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What to do while you wait for a return to normal



Life on earth has never been perfect, but you’d have a hard time convincing some people of that. It’s not that they are ignorant. They have selective memories.

Perhaps you can identify if you long for the way things used to be — when jobs were plentiful, mortgages were simple, retirement accounts moved in only one direction (up) and students could carry their 100-percent-financed college degrees straight into six-figure jobs.

Now that it appears things are no longer quite so perfect, you’ve put your life on hold. You’re anxiously pacing the floor trying to hold on until the stock market rebounds, real estate sales bounce back, your loan modification comes through or some TV advertiser offers a debt-settlement scheme that returns your life to the “perfect” way it was.

Can we talk?

Stop looking back. “Normal” may be a setting on your clothes dryer, but it is not an economic condition. Every moment that you mourn the passing of the way things were is a moment lost in the present. Concentrate on where you are, and plan for how you will face the future.

Accept what you cannot change. As hard as it is for some of us to accept the fact that we cannot control everything, that is the truth. If you’ve lost your home or business, or filed for bankruptcy — as terrible as these events have been for you — you cannot change what has happened.

Change the things you can. Thankfully, far more aspects of your life fall into this category.

These days, it seems that for every letter I get from a reader who is filled with gratitude that I nagged them to death to get out of debt, to build a contingency fund for emergencies, to fund a Freedom Account for irregular expenses and to make that shift to living below their means, I get one from someone who is beside herself/himself with regret for just not getting around to it. The old “it could never happen to me” happens.

Create your plan. If you are still in credit-card debt, now’s the time to get serious. I mean it! Revisit Chapter 7 in my “Debt-Proof Living” book. Create your Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan today, and commit to it like you’ve never committed before. (What? You’re not familiar with “Debt-Proof Living” — the DPL textbook? That’s a change you can and need to make right now. Check your local bookstore, library or Amazon.com for a copy.)

Save more. Start beefing up your savings — your contingency fund, retirement account or other savings vehicles. Even if all you can save right now is your pocket change, do it. Get serious about cutting back even more than you think possible so you have more to save. I predict that in years to come, if you have one regret it will be that you did not save more money.

Downsize. If you find yourself over your head in a house you cannot afford, it’s time to move. You need to downsize into a house you can afford. Of course, I do not know your exact situation, but if you are hanging on by a thread, hoping that a loan modification will suddenly make your home affordable, think very carefully. And weigh every issue.

Get a job. If you are not working because you’ve given up, or you’re holding out for something that fits your idea of “normal,” let that go. Reality means a job you can get right now. Find a job. Then work at upgrading to a better job.

Headed for college? The days of a fully funded “free” education that you can pay back at a more convenient time may be gone. Let me say this again: Get a job.

“F” words. Say them often, and let them become part of your reality: faith, family and friends. Without my faith, family and friends, I don’t know where I’d be.

I have noticed over the years that winners accept their realities. They don’t sit around and wait for things to change. They do what they must to make things happen.

Even more than that, they don’t whine, they don’t complain and they don’t make excuses.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740.



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