Saturday, January 24, 2015

I Can't Afford My Life

Alice has made a startling discovery.  She can’t afford the life she is living.

Her income changed severely after the legal wrangling of last year, followed by the associated drama with her car.

When her 10-year-old car blew a head gasket, she had to get another one.  Car to Alice is spelled with a capital C.  While her newer 5 year-old car brings her much pleasure, the monthly payment is hard to swallow.
Other necessities include things that make life more fun.  A designer handbag.  Pretty rings.  The annual trek to the Oregon Coast.  Presents for her grandchildren.

Let’s not forget fingernails!  Alice still has pretty hands, so she has her nails “done” once a month.  She has pretty hair, too.  Left on its own, it would be tinged with grey … which can be such a drab color.  So she pays big bucks to have it trimmed, touched up, foiled and styled.  But one can hardly get out of a Caddy with ragged nails and bad hair!

Then came the dog, rescued from a bereft life after her person died.  And with the dog came the Groomer, the Vet for check-ups and shots, healthy food, leashes, bed, car seat, and the must-have first photo with Santa.

Staying healthy is the cornerstone of getting older, so Alice has periodic appointments with a variety of medical professionals.  Her insurance premium went up this year.  She didn’t get any additional benefits; she just pays more.
Then there are, of course, the tiresome things:  fixed bills for mandatory living expenses; along with discretionary expenditures for tasty crab and lobster tails, boneless short ribs and cage-free eggs, Grey Goose, organic salads and veggies.  All a source of both healthful necessity and pleasure.

Alice views life as finding the balance between quality and quantity … with far more emphasis on the quality of her life rather than how long she hangs around the planet.  If she can’t walk on trails and beaches, fish and crab, read the latest books, have fun with her family and friends, and drive over Stevens Pass in a car that “corners like it’s on rails” … then, for Alice, what’s the point?

Quality of life also means doing special things once in a while. This year it is immersing herself in the music, drama, and emotions of “The Phantom of the Opera” one more time. 
As soon as the tickets went on sale, she bought one for a great seat in the Loge of the Paramount Theater. Since this would no doubt be the last time she saw that glorious chandelier plunge from the ceiling, no point in skimping on her view.

The bottom line is Alice’s income is fixed and her outgo is on an upward trajectory.  She knows from Business 101 this is not the ideal situation.  Yet it is here that she finds herself, along with a dwindling IRA.

Thankfully her financial advisor understands YOLO … You Only Live Once … and sends the “bail-out” funds when she needs them.
Alice is now trying to calculate how long she can afford to live, given her current lifestyle.  There’s no doubt that one day she will be forced to cut back on the French perfume, foiled high-lights in her hair, and buying “simply must have” art.

In the meantime, we leave Alice with a spring in her step and a smile on her face, walking faster and farther as the money dribbles out of her pockets.