First, a little background music to set the tone: right click here
and click on open in a new tab or window. The song should start playing automatically. Perfect song: Vive Ya [So Live, Already!]
"Don't minimize the importance of luck in determining life's course." – Alex Trebec
Man, you can say that again. All the best things have happened to me while I was out looking for something else.
My life plan was to marry Sean Penn, ultimate bad boy, and be a rich, famous Broadway star living between London and Malibu. I managed to screw that up by marrying a regular guy, a businessman. With a job yet. None of my other boyfriends had jobs; how did this happen? Big bonus: he also happens to be a libertarian wacko. I mean, how lucky can you get?
Then we find out we can't birth babies. ("Hallelujah," I say. Pretty lucky I feel that way, huh?) So then the universe drops Morgan and Ryan into our laps, pretty much out of the blue (thanks to Sherry, my adoption fairy godmother). You just can't get luckier than that.
"Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered." – William Shakespeare
But wait, there's more: luck sends four hurricanes in four months, stops my income, then gives us the bright idea to move to Costa Rica practically at the same moment. Then we do. Sometimes I look back and wonder how we made it through that first year. Geez, were we rubes or what? Luck had to play a part, there's just no other explanation for how we survived.
I'm here to testify that losing one's income does NOT make one feel lucky. Not at all. In fact, quite the opposite. It was Terrifying & Depressing. Especially at 50, especially with no pension or Roth or anything like that, especially looking forward to this economy (because it was clearly going to get worse before it got better) and especially when, everywhere you look, people are losing jobs and/or a good portion of their income. No, not lucky at all.
And, for most of those people, losing their mortgaged-to-the-hilt homes, too. I'm sorry, I can't drum up any sympathy for that consequence. First of all, most of my friends in the keys have been living in their foreclosure properties rent-free since we moved to Costa Rica. That's rent free for almost four years. Man, that's a lotta lemonade outta yer lemons.
Despite being overwhelmed with T&D, one could still grasp the beauty of the situation. Living rent free for four years, the benefits have to dawn on you at some point, unless you are already suicidal. So what, your credit's in the toilet? Who needs credit? What, you're going to go out house-hunting anytime soon with no job and a car payment you can barely afford thanks to Cash For Clunkers? I don't think so.
"Depend on the rabbit's foot, if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit." – R.E. Shay
Losing that overpriced mortgage is a blessing. That pile of bricks is a house, not a home and it's never going to be worth enough to justify paying that mortgage for another minute. So, ok, when your bank finally forecloses, you'll have to move. Moving never killed anyone. Move in with mom. Ok, yeah, that might kill you. So move in with your bankrupt neighbor who is still living rent free because his bank hasn't foreclosed yet.
One friend went ahead and moved because she got sick of waiting for the bank notice to appear on her door. She rented the house to a guy, so she's got income from a house she basically no longer owns. That's like gourmet lemonade.
I guess there are people who can't make lemonade outta their lemons: acceptance is not in their tool bag. Not yet, anyway. They will, of course. U.S. citizens all have boot straps and we know how to use them. It's that initial realization period that is so shocking. I know families like ours that lived comfortably, not richly, but comfortably. Unexpectedly (because, you know, it always happens to the other guy), they lose something big (a job, a pension, insurance) and suddenly life is uncertain. Questions like, "what is going to happen next, where are we going to live" come to mind. Not only does day to day life change dramatically, many of their expectations, things they worked for, planned for, simply disappear. Poof. People who lost pensions and nest eggs… to me, that would be the hardest thing to accept. Lucky us, we never had one to lose.
Financially speaking, the luckiest thing of all is that we accidentally had a year of adventure to distract us from the reality of our situation. During that year, whenever we thought of going back, we slowly became aware that the life we left behind didn't exist for us anymore. The work (real estate) was not coming back. We could no longer afford the house we left. Sushi dinners were out of the question. Clearly, we couldn't go back. Live in Key West without sushi? Not possible.
Our T&D at losing the old life was substantially mitigated during our first year of living abroad. We were too busy looking up words from street signs and trying to understand tico directions (Va alla = go that way with a sweeping wave of the arm) to be depressed for long. Today, our T&D is more like MA&W: Mild Anxiety & Wistfulness. By now, we know we'll think of something.
Here's my ace in the hole: if things get really bad, we'll sign up to teach English in China or Korea for a year. Escape, get paid, get a free place to live. Good idea, huh? I'm only sharing it because, at this moment, it doesn't look like we'll sign up for that adventure and I don't feel right hogging all the good ideas. I highly recommend the Living Abroad tactic to mitigate T&D brought on by extremely bad news. It works like a charm.
"The harder I work, the luckier I get." – Anonymous
The other thing is to start living like you've already lost it all. We figured this out in the nick of time. Stop spending. Stop eating out every meal. Work out a trade for sushi. Watch the cooking channel. Learn to sew and fix stuff instead of throwing it away. Grow a garden. If you haven't bought that clunker for cash, don't. Save every penny. There's the hard work part of staying lucky.
Oh, and buena suerte! [BWAIN-ah SWEAR-tay = good luck.]