Debt View

I had a college friend, Joe, when challenged, used the expression, “Ain’t it a bitch being all grow’d up.” It applied to the majority of dramas we encountered as students. The only thing funnier was Joe borrowing my sunglasses to do his imitation of Stevie Wonder.

Tracking your income (incoming) and your debt/expenses (outgoing) is simple math. A large number of consumers seem to have a problem balancing their budgets. Ah, budget is the magical word. When I was wiping noses, driving car pools and working full-time, I could not have told anyone our annual income. I did not know what our annual income was. I knew how much the electric bill was and there were funds in the checking account to cover everything else. Numbers were only important for big-ticket items or I wanted to go to Disney World. One time, I told my husband I wanted to buy a new television. He said, “We can’t afford it.” No one had ever told me this before! We actually sat down, ran the expense numbers and determined if we did buy the new television, there would be no extras. From that day forward, I know all the magical numbers to continue the life journey in the style for which I am accustomed to! I got the tv, but it was 8 or 9 months later – after I had saved the funds to purchase it.

As a previous banker, I always had one or two customers with an extreme obsession with keeping track of their money. One particular gentleman would be in front of my desk, the day after receiving his statement to inform me that he calculated the interest for his savings account and the bank had shorted him $.03. He laboriously would lament as he provided adding machine tapes, calculator printouts and previous statement comparisons. I was not able to open my desk drawer and throw a nickel at him and tell him to go away. I tried numerous times to pawn him off on one of the  accountants but they developed extreme diarrhea if they heard he was in the building. Every time this incident repeated, I would suggest he join an investment group (an opportunity to contradict a different type of audience) or Toastmasters (he certainly enjoyed hearing himself talk). Repeated fixation over a small detail may cause a wall between what is truly important and what may be a time waster.

One of my friends, is the queen of denial when viewing debt, money and budget – a foreign concept to her. She repeatedly tells me she is unable to meet her financial obligations due to a lack of funds. Knowing her annual income and basic expenses, I could save enough to purchase a new car, with cash, if I were her. I was a single parent and financially moved mountains with my bare hands. My children and I witnessed miracles each week at the grocery store check out and racing across town to pay a bill on time before the creditor closed for the day. My friend does not budget. She purchases items with high tickets because she feels entitled. These spending patterns make her feel important. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil with a price tag of $38.00 creates a feeling of superiority. The same can be said for the $1,100.00 shoes and the weekly pedicures. She chooses not to manage and throws billing statements and collection letters into the trash, unopened.

This week, I received a panic call from my friend. She went to use her debit card and it would not work. After contacting her bank, one of her creditors had sued her and a court action had a hold on all of her deposit accounts, including her safe deposit box. When it is every dime you own and your deceased mother’s jewelry at stake – it gets your attention. The original debt was $5,000.00. With legal action fees, compounded interest and the kitchen sink, the total now exceeded $18,000.00. There was a lot of singing and dancing in trying to straighten this mess out. Her paycheck is automatically deposited and there was no time to stop the next check. She didn’t have a dime in her purse or at home. Debt view – non-existent.

The bottom line is – grow up. Yes, it is a bitch, but it is being responsible and mature. Instead of dancing through the mall for entertainment or dining out at restaurants that serve kumquats and es cargo – add your bills up. Pay your bills – on time. Save some money – even if it is $1.00. My mother taught me to never purchase anything on credit that would not exist when the bill arrived. This included candy, pantyhose, hair styles and cosmetics.

It takes sacrifice, ingenuity and time to make ends meet when you are in a tight spot. I have been laid off, divorced, sick and a single parent. It is possible to prepare for emergencies, such as no income! When I was laid off, I was the only unemotional person in the group. I had an emergency fund and read the writing on the wall way before the axe fell. It was the first time in 35 years I didn’t have to answer to “the man”!


New Age vs Old Age Employmemt Challenges

Unemployment is difficult enough. If your previous employment spanned many, many years – the process is similar to getting a divorce after the silver anniversary. The interview process is in the same category as “What do I wear on the post-divorce first date and am I expected to sleep with them?”

Without going into the world viewing youth as intelligence and aging as demented, crazy and invisible, the interview process is arduous, at best. Interviewers are getting younger as you age in the lobby, surrounded by people your kid’s ages. Especially for the first five or six interview outings, you are most likely over dressed and lacking a nose ring. Your wrinkles and graying hair are secondary to the archaic briefcase or portfolio under your arm. Shoes with buckles and shoestrings are passe’. A good pair of flip-flops or any shoes made of rubber and dirty toenails are available for viewing. The employment opportunities for this scenario are not blue-collar. They are actually professional sales, financial and technological positions.

I had been laid off, for the first time in my long-term professional life, after the age of 40. One interviewer, who appeared to have just rolled out of couch, held his Blackberry up in front of me and asked, “Do you know what this is?” Another wiseass asked if I knew how to turn a laptop on. I informed him that I had the capability of not only turning it on, but take it apart, put it back together and re-program the entire thing. I guess he didn’t like my response because “Tiffany Cleavage” in the lobby, got the job. One of my friends, a current employee with this up and coming executive, was seeking new employment but was in desperate financial straits and stuck. She was also ten years younger than I was.

