Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lucky Me

Last week I tuned into a couple of the Sunday news programs to see how they were wrapping up the year. I have to tell you, there was coal in those news journalist's stockings.

"One of the worst years...", "a difficult decade..." and most disturbing, "2010 doesn't promise to be any better!"

Really???!! My reaction was one of amused disbelief because 2009 and yes, the entire first decade of the new millennium was great for me! My first thought was, "Wow! I am so lucky!! But as I started to break it down, I realized it wasn't so much luck as it was good decision making and taking advantage of opportunities.

Believe me, no one is more surprised by this revelation than me. But the evidence is overwhelming. When I was downsized out of my management career, I opted to take a break and go work for an airline for a few years to indulge my travel bug. When I was choosing an airline-I received two offers on the same day-I went with the one with an excellent business record, even though the starting salary was 30 % lower than the other company. Five years ago, I bought my first home. This was in the heat of a run up in the market and I couldn't even get a realtor to call me back because my budget was so low. I passed up beautiful new construction that was 50000 over my high end, even though everyone said I could qualify, the prices would keep going up, etc.. I waited and found the perfect older townhouse in the part of town I wanted to live in at a price I knew I could afford.

So then I started to wonder how this miracle had occurred because I have made my share of lousy decisions. And I realized the difference between a good and bad decision rested on my choice to listen to myself. Yup, every time I held out for what felt like the right thing to do, not just the easiest, most glamorous or most socially acceptable option, I came up a winner. It wasn't always easy, either. The airline job?, I was asked if I was having a nervous breakdown. The house? I was told I'd never find what I wanted in my price range, no support there. But I held out and look where it got me.

In the past decade I have traveled to 5 continents, purchased my own home and I have a secure job making a great salary. Last year, I was wavering on whether to take a life coaching course because financially it just didn't seem smart. Because I was told it wasn't smart. However, I went ahead anyway because it felt right. And that is what made 2009 one of my best years, ever!

Boy, am I lucky!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Due to the economic environment"

I had been warned. An email landed in my box about a week ago from one of my credit cards indicating an “adjustment” to my credit line. More than an adjustment, the decrease was about 2/3rds. I really wasn't concerned because I hadn't used the card in a while and wasn't planning to any time soon. The notice explained that an actual letter had been sent to my home indicating the reason for the change. Again, unconcerned. I assumed it was for lack of interest on my part, literally, and maybe for the amount of revolving accounts bearing my name. I went through a period where I couldn't say no to any 12 month no interest deal. So I forgot about it until the letter came. It opened with we love you and your business but due to the economic environment and a thorough review of your Account history we are seriously pained to inform you that your credit line has been decimated. Or something like that. Again, unconcerned I scrolled down to the “specific reasons” for the aforementioned pained action:
And yes, it was all caps.
Oh holy crap! I'm a victim of identity theft! I should have bought the identity theft insurance. I shred all my trash! OK, not all the coupons, junk mail, banana peels. How did they get my name from a banana peel! DNA! Aaaaaagh! I need to lay down, I can't face this today, I have no control over money and they(see footnote)can do whatever they want, don't care, are just screwing with me! I'll never get this fixed and I'll die with, gulp, bad credit! You see, this last one was the scariest because I did have bad credit along time ago, paid dearly and then spent many years cleaning up my mess. I had reason to panic. But then a teensy voice said, “It could possibly be, and I'm just throwin' this out there, a mistake.” Hmmm. So I pushed hold on the panic attack and called the credit company. The conversation went a little like this, “Ms. Shapley, you have an excellent record with us, it must just be the economic environment.” “So,” I asked foolishly, “what about the DELINQUENT ACCOUNTS, NUMBER OF INQUIRIES and AMOUNT OF REVOLVING DEBT?” “Oh, we don't have that information here and we have no idea why or who made that decision. You will have to go to the credit reporting agency get a copy of your report and guess why we made that decision.” “Do I get a prize if I guess correctly, like maybe my credit line back?” “Uh, um, not sure, but since we have you on the line, would you like to buy our identity theft insurance?”
So I go to the credit reporting agency website and find it surprisingly easy to get to my report. The first page is a summary, and under “Potentially Negative Information” I find nothing. Zero negative accounts and collections and nada on the public records. Not sure why public records are bad, but I don't have any. I move on and find only three inquiries in the past year, one being from a cell company when I changed services. I'm starting to smell a big identity theft insurance sales pitch rat. The revolving credit is correct so I let out a huge sigh and cancel the panic attack.
Then the magnitude of the event sinks in. What is going to happen with the rest of my accounts? Will the other creditors notice the reduction, panic and close me down completely? What will happen to my credit score? Now, I'm starting to get a little miffed. They are taking away my hard earned credit! I start formulating a brilliant soliloquy that I know will move them to tears but ultimately will illicit no action. How can they do this, how dare they! I'm considering rending my clothes and foaming at the mouth-I'll have to google the “how to” on that- when that same teensy voice whispers, “give unto Caesar that which is Caesars.” This stops me just short of a full meltdown. My little voice is quoting the bible?! Am I suffering a pyschotic break and credit difficulties? Briefly, I imagine a scene where I am checking into a mental facility only to be told they can't admit me due to my reduced credit lines. But the message is perfect. The credit lines are not mine and the limits are seemingly changed on a whim. In fact, the last time I asked for a credit line increase from this agency, I had asked for just a couple hundred dollars less than what they had reduced the line to reflect. Every other increase had been initiated by them. Even if their actions start a ripple effect that reduces all my available credit, so what? I'm lucky to be in a place that I don't need it. When the “economic environment” changes, and it will, they will be giving it all back. Or not. But in the end I decided not to pursue a reinstatement of a higher credit line. Caesar can have it.

1- they, them- refers to all government and financial institutions and anyone else who seems to, but doesn't, have absolute control over my life, tv channels and lunch options.