Cash, cabinets, my primary income generator and an old Ford truck

28 09 2007

Neal has an interview with a company in Lynchburg VA tomorrow morning at 8:30 am!!!!  He interviewed with Volvo in Greensboro this morning & found out that they’re not affiliated with Ford, which is good because he doesn’t want to work for Ford.  (I mean, why sign up for extra persecution?  Really.)  So since Volvo sold their car line & only produce large (?) engines now, it’s OK for him to work for them.  That’s nice.  Greensboro was one of our top picks.
But LYNCHBURG…. I am conjuring visions of a small town nestled in the hills of Virginia with cows and streams and a big white farmhouse set aside for the clan only an hour and a half from my sister and my brother & his girl and my folks…  Neal loves what he’s heard of the company so far, and they’re looking for someone to do just exactly the kind of job he’s been wanting.
We’ve been looking all the towns up on Wikipedia to find out what the cost of living is.  Lynchburg’s housing is about 20% less expensive than Wilmington, which means that for the same amount of money we’re paying now, I could probably get a house with decent bathrooms and a working sewer connection!  Woo Hoo!!  Food is cheaper there, too.
Actually, everything is cheaper everywhere we’re looking.  In Huntsville AL, Bowling Green KY, Lynchburg VA, and even in Charlotte, Raleigh and Goldsboro.  It’s pretty expensive to live here.  Not as bad as places like New York, of course, where it costs a couple of thousand dollars to rent a three room apartment with bedrooms the size of a bathtub.  But it’s pricey compared to most of the South.  Too many Northerners buying 5 million dollar beach mansions they don’t even bother to live in and driving up the real estate prices, I guess.
Who lives in those places we drive by at the beach?  Most of the time there’s no sign of habitation.  I can’t stretch my brain far enough to imagine making enough money to build a house like that and LIVE in it!  How can they afford a mansion as a vacation home they never go to?  Where do these people work?  Do they work?  It hurts my head.
Someone told me recently that their husband ran a company that sold kitchen cabinets.  I thought, “That’s nice,” thinking about the pre-fab $38/ft cabinets Neal and I buy at Lowe’s on the rare occasions that we buy cabinets.  Then this person went on to say that the cabinet sets cost upwards of $100,000!!!!  I was so shocked I felt my blood pressure drop.
Now, not to get too graphic about our private fiscal buisiness here, but let me put it this way: if we bought them, the cabinets alone would make up about 70% of the value of our home.  And I thought I was being an irresponsible spender for buying a $1,000 bathtub!
We have Neal’s old 401-K plan from Canada rolled over into an IRA at Edward Jones. At this point it’s almost recovered from Y2K.   Recently, when he lost his job, we had to do some paperwork to move the more recent 401-K in there, too.  As part of that process, the agent wanted to calculate our net worth.  He had us put down on paper all our holdings, assets, savings, CD’s, investments, properties, and valuables.  Well, it didn’t take me long.  Let’s see… 4 kids, two banged up ancient vehicles that have a tendency to drop parts if they hit a speed bump, a little equity on our house (mortgaged and for sale- we’ll see what we get for it), and three college savings accounts full of small change.  Oh, and some money from his 401-K.  It didn’t add up to much.  The agent kept flipping through the pages saying, “Have you got a….”
“No.”
“Is there any….”
“No.”
“Surely you must have an emergency fund!”   Investment people are always very worried about emergency funds.
“Well, we did have, but I just spent it to buy Neal a truck.”  When I said this, Neal and I shot each other a surreptitious loving glance and steathily held hands under the edge of the desk, the purchase of said unsightly rust-bucket being something that pleased both of us very much.  It’s a 1991 F-350 crew cab with extended bed.  Like all good, well-loved trucks, you can see through part of the floor board, operating some of the controls requires pliers and it growls when you start it like a souped-up Harley.  I bought it for his birthday, and Neal loves his truck.
The financial agent was not impressed.  “Just let me check on something.  You do have a will, don’t you?”
“Ummmm….. yeah.”  Well, we had a will KIT that I bought four years ago with the intention of filling it out.  There’s just so much to do: kids to feed, diapers to change, trucks to buy, jobs to find, houses to sell…  Somehow the idea of a will doesn’t seem so important when you don’t have anything worth inheriting.  “Sort of,” I amended.  He sighed and gave me the business card of an attorney.
