Promise and Wisdom

I called The Woman late yesterday afternoon — my boss, if you prefer.

“Listen,” I said to her, “I’m finding myself booking appointments very close and possibly beyond March 15th. Should I be doing that given that’s my last official end date?”

“Go right ahead,” she replied. “I can’t give you any details on what or how long because I’m swamped right now since I may be on jury duty starting Wednesday, but there are things in the works and we’ll be getting a new contract out to you soon.”

So, that’s good. Of course, I have no idea whether we’re talking three, six, twelve months or anything, but I don’t have to think about turning in my stuff in just over two weeks. And likely, “never really knowing” is going to be the hallmark of my career at the day job since that’s how employers in financial services operate these days. But I can stop worrying about the immediate future.

Meanwhile, lately I’ve been meaning to call my mom as I regularly do, but I’ve been holding off until I knew more about the job and would have something new to report either way. My good news brought her to ask me what I’ve been thinking about my car — whether I’m going to replace or keep Junior.

Setting aside the fact that I’m an avowed momma’s boy, you have to understand that my mother is incredibly wise when it comes to money matters. That I managed to clear as much debt as I have in only one year is testimony to how much I’m a chip off the old block. That said, when she asked me about what I wanted to do with the car, I knew even before we started talking that her thoughts would be vastly different than my own.

She made some very good points which I’m now seriously pondering. First, there’s the fact that Junior has been a fantastic little car. Provided I get him independently checked over from top to bottom and he turns out to be in as good a shape as I think he is, why not just buy him out. Given my ability to clear debt, I could have him paid off by the end of this year or early next year and the most. And second, I have never been in a position to set money aside for a registered retirement plan or just ordinary savings. Therefore, although it’s too late for the 2006 income tax declaration, why not start as soon as possible to set aside some dough in an RRSP as well as open short-term investments that I could dip into when I need to. Where there’s no long-term certainty with the day job, it could become a cash cushion should the job end or a substantial cash down payment on my next car in three or four years.

Of course, if I were to follow my heart, I would go for that 2007 Malibu in May. However, I have to admit that her advice, though not nearly as much fun, resonates as good common sense. A part of me is tempted to argue that I’m already fucked — that I’m starting way too late to make a significant difference. But Mom was able to matter-of-factly counter that argument by pointing out how my parents were only able to start contributing in my father’s last seven productive years, and yet that, in combination with the usual modest government old-age pension, is how they — and now only her — have been able to live quite comfortably in retirement.

In other words, I have tangible proof very close to me that it’s never too late. And while my mom is not exactly “rolling in it,” as a family we needn’t worry a single minute about the state of her finances. So, although I can so picture myself in that new car, it’s starting to look more and more like I’ll be opting for the sensible option which, when you think about it, is a profoundly optimistic outlook: it assumes that I plan to stick around on this planet for a good while longer.

Why Am I Always Tired?

I’m finding it really strange that I often feel tired these days. Take right now, for instance. I’m debating going for a nap because I know I couldn’t wrap my mind around the work I have to do. But at the same time, I’m afraid that napping right now is going to throw off my internal clock for the next few days.

A year ago when I switched my internal clock from nights to days because of the new day job and for several months afterwards, I found it odd to want to crash by 11:00 p.m. and naturally wake up before 8:00 a.m., yet feel rested and very productive. Lately, however, I haven’t felt as vigourous. As I mused before, the day job is very draining on its own, so adding more work weeknights and weekends may have become the coup de grâce from which I can’t seem to recover. That, and the grip of the cold weather in the last four or five weeks is not helping, either.

Since late Wednesday afternoon, I haven’t been able to connect to the server at my day job. Luckily I had a back-up so I knew who I had committed myself for training. But even more fortunate is that for the first day in months, I have not a single appointment on Monday. That’s good because I have so much catching up to do — properly closing files, replying to the accumulated e-mail, and so on — but just thinking about what’s in store if I’m finally able to connect on Monday makes me feel even more tired.

Maybe the trick is that I have to stop thinking.

For the Love of Junior

It’s so hard to believe that in only a few months, I will be celebrating four years since I adopted Junior, my beloved little car. Yes, four years already, and he’s been a real joy. But now I have to decide if I want to keep him for a few more years, or turn in his keys so that someone else can fall for his charm.

My decision hinges on whether or not the day job will continue. If it doesn’t, then I’ll buy out his lease so that I don’t have to worry about monthly car payments for a few years. But if it does, I wouldn’t mind continuing having monthly payments on a new car. Either way I wouldn’t be devastated, in good part because I doubt Junior will start falling apart the minute I buy him out. But after shopping around and finding I could lease one of his bigger and newer relatives for roughly the same monthly payments, it wouldn’t take much to persuade me to go for the peace of mind that a brand-new car gives.

So, given that today was sunny and considerably milder than it’s been recently, I decided to visit the dealership. The car that interests me is the 2007 Chev Malibu with V6 and sunroof. However, the car I rented while in Toronto last fall was the next one up — an Impala — and I really didn’t enjoy it. So while the Malibu looked okay on the GM website and the price could be right, I definitely wanted to go for a test drive on the highway to see if it felt okay as well.

And it did.

I told the sales rep up front that I definitely wasn’t going to sign anything today, that I just wanted to try out the car and see if indeed I could come to the ballpark figure I had in mind if I were to trade in today. And even if I do get renewed at the day job, I would rather wait until late-April or early-May to trade so that I don’t expose the new car to road salt from Day One. Also, I haven’t yet looked into how much more insurance I would have to pay, although that’s not likely to be a deal breaker as much as a variable to consider in my budget, for as you’ve gathered about me by now, I’m quite prudent on that front.

