Saturday, June 13, 2009

If I were waffling any more, I'd need syrup

Money. It's that lame omnipresent thought that is probably making me age at twice the normal rate. In case you had not heard the economy is not so great right now and here in NYC it's one of those weird undercurrents. I've had too many of my friends lose their jobs. And it sucks. I hate every second of this whole Great Recession.

On the selfish front I've been watching my credit card balances creep back up for several months now. I am the pendulum that swings back and forth between saving all my money (I was pretty damn rich in 2005-2007!!) to nearly broke (college). Right now I'm doing OK. I'm not living paycheck to paycheck. I have a money market account. But that account is at its minimum and I pay a penalty if I drop below that minimum. I have a small savings cushion but I'm saving that for a real emergency, liking suddenly needing to get out of NYC.

Two of my friends and I took out one of our unemployed friends out for dinner this past week. At dinner we were talking about getting stiffed on freelance gigs. It's happened to me recently and my poor friend just got shafted on about $5,000. She's been jobless since February and she and her boyfriend are dangerously close to losing their apartment. He works but it isn't enough to make full rent payments so they're close to being evicted. She's so smart and talented at what she does (web design) and it is INSANE to me that there is no job out there for her. It's certainly not for lack of trying on her part.

This of course got me pretty freaked out. I started thinking about my own finances. And in my typical exercise in extremes way I settled on the idea that I needed to do something right away to shore myself up financially. I called T and asked if one of his financial friends could assess me. He sent me to a friend who is a financial planner to the rich. The friend, G, kindly agreed to see me on Thursday evening. His midtown office is on the 40-something-th floor of a snazzy high-rise with views of Midtown East. I felt pretty VIP even going there. (The security guards were freaked out by my currently-purple hair. Just as it should be.)

So G and I spoke frankly. We talked assets -- my paycheck, stuff I own (not much), stocks I own (none), investments (ditto), 401k (one withdrawn early, one teeny). Then we talked debts. College loans, credit cards, etc. I ducked in my chair. "Remember what it was like to be in your 20s making under 100k!" I pleaded. "I started at 150k out of college," he replied with a smirk (he was making a funny, I know it doesn't sound like it). Damn finance people.

G's advice wasn't really surprising but it still sucked. He told me I was spending way too much of my income on rent, even for a NYC resident. I already knew this but just didn't want to admit it. He recommended moving somewhere super cheap for a year or two to pay off my credit cards and then start thinking about buying. He also said I needed to cancel all of my store credit cards and consolidate the rest of the debt. I explained all the reasons why I want to stay in my apartment. Starting with that I've never been happier in a home. But G cut through it all -- "Those are emotional reasons, Roxy," he said. "And you can't use emotions to pay bills." Or take classes. Or travel. But damn if home isn't where my head clears.

Back in my awesome apartment that I can't really afford I was mulling my options. A big part of me just wants to stay where I am. My mental health has made such a 180 for the better since I've moved in. But it's a big risk. A second option is to get a roommate. I'm not really sure that my floor plan would allow for that. And the third option is to move. I could move into another apartment, or I could go into a roomie situation.

I'm usually good about making a decision and sticking with it. But I keep waffling on this one. I know what I should do but I also know what makes me happy. Happy may not pay the bills but it makes me sane enough to earn them dolla bills. So that's something.


Ondine said...

It sucks - I feel your pain - I've always paid more than I should to live somewhere I love, even though I know it's perhaps not the most sensible idea.
Best piece of financial info I ever got was that you have to pay your debts before you should try saving. I know it sounds so obvious but I always tried paying off debt while saving a little too until I heard this.

Farmer Jo said...

That is a tough situation! I was in pretty much the same sit a about 10 years ago, ended up moving into a super cheap place, getting a roomie (who made my NUTS), started a budget - no new clothes, rare nights out, etc.
In the long run in paid off. After 2 years I could afford to go back to grad school, and because of the rearranging of finances in my early 20s I was able to buy a house with my boyfriend (now hubby) when I was 29.
Those 2 years were tough, but I can truly say that they took away SO much stress and made my future so much better.