Freedom Remorse? Short-Timer’s Syndrome and Second Thoughts

Only about two weeks left in this semester, thank God. That’s five more meetings of each class, and two weeks of interaction with the apparently comatose magazine-writing students. I’m going to be so, so glad to be free of ever having to teach freshman comp again (…i hope). You ain’t seen short-timer’s syndrome until you’ve come to the end of a semester of wrangling freshmen. But as you can imagine, I’ve had predictable second thoughts about walking away from my only steady source of earned income. Well…sporadically steady.

Oddly, though, I haven’t felt as jittery about it as I’d expected. The truth is, over the past few months, I’ve pretty much stopped obsessing about money. Once or twice a month, I go into Quickbooks to log my credit-card charges and the very few checks I write, and that’s about the last of think of it. I expect it’s because living on $26,820 a year, net Social Security and teaching pay, has demonstrated that I really can live on very little money. And my gross annual teaching pay is only about 3 percent of retirement savings. So the truth is, even in the unlikely event that The Copyeditor’s Desk never makes another dime, there’s plenty for me to live on. Modestly, but adequately.

Too, the little revelation that came to me earlier this year, when ex-DH underwent quadruple bypass surgery at about the same time a Mayo doctor was speculating that I had a gastric cancer, has made me care a great deal more about enjoying life and a great deal less about pinching pennies.

In the Insight! department, another little revelation occurred to me this morning. A lovely person purchased the latest of those pretty necklaces I cooked up, and so I set to constructing a third one. It takes about three hours to arrange and string those tiny little beads into a 40-inch “lariat.” That’s exclusive of running around the city in search of the beads, of course.

So let’s say I manage to net $90 on a sale (that would be extremely good, but it could be done if one were making enough of them to buy the parts wholesale). You realize, that’s $30 an hour: exactly what I earned at the Great Desert University when I worked there full-time in a managerial position. Exclusive of the two hours a day, ten hours a week, of commute time.

Yes. I can earn as much as a Ph.D. in an administrative job informed by 15 years of academic experience, 10 years of journalistic experience, and 25 concurrent years of editorial experience…by stringing beads.

{Sumbiche!}

Several small changes will help as things get tighter, if in fact they do get tighter.

Not buying gas to drive from pillar to post four days a week. This month I spent two hundred forty-eight dollars and seventy-eight cents on gasoline!!!  That’s $90 more than in August, when I wasn’t driving to campus.

Not paying the Underlings to provide teaching assistance.

Not passing by an upscale Costco outlet on the way home from campus.

Then there’s the turkey roasting on the grill for Cassie the Corgi, as we scribble. Safeway was peddling the things for 79 cents a pound. It certainly isn’t premium meat — it’s pumped full of saline solution and chemicals — but last year when I got one for her, the meat wasn’t inedible. She can’t tell the difference, anyway, and the meat from one of the things will keep her in food for a good month.

To make things better, one of my friends on the choir qualified for Safeway’s turkey giveaway. They foisted it on her even as she protested that she had no use for yet another turkey. She was trying to find a home for it, and I talked her into giving it to me. That will provide at least two, maybe three months of meat for Cassie.

Meat has become so expensive I no longer can buy  hamburger for Cassie, and the Safeway has stopped putting cheap cuts of beef on sale at affordable prices. Since about half of her diet consists of animal protein (and it probably should be more than that), the cost of feeding her has gone way up. For the short-term future, then, the meat from two fourteen-pound turkeys represents a significant savings.

So, I don’t seriously think things are going to get any worse, financially, than they are. Barring a miracle, they won’t get any better. But with the money situation already about as bad as it’s ever likely to get, I don’t believe I have much to fear.

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Linda November 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm

It’s great that you’re nearing the end of forcing yourself to do something you dislike so intensely. It will be interesting to see if your health issues improve.

I was talking with one of my friends the other day about her discussion with the financial planner we both use. She’s 68 and is still free-lancing to earn extra income, but she’s pretty happy with her semi-retired life. She owns an aging two-flat in a neighborhood that has gentrified quite a bit and she’s been thinking of getting a condo. She related how the adviser told her she could sell the two-flat and rather than buy a condo, start renting. He noted that the gains from her house sale could give a real boost to her lifestyle now that she’s not working full time.

At some point, we all need to switch from amassing assets for our “aged years” and spending down those assets so we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. It’s very hard to know when “that point” is, but I’m certainly looking forward to to it, myself! Sounds like you’re nearly there.

funny November 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm

My house isn’t worth enough that a 4% return on its proceeds would rent a decent place: it would only be about $600 a month…and that’s pre-tax! Post-tax, probably about $550/month. Anyplace you’d want to live in for the rest of your life in these parts is gonna be $800 to $1200/month.

And theoretically, that’s what I figure having the house paid off returns: about $1,000 to $1,200/month that I wouldn’t have to pay in rent.

LOL! I’ll miss the students, but I sure won’t miss dragging the poor little things through that inane course.

Linda November 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm

If my friend wasn’t in the neighborhood she is, she very likely wouldn’t be sitting so pretty, either. The neighborhood has gentrified tremendously since she bought 30 years ago. She’s on an over-sized lot, so she could easily expect $500k for the property, even in Chicago’s lagging real estate market. She was surprised about the advice to rent rather than buy a condo, but I can see why that would make sense.

I keep meaning to write about my experience with the financial planner. Strategies vary so much based on one’s goals. You likely want to leave your son some sort of legacy if at all possible. I have no children so my main objective is to be able to live a modest lifestyle and not end up in poverty in my old age. And as your story proves, too, one can plan as much as possible but life can throw you a huge curveball that has one scrambling for a backup plan.

funny November 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm

@ Linda: That is a tempting scenario! Four percent of $500,000 would net for her, assuming taxes on dividends rise to 20% (they may not), $1333 a month. Even in Chicago, she probably could get a decent place to live for that. And if she chose to move someplace where the cost of living is a little lower, she could find a very nice place, indeed, at that price.

Andrew @ 101 Centavos November 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Get on with, woman! :-)
Second thouhgts are fine, but your plan is sound, and your motives righteous!
Copewriter’s Desk is going to rock evem more mightily after the decoupling from GDU.

funny November 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Well, we’ll see!

It rarely earns nothing, and as a practical matter it only needs to gross $700 a month, on average. So far this month it has grossed $660, and I have yet to see what, if anything, Adsense has paid. If Adsense paid out the minimum, then the S-corp made its goal, and this has been a very slow month.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies November 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Dating myself, but I had to look up what short-timer’s syndrome was. I love it. You’ve mentally checked out and just need to go through the motions to finish the obligations.

As for meat – I eat none, and the Mr. has decreased his meat consumption of late – but if you must eat meat, have you thought about buying a share in a cow? A friend in Philly recently bought a cow with a few others, instructed the butcher how they wanted the pieces cut, and divided up the pieces amongst themselves. I believe the prices they ended up getting were better the supermarket prices on conventional beef, but theirs was organic and grass fed to boot.

Anyhow… just a thought.

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