Category Archives: Finance

Doing it wrong.

In which I wonder what my old age will be like.

Yesterday, I read an opinion piece in the New York Times. It was a good man’s story: older, loyal, secure; then his company “restructured.” Now he’s been unemployed for years. He’s too old to get a job; he has a preexisting condition so he’s unable to get insurance; he “always did the right thing,” and is now facing abject destitution.

He’s not much older than I am.

I have not done the right things.

I went to college, yes, but I didn’t have any discipline. I took classes that interested me, dropped out of those that didn’t, and in six years of higher education came away with substantial and still growing debt and no marketable degrees.

I got married, yes, but I chose badly. I didn’t choose someone who would make a good helpmeet and life partner. I chose someone who, at first, rocked my socks off in bed and who, unlike anyone else, actually asked me to marry him. But that was it, there really weren’t any other important qualities there between us, not the kinds of qualities that get you through your working years and safely into your dotage with your needs modestly taken care of. So naturally we divorced, and that left me with no equity and even more debt.

Now I’m of an age where I should be investing and building my retirement. Instead, I have no savings and no insurance. For the next few months, I’m giving 30% of my monthly income to my dentist so I can keep a tooth. As soon as the root canal and crown are paid off, I’ll do the same thing for my eyes, because I really need my prescriptions updated. After that’s paid off, no doubt, something else will happen, and I’ll pay that off too.

But eventually something might happen that I can’t make payments on. What if I get hurt, or need medicine? I’m employed, so I’m not eligible for many types of relief, but I earn too little to, say, be able to spend a bunch of money on meds every month.

I’ve been insured fewer than four years since I started working.

I’m not borrowing trouble. I’m stating that it is statistically likely that I will need something I won’t be able to to afford.

Which means I have failed my end of the social covenant. I should have educated myself more carefully and made myself more employable, no? I should have chosen a decent partner1, and together we should have earned and saved enough to pay for ourselves. I should have taken steps all my life not to be a burden on anyone, right?

I mean, isn’t that the social covenant?

Continue reading

OMG OMG OMG I HAVE A JOB

In which I rejoin the workforce!

Last night I took myself out for dinner and drank a lot of wine (because that’s what you do when you’re damn near broke and the check you’ve been expecting for weeks still hasn’t shown up, right? RIGHT?), which means I was still in bed at 10:30 this morning when G’ma called up the stairs, “Shelly! There’s a man from BMI here to see you!”

A what from what? Did she say BMI? “Um, okay. I’m not dressed! Tell him I’ll be down in a minute!”

I grabbed some clothes from the floor and put them on, found my glasses, put my messy hair up in a pony tail and stumbled downstairs.

The man turned out to be RB, my old boss from BMI… with a job offer! Their network engineer has taken a position elsewhere, and since they really weren’t excited at the prospect of running ads and doing interviews and background checks and calling references and finding someone with the right personality for their small office, they thought of me! (I left because I wanted more responsibility and there was, at the time, no room for growth.) Then they checked my blog and saw the job hunting post, realized I was still available, and started trying to hunt me down. Since I hadn’t answered my phone, RB decided to jump in his car and come find me. Continue reading

Job hunting. It's so awesome. Where 'awesome' equals 'not so very.'

In which I apply for jobs.

So I’ve been more-unemployed-than-less now since December 2009. That’s nearly two years, if you do the math. Sure, I spent nine months of that time in school taking CCNA classes, but I didn’t really enjoy it because I perpetually felt like I was way far behind and I got a shit grade I may never get over in one of my courses the last trimester.

Today I applied for a retail job at a Halloween store. (Yes, I just wrote both RETAIL JOB and AT A HALLOWEEN STORE. I will only stab myself in the eye socket with a broken chopstick if they call me for an interview.) Tomorrow I’m going to apply for a clerk’s position at the liquor store next to the Hasting’s over on 9th.

I’ve gotten one callback from all the applications I’ve submitted, at a rate of no less than three per week, since I got out of school in June. It was for a part-time, minimum-wage, first tier tech support position in a suburb of Portland. I accidentally deleted the number.