To the sales rep’s credit, he spent two hours with me even though he knew I wouldn’t budge on not signing into a new lease today. I think that was really smart of him, for if I do decide to take the plunge, I will definitely do so with him. Mind you, it was hard to resist taking the plunge when he declared that a Malibu exactly like I want would be available immediately, but resist I did because they always say that: they always say they have exactly what you want even though they really don’t, and I simply wasn’t going to fall for that ploy. Not this time. They did exactly that with Junior in 2003 by leading me to believe he was already across Halifax Harbour when in fact he wasn’t even in Nova Scotia yet. So if I do go for it in a few weeks or months, I’ll be prepared to wait for exactly what I want — nothing more but nothing less.

Do You Consider Yourself Rich?

I hate to admit it, but because I spend almost all my time on the phone for my day job, I have come to the point where I often choose not to answer my own phone after hours. I figure they’re telemarketing calls for the most part, and if they’re from friends or family, they’ll leave a message and I’ll call back. Call it an occupational hazard.

But one time not too long ago, I did answer and it was a telemarketer or, to be fair, someone conducting a survey. I guess I was in a more charitable mood than usual that day and I went along with it, in part because I know how it feels to call someone who’s uncollaborative. Granted, my outgoing calls are to offer assistance and training that the client itself has requested and thus aren’t unsolicited calls, but I still feel the pain of those people who make their living calling other people.

The survey was about smoking and had all the hallmark questions that I despise in such surveys. I contend, for instance, that normal people simply don’t consume products and think themselves high class for consuming them. However, one question caught me off guard and I stubbled as to how to answer it. That question was, “Do you consider yourself rich?”

I think most people wouldn’t hesitate and answer “No” even if they make a very comfortable living. And besides, what is “rich”? The nominal sum a lot of us make per year these days would have seemed enormous some 15 or 20 years ago, but today it provides a normal living.

As I think back to the survey, I don’t recall what I answered. But the reason the question stumped me is the reason I’m remembering the survey just now. I still have no idea if the day job will continue after March 15. However, I do know that by that one-year anniversary, I will have brought a 27K debt down to about 2.5K. Yes, in one year! And it’s not like I socked away every spare penny to cover the debt. In fact, by my standards, I’ve lived pretty high in the last year, seldom thinking twice about eating out or getting that bottle of wine. But those things I did or got while otherwise maintaining the relatively spartan existence to which I’ve become accustomed for so long.

So for me, being effectively out of debt soon for the first time in my adult life gives me the opposite feeling of being poor. And if the day job continues for a while after March 15, I’ll be able to maintain that enviable status and start saving as I should have long ago if I had had something to save. But given that the norm is to be in debt up to one’s eyeballs, I wonder if being debt-free and being able to pay-as-you-go is what should be considered “rich” in 2007.

Only the Second Post of 2007

Wow! And I’m not exclaiming in response to the new Windows Vista. Rather, I realized this morning when I got up that I haven’t even thought about blogging for a full month. Once a week — either Saturday or Sunday morning — I catch up on reading the blogs on my list, but that’s about it for me and blogs these days. But this situation is not that I lost interest in blogs and blogging as much as it’s a case of my being overwhelmingly consumed by work.

In theory at least, the contract for my day job ends in about six weeks and, again in theory, the project to which I’ve been assigned ended this week. Yet I was still expected to produce by last Wednesday this mind-boggling corporate management document in which I’m to set my goals for 2007 in terms of the project to which I’ve been assigned, which technically ended the same day the document was due. I did as I was told, but it drove me mad to spend so much time producing a document that would become obsolete the minute I submitted it. The rationale I was given is that the document would “only” have to be adjusted should I be extended or reassigned.

Even though I said to myself when I started the day job that I wasn’t to think of it as being more than a one-year contract, I can’t deny that I’m starting to stress over the thought of my term coming to an end. And it doesn’t help that one of my colleagues, whose contract technically ended last Wednesday, was never told whether or not she was extended; she merely reported to work on Thursday to find that she hadn’t been cut off and thus was expected to carry on. Also, in the last month, I’ve been taking on work from another (although closely related) section and consequently have had one of my most productive months. While doing so has demonstrated that I’m willing and able to help out my colleagues, I’m fully aware that I’m pretty low in the seniority hierarchy and among the first slated to go if it’s found there’s not enough work.

Meanwhile, there’s my business. It has occupied all the rest of my time — evenings and weekends — except the few stretches of time when I was awake but too exhausted to contemplate doing anything other than mindlessly watching American Idol or an episode of Law & Order. I’ve had no social life and, worse, no great desire to have a social life. I also knew that’s how it would be when I signed up for the day job and opted to keep running the business on a part-time basis, and doing so has accomplished what I set out: getting out of debt. But now there’s that lingering “but”…

This week I came to the unequivocal conclusion that I’m “into” my day job, although not because of some great love for the corporation I serve. Rather, it’s because it suits my temperament: I get to work where I’m most comfortable (i.e., at home), and each client I contact gives me an opportunity to solve a puzzle. So while I might not go so far as saying that I love my day job, I would say that I like it very much. However, whenever I delve back into my business, I realize that’s where my true passion resides. And I think that’s because I’m at the helm there, albeit not as frequently these days as I might want to be. Solving those puzzles gives me an even greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

But you’re probably bored to tears reading about this (if you’ve even read this far), so I’ll just end this post here.