small change toward a rich life

I believe this qualifies as an emergency

I’ve been quiet for a while, going through a number of struggles that have left me without the — in the vernacular of my childhood, the ‘gumption’ — to keep writing frequently.  I’m trying really hard to get the spark back now, because I know in the long run the Pocketmint project is important to me.

Here’s a little of what we’ve been dealing with: about three weeks ago, the big corporate monster suddenly chewed me up and unceremoniously spat me out.  By innocently mentioning what I thought was a widely obvious event, I apparently violated some unknown policy of the parent company (the details of which remain vague to this day) and in under 24 hours received my walking papers — no mercy, no appeal.

This abruptly cut our income by half.  Then, last week, Jak learned that due to staffing cutbacks at Microsoft his hours will be cut to half-time.  This means one-quarter income, and total loss of health insurance.

The bad news is that the mortgage alone on our house come to slightly more than Jak’s remaining half-salary, so we’re behind before we even start.  The good news is that the mortgage is the only debt we’re carrying — we paid off the last of our massive credit-card debt a couple years ago — and we have a pretty decent cash emergency fund. I’ve been putting aside at least 40% of our take-home for the last two years; some of that we’ve pulled out again for major house improvements and additional (Roth) retirement funding, but we’ve got almost $30k in cash savings.

We can put off all the remaining house projects and hunker down to the bare essentials, and make it for maybe 6-8 months like this. Hopefully it won’t come to that; salaried jobs may be rare right now but I should be able to pick up some freelance or contract work. And Jak’s employer will be working on his behalf to try and increase his hours again. Right now he’s burning PTO to keep the insurance going through December. We’re trying to make this work, and hopefully something will get better before it all gets a lot worse, but we’re definitely in a new era now.

We had a talk with the kids last night, resetting their expectations about our way of life — we won’t be going out for sushi anytime soon, or ordering pizza; we won’t be funding any more weekend out-of-town trips for Michaela to watch her school athletic teams. They took it pretty well; Claire immediately wanted to know how we could cut our costs. Someone else must have previously explained to her about the connection between lighting and your electricity bill, because Claire instantly morphed into Lightswitch Nazi, turning off every light in the house that wasn’t immediately necessary, scolding all the while. We were amused.

I also made the point, which I hope Michaela at least will remember, that this is exactly why it’s important to save a lot of what you earn for a real emergency. She tends to spend money as fast as she gets it, which concerns me in someone about to turn sixteen. But only the difference between us and all those people with ‘foreclosed’ signs on their houses is going to be our empty credit cards and our emergency savings account.

If you have a job now and aren’t saving most of your money for emergencies, please start. You may think this is an isolated incident, but I fear it’s not; if the collapsing economy hasn’t touched you yet, it will. Be prepared.

(Photo by sunchild_dd.)


4 responses

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  1. stacy says

    I’m starting! I’m starting!

    it frustrates me that the economic muck that is chewing up my friends is exactly the same reason I’m not around to be useful to my friends :( My Pile of Looming Work is *almost* vanquished. Then, I surface. And be useful again.

  2. Kim says

    I’d wondered why things were quiet — I’m so sorry.

    (I used to think comments like that, with very little elaboration, were almost worse than no comment at all. “Sorry” can’t rebuild anything — though i am very glad that you are wise and have savings. But then I realized that if I were in a distressed slumpy place, hearing that *someone* cared was more important than whether or not that caring was strictly useful.)

    Thank you for letting us know.

    Economy, please stop chewing up people at eating them.

  3. J.D. says

    Karawynn, are you looking for interim design work by any chance? I happen to know a certain large UGLY WordPress site that is badly in need of an overhaul. I’m not sure if you do that sort of thing, or what your rates might be, but I do know I’d rather work with somebody I know (if only virtually) than somebody I don’t…

  4. FruGal says

    I’m sorry to hear about everything that has been going on. Hang in there! It’s nice to know that your emergency fund can serve as a buffer in the meantime.

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