Luck, it is an interesting word, is it real, can people be lucky. Or more importantly, is it more common for people to be unlucky. I know that some say that luck is where preparation and opportunity meet, but I’m not so sure. I used to consider myself lucky. I had a way of visualizing things, analyzing every angle and making decisions, that turn out to be the right ones, that lead to other decisions, that also turn out right and things happened. It felt lucky, but was it? I’m not sure. However, over the last dozen years or so that doesn’t seem to work for me anymore, more and more I make decisions that turn out completely wrong and amplify problems and issues.
Money is a constant struggle, there is never enough and when there used to be we made decisions that at the time seemed like the right decision, but in the long run turned out wrong. Three years ago, I used to work for a large company as a manager I made a significant salary, near $130K per year, in the course of 8 years I went from making $30K to making over $100K. Because we had the money the motto of “if you want it get it” was thrown around, a lot. To the point where we had significant credit card debt (we have always had debt issues, even before we were married we both had cards that were maxed out at one point or another), mortgage, car payment, and kids to pay for. It was a bunch of little things, putting food on cards, gas, stuff for the kids, stuff for my wife’s craft hobbies and MLM schemes (Tupperware, Creative Memories, etc).
During the last 10 years, the credit cards were or could have been paid off. During the housing boom (we bought in 2003, small 3 bedroom 2.5 bath, 1750 sq ft) the value of our house had gone up $100K, so we borrowed $40K against and paid off all the credit cards, that was in 2007. That was when my salary also started growing. Wife started another hobby that she was trying to turn into a business, craft type items (stuff you’d see on Etsy) so she used the credit cards in an effort to make that happen, ran them up again, to about $60K, but I was making great money so we had money to pay them and live pretty good. Then in 2011 I was laid off when the company lost the work I was managing. I could have moved to another location, 2/3s of the way across the country, but we weren’t ready for that so we decided that I’d take the job offered by the company that won the work, to the tune of a $40K decrease in salary. I got a severance package from my company, plus I also cashed out my 401K and combined those plus what I was making, paid down some of the cards, but not all. With the significant decrease in salary we had to start using credit cards to cover bills or buy food, clothes, household items. So the debt ran up. To where in 2012, just a year later, we were nearing $80K in debt. At that point we made another decision, credit counseling through social services.
So, now in 2014, about 18 months into a 48 month program we are still struggling. We pay over $1700 to the credit cards, $1100 mortgage, $600 utilities, 300 car, 350 student loan, and about 500 in miscellaneous bills (medical, etc), on income of just over $5000/month. There isn’t usually enough for everything so we supplement with selling off parts of my wife’s craft business supplies (she is still trying to work that, the craft shows bring in about $5-8K per year profit) that she won’t need and any other money we can earn. We also push off utilities to buy groceries.
So two decision have plagued us for years, the first was borrowing against equity, that increased our mortgage payment by about $300 per month, at the time very, very manageable. That decision was visualized, analyzed and studies before I pulled the trigger, and it back fired. The other was cashing in the 401K loan to pay off cards, that netted me about $25K (severance was $15K), we should have used that to pay the cards, but we didn’t. We ended up owing about $10K in taxes and penalties the following year, I knew we would, but I had determined that we could manage that based on not having credit card bills. Big mistake. Not only did I screw up that, but I also mortgaged our future and our retirement.
So because of decisions made that I thought would pay off and get us back on the right path backfired, we now have ruined our credit and our future. So I ask again, is it UNluck? It seems like that to me, but deep down I know that it is mostly because I made decisions that turned out wrong. But, I know other people that have been in similar situations and, just when it is bleakest, something happens and BOOM, things are a lot better, it seems like they make a decision, or no decision and something just happens, a job offer, coming into money, or something else where their luck turns. I was hoping that 2014 would turn out better, so far so not, but it is early and maybe some luck will come my way at some point. If it seems like I’m whining, it’s because I am.