Think you can have it all? We know that isn’t possible. Even Bill Gates plus Warren Buffett can’t buy the world. Think you can do it all? That would be ideal. Imagine an empty to-do list, or a house that was finally finished. Reality is less than ideal, but reality is the only thing we can deal with. Work with what’s real. Aim for what’s ideal. The negotiation between those two is compromise with attempts to optimize. The middle ground is where we do more than survive. We live because we compromise.
Witness America’s capital. Ideologies carried to their extremes without compromise shut down America. Ideologies carried to extremes mean people have lost jobs, businesses can be stopped or dramatically slowed, criminals find opportunities, and the security and assurance of the US Federal Government’s currency is put in doubt. Currencies like the US dollar rely on confidence. Weakened confidence weakens the dollar which weakens the country. Sounds silly, which is why Comedy Central late night talk shows have a wealth of material.
Such extremes sound silly, yet individuals can make similar choices. How many things are on your “Must Have” list? Some people break into tears if they can’t have the right color cell phone. Some get angry if their meal isn’t cooked exactly right. They expect perfection, and consider it reasonable to ask for because they know it is possible. If you’ve always been able to buy what you want, maybe even with credit, then not getting that next best thing can feel traumatic. Maturity cures that, and maturity is a neverending process.
Most folks know that they can’t have everything. Life is a series of trades. Pick a house (pick mine, buy mine!). Real estate is about location, location, location; but, reality is also about what’s available. I may want a house customized for me, on Whidbey Island with a lot ideal for self-sufficiency, a view of the shipping lanes and the Olympic mountains, within an easy walk of downtown Langley, that is quiet and affordable. My house, which is the only house I’ve ever owned and considered home and not just a house, has the view and is quiet, but it is a 40 minute bicycle ride from Langley. Langley doesn’t have the view. Lots suited for self-sufficiency tend to be in the middle of the island away from the views and shopping. If Langley was on the west side of the island and situated for self-sufficiency any house would be so desirable that I probably couldn’t afford it.
Good news folks. I think I can afford my house, as long as I compromise.
I think I can afford my house because I have a much clearer idea of my “Must Have” list. Anyone who has gone through prolonged scarcity has been forced to choose. Those choices define a Must Have list. The consequences refine the choices.
My ideal is to keep my home, but I’ve also come to recognize that housing is a Must Have, but that my house is not. I’m definitely working hard at keeping it. The main determinant is money and thanks to my clients and customers I think I can make and sustain the mortgage payments, if my mortgage can be renegotiated. The reality is that I think I’ll have enough money as of my receipts for October’s work. The other reality is that I may lose the house anyway.
Details are available in previous posts (Timing Good News Maybe, Mortgage Mediation Weirdness), but the concise story is that two poorly scheduled meetings mean two opportunities to renegotiate my mortgage may have been lost. Even the subsequent phone calls went amiss to the point that I don’t know what’s happening. One distinct possibility is that the foreclosure proceedings have been initiated. I don’t know.
Ideally I want to keep my home, as a nice way to meet that Must Have of having housing. I’ve found myself in an optimization process of balancing my regular workload; incorporating the additional workload; conducting the basics of home, life, and relationship maintenance; and maintaining my physical, mental, and emotional health. Oh yeah, and keeping up with the mortgage negotiations. Realistically, it may be that my efforts have not been enough and that I lose this house.
I may not be a good enough writer to make this apparent but, the purpose of this blog is to provide one example of how an individual has to make choices around personal finance. Balancing money and life involves real choices that may be influenced by ideals, and that do involve optimizations, but that ultimately are a series of guesses and compromises. Outside observers may wonder at the choices that are made, and that will always be the case. Even posting as much as me, it can be difficult to keep up with events, motivations, and consequences. No wonder people who are quieter can seem much more enigmatic. At least with this blog, an example is available.
If I lose my house I think I’ll feel sorrier for my support network. I’ve never had so many people cheering me on. Even years into this effort I continue to hear new alternatives. Those that have offered to buy my house as a short sale may get their chance. (Though I still don’t understand how that helps me. It helps the mortgage company, but I’m not sure about my benefit.)
As an engineer I dealt with optimization frequently. An airplane must be balanced. Aerodynamics, structures, economics, operations, and passengers and crew all deal with less than ideal solutions. Airplanes don’t get off the ground without compromise. Rocket launches are optimums of compromises that still must meet safety and performance requirements. Steer around those population centers, don’t break anything in the rocket or satellite, and end up in the right orbit without running into another satellite.
Expecting ideal optimizations is a cause for anxiety and stress. Surprisingly, one source of stress amongst people who have more than enough money is that they worry that they aren’t spending it as efficiently as possible, that what they bought isn’t the absolute best, and that they aren’t investing it for optimum return. People who expected to achieve an ideal optimum fell reduced self-esteem when they inevitably learn that something better was possible. The lower stress lives when “good enough” is seen as more valuable than “optimum” or “best”.
Something better is always possible. Agonizing over it can be stressful.
Something that can’t be negotiated is time. Optimize at will, but realize that everyone has the same wealth and limit of 24 hours per day. We can only do what we can do, and we shouldn’t treat ourselves poorly if our efforts don’t produce everything we ideally want.
Some of my readers will be dealing with a bit of compromise. I hoped to write about two Constitutional amendments that I am helping to draft. I hoped to write about tomorrow’s Community Ride. I hoped to write about the practicality and failings of multiple choice, which also involves some optimization issues. But I must compromise by bringing this post to a close. Almost 12 of those 24 hours have passed today and I have obligations to meet prior to helping a dear friend and enjoying some socializing. It is a Saturday, eh? Maybe by Monday we’ll hear about a compromise between the US political parties. That would be ideal. (Of course, if they kept shutdown and missed the debt ceiling would that delay foreclosure while I made more money? Maybe good for me, but that would compromise too many peoples’ lives.)