Monday, October 18, 2010

The state of the State

The economy.


I go through periods of time where I stop watching the news.  It's so depressing.  The economy is bad.  People are killing each other.  How often do you hear GOOD NEWS on the news?  Almost never.  So I turn the TV off. 

Recently, I was talking to my aunt from Thailand about the economy and the massacre of the housing industry in the US.  The news will flip flop on the issue -- first telling you that the economy is coming back up, then the next day telling you that last summer was the worst for foreclosures in awhile.  I've been telling everyone for months that this isn't over yet.  Before the downturn started, people had gotten into three, five, even seven year adjustable rate mortgages.  We've watched the three years go into the garbage, leaving the five and seven years still to come.  It's frustrating.

I lost my condo to foreclosure.  It was a difficult decision to let it go.  I talked to my CPA and an attorney.  Did a lot of soul searching (can't make it an emotional issue).  Read a lot of articles.  I was so proud of myself -- when the housing market started to drop out, the news made those ARMs sound like dirty, backdoor deals.  The people who got into these loans didn't have jobs and just went "stated income/no docs," so they wouldn't have to prove they had income.  I had a job.  I had "docs."  I was a-okay, right?! 

Then I pulled out my paperwork to read it.  Holy shit.  ARM just stands for "adjustable rate mortgage."  It was a "tool" being used by homeowners and lenders all over the world to get people into houses they couldn't afford.  I guess I vaguely knew I was in one.  I did sign the paperwork.  I even remember my loan guy saying not to worry because we'd just refi in a few years.  Yeah, it didn't quite work out that way. 

I started calling my mortgage company months before my rate was due to adjust.  I was so proud of myself.  I had my paperwork and my numbers and I was going to be one of those proactive homeowners who called the mortgage company first to workout a deal to keep my home.

Dial tone.

Guess what?  The mortgage company didn't care.  I had Countrywide, which was supposed to be the largest holder of these bad mortgages.  Bank of America then bought them out.  Maybe it was the transition period (although I've heard story after story about non-responsiveness so maybe they were overwhelmed or just didn't care, or maybe since they can write off bad loans on their tax return, there's no incentive to help?), but I couldn't get anyone to help me.  The person on the phone would take my number and information.  And I wouldn't get a call back.  I called.  I wrote letters.  Nothing.

Then my mortgage adjusted.  Initially it went up only a few hundred dollars.  But it was scheduled to go up $300 every six months until I died.  This is interest only, mind you.  They are making thousands of dollars off me every month, and the principal remained untouched.  I was living in a one bedroom condo and was paying $2,000 a month to live there (including HOA dues, etc.).  I paid more for this condo than my dad paid for his 4 bedroom house in Texas.  Just didn't seem right. 

A couple of months after the rate adjusted, I received a FedEx from Bank of America.  CONGRATULATIONS!  They had accepted my request to modify my mortgage!  And they had "accepted" my request, at a much higher interest rate, and it was another ARM.  Thanks for nothing, idiots.  

Anyway, I'll spare you the details of the two years that followed.  There were a lot of considerations on which I based my decision (an HOA that hadn't been keeping up with maintenance for one...).  In the end, I lost my house.  A few years ago, my condo appraised at $265,000.  It went to auction for around $65,000.  Obama kept talking about helping people keep their homes.  Those programs were for people 5% "under water."  No mention of those of us who were 70% plus under. 

So now the news is trying to blow sunshine up our asses and say the economy is recovering.  The very next story will be about how jobs are still being lost at an alarming rate and homes are still being foreclosed upon.  While I am grateful to still have a job in this economy (and be able to wear jeans and flip flops to boot), I haven't had a raise in almost four years.  My expenses keep going up.  But my income doesn't.  So I get to stress and budget and keep moving things around to make sure everything gets paid.  I know I'm not the only one out there.  And I hope that the country really does start to recover soon.  I don't even need an excess of money.  I'd just like to have enough. 

So I'm going to leave you with this story.

"I wish you enough!"©
By Bob Perks

I never really thought that I'd spend as much time in airports as I do. I don't know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I'm not famous, yet I do see more than my share of airports.
I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to "hello" and "goodbye." I must have mentioned this a few times while writing my stories for you.

I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding sensation in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths. So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye. 

Watching people cling to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart, extending their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.
On one of my recent business trips, when I arrived at the counter to check in, the woman said, "How are you today?" I replied, "I am missing my wife already and I haven't even said goodbye."

She then looked at my ticket and began to ask, "How long will you...Oh, my God. You will only be gone three days!" We all laughed. My problem was I still had to say goodbye. But I learn from goodbye moments, too.

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, "I love you. I wish you enough." She in turn said, "Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy."

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?" 

"Yes, I have," I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So I knew what this man experiencing.

"Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?" I asked.

"I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral," he said.

"When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, "I wish you enough. May I ask what that means?"

He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more."When we said 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Goodbye."

He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough!
by Bob Perks


  1. An interesting article...

    "All men are burdened with more desires than they can gratfy. Because of my wealth thinkest thou I may gratify every desire? 'Tis a false idea....I say to you that just as weed grow in a field wherever the farmer elaves space for their roots, even so freeky do the desires grow in men whenever there is a possibility of their being gratified. Thy desires are a multitude and those that mayest gratify are but few."
    -George S. Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon.

    Curtesy of your friendly niehgborhood Jill Graham :-)

  2. An interesting article...

    "All men are burdened with more desires than they can gratfy. Because of my wealth thinkest thou I may gratify every desire? 'Tis a false idea....I say to you that just as weeds grow in a field wherever the farmer leaves space for their roots, even so freely do the desires grow in men whenever there is a possibility of their being gratified. Thy desires are a multitude and those that mayest gratify are but few."
    -George S. Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon.

    Curtesy of your friendly niehgborhood Jill Graham :-)

    (So many speeling errors!!!)