It looks fine from here. The rich are getting richer. Those with jobs and businesses are getting busier, and seem to have more discretionary cash. And, of the rest that aren’t in hiding – well, smiles look good. Even my septic tank looks good, but it is buried. But the septic alarm went off though, so later today I’ll find out if looks are deceiving. My computer looks good, considering the use it gets and its age. But it let out a chirp and froze for a while a couple of days ago, so I’m backing it up as I type. My future looks fine when I am feeling optimistic, but chirps and alarms and uncertainties may mean I’ll sell some stock, giving up a slice of future potential to make things look a little better in the present. That’s a dangerous game. But there may be a way out.
Langley looks good. (Want a quick tour? Watch our video: Two Guys Walk Around Langley) Millionaires walk by. Billionaires reportedly drop in while visiting another of their houses. This is a nice town for relaxing. From my perch, high on the second floor of the Giraffe Building, I get to watch enough exotic cars roll by that Ferraris aren’t worth mentioning. It looks so fine that a couple I talked to thought everyone here was wealthy, or at least comfortably employed. That’s an image most tourist towns want to portray, and in Langley’s case, enough of it is true to encourage people to move here.
Of course looks can be deceiving. We use that phrase so much that I wonder why it exists. Evidently, we must continually remind ourselves that what we see isn’t always real.
One of the tricks to enjoying frugal living is to live frugally by choice instead of by necessity. Living frugally by necessity can still be enjoyable, but it isn’t as relaxing because it is paired with caution, doubt, and maybe a fair share of worry. I’ve always lived frugally, even when I didn’t know I was doing it. A frugal lifestyle looks cheap from the outside, but the insides are buttresses of self-defined and reinforced values. Many have commented on my apparent style and ease as I pass through my financial turmoil. Evidently, my facade is fine. The interior is doing well enough too, but there are days when I’m surprised the turmoil doesn’t poke through.
I see the wealth that extends into the middle class. It isn’t just millionaires visiting the coffeeshops and stores. It’s harder to find parking. Unemployment is down. Consumer spending is up. Typically, more people making money means more money being spent which means more people making money – which is the upward spiral looked for in a recovery. It looks fine, and may even be fine.
It is too easy for me to see the concerns though. My diminished financial position has provided me yet another perspective. The wealth and income inequities do not seem to be resolving themselves. Discretionary income may be returning, but many are working from less stable foundations. They’ve been through foreclosures, bankruptcies, or have spent their way through home equity, credit limits, and now their IRAs. The increased consumer spending may be temporary and a reflection of years of pent-up demand.
A world-traveling friend called for a friendly chat. I was so impressed with what he’s been doing, especially, because I know a few years ago he was in need of a financial fix. He stayed positive, gradually built his business, and is enjoying the upward spiral of people asking him to do more good work because they’ve seen him doing so much good work. Now, if they’d only pay him what he is truly worth. And, maybe they will as his upward spiral continues. In the meantime, he looks like things are fine, or fine-ish.
As I check around with my friends, frequently as they check in on me, I continue to find increased busyness. The businesses though, aren’t necessarily seeing increased profits. Frequently they are at capacity limits. To truly make more they have to hire more or invest more, but those hurdles are costly risks prior to becoming possible rewards.
Rarely do I hear anyone describe their job or their business as a path to comfort. One honestly laughed when I asked if she could imagine her business becoming profitable; and then she caught herself as she realized that profitability shouldn’t be so foreign a concept. People do dream of comfort but I notice their hopes live within two main scenarios: win the lottery, of find some way to become self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency takes more work, but has better odds. If we lived in the era of homesteading many of my friends would be heading out to the territory, wherever that may be. Instead, many of them are building tiny houses or creating garden farms.
I consider myself lucky. My business is picking up. I’m being considered for more substantial, and profitable, assignments. (Got a project you need help planning or some choices you need to sort through? It is fun helping creative people create.) My portfolio is closer to realizing its potential. (Come on MVIS.) The housing market is improving. (My house is still for sale.) Yet, at this stage in the race with financial sustainability I may have to sell some stock to pay for foreclosure mediation, pumping the septic tank, and replacing the rear shocks in the truck.
I’d hoped that here, at the end of July, there’d be news that I got “the call” for the right job or assignment, or that one of my investments would finally make their major celebratory announcement. I look forward to writing that post. In the meantime, the computer went chirp. The septic alarm went squawk. And my checking account goes squeak because right now it can’t handle a new septic system or a new computer.
But stay tuned. The day isn’t over yet. Today is Wednesday, July 31, 2013. The Powerball jackpot is estimated to be $235,000,000. The drawing is tonight. Even the Washington State lottery is up to $2,500,000. I have tickets for both. Either will suffice. And in our conversations, those who are buying tickets aren’t doing it for appearances. They’re doing it as a hope for comfort and a chance at self-sufficiency. We’re also doing it as entertainment. A movie costs $10 and lasts a couple of hours. A lottery ticket costs $1 or $2 and it allows days of dreams, at least. At least.