Revelations: difference between rich and poor
January 12, 2009
LAL at Living Almost Large and Grace’s comment at Meg’s World of Wealth articulated something I’d been feeling rather strongly this weekend about financial security. Meg’s original article, My 2009 Gift Tax Exclusion, discussed the money gifts she’s received over the years from her family, and Grace’s comment resonated with both LAL and me:
That’s one of the big differences between the truly poor and the middle/upper classes–no one to turn to in a financial emergency.
It’s so very true. This weekend was rough because I realized that I’m running out of time to secure a job before losing this one, and I got scared. And I mean s-c-a-r-e-d.
Frankly, the tizzy was my fault because I read the New York Times knowing that there’s no good news to be had. I should know better. Several articles about layoffs upon layoffs upon terrible economy upon too many overqualified applicants for too few jobs sent me into a Spaz Out.
Yes, I’ve been proactive about formulating an exit strategy, getting my resume out and searching consistently for a good position. And kept busy by cleaning and purging stuff, and dealing with family troubles. It’s more than enough to keep me emotionally even-keeled. But ….
1. I have 8-10 months of emergency money, but it doesn’t take into account the cost of COBRA. (So yeah, the next budget I draw up is for a jobless existence.)
2. An arthritis flare-up this weekend reminded me that I really can’t go without meds or health insurance.
3. Most fundamental: Once I go through that money, and call in one of the loans for extra cash, that’s it. That’s all the money and support I have. That’s the point at which I’d be broke and start going into debt to get by. [Horror]
I had a heck of a time working through it. My bag lady fears were out in full force because as Grace pointed out: I have no one to turn to. Certainly not my parents, and my extended family doesn’t have money to spare. As my friend put it, “You have you.”
I couldn’t understand why my friends pooh-poohed the gravity of the situation. This is the worst economy we’ve seen in how many years? I’ve been searching for months now, and have one paltry lead. [Today, a lead is a lead. I only need one full time job for now. Side income is always welcome.] Lengthy unemployment is a reality for so many people, what makes me special enough to be spared? I’ve always been a go-getter but there is so much that’s out of my hands in this situation.
Anyway, not only was I panicking, I was frustrated, until this morning, that everyone dismissed it as no big deal. It’s because they all have safety nets: they could move home. They could borrow money. They could be given money. They have family members who are an implicitly accepted resource.
In Meg’s second installment, The Effects of Not Having to Struggle Financially, she lists all the things she’s never had to do:
I’ve never had to save for long periods of time before getting something I really wanted. I’ve never had to wonder how to make ends meet that month. I’ve never had to work a job I didn’t like. I’ve never had to say “no” to a trip or dinner or experience because I couldn’t afford it. I don’t have to worry about having health care coverage or getting laid off or not being able to make my mortgage payment.
I’ve lived all of the above for years, but my friends haven’t had to do a single one of those things. She’s got a good point about the probable “deep level of peace and satisfaction that they now have by having gone through all that to get where they are.”
There’s still a long way to go before I reach peace, clearly, but at least I’m more Zen even if my friends can’t understand the mindset that sends me into flurry of worry. They’re just not poor; I’m looking forward to a time when I don’t have to think that way either.