If it weren’t for gigs and the few hours I get from that remote QA testing job, I wouldn’t have been able to buy a four dollar bottle of wine today. (YES, I AM DRINKING FOUR DOLLAR WINE. THAT’S FOUR DOLLARS I DIDN’T SPEND ON CRACK.)

Banking.

In which the banking industry has no manners because it feels it doesn’t need to.

I’m listed at Chex Systems.

The reason for this starts with a d and ends with ivorce; long story short, all the bills were in my name and we lived just at the very edge of our means and then he quit working and a bunch of shit went ballistic. An unscrupulous creditor put a lien on my checking account and fucked up my financial life. But instead of going bankrupt, I found a debt reduction program and I’ve been paying off my debt for the past three years. Even though it was our debt. So I’m not only not bad, I’m good, mmm’kay? Any bank should be pleased to have me as a customer, because if I were to find myself owing them money I would pay it back. Continue reading

I'm having a really bad day, you guys.

In which I need to vent or cry or complain or get a hug or something.

Bindu kept me up much of last night with terrible episodes involving screaming (the vet calls it “vocalizing”) and panting and whimpering and coughing; she’d calm down and almost sleep in between, but every couple of hours it would start all over again. Her squeal would have me leaping from bed to comfort her and pet her until she seemed to stabilize; in the process I’d end up working myself into a full-blown anxiety attack with the shakes and the clammy palms and the achey skin and the inability to get back to sleep and the whole nine yards.

She woke me up again at a quarter after seven; she was panting a little and looking haggard, but she was upright and clearly ready to start her day, so could I please get my human ass up and remove the blockade at the top of the stairs so she could get on with it? I petted her and asked her to wait 15 minutes for the animal hospital to open (no one had answered when I’d called at three and again at four in the morning, but their office hours begin at 7:30). I made an appointment, got dressed, gathered my things, and carefully carried my dog downstairs and then outside.

She seemed spry enough, and promptly peed… and then she walked about fifteen paces and started with the squeal/cough/pant thing again. She seemed to be in pain and looked abjectly miserable. IT FUCKING SUCKED. I put her in the truck and, still hoping it was a back problem that pain meds could resolve, drove her to the vet and checked her in, explaining that she’d once had a back episode and that her behavior reminded me of my ex-husband’s when he ruptured a disc. They asked me to approve radiographs and sedation; I approved blood work too because of her age (she’s ~14).

When I got home around nine, I promptly curled up in bed with a pillow over my head and crashed for two hours.

The vet called me with an update around one o’clock. Blood work, in areas I can’t explain that have something to do with poor organ function, indicates problems. The radiograph shows an enlarged heart and an enlarged liver. The vet wanted to do an ECG to find out more about the heart problems; for lack of anything better to do I said okay. Due to various factors (distended belly, coughing, drinking lots of water), the vet also suspects an endocrine condition called Cushing’s disease as well. Secondary blood work and ECG will need to be evaluated, she said, offsite.

The vet reported that Bindu doesn’t seem to have arthritis or a sore back, and that her discs looked good in the radiograph. Therefore, it seems that last night’s episodes – and the first one I noticed the day before, and the one G’ma noticed the day before that – were not actually due to pain from a slipped disc or back-related spasming, which is what I’d suspected, but from heart failure. (Most of the time, I was told, such episodes cause fainting, but in some dogs who fail to actually faint they manifest as “vocalizing, stiffness, panting and coughing.”)

Essentially, I’m waiting on another $90 test, one I don’t really need, to tell me that my dog is in the process of dying.

~+~+~
Last week I received an email from my advisor notifying me of a lecture today. I was pretty excited about it, after the disappointment of learning that my curriculum was all online. An actual in-person lecture, on campus, with people!

The Bindu thing dampened my enthusiasm a great deal, but I was grateful for something to do to help me occupy my mind. No one needs to know that I nearly burst into tears twice on the drive over there.

When I got to the lab, the whiteboard said the instructor was out sick and that there were no classes today.

~+~+~
Last month, when I went to Planned Parenthood to get a bladder infection treated, they shortlisted me for a free mammogram program. So I went and got my boobs smashed and shortly afterward I received a lovely letter telling me that I don’t have breast cancer.

