Emotions

My Brush with a Possible Serial Killer

This happened in 1982. I know this because it was our first vacation with my new dog, and she was still a puppy in the summer of 1981. I was 11. We were heading for a week long stay at a rustic cabin in Tennessee somewhere. Along I81 in the eastern part of Tennessee somewhat near Knoxville, we pulled into a rest stop. While everyone else went into the bathrooms, I took my dog not too far from the car but in the grass. I was attempting to give her water by squirting it from a baby bottle into the bowl of a spoon.

A man approached and knelt down. Instantly every cell in my body went tense and my dog growled at him, backing up away from him a bit as he stretched out his hand as if to pet her. I knew: this was not a nice man. He tried to be friendly. Tried to smile, act disarming. Told me: “What a cute doggie. I have a puppy in my van. Want to come see it? She’s real cute.”

Yes, he actually said that. I remembering thinking “he must think I’m really stupid.” He motioned across the way toward a van. I want to say it was white, but memory can be a funny thing. I definitely remember him pointing it out, looking at where he pointed to see it, then focusing back on him and before shaking my head no. I did not want to talk to him. I wanted him to go away.

Sweeter smile and a cant of the head. “She’s reeeeeeal cute. You’d like her. Come see.”

It was that this point that my Mom arrived. Remember, 1981. A very different world. Kidnappers and serial killers weren’t everywhere yet. A few weeks ago I asked her if she remembered this incident. She immediately recalled it and right off said “your dog really did not like that man.” He tried to pet the dog again while she was there and Mom warned him he would likely get bitten if he tried to push it.

You, of course, don’t know this dog. She was super friendly and outgoing, a bold terrier mix. This was the only person in the entire length of her life that she did not like on sight.

I don’t remember my Mom talking to the man, or what was said. Mom said he was working his way to excuse himself, but that he was cordial enough. She thought him odd, but was more alarmed by the dog’s dislike than any sense of her own dislike. I do remember that his entire demeanor changed the moment he caught sight of my Dad heading toward us. He immediately excused himself before Dad got there. Mom confirmed that part of my memory.

With the odd man gone, we put the incident out of our mind and went on with our vacation.

It pops back into my mind from time to time. I realized in my 20s that this man had a very practiced approach: he looked for a young girl, alone in a potentially chaotic situation like a busy rest stop; had a quick exit strategy onto the interstate where he could vanish pretty fast; and a line which today would be super cheesy and immediately raise warnings, but back then was just a friendly conversational question. In talking with Mom, she agreed. He was very confident, practiced, and  women (Mom) didn’t threaten him enough to scare him away from his potential prey (me) but men (my Dad) sent him scurrying immediately.

I told Mom that my suspicion is that this was a serial killer in some form. It never crossed our minds in the least to report this scenario to the local cops. I mean, really, why would we? But we saw him. Saw his vehicle – not that I could describe either now with any degree of certainty. I know without any doubt whatsoever he wanted to do vile things which even my vivid imagination refuses to consider.  I often wonder how many little girls did he succeed in stealing? What happened to them? Since he was practiced and smooth in his approach, how many before me did he lure willingly to his waiting van? And worse, how many after?

My Mom was horrified by this idea. She had never thought about it like that. I’ve done some looking and found no known activity in this area at that time, but most serial killers of this type have a range and maybe the pattern was too spread out – there are 6 states accessible right there (TN, VA, NC, GA, KY & WV). Perhaps he was never caught, never stopped. Or perhaps he was and my search just didn’t turn him up. My Google-foo isn’t the greatest.

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Money

Pay off the House early, or invest?

My husband is the type who thinks all debt is bad. I am in the opposite camp. I did a post outlining our car purchase dilemma – liquidate to pay cash, or take a loan.

Well, we’ve had the same argument about the house payment. I’m in the “pay the mortgage on schedule and invest any extra money” camp while he is very much in the “pay it off ASAP” camp. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like hypotheticals. Give me some numbers to evaluate and we can go from there. So let’s play a pure numbers game here using reasonable but fictitious information:

setup

So a $150k 30-year fixed rate loan at 3.5% with a scheduled payment of $673.57 would result in a total amount of interest paid over the life of that loan being $92,484.13. Oh yes, and for the evaluations below,  I’m assuming the average long-term return of 7% on the index stocks, since this is looking at a 30 year time window. Obviously, reality will not mirror my ideal-worth projections here.

Let’s imagine we are rather savvy and can sustainably come up with an additional $670 per month for the duration of this timeline. Would we be better off to take that money and put it toward the mortgage or invest it in a low-cost index fund? This does assume that as soon as the house is paid off, that mortgage payment of $673 would then be going into the index fund. While technically a mortgage payment also includes taxes and insurance, those are mine even after the loan so I’d have to still be paying that.

