Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Money, Money, Money

This is a pretty raw post.  If you're reading this Mom and Dad, well....  Sorry.

Now that I'm living on my own and supporting myself and not living a stressful college student life, I don't have nearly as much anxiety as I had a year ago (and about 2000-times less anxiety that I had two years ago).  But the one thing that totally stresses me out and angers me is the topic of money.  My current financial situation, while not terrible, is still pretty bad.  I have one (rather small) credit card bill, a loan my parents made to me, and lots and lots (but not as much as some) of student loans to pay off.  With this transitional period I'm just getting out of now, my primary struggle is with the late fees.  The payback of my loans just happened to start the month I moved to Japan.  But thankfully, I've wired some money over and that should be taken care of for now.  I guess it's time to explain my long, complex history with money

My first "job" where I got paid was when I was 13.  I baby-sat two boys and made $5 an hour.  This gig lasted for a couple of years.  Then I had my first "pay-check" job at age 14 working at the Wisconsin State Fair for 4 or 5 days as a bus boy.  I earned about $200 or so from that, which is pretty dismal for the crap I had to endure.  And then, I hit the big time, and got a part-time job at Walgreens a month after my 16th birthday.  Whoo.

Starting, I earned $6.50 an hour which went up marginally every year.  I worked there continuously from February 2004 to September 2006, but worked over winter breaks of 2006 and 2007 and summer break of 2007 (after winter break of 2007, I ceased working there for good, thank the Lord).  I worked on average about 20 or so hours a week and even more during the summer.  You'd think I was rolling in dough and set for college, but that's laughable.  Anyone who thinks they can pay for all of college by working a part-time job in high school is seriously dreaming.  All it got me, materially, was a bunch of video games (a majority of them used), two computers and a DSL Internet hookup (that my family ended up using, too), and extra spending money during my first couple of months in college.  What it got me academically, mentally/emotionally, socially, and physically was a much-worse-than-I-should-have-had GPA, a sense of constant anxiety because of this, a bleak outlook on humanity due to the many instances of human cruelty, greed, and selfishness I witnessed over the course of 2 and a half-years, the loss of 3 people that were my best friends, and a bum right shoulder from over use in scanning, bagging, stocking etc.  I wished more than anything to just quit the job for months and months, but my dad forced me to keep it, even though I feel that the cons of the job far outweighed its meaningless pros.  In his mind, money came before anything, even pointless, more-work-than-its-worth money.

During this period, though, I was very good with my money.  I saved enough to get larger things that I wanted and I didn't blow it all in one place. This sense of being "good with money" persisted into college.  Even though I only earned like less than $600 a month, I didn't smoke, drink or go to clubs, so I managed to not be one of the many people in college who was constantly broke and unable to go out to eat or see a movie or do other fun things.

Then, at the end of fall quarter of 2008 or 2009 (I blocked much it the incident out of my memory, so I'm unclear on the year), I ran into my first big financial nightmare, something that only a couple of people know.  I had opened up an account with WaMu/Chase at the beginning of 2008 to have access to while in Japan.  It was my first checking account.  I had no clue what an overdraft was and thought that it was something people did as sort of a loan and something the ATM would alert you to if you did it.  But no.  I over drafted (something quite small), and there was a $50 charge that I had no clue about.  Then I got these letters in the mail that I just thought were junk mail.  Then......  I started getting phone calls.  They started off once a day.  Then they kept coming.  It was driving me insane.  I answered a few of them and figured out the situation.  I panicked.  I had no clue what to do.  I tried to pay it online or check how much I owed, but I discovered that my Chase account had been closed because of this.  I didn't have enough money for what was now a $400 charge.  I went home for winter break and was still getting calls.  I could hide it no longer.  I finally admitted it to my mom.  After a humiliating phone conversation with the collection agency, I finally made a deal to pay it off.  My mom realized how anxious this whole situation was making me and gave me my "Christmas present" of bailing me out of this situation.  She asked me why I didn't just ask her for help in the first place.  Heheheh...  Parents are so naive to think it's that easy...  But this incident not only scarred my credit report but also my brain.  I still jump any time a phone rings.  And I even got a call from another collection agency angrily asking me for the same money from the over draft.  When I told them that I had already paid it, they looked it up in their system, and quickly (and weakly) apologized.  A nightmare.

So that, among many other reasons, is why money is a subject that you should never bring up in front of me.  I don't want to hear about how much your family makes.  I don't want to hear about how your dad put this much into your bank account.  I don't want to hear about how you are too broke to go out.  I don't want to hear about your new car you got for your birthday.  And I especially don't want to hear about your lack of student loans.  All of it will send me into an internal rage.  Bottom line is, once I get out of this debt, I'm damn well saving up and paying for my children's (first four years of) college.  It'll just solve so many problems down the road.  But they sure as hell will know the true value of a dollar.  Because I'm sick of being around people who don't.

--Till then...

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