Today, I got a bill for $86.

~+~+~
There was some kind of SNAFU in my client’s A/P department and my September 23rd invoice never got processed. I was assured last week that it would be paid Monday.

Today’s Thursday, I’ve just dropped a couple hundred bucks I don’t have on the vet, I owe St Mary’s ninety bucks, my settlement program is unpaid, and I have a $300 tuition payment due on the 20th. I haven’t paid my rent, either.

Guess who’s check wasn’t in the mail today?

~+~+~
I should be studying or working, but I’ll probably just sit here, freaking out and trying not to, until the vet calls back.

~+~+~
They called back. The voicemail says the ECG is done but they won’t have the results until tomorrow, and that I can come pick Bindu up.

Except that I can’t handle another night like last night, and I have no reason to believe that tonight will be different as there has, as yet, been no treatment for the symptoms I took her in for. The vet wanted the ECG and offsite blood work results before prescribing anything.

God, am I the worst dog mom in the world if I leave her there so I can sleep without listening to her wails? I can’t stand her suffering, but leaving her in a cage in a concrete room overnight seems like a sin. But if I bring her home, I’ll carry her up and down the stairs to save her the strain and have a panic attack every time she falls down and coughs, and as much as I won’t want to admit it all I’ll want to do is get away from her.

Oh, God. I always told you I would be a total wreck when this, the end of Bindu’s life, came along, and I totally am.

~+~+~
Update: I cried. Then I meditated. Then I called the clinic and said that I am “unable” to pick Bindu up until tomorrow. (I made it sound like I didn’t have access to a vehicle right now, which is completely untrue.) So, not only am I a bad dog mom who leaves her beloved to spend the night in a cage in a concrete room across town, but I’m a liar as well.

I am not pleased with myself, but this is not the first time since developing a panic disorder that I’ve been displeased with my responses to things. Usually when I’m freaking out I just suit up and go do whatever it is anyway (I don’t even know how many times I’ve done gigs in the throws of a full-blown panic attack), but I know that another night with a screaming, coughing, panting dog in my arms will… — it will, um… — hell, I don’t even know what it’ll do. I don’t have words for it. I just don’t want to do it. Even though it’s my duty, because I took responsibility for that dog’s life and health and comfort over a decade ago.

There may be treatment options, once there’s a diagnosis, I just don’t know anything about cost or efficacy, and she is 14 so none of this is entirely unexpected.

As G’ma has just returned from her afternoon volunteering at the museum, I’ve shared all the vet information with her. I told her I’d left Bindu at the clinic overnight even though they said I could come get her. Then I teared up. G’ma said, “We care too much about the little buggers. We might not show it, but we really do.” And then she went and made a cocktail and brought it to me here at my desk. For my part, I struggled not to start crying until she’d gone back upstairs.

This is the job market today, bitches. Srsly.

In which I complain about living in a state with a 9.1% unemployment rate.

I just read a job listing at WorkSource. The job is called PT ORDER ENTRY SPECIALIST II.

The description says, and I quote verbatim, The FT Order Entry Specialist II will check accuracy of and enter orders for equipment and parts, balance daily order reports, request closing reports and acknowledgments daily, provide various bookings and shipments reports, maintain integrity of open and closed sales orders. Review initial sales orders for completeness and accuracy and input into log book. Perform file maintenance, update sales orders, balance the “shipment to customer” with accounting daily. Track and verify customer purchase orders for each piece of equipment ordered. Produce weekly order and shipment reports for both business units. Monthly, generate and mail verification of bookings totals and reports to appropriate personnel. Provide support for product specialists and field sales as required.

Yeah. It’s glorified data entry and report-running. Anybody could do it.

What’s fucked up is the part where they list the necessary qualifications to be considered for the job: Two year Associates degree (A.A.) accounting degree, plus four years business accounting experience.

A fucking associate’s in accounting? To enter sales orders? Are you fucking kidding me? Four years’ BUSINESS ACCOUNTING experience? Really? With that kind of qualification, you’re a fucking ACCOUNTANT, not an order entry specialist. Jeez.