What is my timeline for the exercise? That will radically alter the picture. Because the loan is a 30 year, that’s the timeline I’ll use. So: pay every month exactly as scheduled for 30 years and invest every month the same amount, OR pay everything toward the house and once that’s done double down on the investment for a total of 360 months in both scenarios.

At this point, this is a numbers question – not an emotional one. That comes after the numbers are in.

Here’s what the columns in my results shall be: Total invested is how much money got put into investments over the time period. Estimated Returns Earned purely how much did the index stock rise in value. Profit after Mortgage Interest deducts the interest paid on the mortgage from the returns earned n the stocks. And lastly, Cumulative Invested Total on Dec 2042 is the projected investment account balance on the last day of the original loan payment.

So let me plug all of this into my handy heavily modified Excel sheet and see what we get:

results

Wow. So even though paying off the mortgage early gave me $60k more cash invested over that timeline, I ended up with $196K LESS in my retirement nest egg than if I’d paid on time. That’s a lot.

Yes, paying the loan off early saved me $60.7K in loan fees, but lost me considerably more. Is the emotional satisfaction of saying “I have zero debt” worth this?

What would be the result if I didn’t have double the payment? What if I could only reliably eek $300 out of my budget? (goes to sheet)

results-300

Still a loss of over $100k on the projected end balance, but closer.

Hrm. What about less – like say $100.

results-100

Wow. While paying on schedule comes out ahead in the end, what’s really striking is the amount of the interest earned on the investments that is lost to the interest paid for the loan. In this case, a small addition to the payment doesn’t really shorten the life of the loan all THAT much – just 73 months, or about 6 years. The investment engine takes time and unless paying the house is a priority where a great deal is thrown at it, it seems that the financial benefit of additional payments dwindle as the timelines extends.

 

Ok. So nice to know. What if we got better jobs, reduced other expenses plus started some side hustles so that we could up the amount available with the goal of paying off the house in full in just 3 years.  This is hardly unheard of! But we maintained this level for the rest of the timeline — which is a little harder to picture admittedly.

results-3600

Darn. Even here, the final outcome is a higher end total if that mortgage were just paid on time, even if it only took 3 years to pay it off.

Granted, that end figure has me thinking “who cares?!”.

 

Alright, let’s replay that last scenario but make it a bit more realistic. Let’s go back to the long term investment rate of $670 from the first scenario, but here we’ve still decided to pay off the house in 3 years. That means for just 3 years we’re busting tail to get that additional $3600 PER MONTH, and as soon as that mortgage is done we stop all that extra and return to the more reasonable rate that we can comfortably sustain long term. What does that do to our numbers?

results-realistic

There we go. So whether you bust butt until payoff and then relax, or have it set up that the overage which was applied to the house gets switched to then being applied to college tuition, then traveling, then remodeling, then a new car, or whatever, this is about the only scenario in which I was financially better off paying off the house ahead of schedule. And not by a little bit either.

Now it’s time to deal with the emotional questions. But I’ll leave that up to you.

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Emotions, Money

Is it better to take a loan or pay from savings?

There are many within the FI (financial independence) community who abhor debt in any form. “There’s no such thing as ‘good’ debt” is the mantra.

Is that really true? My husband is absolutely in that camp, but I think there is most definitely ‘good’ debt IF a few conditions are met. For me, here are the conditions:

  • 0% loan — these are everywhere, just automate the payments and NEVER miss one. EVER.
  • Already have the money — if something happens, I already have the money to pay this off if necessary. I’m choosing not to pay off the debt to take advantage of using the lender’s money rather than my own.

But, again, is it true that there’s no such thing as good debt? Am I better off financially by paying a 0% loan upfront or by keeping savings where it is and then pay the loan out of the future savings payments?

Here’s the test. In 2010, I bought a new car for $0 down and 0% for 5 years as part of Toyota’s desperate “our cars are safe!” campaign. Let’s say the car, with all taxes yada yada, came to a nice even $25,000.  Quandary: take that loan, or liquidate savings to purchase it free and clear?

Assumptions:

  1. Starting with $50,000 in an index fund as long-term savings (nice round figure)
  2. Earning a lower-than-average 6% stock market return per year – just to play it safe
  3. I’ll pay the annual $5,000 payment to investments to repay myself the purchase cost
  4. Calculated using a very simple, straight forward calculation to figure totals

 

MY Solution: Are you CRAZY? Take the freaking loan!!

1

Notice the Total remains high at the event of purchase – because I took the loan – and it increases every year by the average % gain. I’m not making additional payments though because that’s going to the finance company via automated transactions to guarantee it’s never late or missed. What a pretty ending balance at time of payoff!

Husband’s solution: I loathe debt. Pay for it now. NOW!