Being a bit outspoken, follow-up to an interview, always yielded jolly propaganda. I always asked what my deficits may have been. The ones who didn’t blow smoke gave me some true insight such as:

  • You look like a banker
  • I couldn’t picture you unloading product from an 18 wheeler – (This was not in the job description or mentioned during the interview!)
  • You would have my job in a day or two and I couldn’t risk hiring you.

One employment opportunity resulted in four interviews. The first three “show and tells”  allowed the escalation of executives a chance to increase expenses by flying into Houston from Boston – otherwise, they would have flown me and/or the other candidates to Boston! The position, up for grabs, was highly compensated and possessed an upper echelon profile. An assessment after Interview #2 yielded that I had an “extreme sense of urgency”! During the process, the company recruiter would telephone me and discuss the previous appointment and inform me of the “going forward” recommendation for yet another go around. A Don Draper, Mad Men type conducted interview #4.  He was the epitome of a well upholstered “suit”. Five minutes into the engagement, he mocked my responses which included one of my hand gestures. Looking back, I wished it had been one of my other hand gestures. He challenged each one of my replies to his questions in a most derogatory and demeaning manner. Fifteen minutes later, as the hair on the back of my neck stood up, I backed my way to the conference room exit while he continued to prattle. I ended the interview.

The recruiter called a few hours later. She asked why I exited the interview early. I gave her the generic response that I was not the right candidate for the position. She informed me that my competition for the job was only one other person. Again, I told her it was not a “good fit”. A few days later, she called me again. She was insistent in knowing why I left the interview. Was it my place to inform her Mr. Suit intuitively appeared a predator, woman-hater, wife beater and general asshole? Yea, Baby, I could just imagine a cross-country travel rendezvous business trip with him as my vice-president! The telephone conversation created the instantaneous response reflex of:

  • Do I assassinate his character and risk a lawsuit?
  • What are the benefits of telling the recruiter something she already knew?
  • Did she really want to hear my conclusions based on life experience, knowing of a bunch of gems like him and intuition?

I made a business quick wit and allowed the recruiter to conclude the outcome with the results of the process. A lot of time, money, travel, and dry cleaning expense to have a qualified candidate turn them down when the horses were coming around the bend and headed for the straight a way. They’re smart people. I think this may have been a déjà vu.

Appropriately, each of us knows when we are qualified and age was a non-hire condition. My personal experience with the hiring process yields the following direction with the interview process:

  •  Do not use Old Spice or Youth-Dew fragrances.
  • Do not be late – Especially a whole day.
  •  Do not have your significant other drive you and wait with the kids in the reception area.
  • Keep the cocktail wear for bar mitzvahs, wedding receptions, glamour shots and family portraits –  Send a photo to the Ellen Show.
  • Stay awake and sober for the interview.
  • Be yourself.
  • Be true to yourself.



Book Club

Visiting allows you to view a town with a tourist attitude of entertainment. After the shock of moving and being able to find Walgreens, I have noticed a huge religious culture in northeast Texas. There are far more churches than retailers, restaurants and recreation/arts facilities. A dry county has meaning to me, now. . Beer and wine are now sold in select stores, which is “new” to the area. It is a road trip to obtain vodka to make a shaken martini.

A discussion this week has led me to believe religion is the focus of the communities surrounding me. Trying to understand the inherent population likens it to being a “book club”. The glue of the community is obviously the bible. Numerous ways and means are developed to gather and discuss a book. The local newspaper advertises a directory of places to worship. There are multiple flavors of Baptist churches. Not a mention of Greek Orthodox or Missouri Synod Lutheran. Advertising for local businesses supporting places of worship is also featured. Chick-fil-A wears christian beliefs on their sleeve. Intentional or innocent,  there can be repercussions for personal expression within the business/corporate arena.

My concern lies in the fact that extremes are never a good thing. Diversity and exposure to additional facets of the world will educate and teach you to think beyond yourself. Baskin Robbins may not have been a business success if they only offered plain vanilla ice-cream cones. What would life be like without a birthday ice-cream cake or sprinkles on a Cotton Candy Ice Cream cone. Continuously staying in your comfort zone is nothing more than a repetition of the same – nothing gained. It hampers growth. Is there a fear associated with a walk on the wild side?  Wild side interpreted as listening to a democratic view for a minute without preaching?

The house next door was recently purchased by a lovely mature couple. Before the house was “closed”, we had a few conversations with them. Within minutes we learned the mister had devoted a major portion of his life to missionary work. This is a commendable feat and worthy of one’s elevator speech.  After they closed on their home, we were informed they based their decision to purchase on the fact that we, their new neighbors, appeared to be like them. Assumptions and perception are a tricky passage. We all want to fit in without the pain of conflict or conversion.

My previous work partner asked me where  the night clubs and party places are when I showed him this area on Google. I don’t “club” anymore – due to wanting to wake up with my head on my shoulders and knowing where my vehicle is. It wasn’t an important factor when deciding to move here. Visiting a “night club” will expose you to individuals from one end of the spectrum to the other. Night clubs are not always one in the same folk, wearing a uniform and singing the same old tune. Night clubs can be cafe’s, coffee shops, disco dance halls, square dancing, two stepping, beer gardens and wine bars.

Connecting with people sharing a common denominator may be a challenge. I would never join a club that would have me as a member. I don’t want to be like everyone else. Never did. That said, we all have to have a shared feeling or view to “get along”. Getting along can be disconcerting when you see the world through a telescope and everyone else has a microscope. I know this jukebox has more than one record in it!

It is all part of the journey.