~+~+~
I was idly looking at job postings because I haven’t received my EUC (emergency unemployment compensation) ruling yet, it’ll take the EB (extended benefits) people two days to call me back, I’m totally broke, I haven’t been awarded any financial aid for school yet, and:

The EUC program expired on June 2, 2010. The U.S. House passed legislation to extend the dates people can apply for and receive EUC benefits, but the bill is currently stalled in the Senate. The Senate is not expected to take the bill up again until July 12, 2010 or later.

If the bill becomes law people will be able to apply for EUC until November 2010 and receive benefits until May 2011.

Long story short, I don’t know yet but I might not be able to do the school thing if I don’t get EUC and/or a financial aid award.

Which would suck, because I was really looking forward to a year in community college, taking computer science classes with twenty-year-old geeks.

~+~+~
I haven’t paid my rent, I’m a month and a half behind on paying my settlement company, I need new glasses, I want new books, I need to pay my dentist, and my dog’s eating shitty grocery store brand kibbles.

My debit card is ten dollars overdrawn, I’m about to disable my Netflix and eMusic accounts, and the only reason I can drive anywhere is because there’s still half a tank of gas in the truck from when dad was here and filled it up. (I don’t drive much.)

G’ma lets me eat her eggs and bread and has offered to buy me groceries when I run out of my own, but I Do Not Want to cost her money. I’m stalled on my little data entry project for NLW because the Amazon Seller’s Desktop application isn’t working and their ticketing system is backed up. My next paying gig isn’t until August.

Long story short, I was surfing WorkSource because a part-time job right now would be freakin’ excellent, and data entry is my bitch.

Now please excuse me while I figure out the best way to spend my last $20 at the grocery store. I’m thinking tofu, ramen, and beans. Maybe some lentils, too; they’re cheap protein.

Hopefully poverty will help me dominate next week’s competitive diet stats!

Extreme poverty manouver!

In which I ain’t got no money.

I knew my UI benefits were about to run out so I checked my post office box once a week. But then they didn’t run out, and I got complacent and blew off getting my mail for a few weeks.

Until today, when my deposit was uncharacteristically late.

I logged into the Employment Security Department website, and lo it did say these horrible words: Your claim for the week ending on Jun 26, 2010 was processed on Jun 28, 2010. No payment was made because your benefits are exhausted, or your benefit year has expired. Your remaining balance is $0.00.

Aw, FUCK.

I found and re-read the information about EUC (emergency unemployment compensation) and discovered that I am – oh crap – not eligible for EUC because my benefits weren’t exhausted between May 22, 2010 and June 2, 2010. They ran out on June 19, 2010: seventeen days too late. I also learned that I will have to apply anyway, if they send me an application.

(Congress may extend EUC benefits, but the bill’s currently stalled in the Senate. As of May 2010, Washington state’s unemployment rate is at 9.1%. If I don’t end up getting any EUC at all, I have only 20 weeks of benefits left and no idea how to accomplish the going-back-to-school plan: it depended on receiving the EUC I was assured I would be eligible for.)

(Christ! SEVENTEEN FUCKING DAYS. If my first claim had been exhausted seventeen days earlier, I would have gotten the damn EUC.)

Anyway. I assumed that I must have been sent an application, because otherwise wouldn’t my EB (extended benefits), for which I have already applied and for which I have already been approved, be paying out?

I went to the post office and yup, I had received an application. I brought it home and filled it out. I read the small print. Guess what’s awesome [where awesome equals utter crap]? What’s awesome is that the EUC processing office doesn’t accept faxes or online applications. I have to mail my application in, and of course everything’s closed on Monday for the holiday, and they’re going to deny me anyway. Still, I have to apply, because if I don’t Washington state won’t give me my EB. Even though they’ve already approved them.

Long boring story short, my total net worth is less than $1 in change and my next paying gig isn’t until July 10th.

Oh, and without EUC I have to see if I can either 1.) borrow five grand in student loans, or 2.) bag the whole school idea altogether and bail to ANY TOWN I CAN GET A STUPID JOB IN, ANY TOWN AT ALL.