“How about life insurance?  What will become of your children if, beg your pardon sir, something happens to your primary income generator?”
I looked at the man doubtfully.  I had never considered my husband as a “primary income generator.”  I felt vaguely guilty, like I had forgotten to oil him or something.
The conversation went on, waxing frothy with words like “risk aversion” and “joint account beneficiaries” that make me feel bubble-headed.  It’s difficult to understand why we need listed beneficiaries to open a joint account that doesn’t actually contain any money, but only might possibly contain money if we so choose to create such accounts at some point in the future.  Plus, I have to admit, that I STILL, despite having it explained multiple times, STILL don’t understand what the heck a mutual fund is.
He wanted to know what our plans for the future were.  He asked for a copy of the family budget for 2007.  He wanted to see our taxes for the last two years and the interest rate on our mortgage.  He was talking very fast with something of a northern accent.  He kept trying to smile reassuringly at me and bobbing his head like he wanted me to nod or something.  I leaned forward looking at the charts and diagrams and trying to appear sensible, educated and frugal.  All I could think about was the glass dish of tiny candy bars in the lobby and wondering how many I could take on our way out without looking rude.
When we finally escaped out to the parking lot with our ears ringing, Neal slid his arm around me and gave me a squeeze.  “Why did you keep glaring at that poor man?” he asked me, “Were you upset about something he was saying?”
“Was I glaring?” I asked.
“Very much so.  I think you were making him nervous.”  He hauled open the truck door and handed me up.  A fine dusting of rust sifted down to the ashphalt when he slammed the door.  Thoughtfully, I unwrapped a miniature Mr. Goodbar and popped it in my mouth.  When Neal slid in the driver’s door, I answered, “I don’t know.  He was talking so fast.  He reminded me of a used car salesman.  I don’t trust people who talk that much.  I didn’t want  him to think he was pulling anything over on us.”
Neal turned the key and the engine roared to life, sounding very much like a diesel tank.  “He’s just a northerner,” he said.  He took a pair of pliers off the dash and popped the emergency brake.
There was a time after we moved to Spartanburg when I was eight that I proudly claimed my northern roots.  I constantly drew a distinguishing line between myself and my classmates.  I would never talk like that.  I would never act ignorant like that.  If I’ve told myself once, I’ve told myself half a hundred times: “I’m a northerner!  When did I EVER contribute to racial tensions? My family didn’t keep slaves- they were ignorant Scotch-Irish hillbillies starving to death on tiny farms in the hills of Ohio and West Virginia.  The whole mess has nothing to do with me… I’m NORTHERN.”   I told myself I missed snow, I hated heat, I longed for the mountains, I didn’t like the beach, I despised tea (sweet or not) and refused to eat grits or greens…
It was with sudden, dawning comprehension that I exclaimed, “Gosh, we’re rednecks!”
Neal eased the truck out of the parking space and turned for the highway.  “Born and bred, baby, born and bred!” he said with a grin.  “I’m an Alabama boy, you know.”  We rode home with the windows open and my hair blowing all around my face feeling very red-necky indeed in our great white unairconditioned whale of a truck.
Still, I don’t care if I am a sucessfully transplanted Southerner, I ain’t NEVER putting one of those crazy orange flags on the back of one of our cars.  Heritage, my fanny.  I am going to get Neal a Promise Keeper’s sticker, though.  One that says, “I love my wife!”
You can’t be too careful driving a Ford these days.

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3 responses

28 09 2007
carolyn mejia

Cars with personality, will kits, mutual fund confusion… and you thought we had nothing in common!!! I laughed and laughed and suddenly did not feel alone in my plight.

Write a book, PLEASE, Angela – I will read every word. I’ll set aside my aversion to books that require chapter 1, 2 and 3’s information for chapter 4 to make sense. I’ll start at the beginning and not skip to the end. I so look forward to it!

Love ya!

29 09 2007
Lisa

Oh, thanks for a good hearty chuckle on my Saturday morning! I had to beg Brian to start my coffee for me for I had to read to the end. I can so relate to thinking about the chocolate in the lobby! That’s the best. And you are indeed a good Southerner – you even make good sweet tea.

9 10 2007
Jeannie

Angel – So … how did the interview go? Sold the house with the $1,000 bathtub? Come on – inquiring minds want to know!

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