Dec 10, 2009

The Fear of Losing it All

What would you be doing right now if you had nothing to fear? I read this question on a blog the other day (eeks, can't remember which) but it made me think just how much my life would change if I could ignore fear.

That is, the fear of having nothing. I'm not even sure what that means anymore. There's definitely a fine line between having enough to get by from now until death, and excess income for ongoing splurges. Also, on the other end, there's a fine line between comfort and poverty.

I'm not anywhere near poverty now. In fact, I've done surprisingly well for myself this year, despite overspending time and again. Between my increase in salary and my fairly stable freelance income, it looks like I'm on track to bring in about $75k this year (pre tax). That's quite a lot for a single gal. Granted, I live somewhere that the cost of living is high, but I survived on $25k a year before and it scares the crap out of me that suddenly $75k seems like not enough to get by on when I feel like I need to put so much income into investments in order to afford life in the future.

But if I wasn't afraid at all... of being poor... what would I do? I don't think I'd be doing what I'm doing now. I'd like to start my own business. Lately I've been fantasizing about opening a store. Not that I have any retail experience, I just love the idea of being in charge of a business and being able to call the shots.

Every year that goes by I think, man, I really need to go to grad school. But then I add up the numbers and it just doesn't seem worth it. Maybe if I was making $25k still a graduate education would help me make $70k+, but I'm already there without it. I might be limiting my income in the future, but who knows. Would getting an MBA really increase my overall life income when I just don't see myself as a person willing to work 80+ hours per week?

I don't need to be rich, but I enjoy being in the upper middle class. I do like to spend money on things I need and things I don't need. Can I get over that? Probably. But if it makes me happy... or at least, content... why should I?

This month I'm spending SO MUCH on health costs. Well, between my dental costs and mental health therapy and eyecare, my budget is largely going to healthcare. I guess that's a "good" place to be spending my money. I went to a psychiatrist that charged $280 for the initial 1 hour consultation. She prescribed me an anti-depressant, which I've yet to fill. I also have spent $150 for group therapy (3 weeks this month, $50 a session.) I also spend $330 on something like a years' supply of contacts.

I haven't finalized any laser hair removal plans yet, but I found a medspa that has a pass for about $4300 where you can get unlimited laser hair removal. The catch is there is a $20 copay each time you go and each session can only be 90 minutes long, but still, that sounds like it would be so very worth it for my hairy self. I'm leaning towards doing the 12 months financing through care credit, paying about $330 per month over the coming year. That won't be a problem as long as I keep my current job. And I already have that amount in savings if I need to pay it off and I lose my job, it would just kind of suck to spend my savings on it if the income stops coming in.

The good thing is that I'm building my side freelance writing business. I've decided in order to feel comfortable I need to obtain multiple streams of freelance income. Ideally, each of them should be able to cover my rent ($630) or a large portion of it. I figure, if I lose my full-time job, I want to already have income streams set up to cover rent and other basic costs. I can cut out all other spending and investing if needed. My goal is to take home $1,000 in freelance income per month. I'm more or less around $500 right now, but I have a new occasional gig that pays well and seems to be working out, for the time being, at least.

All of this has me terribly frightened about stopping everything and going to grad school. And knowing that my poor GRE scores and academic background will keep me from attending a top school, I wonder if grad school is worth it. I'm considering a state school, but even then I'd have to stop working full time for two years. Maybe there's a way to balance freelance income and graduate study at a state school where I won't go into that much debt during my studies. But I don't want to go to a grad school just because it's affordable. I'm not sure that's the wrong way to look at it, but it seems like people choose graduate programs for reasons beyond cost, as that's what student loans and a lifetime of student debt is for, right?

Hmm. I wish I grew up in a family of risk takers. I'd feel a little more confident in knowing what next step to take, or trusting my gut. My father's whole job was dedicated to mitigating risk. Even as my younger sister is scheduled to visit and spend a week with me, when I talk to my dad on the phone he seems sincerely concerned that I'm somehow going to have us both killed... even though she's 19 and I'm in my 20s and we both haven't died yet. Neither of my parents ever trusted me to make smart decisions, and neither of them knew how to make smart decisions... so I don't know how to decide, well, anything. And without deciding, I'm slogging along, having a few good days but more bad than good, earning my $75k and preparing for a day when I'll be back to $25k. That's how it looks like my life will go. I can't even think about what will happen when/if I have kids and have a family to support.


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