There is a new economic reality for me these days.
My bywords for the foreseeable future are don’t spend what you don’t have. Some might bemoan curtailed personal spending but I don’t need more stuff. I have just about everything I need. That applies to most discretionary items; golf and my bike chief among them. In an odd way, my continued 12-hour-a-day employment at the bank has staved off a couple of other possibilities outside the bank that would have let me get on with things. But by the same token I’m perfectly comfortable with the continuance.
So last week’s letter to the kids is largely about economics, which, like politics, has national rumblings but is felt most heavily at the local level.
November 15, 2010
Ellen/Reid: Suffice to say I’m excited about next week in St. Paul. EP, the prospective grocery list was sent last night and it should be pretty basic in terms of what we’ll need to have on hand. I volunteer to go to the market upon arrival in town. You’ll have your hands full with your work so don’t worry about things on the shopping end of the spectrum. Reid and I have that covered.
For some reason I’ve begun to dwell on the end-of-the-year deadline of my employment here at the bank. The conversations I’ve had with those in my chain of command have only helped draw the conclusion that unlike the end of September, the end of the year will really be the end of things. My recent world has been on the correspondence end of things. It’s been a task to get my arms around the very protracted process of documenting customer complaints and responding to them on a point-by-point basis. We’re not very clear-cut or warm in how we write but that’s dictated by the legal beagles who seem to want our letters to be another link in the legal chain if and/or when the customer decides to, as we say in bank parlance, escalate their claim to the courts.
Whereas I dreaded the onset of September, I’m not quite as fearful as I was before. Why that is I don’t know. It could be a numbing factor. There is something at the end of the rainbow it’s just not altogether clear what that might be. If nothing appears out of the blue toward the end of the year I won’t mind pounding the pavement. Both REI and Williams Sonoma were options but neither panned out once my hours reappeared at the bank. There was an article in this morning’s paper that was tantamount to preparing all of us for decades of diminished expectations economically. It will end up being an even more lopsided battle between the haves and the have-nots. Salaries won’t automatically rise year after year. The benefit age for Social Security will tick upwards. It’s really a sea change for workers and no one is absolutely sure with how it will all pan out.
As luck would have it I’ve been among those who have not only tightened their belts but are also comfortable with that. I don’t need much to make me happy but just enough. That is the question that remains to be answered: how much is enough? As your uncle has told me time and again, retirement isn’t always about trips to Europe or gallivanting around the globe. (Honestly, I had my fill of travel with Meredith when you guys were growing up.) I’m sure there will be travel articles in the paper that would make me wish “I wish I could go there” but there won’t be many like that. What does give me pause is the mortgage. I’m down to about six years left on the original 15 year note (which I accelerated as much as I could). The car payment a little less so. The math isn’t entirely adding up although with John’s help the gap isn’t quite as onerous as it might have been as recently as a couple of years ago. But something is going to have to fill that financial space after the first of the year.
Part of that belt tightening is staying here for Christmas. I wish it could be otherwise but it isn’t. You never know what might be ultimately up the bank’s sleeve but I don’t want to spend money I won’t have in February and March and beyond. Felicia will probably be here for some of that holiday time although it doesn’t really bother me to be here by myself. So don’t be concerned about that. I will have enough to keep me occupied. If push comes to shove the car ride to Grand Island to see your grandmother could be done in a reasonable couple of days. It’s about 1,260 miles door-to-door. I am anxious to see her in her new surroundings and see how she’s fairing with her new friends.
Well, I still have a day job and I’d better get to it. See you guys in a few days and Reid, I’ll idle in the Minneapolis airport until you arrive so we can cab it together or bum a ride from your sister.