't know what my health situation will be like in the future, I better get my money sh&% together in order to fund whatever fun comes down the pike.

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