Let’s face it, this has been a stressful year for most of us. We have been through a lot.
When you are in debt the stress is even greater – even if you managed to let money in during a global pandemic.
It can create a turning point, but the cost of stress is high. Emotionally, physically and financially.
Stress affects us all on a daily basis and sometimes costs people their lives. (Please read this post if you are thinking of suicide.) Too often people feel alone.
This year has apparently made people a little more honest when you ask how someone is doing. Especially when they feel close to you.
Even so, “I’m fine” can mean that I have just enough to eat. Or, “I had a good day today” can mean, “I didn’t cry today, I did a little work, and I slept. I slept!”
When you feel like it’s just you and your stress ball …
When you feel alone and it seems like everyone around you has it all together, this is what you know: Nobody has it all together.
NO ONE. No matter what it looks like from the outside.
Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s highlight role. Or how you imagine they do because you can’t really know what their life is like.
Let me give you an example of this last part.
A long time ago – back when I was in an abusive relationship – an employee noticed that I had cold sores on my lip. She commented on it and I said yes it happens when I’m stressed.
I will never forget your answer.
“What do YOU have to be stressed about ?!” she said angrily. “YOU have everything!”
I’m pretty sure I rushed out of the room and burst into tears. I never told her what my life really was like.
Because how do you say:
Well, I can barely make it through the days. I have to walk on eggshells at x the whole time. I can’t figure out what’s going to trigger it. He yells at me every day, calls me names, lies about things big and small, destroys my belongings, towers over me, blocks me when I try to leave the room, spends too much, threatens to give me access to my money lock up, blame me for debt, follow me around, go over my stuff and lie about it, bamboozled the counselor, and more.
You do not do that. Or if you do, most people won’t believe you.
And I’m not blaming them. Because it doesn’t match what they saw: a funny, charming, generous guy who always bragged about me.
Instead, it came out, “It’s not going so well at home” or “I’m under a lot of stress.”
In reality, it was so much worse. It’s been many, many, MANY years and I still panic if I end up in a room alone and someone blocks the door. Even if they never hurt me in a million years.
Your body remembers. And then your mind does.
I didn’t want to write about that at all.
But maybe it will help someone, so I’m leaving.
Because I’m here to say that there are good people out there. And that by making changes you can change your life. Even if you can’t see how now.
The answer is to take tiny steps in the right direction at a time and ask for help until you get it or manage to help yourself.
My turning point was realizing that I knew someone who had extra canned food to eat. I knew they would give it to me without question if I needed it. So I wouldn’t starve to death.
That thought was a tiny thing, but it was the first step in changing everything. Then I took another step.
One small step at a time.
What I wanted to write about
I wanted to write about how easy it is to be vulnerable when you are under a lot of stress. Lose money. Make debt. Be exploited.
And then to beat yourself up and be ashamed or ashamed of yourself.
To keep that in and feel worse.
But you don’t have to. It’s okay to tell someone. You don’t have to keep paying the price of stress. You can get some relief. Every little bit helps.
The price of stress
Here is the example I originally planned to show the cost of stress in dollars.
I have a rental property held by my IRA. I got the money for this by contributing to my 401k for years and then transferring that money to an IRA when I qualified and then buying the house.
It is a very small house with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. One part of the bathroom is important because now there are problems with the installation.
There is a home guarantee so the guarantee company sent out a plumber for a fee of $ 75. The plumber looked at it. It turns out that both the sewer pipe under the house and another important pipe were broken. As if in broken pieces.
So the tenants couldn’t use the plumbing at all.
However, the warranty did not cover the repair as one of the pipes was encased in concrete. They only cover access to the pipe.
The plumber quoted me with $ 12,000 to fix things. $ 12,000! Of that, the guarantee company would pay $ 1,000 for access. Oh, but first I had to pay $ 1,000 for a restoration company to remove hundreds of gallons of sewage from the crawl space. (Thankfully, that was all the restoration company had to do; there was no damage.)
So … did I get more than one plumbing repair quote? No.
I knew I should, but I didn’t. It was late in the day and I wanted to get it fixed for the tenant. (Also, to be fair, I didn’t know the $ 12,000 offer was for just replacing 5 feet of the sewer line. I thought it was for replacing the whole thing.)
