Every time I try to get out…
I opened a credit card account the other week. A secured account through Bank of America. I had to just suck it up and take some responsibility about my finances. I get the calls and the letters from debtors. I pay what I can, when I can and even when I request all correspondence in writing, they still call. I know the credit and collections game, I’ve worked both sides of it in my time. I know they’re just doing their job, and perhaps in a moment of anger I have told one that “I’m doing my best here, do you think you’re really going to make me feel guilty when all you are is someone that gets paid a crap amount to leave messages all day?” But when it all comes down to it, it’s my fault.
Whenever I get asked what I’d do if I had a time machine, the very first thing I think of is going back and unplugging the extension cord of that sweaty, overweight white guy that stood out (and stood out) on the campus of FAMU with a table, a small photocopier and free soda cozies. He was calling out “Get a Student Master Card, just need a copy of your class schedule!” I laugh at the fact that I was willing to sign over my info for a soda cozy, but I had just as much knowledge of credit cards as most anyone else my age did back then. We knew that our parents had them, occasionally they gave them to us for dates or the needed school purchase, but for the most part they were magical cards that got you stuff and I never understood where the money came from to pay for it. I was a student, I had no income aside from monthly allowance and I was getting a credit card… what the hell was I thinking? Oh yeah, free soda cozy.
I feel a bit ashamed that with the income I have now that I’m still paying off past mistakes, but I also have to look to the future. I know I’m not alone regarding debt, I’ve seen the statistics. But even with those statistics, the cards are still stacked against those of us in debt and/or working our way out of it. I love DC, eventually I will want to make it my home, which means buying a place of my own and getting out of this renting craziness. I’ve had a lot of luck renting, even with roommates, but I think I’m ready to get out of the game and have a place of my own that, if I got a wild hair to do so, I could paint Pink Panther Pink and no one would go nuts aside from the obvious reasons. And anyone that’s aware of the market in DC knows that now is always the best time to buy, regardless of the bubble hopes.
When I left my last company, I never rolled over my 401(k) money, so it’s been sitting (and increasing) there and it’s not a staggeringly huge amount, but it would be enough to pay off my debt completely, even after the withdrawal penalties. It seems like an easy choice, but it’s a pretty hard decision to just go through with it even though I know I can put the remaining funds back into a retirement account of my own. I guess part of that is that retirement seems such a foreign concept to me. There have been many times in my life I never thought I’d live to see certain milestone ages. 30 seemed unlikely, 40 was highly improbable and I’d never be as old as my parents. Clean livin’, good genes, the passage of time and mostly just plain stubbornness have all proven me liars on that front.
I welcome any good advice from friends and readers. This is one bit of stress I’d like to have off my back. I have enough elsewhere as it is.