Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Money Talks

I thought about keeping a page tally in the blog to alert the world of my play progress, and also to provide the illusion of accountability. But then I thought, how much of what I'm writing now will even make the first draft? Hell, most of it probably won't even last a week before I hack and slash it to bits.

Last night's "research" found me scouring the web for specific German word pronunciations, which if anyone ever looks at my cache, might raise an eyebrow or two. It's not my fault that the context is bigger than the word, but that's exactly what I'm going to exploit. At least until I change my mind. "You thought you were so clever," I'll say to myself, "but it stinks, you stink, the whole bloody world stinks." And then I'll beat my chest with my fists and throw myself into the still, cold waters of Lake Cachuma. Because I’m lousy with criticism.

For the first time in ten years, I have a zero balance on my credit cards. If you ignore the thousands upon thousands of dollars I owe in student loan debt, the state of my finances is: awesome. The paying off of these cards mostly represents college and photography school. My cameras are paid off -- the same cameras I had to sell on ebay to pay my rent when I was unemployed. My textbooks and late night snacks and computer parts from five years ago -- finally final. I can face the world unencumbered -- except for all the tuition money I owe -- and it feels good to be out from the shadow of slowly incrementing APR's and balance transfer madness. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Of course there are still lots of obligations with their grubby paws outstretched. I should begin the long process of saving for a down payment. I should up my Roth IRA contribution because Social Security won't be worth a damn. I should begin the arduous journey of financial maturity. But most of all, I'm excited because I might actually save up enough money to go to Europe. (Note all the qualifiers I use to keep my hopes from being dashed when it all falls through, again.)

I really like thinking about money. Even when I didn't have any, I spent a lot of time drawing up budgets. It's such a crude thing to talk about, but it's not something they taught us in school. How else do we learn? The stock market was a total mystery. No load and expense ratios and index funds, oh my! I still know people who haven't put anything into their 401K or 403B because they think they're too young for it to make a difference. But I say, "The power of compounding compels you!" And then I get funny looks, because I'M the crazy one.

On a serious note, it's not about dying with the most toys. It's about comfort. It's about being realistic. I don't want to work until I'm 70, at least not in a nine to five capacity. Let's be honest, there won't be a pension waiting for me or any government assistance... Health care will probably chip away at my savings and I'd rather not be a burden on anyone. I want my days cleared for writing and reading and travel. I want my life of leisure. Maybe it's an innocent view of retirement, but that's what keeps me motivated. That's why I set aside a chunk of my income every month that I won't see for 25 years. I do it because someday it might be worth it. And that's my gamble.

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