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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Money and happiness ... illusory correlation?

love and money
Some might argue that the correlations between love and happiness are illusory. Ask a poor loved person what they could use more of and chances are they will say money. Ask a rich single person what they lack and chances are they will say love. How do we rank our human necessities and our mental necessities? In doing this, one would also be taking into consideration that our own struggles have fixated our minds on the needs of life, as we see them. If survival is our basic human instinct, does that make love our basic human necessity? I can't say for sure money can't buy me happiness, but I'm positive love has never written a check for my bills.

I was a teen mother and the only true description I can give you on our lives at that time is that we were broke, I mean broke to the brokest of broken! Yes, I said brokest. That’s how broke we were. I had to expand my vocabulary in order to describe it because Webster couldn’t even help me with that. I was eight months pregnant sleeping on the floor, and every morning when I woke up although my body felt like I got hit by a 40,000 lb truck moving at 75 mph. I was young and in love. There were times when comfort was by no means within a three hundred mile radius of my life, but I can’t recall ever being really and truly unhappy.

My impecunious status not just throughout the times of my pregnancy with my first born, but through life in general was the fuel my mind needed to climb out of the struggle. By the time I was 21, I was a licensed real estate agent. Three children and a career later, I thought for certain my life was coming together. I mingled amongst the rich, and it was smashing! I sipped wine that made my lips cringe and ate cheese that made my nose curl. My swallows were shallow and my breaths were deep when I found out that caviar was processed salted roe, and not just a “seasoning”. I had to talk my body into keeping it down. The thought of puking all over the marble floor was mortifying. I explored my vocabulary to the very depths of my being to validate the house on the corners price tag and its empty lot next door. My first commission check was like winning the lottery, only better. I had done this, I was making money! Things were definitely at their high point because with money came happiness. Right? Wasn’t happiness moneys right hand man?

“Money makes the world go ‘round” was what I had heard so many times. Real estate meant money, and in my life lacked money so it didn't take a college education for my mind to convolute the two. Three years into my real estate career, I was divorcing. I by no means blame myself because I know there were so many other issues that came between us, but it's one of those things that isn't supposed to happen when you have life figured out. Through hours of soul searching and chicken souping my hit-by-a-train soul I came to the realization that I had lost all the passion I once knew. Life became strictly business, the laughs and good times were scarce. What I did had to benefit me in one way or another. If it didn’t make me money, I wouldn’t do it. I knew this wasn’t what my HEART wanted to do, but my WALLET loved it. If I didn't have to spend another day sleeping on the floor or worrying about groceries for the next week, I was ok. Wasn’t I? I wasn't ok, this wasn't ok. I lost my grip.

I can honestly say only up until recently have I realized what I want to be when I grow up. I revisited my heart and took into account my feelings and my ambitions for life and not the balance in my checking account. Although you can’t let money drive you, it’s important to remain aware that love alone cannot sustain you. Take all your life’s lessons, unique ideas and yes, even some of those so regretted mistakes and mush them together. Then sift through them patiently until you find that yummy goodness. Find that middle ground in life, and ride life until the wheels fall off! I have yet to meet someone who can honestly tell me they want to struggle for money, but I’ve met all too many who have said the money wasn’t worth the life they lost. I've seen the money, now where is the love?

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Dude Where's My Car?...Seriously

I woke up in a hurry knowing that I only had about 45 minutes to get ready. That's 45 minutes for my daughter and me to bath, dress, do our hair, eat, grab everything we needed and get out the door - not a second to waste or spare. We made it, but going towards the parking lot it took me a few seconds to realize that something was missing. I kept walking though because I was certain my eyes were playing tricks on me. Yet, when I reached our parking spot our truck definitely was not in it, nor was it anywhere else in the parking lot. Way to start the day.

My initial shock quickly turned to frustration once I realized what had happened. Our financing company (the powers hereby known as HSBC) had sent someone out to repo our truck, when just days before they were on the phone reassuring my husband that we would be in the clear as long as they got some kind of payment. I think back now and realize that when they were asking him to 'update' his information, they were actually confirming our address and then waited until the day he deployed to come out. So there I sat, husband having just left, a million things to do that day, no transportation, and certainly nowhere near the almost $3,000 I knew we owed on the note. Plus, I kept wondering how I was going to tell my husband that his prized Harley Davidson edition F150, that he had worked so hard for and loved more than me, was gone.

