Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ten Years Ago, and Now: How Have Your Finances Changed?

JD from Get Rich Slowly is positing the latest financial question: what was your situation 10 years ago, compared to now?

Here's his post:
http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/05/22/now-and-then-how-my-current-financial-situation-compares-with-a-decade-ago/

Here's my take on the subject:

Ten years ago, Dave was still working as a mechanical engineer, with an income at least triple our present take-home pay. I, on the other hand, had left Quilter's Newsletter and was struggling to start up Brickworks, with no real hope of success, other than believing in myself. No books written. (Plenty of articles, but that didn't seem to count.) Some teaching. I'd just begun appraising, but wasn't certified yet. My 'steady' job was managing editor for the Crazy Quilt Society, but other than orders now and then and some teaching gigs, that was about it. Some months were great, some desperately slow.

Dave, on the other hand, though good at his job (he is a genius for details), hated it. (He was then one of two engineers responsible for the buildings on the University of Colorado's Boulder campus.) He spent long hours commuting back and forth from Boulder to Castle Rock...and desperately wanted to make it go away.

Our house, which was too small for our rambunctious girlies (and the business, and us) went on the market -- and there it sat. For months. We tried this and that. Nothing worked. In the meantime, we'd foolishly committed to buying our present house...it also had sat on the market for months. We got a discount on the price, but the sellers insisted on no contingencies -- if we wanted it, we had to BUY IT. (I began to understand why after we got the first of many bill-collectors looking for them on our doorstep in coming months.)

So we moved into New House, literally on the retreating footsteps of the sellers, who were still packing as we carried boxes in. In the meantime, Old House STILL sat unsold.

We could not afford to pay two mortgages, so I got a job setting type and doing layout for one of the small-town newspapers in the area. (Fortunately, I could work while the girls were in school...or our friend would watch them.) I liked the job, and the people -- it wasn't that. But somehow I had to keep on with my business and teaching AND appraising AND writing AND running the household, as well.

It was a zany three months until the Old House finally sold, to a sharpster. He knew we were desperate to sell, and he tried to keep everything possible, including the furniture still left in the house, the (beautiful) patio set...and even the 1890s Ocean Wave quilt top hanging in the entryway. (We gave in on the patio set and the quilt top -- I still miss that quilt top, to this day.)

If I had known that little more than a year later, Dave would quit his job -- quit engineering altogether, in fact -- and after months of unemployment, start as a bus driver, I would probably not have wanted to move. (I should have seen this coming. Why didn't I?) Although we were cramped, the Old House was nearly paid off. It had a nice garden area, and the girls could walk to school. It had a beautiful view, with good neighbors. (Ok, maybe the near-constant arfing of the dog next door wasn't so good.)

On the other hand, the profit from Old House was enough to substantially pay down New House's mortgage. (We later paid it off completely...one of the smartest things we've ever done.)

New House has an even better view, is in an even better neighborhood, and has increased in value much faster than our Old House, even in Colorado's shaky economy. We still have an arfing dog next door (two, in fact), but our neighbors are wonderful. The plot is much larger, we have a mountain view on three sides and a wooded bluff on the fourth. (Ok, and the roof of Home Depot, too, but the grove of trees in between help shield that.)

Dave is much happier. Last year, he began as a trainer, something he enjoys. He's good at it, too -- some of the traits that made him a good engineer (but chafing at diddly work & deadlines) have been more of an asset for him as a trainer. His income has gone steadily but slowly up. Not to engineer status, but we live comfortably.

My business has increased by leaps and bounds. I've gotten to travel all over the country, and will be recertifying as an AQS appraiser for the fourth time this summer. Five books, a contract for a sixth signed -- and more articles. A fabric line, some tv work...it's going great. And the expanded room in the New House has allowed us to use nearly the entire downstairs for the business. (Next step: find a smaller house and larger outbuildings, for use as a studio, to store inventory, and teach classes in.)

The girlies are gone, living their own lives in Boulder. I miss them, but they have their own agendas. Which is perfectly normal.

What would I do the same/or differently?

*Keep on scrimping and putting money away. (Frankly, I can't help myself -- it's how this Hollander kid was raised.) That extra money kept us going during the lean years to come.

*Purchase land. We talked about it back then -- regularly we went past a 5-acre plot advertised for $10,000. But it would have meant less for the emergency fund, and we just weren't sure. Today that same land is valued at $10,000...20,000...30,000 an ACRE.

*Spend more time purging down our own possessions. Selling them would have helped, and given us more room in Old House. Why was I so determined to keep everything?

*Grow more of our own food. A good aim for this summer too, when vegetable prices have nearly doubled. (And they were generally outrageous before this.)

*Stop worrying, especially about the little things. It didn't help then. It doesn't now.

1 comment:

Feeling Simply Quilty said...

That is a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing your life.

Zzzzzzzz...

After four hours at Tuesday Morning's checkout line today, I can honestly relate. Okay, maybe a nap AND a cookie.