I googled the cost of replacing the sewer pipe and thought to myself, this is exactly what a small house would cost that is very close to the city sewer.
I said to keep going. They repaired the pipes. But – spoiler alert – the problem has not been resolved.
There are still problems with the installation. And the tenants still can’t use the plumbing.
So the warranty company sent the plumber back, who then quoted me an additional $ 15,000 for lining the sewer pipe.
But at this point I was thinking a little. So I asked questions. Did you look into the pipe with a camera? How do you know it needs to be lined? The answer was unclear (basically because there’s a blockage somewhere and it’s old). I asked what would happen if we lined the pipe and that didn’t fix the problem. They laughed and mentioned tearing down the house.
They laughed as they casually mentioned tearing the house down. The house that is part of my hard earned retirement account money.
That was what it took for the wake up call. I’m still trying to find a plumber who can actually find and fix the problem.
You see, the thing is, the plumber seemed very nice and like he knew what he was doing up to that moment. But as I’ve learned from my abusive relationship, people can appear nice at times, or even be nice. Things are never all bad. It would be easier if it were black and white, but this is not life.
So the sanitary situation is stressful. And expensive! And I keep thinking: what if I hadn’t put anything aside for emergencies in my IRA? (Because you can only use IRA money on repairs to an IRA-owned house.) Or what if I lived here with only debt as an option? Or what if I were the tenant and couldn’t find another affordable rental even without my pets?
It’s bad, but it could be worse. (Please keep your fingers crossed that someone will find the problem soon AND fix it for a fair price.)
Why stress is expensive
The point of these stories is that stress costs you in many ways. It:
- makes it harder to even think, let alone think clearly
- Finding a solution to the problem is more important than finding a good solution
- increases the pressure you feel
- can damage relationships
- can harm your health (these stress hormones are no joke)
- increases the chances of you getting sick, etc.
It all costs you money.
Bad thinking = bad decision making. Poor decision-making + a sense of urgency = higher costs and regrets. Relationships can result in expensive divorces or costly business disputes. Poor health can cost you your life or, at best, lead to high costs for medication, surgery, therapy, etc.
What can you do to reduce the effects
Nobody gets through life without at least experiencing some stress. (And quite a lot of it sometimes. Hello, 2020 and beyond.) But there are things you can do to lessen the impact.
It starts with a plan. Building an emergency fund is always a good idea, but your plan depends on where you start.
Also, learn from your past mistakes. That really is the key!
For example, I might be bitter and angry about the plumbing situation and the success of my pension fund. Or I could choose to do things differently.
I can write about it in the hope that it will help someone else. I can think about why I did what I did and, more importantly, what I can do to keep it or something from happening again.
This is what the process looks like to me. What was the cause? There were many things:
- I went with the company I did because they were sent there by warranty. (At least I looked at the reviews, which surprisingly were mostly good.)
- I feel pressured to go with someone who will bill the IRA (because I can’t pay for it personally.)
- Not understanding exactly what work would be done
- No further offers received
- Failure to brainstorm other options (“I need to fix this!” See “Maybe the tenant can stay elsewhere temporarily”).
- It is “one more thing” to take care of everything
- I don’t have a plan in advance
- Worried about the tenant
And what can I do about it now?
- Have a list of companies serving the field that have good reviews
- Send the tenant to a hotel sooner if it happens again
- Get more than one offer
- Change ownership of the house to my IRA checkbook
- Increase the size of the house’s emergency fund
- Think about whether I need the house or want to sell it
- File a complaint
- Get photos of the exact problem you are facing
- Find out what exactly is being done to fix the problem, what the cost is, and what if repairs don’t work
- Remember to use the 24-hour rule for household repairs as well. (After turning off the water, etc. to prevent it from getting worse.)
- Suggest a tenant insurance policy to my tenant that covers loss of use and their belongings
- Look for similar issues that may arise in the future
- Take care of myself
Just writing these things down helps. I am sure that I will continue to make mistakes like everyone else in the future. But at least now I have a plan I want to carry out that is to prevent that plan from happening again. And I can do the same for other problems.
So what about you How did you deal with stressful situations? And what are you going to do in the future?