Adventures in Autonomy

I’ve always had a personal obsession for security:  In my relationships, my financial life & my day-to-day life.  I’d also felt (for the most part) fairly confident my life was “under control”.  I had a home, career & money in the bank; isn’t that the American dream?

It was–until I got sick, had eight hospital admission and spent three months off work.  For a time, I used credit cards to stay afloat.  My medication co-pays were $1,000 a month so it didn’t take long to max out my resources.  About 18 months later I filed bankruptcy.  Luckily, I was able to keep my home because I had made it a priority to keep the mortgage paid and my old, raggedy car was paid for.  Each person has to decide how he/she feels about the ethical aspect of bankruptcy, but for me–I felt a thousand pounds lighter and had hope for the first time in over a year.

I was able to learn many, MANY things during those two years.  The greatest lesson was seeing the holes in my previous plan.  Here are some of the most glaring ones:

*I had almost no savings.

When I scraped together all of my resources, I had about $750 cash on-hand.  NOT cool.  I’ve since become a fan of Dave Ramsey and his no-nonsense approach to finances and life.  Scrape together an emergency fund of $1,000–no matter what you’ve gotta do.  Cancel the cable, get rid of the house phone, pick up cans/bottles, roll change, get rid of add-ons/extras, downgrade vehicles.  Sell something; quit smoking (yes, I know it sucks).  Get an emergency fund going–you can’t afford NOT TO.

*I had too many credit cards.

Cut them up. Get rid of them.  Pay them off.  Keep one for emergencies, if you must.  ONLY use it for emergencies….

*I was VERY uninformed about the short & long-term benefits available through my employer.

Talk to human resources & find out what’s available and know when it kicks in.  If you miss out on benefits because you don’t know they exist, they are not obligated to pay retro-actively.

*I carried too much frivolous debt & bought lots of shit I didn’t love, want or need.

I’m not gonna preach about this one. Just make sure a purchase will serve a real, valued purpose in your life before you sink resources into it.  90% of what I have is used & I’m very pleased with my home.

*I was lacking in the education necessary to advance outside of my present career role.

In some cases grants are available, employers will help with costs, or vocational rehab. will subsidize continuing education.  If not, consider student loans.  For me, it’s an investment–not a debt.  Had I not sought on-going education, I would be unable to work.  For me it was a no-brainer.

Since having these revelations & recovering enough to work part-time, I’ve set about managing all of them I can.  Finally, I feel like I’m a LITTLE more in control of my destiny again….  Just a little though.

Health challenges, like other unexpected life events, won’t be as overwhelming if you’ve got a little pre-planning under your belt.  I credit my sudden reversal in health with teaching me to create my future. It can be done-trust me…


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. phylorsblog
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 22:24:18

    Glad to hear that you made your way out of your bad financial situation. That’s very practicial advice. We’ve only ever had one credit card each (and I don’t have an American one — only hubby does), so we see the money come out right away. It can be scary, but it keeps you more on budget, I think.
    We live basically hand to mouth, and would love to have savings to fall back on. What we did have got used up when I was let go from a job (with out provocation or notice — office politics, not my performance), couldn’t find another, was getting sicker and we needed to keep some sort of health care. Hubby managed to find various temp jobs, but our health insurance (luckily we have it) costs more than our rent, and we still have co-pays (which is why I go to the drug manufacturer websites for co-pay discount coupons/cards and get samples from my pcp.) Due to allergies/intolerances, most of the natural remedies are not options, and since hubby’s job will run out soon, I have to get well enough to work again (and find work — not finding a job the last job hunt sent me spiraling downward physically and mentally.
    I think your suggestions are great and very practical.


    • Autoimmune Maven
      Dec 03, 2011 @ 06:11:20

      Hi Phylor–thanks for reading!! I totally feel where you’re coming from. Be open to whatever odd (meaning weird or atypical) situation arises; think outside your box & trust karma. Don’t be afraid you won’t find a job–trust that you will. XOXO!


  2. mo
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 14:52:26

    Sheila, Great post. I think so many people end up in bad situations like yours, especially when sickness hits. It can be easy to get in trouble with finances and you fought and got yourself out of it. I have done the same with credit cards, because it is so easy to just say “charge it”. Thanks for sharing your story.


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