2

Notice the Total dropped at the time of Purchase to cover the entire cost of the car, with annual payments making back up the original sell-down total. While that ending balance is still pretty, it could definitely be prettier – $5.5k prettier in fact. Of course, this does not include the possible tax hit that selling $25k long-term stock may have garnered.

Compounding being the engine that it is, unless I’m paying myself MORE in the second scenario over the long term than in the first, I’ll never make up that difference. Indeed, the gap will continue to grow and the peace-of-mind that hubby got from paying for the car up front is actually costing me peace-of-mind knowing exactly how much that decision cost us.

 

Ultimately, it is a combination of numbers and emotions. Is the emotional value of knowing you have zero outstanding debt higher than the emotional value of knowing savings will grow faster? Or vice versa? It’s YOUR decision, but weigh the long-term pros/cons on the WHOLE  amount (not just the payment, that tells you nothing) as well as the emotional costs of your decision.

When a couple has different weights of measure on this score, I’d recommend picking the battles and compromising as much as possible. Be creative! In this case, we split the difference. I took the loan and paid on it for 2.5 years before selling stock to pay it off. He had to deal with the emotional weight of debt for 2.5 years and I had to deal with the emotional weight of loss to principal (though considerably less than the full price!). Neither was 100% happy, but neither felt resentful for the decisions either.

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Emotions, Money

Retail Therapy Musing

After doing my post on comfort eating, I started thinking about those folks who shop to make themselves feel better. You know – “Retail Therapy”. Given the insight I had on comfort eating, I wondered why buying things might make people feel better. A few options sprang to mind.

One is for people who have “gifts” as a love language. I give and keep sentimental gifts, but gifting in general doesn’t really make me feel loved or valued per se but I know plenty of people for which gifts is absolutely a statement of love. So maybe giving yourself a gift is the motivator? Gifting things to yourself to feel loved? It’s possible.

Another reason I could come up with was as a means of filling a hole. I think my mom is in this category. An addict of the Home Shopping Network and QVC, she buys EVERYTHING, and she needs none of it. She constantly complains about the clutter, and yet almost compulsively buys more clutter. My hypothesis is that she’s attempting to fill an emotional hole without actually having to confront that hole. Thus, it’s a means of distraction.

The final reason I came up with was as a means of feeling capable – a permission or recognition that I can have the things I want. I don’t really like shopping, but there is one activity I do like — internet or catalog browsing. I am on just about every junk mail list you can imagine, and there some truly entertaining catalogs out there! When I’m in the mood to indulge my inner child, to choose a site or a catalog which catches my fancy. I then pick sizes, colors, styles, whatever and fill up my cart or the order form. In the case of the order form, I even fill it all out and put it into the envelope before tossing it into the shredder. For an online cart, I close without saving. The point is not to spend money, but rather to have the satisfaction that I could get everyone on that list if I really wanted to. It’s like a head-fake, where I shop and thus feel full but then don’t actually follow through because the purpose isn’t actually about buying junk to fill up my house. All the satisfaction for me, none of the regret.

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Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Thinkin’ Big Thoughts

Listening to someone speak quite passionately about how certain people are a waste of time, and one of the reasons cited was “intellectual bankruptcy.” Got me to thinking: What makes someone a “big thinker”, one of the cognitive elite? What makes someone a “petty thinker”, one of intellectually bankrupt?

Is it someone who cogitates upon Deep Thoughts, searching for the meaning of life, the universe and everything? (42, btw) Is it topic specific? Like philosophers or physicists are automatically Big Thinkers, while fashion gurus and hair dressers  are automatically Petty Thinkers?

In my experience, it’s not about the topic of thoughts per se but rather the purpose of the thinker. Is the intention of the philosopher to destroy those around him/her in an effort to feel big/important/smart? Then said philosopher is a Petty Thinker. Does the fashion guru empower those around them to find their confidence  through owning their personal style and thus express their best selves? This then is a Grand Thinker. Is it the spiritualist exploring ideas that will help free people from their personal demons and become more balanced individuals? Another Grand Thinker. Is it the makeup artist who uses their craft to belittle and demean with a smile on their face? And here, another Petty Thinker.

If you take the examples I cited, my view boils down to whether or not the thoughts pondered will Empower and Disempower those who are exposed to them. Hurting, scared people metaphorically seek to stand on the corpses of those around them in an effort to feel bigger, stronger, more in control, less scared, important. In other words, they actively work to disempower others and their thoughts are weapons. Empowering is just the opposite – working to make those around them bigger, stronger, more capable, more confident. It takes a strong person to give others a hand up, to genuinely enjoy watching a fellow human stand on their own. To me, petty thinkers seek to make others smaller (hence ‘petty’) and grand thinkers seek to make others bigger (hence ‘grand’).

When you find yourself expounding on your ideas of how the world works and why, do those words empower or disempower those who may be listening?

