Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Since I have been an adult, I have never lived paycheck-to-paycheck.  When I was a kid, I think our family did; I remember once when my family was on the verge of being evicted from subsidized housing because my parents could not afford to pay the rent.  As the saying goes, we never felt poor, but I think, now, that perhaps we were.  Since then, as a result of both I and my wife having professional jobs which paid well, and both having the tendency to be reluctant to spend (her family was also of the not exactly poor, but persuasion), we've done okay.  As we put it, when marvelling at the amount of money that we have now, when measured in comparison to what we read about the average assets of others, we're comfortably off. We're not rich, but we're at a point where we can buy things that are expensive without much thinking about it.  Not frequently, but we can do it.

It's a nice feeling, but, oddly, its also an uneasy one.  I find myself worrying on occasion that we're spending too much.  Since I retired, our annual spending has gone up about eight percent.  We've gone to France a couple of times.  We're paying for our daughter's college education. We've replaced some of the furniture.  Just yesterday we replaced a generic toaster oven whose heating element was beginning to fail with a new  top-of-the-line one -- a toaster oven so capable, we could probably do the bulk of our baking on it.  We're talking about replacing our leased minivan with a new one -- and finding that the top-of-the-line Honda Odyssey, with all the bells and whistles, is the one that catches our eye.

It worries me. Not because I think we'll run out of money, but because it doesn't feel right.  Last night, I dreamed that we were having some kind of minor but significant change made to the house -- I don't recall, something like replacement of the front door -- and when we went out and then came back, we found that somehow our front lawn had been replaced by a water garden. How nice, I thought, then realized that there were frogs in it. Large frogs.  And a burly guy telling me yeah, you're going to need to keep after them, else they're gonna take over the property.  They breed like anything. Just as I was envisioning myself in hip boots trying to scoop them up with a net, he added Course, you could pay us to take care of that for you. And I was actually considering it.

This summer, my daughter is doing a study-abroad program in Paris.  This amazes me.  As I say to my wife, I grew up thinking that a trip to Chicago would be an amazing adventure, and this kid's been to Paris twice! She's a little nervous about negotiating the transfer from the airport to her school cum hotel, so we're thinking that I might accompany her. How long should I stay? I asked my wife. Well, she said, she'll be there for a month, but you probably don't need to be there the whole time. Say, just a week.  Later, it occurred to me: Am I turning into the kind of person who can say Yeah, I went to Paris, but it was only for a week?

I'll keep an eye on it. 

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