I had half a mind to let them keep it because we could never really afford the thing to begin with. I couldn't let it go though because they said there would be no repo if we could send a payment and make arrangements for the rest, which we did. I spend the rest of that first day making phone calls to see who had taken the truck, why, where it was and how much they would accept to at least get it back. It didn't really surprise me that I got the runaround and for some odd reason no one knew anything except that we owed them money. Day two was spent doing the same thing, this time with a little more success. The representative I was working with told me he could keep the truck from going up for auction, but the kicker was that I had to give him $2,000 and he could only guarantee the offer for two weeks. I thought that was outrageous since 1) they shouldn't have taken it to begin with after what they said and 2) if we could afford to give them that much then the note wouldn't be past due. Needless to say, day three was spent calling around and begging my family for money and luckily I was able to scrounge up what I needed. Day four, I called up the company and arranged for payment in hopes of having them release the vehicle back to me. Once this was done, they gave me the information for the impound lot and this is where the real fun began.

If you noticed, everything I just described took place over the course of about four days. The next day I went to the company that took the vehicle, paperwork in hand, thinking I was on the way to pick it up. Turns out that it wasn't there, and according to paperwork the company had on file it was transported to the auction lot in North Carolina two days after it arrived at their facility (we lived in Virginia at the time, about 4 hours away from where it was taken to). I don't think the word upset is enough to describe what I felt like at the time. After a verbal battle with the employees there, I was able to get about half of the contents of what was in the vehicle, information for the auction company, signed some papers and high-tailed it right back home to give a piece of my mind to Mr. HSBC representative. This guy assured me that the truck would be safe and kept from auctioning for two weeks, not knowing that while I was talking to him the first time, the vehicle was already on its way to another state. He proceeded to tell me that he had made me no promises and that my payment was good enough to keep the truck from actually being auctioned but not from being transported to the auction site. How much sense did that make, really? After some more time on the phone, he agreed to send over the necessary paperwork and it was up to me to and make sure all was well from there. By this time, it was the end of the business day so I had to wait yet another day.

First thing the following day, I called the auction company and went though the whole rigmarole to get the truck officially released and ready for pickup. To make a long story even longer, I was told that I had no authorization from the finance company to do anything and only the owner could come down and claim the vehicle (it was in my husband's name). So I had to contact the HSBC rep, once again, who had the nerve to tell me that he had NO IDEA that I had intentions to pick up the vehicle myself, which is why I didn't have any kind of authorization. I asked him how he figured I wasn't going to pick the vehicle up if I was the spouse of the owner, had paid him every dime we had, went through all that hassle and had previously informed him that the owner was away on a deployment. I shamefully admit that we argued about this for about 15 minutes before he transferred me to a supervisor at which point I just got off the phone. In the end, and after they received every piece of paperwork imaginable, had exhausted all their excuses and wasted enough time, I was able to get a friend of mine to take a road trip with me to go pick up the prize.

Here we are about a year later still struggling to keep up with these payments and wondering when they will strike again if we're even a day late. There's no convincing my husband to consider trading the truck for something more manageable because it's his and he's determined to get it paid off to show these people that he can. He financed it for about $28,000 and is paying $650/month with an interest rate well over 14.5%. No one will refinance with us for lower rates and payments, and no matter how much we pay it seems like the balance owed is always $2,000+. It's insane and there's no light at the end of this tunnel.

Cars and car loans are much more attainable these days, even with some bumps and bruises on your credit. A person could be denied for a $500 personal loan, but then turn around and get a $10-15K car loan (I can vouch for this from personal experience). This can be a positive advantage for those who really are in need but don't have the best credit record; yet it could also be a trap that causes people to dig themselves further into the hole with debt and no help or hope of getting out. The lessons to be learned here are always pay your bills on time, of course, but also never bite off more than you can chew. This way you stand less of a chance of running into a situation where you can't pay on something. When it comes to leasing and financing, always be aware of what you are getting yourself into by knowing and fully understanding the terms, rates, payments and any other important details and fine print.

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