Archive for October, 2013

This is part four of “The Plan.” If you missed the previous three, I certainly hope you were doing something more important, like Sudoku or pumpkin carving. But now that I have your attention, it would be the perfect time to catch up on the first three: Fear, Debt and Savings. This is a complicated plot and I want you to be fully informed. (Ahh, who am I kidding? If I can get you to just read this post it’ll be the biggest achievement of my day.)

Income

d1325will-work-for-money-postersMy money issues just got a little more interesting. My expenses have jumped $400 a month (higher rent and debt management the main culprits). Years ago, $400 would’ve been a drop in the bucket. A $400 bottle of wine at dinner wouldn’t have been completely insane. Today, $400 is a cell phone bill and a credit card payment. I may never get over the juxtaposition of my then-and-now worlds.

But the reason I’m thinking in this small amount of money rather than a real adult salary is because it’s a bridge to a larger goal: to get a steady stream of writing gigs that actually pay money. But that’s going to take some time to cultivate.

The initial stage of this focus on writing has been incredibly time consuming without producing a single nickel of income—yet. Yes, I could be out looking for a full-time job that pays a livable salary, instead of cobbling together a smorgasbord of income here and there. But a full-time job would suffocate my writing aspirations. I just don’t have the energy to work full time, do all the other crap we have to do as humans, and also muster the creativity to write three or four hours a day. Not going to happen. (more…)

(Here we are, Part 3 of “The Plan.” By now you’ve no doubt digested and scrutinized the first two parts, “Fear” and “Debt.” After this installment, which I call “ Savings,” next up will be “Income” and “Love.” Then I’ll meander into the day-to-day mechanics of implementation. It’s when you, the reader, will witness either a really grisly car accident or the making of a super hero. Or, more than likely, something very much in between.)

Savings

Phx HouseSo I have a couple hundred dollars in savings and an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that will do me no good until I’m some ungodly old age. I have a few thousand dollars of available credit on a high-interest credit card and no chance of getting approved for more credit in the foreseeable future. I, like millions of other Americans, live paycheck-to-paycheck, hoping no calamity befalls me that requires anything more than a few hundred bucks to resolve.

And we all know unexpected crap hits the fan at will. I have a friend who recently had a sudden $50,000 dental issue for which she had no insurance. I have another friend who’s lost countless days at work due to an injury requiring two different surgeries. I have a third friend who quit her job to move back east for the better part of a year to put both her parents into a nursing home, pack up the family house, and put it on the market — all the while bringing in no income whatsoever, and having no savings to fall back on.
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(This is part two of a five part series outlining “The Plan.” I know you’re probably tired of hearing me talk about me. Frankly, I am too. And, I’m sorry, I can’t tell you when that’ll stop. But rest assured if you stick around for a little while longer, this will get a little less preachy/existential and get down to the nuts and bolts of how a middle-aged guy implements a new course in life.)

Debt

debtAt the risk of being judged harshly, I’m going to admit something. I’ve enrolled in a debt relief program that will essentially wipe out half of my credit card debt. In and of itself that’s not so scandalous. But truth be told, I really don’t need a bailout. I’m taking advantage of this program because it’s available, because it will save me a boatload of money, and because it’s WAY easier than trying to figure out how to earn enough money to repay the entirety of my debt.

That last point, about earning money, will be covered in a future post on “The Plan.” For now, I’ll just say this: At my age (50), with my skills, and in this new economy, figuring out how to repay $40,000 of debt is daunting. Factor in the obvious reality of having to make enough money to survive the here-and-now, and it goes beyond daunting to the near impossible.
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Some of you, or perhaps only one of you (God, please let there be at least one of you), may be wondering the answer to last week’s post. If that’s you, the answer is: I signed the lease. I’m staying in L.A. Now on to less important things…

Gun1Of all of the soul searching and life coaching I’ve been through in Mid-Life Reconstruction, maybe the biggest breakthrough came in the form of a bumper sticker: Danger is real. Fear isn’t.

Since 2008 I’ve been bombarded with fear. It’s been like a venereal disease that won’t go away. With the advantage of hindsight I see I was never in any danger. I never, ever, came close to dying. Or even living on the streets. (And living on the streets wouldn’t be dangerous in the right neighborhood!)
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unchained3If you weren’t tied down to life as you know it, what would you do? If you had no job, family, mortgage, apartment, business or any other such obligation, where would you go? If you were a bird, which way would you fly?

That’s my thought process tonight. I’m as free right now as I was the day I was born. I’ve unshackled myself from most earthly obligations and am tethered to nothing. As of yesterday, 95% of everything I still own is in storage and I am now couch surfing at friends’ homes.

So, taking money out of the equation, I could do anything I want right now. I live in Los Angeles out of choice and not necessity. I work plenty of shifts in the catering biz, but I control my hours. So I could leave L.A. tomorrow and not have to give a 30-day notice to a landlord, or an employer, or a parole officer.
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anxiety art 3Three weeks ago I was told I had to move, for reasons way too convoluted to get into here. I will just say the timing is out of my control. This being the sixth time in five years that I’ve relocated, I decided I needed to make the next place somewhat permanent.

After looking at about 15 apartments and submitting four different applications, I was finally approved for an affordable and very cute one-bedroom in a good part of town — within walking distance of lots of cool stuff. It seemed to meet most of my requirements, so I was ecstatic. For those of you in “normal” cities, where finding a decent apartment at a good price in a good neighborhood isn’t akin to finding a cure for cancer, let me just say this: in Los Angeles sometimes it seems that curing cancer might be easier.

I was out of town when I got the news, so I had the weekend to think it over before signing the dotted line.
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