Aw, fuck.

My rent is due tomorrow. I have maybe three or four days worth of food left before I have to start stealing from G’ma. It will probably be two weeks, minimum, before I get another deposit. My cell phone service will probably be suspended in the interim. Thank God the DSL is paid up for the next three weeks, at least.

Um. Yeah. So. Remember that one time a few years ago when my marriage failed spectacularly, leaving me homeless and jobless and broke, and how much that totally sucked? Well, this is kinda like that, except that now I’m about to start mooching off my 87-year-old grandmother.

Related: ApPROVED, bitches!

Fiscal Maturity

In which I do it all over. Again.

When I was 18, some ignorant asshat gave me a credit card with a $500 credit limit. (Or maybe it was $250. I can’t remember anymore. It wasn’t very much, but it was more than I could pay off at the time.) Twelve years later, I paid upwards of three grand to get that little account settled up, and at the same time cleared up the rest of my abysmal credit. I spent hours feeling awful, making embarrassing calls, feeling incredibly angry about the insane usury, and wishing desperately that all those asshats hadn’t given me credit at such a young age.

I paid off old bills that had bloated to incomprehensibility, paid off trivially small old debts, and even refinanced all of my student loans. A lot of work… just to get a small personal loan so that The Ex and I could make our down payment for the farm. Let us say that my credit was in fairly good shape when I bought acreage in Batavia and got married. Time passed…

The Ex didn’t work much during the last couple years of our marriage; from what I could tell it was half slow economy and half disinterest. Since I only worked part-time myself–he wanted a housewife, remember–our income was extraordinarily limited for a significantly long amount of time. (And then there was the whole let’s-go-sell-roofs-in-Indianapolis fiasco, but that’s only worth mentioning in the sense that we really didn’t pay our bills properly for an entire quarter. I didn’t borrow money for that endeavor, he did, so he gets to pay that shit off.)

The Ex had never been much involved with the bill paying during our years together, and really didn’t understand that we’d barely made our bills when we were both working full time nor that some bills weren’t being paid at all while he took his little sabbatical. I saw no point in nagging him about it; either there’s money or there isn’t: bitching doesn’t help.

Our mortgage, the property insurance, and the cell phone bills got paid. Other bills were paid sporadically or not at all. (The Ex paid for his big shiny late model truck and its insurance, of course, because that was important – it was in his name.) Everything else had to wait because we just didn’t have the money. Time passed…

By the time I left The Ex, I had three credit cards in collections, student loans nearly in default, a $1500 judgment against me, two cell phone contracts in collections, and a checking account with a lien against it. (I still can’t open a checking account because of that, actually.)

I was homeless, heartbroken, and had been laid off. I couldn’t even cash a fucking check by myself. So I ignored the whole debt situation and drank vodka for a year. Time passed…

When I landed on the left coast, I sought the assistance of one of those debt assistance programs. I’ve been dumping hundreds of dollars into the assistance program each month, and dutifully paying four different companies for my surgery (I almost have my surgery paid off, w00t!) and feeling pretty responsible. Time passed…

Then The Ex contacts me last week. We play phone tag for awhile, and then finally manage to speak one morning. He’s working somewhere outside of Iowa, and has a friend crashing at his farm house. (I say “his” farm house because I signed a quit-claim deed. I don’t want the damn property, and I couldn’t afford the property taxes on it anyway.) The friend says a deputy’s been trying to serve me papers out there for a couple of weeks.

Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-FUCK.

Yesterday I got my credit reports and printed them out and poured over them to find out who the hell could possibly be serving me papers. I was freaked that things were going to look really, really terrible.

The paper-servers are probably the fucktard monsters Capital One sold my accounts to, the ones who broke my checking account a couple years ago. (They’re aggressive and not overly concerned with being legal.) The debt in question is less than two grand, but doubtless they’ve already spent well over that in man hours alone, not to mention all the certified letters and visits from the sheriff. Ah, well – my debt reduction program people will deal with them.

