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Seething Cakes of Hatred

Making pancakes, as I learned at AP's birthday bash at the beach this weekend, is an unbelievably tedious chore. I don't know why I...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Personal. Do Not Read.

One very important thing everyone needs to know is that it is absolutely wrong to write about personal finances on the internet. You should never reveal these highly personal facts to strangers. Write about anything you want, unless it involves money. Keep money matters to yourself!

Now that my public service announcement is out of the way, I'm going to tell you all about my personal finances.

When I was 29 and fresh from the cult, I was broke. Each year that I spent in the International Church of Christ saw my income decline because I kept quitting jobs and moving to new places. I had a decent job when I joined the church, but they fired me because I became an irritating prick who tried to convert everyone in my office. Then I quit another job to move into a different zone of the church so that I could lead the "singles' ministry". Then I quit another job to move to Annapolis, MD and help start up a new "house church". My income in 1995 was about $9,000. And I gave 10 percent of that back to the church.

Needless to say, when CT and I became partners he had to have a very serious talk with me. He told me that he wanted to be with me, but he didn't want to support me. He wanted me to pull my own weight.

CT, who was 27 at the time, had inherited a lot of money, but he paid a terrible price for it. He lost both of his parents within two years of each other. The guy he was with before me felt entitled to CT's money, and he abused CT's kindness. So, when CT and I got together he was finished being a Sugar Daddy. (I know, my timing sucks!)

I did my best to contribute to our household, but CT always wanted to go out for dinner, and he loved shopping. I remember many days at the mall just following him around watching him buy things for himself. I didn't have two nickels to rub together.

One day he said he wanted to go out to eat, and I told him I couldn't. "I'm broke. I have nothing," I told him.

"I'm broke too, but we can splurge, can't we?" he reasoned.

When CT said he was broke, it meant he only had a couple hundred dollars in his checking account. So I tried to explain to him that when I said I was broke, I meant completely lacking in currency.

"Okay, but it isn't like you have no money. I mean, you have an IRA and stuff right?"

The fact that, after at least three years together, my partner thought I had an Individual Retirement Account hidden away somewhere just made me laugh. Why, only a few years earlier he witnessed my filing for bankruptcy!

To file for bankruptcy at the age of 30 is humiliating. I will never forget the way I felt when the judge asked me how I had gotten myself into such a financial mess. I didn't dare mention my affiliation with the church. The wound was too fresh. So I just attempted to use my boyish charm. "I haven't been making as much money as I spend," I giggled. He didn't find it endearing. Not in the least.

Since 1996, I've received the worst credit card offers (Rebuild Your Credit! APPLY NOW for a Visa at 22% APR!!) and took out a car loan at a ridiculous rate. I couldn't get a credit card at Best Buy. I'm pretty sure I would have been declined a Target credit card (not that I wanted one).

I did feel awful about not paying my debts. I mean, I didn't feel guilty enough to go back and repay those credit card companies, but I still felt that what I'd done was wrong. The only thing that made me feel justified was all the huge corporations and airlines declaring bankruptcy ever other week. I figured they should be able to handle money better than I did!

Over the years I got better jobs and started a 401k and opened a savings account. I worked really hard to reduce debt. One year I wrote down every single penny I spent (literally) in a little notebook. At the end of the month, I could account for every cent. One Sunday morning as I tallied my expenditures for the month, my total showed that I should have 34 cents left. I went into the bedroom and counted the money on top of my dresser. I had a quarter and nine pennies.

The only reason I am telling you all of this is so you won't think I am a big baby when I tell you that I cried last week when I checked my credit report. I paid for access to my credit report on line, and I couldn't believe what I found there.

Your credit rating is: Excellent
Your credit score is higher than 55.8% of U.S. consumers

A tear fell down my cheek, and I bit my lip and remembered the day CT told me he wouldn't support me, letting me know I had to pull myself out of the pit with my own strength. The stern face of the bankruptcy court judge looking down at me flashed in my mind, followed by an image of the Exxon card I used to buy groceries one week when I had no money and nothing to eat.

So I read my credit report, and I cried.

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