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Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

I was at a Masonic conference when I heard one of the attendees tell this to someone. Of course, it was both funny and unexpected, so I burst out laughing with delight. What a wonderful saying! I therefore immediately stole it and now use it all the time.

See, I have learned that when my BRAIN thinks it wants something but the HEART is like “naaaah” that’s when SHOULD comes into the picture. It can be reverse too!

I SHOULD eat more veggies … but I don’t want to.
I SHOULD exercise more … but I’m not going to.
I SHOULD do this thing … meh.
I SHOULD not eat that cake … but I WANT IT!! GIVE ME THE DAMN CAKE!

Again, and again, I will espouse that we humans pay attention to both our brains and our emotions. Emotion without brain is a run-away car weaving all over the road and making a damn mess, if not being outright dangerous. Brain without emotion is either a dead car or a car inching along at best. So now when I find the word SHOULD popping up in my thoughts, I’ve trained myself to stop and consider the contradiction that this word inherently brings with it.

What attitude or ideal is my brain attempting to adopt? More importantly, WHY is it attempting to adopt this? Why is the brain saying “but … I should be more or less like this….” So far, I have found that it’s because of outside influences. Ex: I SHOULD wear makeup because some lady made a random comment that I found hurtful and want to ameliorate that hurt by conforming to external ideals. So again, ask 2 questions every time SHOULD comes into your thinking process:

(1) What attitude or ideal is my brain attempting to adopt?
(2) Why am I attempting to adopt this?

Ok. So that’s the head which has now been listened to. Now the heart gets its say. So I ask myself “why don’t I want to do this thing?” Then, again, listen to the answer. Ex: Because that exterior condition doesn’t align with my internal compass, and I refuse to betray my personal value system.

*blink*blink* Well. Ok then. See, listen to the heart and it gets to be this blunt with you. Aaah, good times. *snerk* So again, the next question to ask is:

(3) Why am I actually not interested in adopting this?

The final question is the “money shot” question. It takes strength to the get to the place where these shoulds do indeed get resolved, and it happens one should at a time.

(4) Now that I know my mind and heart, how am I going to release this should so that it stops coming back?

Once you’ve made emotions your allies by actively listening to and working with them, this “Shoulding all over yourself” will start to decrease dramatically. I’ve also found that once I started to align my brain with the interior values, that I became less interested in the shoulds overall. Almost as if I am becoming less confused about who I am and what I am about, what I am and am not willing to compromise on. On the other hand, there are plenty of times I’ve had the “should” conversation and realized, yeah, I really do need to adopt that change for my overall well-being. That’s when the conversation shifts to reframing the “should” into something the internal value system can embrace and run with.

I’m currently working with a friend who is chronically shoulding everywhere. OMG. Every. WHERE. Last time she did it, I stopped her and said “You know what my response will be to that statement?” *thinks* “I’m shoulding on myself again, aren’t I?” “Yes, dear, you are.” So yes. Use your WORDS. They will tell us all kinds of gloriously rich things if we just but pay attention.

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Random Musings, sexuality

Make it Fun

I had a post title that really just sums it up for me these days:

It’s more the idea than the reality that I like…

One of the many podcasts I like is Ending the Sexual Dark Age, though it’s been a while since I’ve listened to this one. One of his statements that had me darn near the kissing the radio in appreciation was his solid understanding of how women (or at least this woman) consider typically a variety of factors when it comes to having sex. He mentioned things like what was the schedule, how much attention would asked for, did she just do her hair or makeup, etc. OMG! I have been very impressed with this guy’s no-nonsense candor and urge everyone to listen to that show. Sure he delves very deeply into the kinky side, but that’s awesome. The more willing people are to even listen, the better off everyone will be. Definitely let’s take sexuality off the taboo table. Please.

Besides, I love his mantra: If one partner isn’t willing to go down (perform oral) on the other, that one’s a shitty lover.

Amen! Hallelujah!

Anyway, it was during this podcast that I realized, rather sadly, that these days I’m typically far more interested in the idea of sex than the reality of it. Why? Ultimately, it boils down to cost/benefit deficit. Having recently read Nagoski’s “Come As You Are” book, I now understand that I have sensitive breaks. I sure wish I’d learned THAT when I was younger – then again there are a great many things I wish I’d learned earlier. Dammit.

Mainly, I want sex to be dirty clean fun. Not goal oriented. Not perfunctory. Not following a script. No no. Flirt with me, dang it. ‘Cause I really want to flirt with you. *grin* No expectations. Just have fun with it. To play! I am absolutely, firmly in the Jack Harkness camp of sexuality – flirt like crazy because it’s fun, then have even more fun as long it mutually feels good. If an orgasm happens during that, bonus! If it’s not fun like that, nah. I’m good. Thanks.

 

 

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