The point is, I was expecting total insanity but in point of fact only have a few loose ends on my credit report: the things already in my program, The Ex’s satellite bill, The Ex’s cell phone bill (the one from Indy that he swore he’d take care of, no matter what), and some really old department store card I once used to buy Christmas presents with when we were broke.

I’ll pay off the old department store myself, and try to get The Ex to handle the other two. In less than two years, I should be free and clear again!

I just feel so responsible. You know, for a total fucktard.

Denied

In which I’d forgotten I’m a second-class citizen.

Today I went to a local bank and tried to open a checking account. I was denied (thanks, TeleCheck) because the many bills from my marriage haven’t been paid and they’re all in my name. I never did deal with my financial issues… mainly because I haven’t had a real job until now.

I’ll be getting a post office box (to keep my bills from filling up Gramma’s mailbox, once my new location is known to my diverse creditors and they start harassing me), requesting a report from chexhelp.com, and then contacting one of those places that helps you get your bills reduced by working with your creditors. I’ll spend the winter and spring paying back my family (for the move and upcoming surgery), and then I’ll spend the next ten years paying off all the credit card and cell phone companies I owe.

Although, if The Ex sells the farm property and he sends me some money, it may only take five or six.

Years.

To get out of utter, abject debt.

Today’s moral is this: no matter how deeply in love you think you are, do not put all the bills of any relationship into your own name, spend more than you earn, allow your partner to quit working, let the relationship fail, and then spend a year depressed and not making any money.

Because while it all sounds really super double-plus fun, it totally fucks up your credit score. For real.

There are plenty of ways to get ahead. The first is so basic I’m almost embarrassed to say it: spend less than you earn.” - Paul Clitheroe

“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.” - John Berger

“Poor and content is rich, and rich enough.” - William Shakespeare

“The only man who sticks closer to you in adversity than a friend is a creditor.” - Author Unknown

Until I get my finances sorted, I am unable to open even a savings account. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to pay all these bills when I can’t get a checking account and debit card… I’ll be standing in line at the post office buying money orders ad infinitum, I suppose.

Sometimes it occurs to me that I have made a bit of a hash of certain aspects of my life. *sigh*

Tomorrow is payday. Which means I have no money today.

In which I ramble.

NLW, when she came to pick me up to go on our vacation, brought me a box of hair dye (I now have three boxes!) and a set of iPod headphones, so I now can hear both channels. Which is so awesome I can’t even deal.

My bro-there was going to send me his 5th gen video iPod (since he’s more in love with his PSP), but his roommate’s rent check bounced and now he probably has to hock it instead. Which is sad. Dumb roommate.

My maternal grandmother’s birthday party will be held at her home in Walla Walla on September 15th. My aunt Pedgy said she’d buy me a ticket so I could attend. (I haven’t been to the Hall house since my grandfather died, before I was married. It’s my favorite house in the whole wide world, and the only one that’s been in the family my entire life. It’s more home than any place else and I miss being there. Plus it has The Greatest Porch in the Known Universe, and a patch of catnip where the neighborhood cats get stoned, and novelties in the freezer in the basement, and it’s home, damn it, and it sounds like the whole fam damily will be there, and shit I’m feeling nostalgic.)

Tonight I’m going to NLW’s, not only to see her and the Ever Gorgeous Mr. J, but to have her clean all my blackened, tarnished jewelry. She makes jewelry for a living, don’t you know, and so she’s got this device that vibrates that she fills with jewelry shot and fills with jewelry and plugs in for an hour and it makes things all shiny and new. My farm-basement tarnished jewelry will look new again! And if that weren’t excellent enough, she’s making pizza for dinner. It’ll be awesome.

Since I saw Amma, I’ve been waking up at five every morning and meditating. If that’s not divine intervention, I really don’t know what is. (No worries: I’m still a heathen because I go back to bed after I meditate, yo.)

In other news, Vuboq reminds us all that they’re still doing it wrong [and that link is totally NSFW, btw] in our nation’s capital:

watermelon

Because everyone knows watermelon is usually sold by the pound, and I did the exhaustive research to prove it.

Update: Bro-there sez I may still get the iPod after all! *snoopy dance*
Update the second: I’m going to Walla Walla! YAY! *snoopy dance*