Financial Frustrations

"If something is too good to be true, it probably is."

I've always hated that cynical, suspicious saying, and yet I realize there's some truth to it, too. A powder or potion that can make you lose weight quickly and with no lifestyle changes? A job opportunity that doesn't require any education or experience and can be done in the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule? A Nigerian prince....well, you get the idea.

A couple years ago Ben was at a crossroads with his company. It had grown slowly, but surely over the course of 12ish years. They were about to outgrow their office and warehouse space. Ben was tired of wearing so many hats as a business owner.

He began talks with a business associate-turned-friend about a merger. A merger became a buyout and things started to move forward. Without getting into the particulars, Ben didn't receive a lump sum for the sale, instead a contract was written up that assured him employment for a period of time as well as monthly bonuses based on the performance of the company. It was a bit unconventional, but we believed in the company and those at the helm and so we signed on the dotted line.

The bonuses did come in that first year. We never knew how much to expect so that money couldn't really be counted on, but it did come and we were able to get into a more comfortable situation. Upon buying our little country home we'd lost a great deal of money (poor housing market) and had dipped into our retirement money. Those bonuses helped pay for some of the much-needed work that the house required and gave us a little room to breathe.

We started talking about adding a garage to the house and trying to find a little extra room. We discussed several options with our contractor, but nothing really made sense. Our basement is hopeless. It leaks during hard rains and would never be a truly finished space. Nothing seemed ideal.

Then Karen came up with the idea of putting a garage off to the side of the house and building the addition on top of that. Initially, we assumed the house portion would be small; maybe a master bed and bath with a little pantry/laundry room. After finally getting an architect involved he said it made more sense to just make the upstairs the same dimensions of the downstairs.

As all of this was progressing we had some surprises. The foundation needed serious repair which included tearing up our entire front patio. The siding was old and hadn't been hung correctly. It would need replacing. It was a domino effect; it didn't make sense to do A unless B could be done first. Well, now it doesn't make sense to do B unless we tackle C.

We'd planned to just get a home equity loan only to find out we didn't have enough equity to cover the cost of the construction. So we decided to get a personal line of credit to cover the extra. We hated the idea, but we knew that the bonuses we received over the course of the year would pay it down quickly. So we took a deep breath and jumped.

Then the bonuses stopped. The company was leasing a new building and it was a huge expense and yadda yadda. Understandable. We were nervous, but pressed on. It was there, accruing. Surely it would only be a few months. It'll come.

Our taxes were put off. There was a lot going on and the company accountant was swamped. Okay. No problem. We'll file an extension. We've only owed one year during our whole marriage. We'll likely get something back. It'll come.

The months blended into one another. The work was finally completed. We'd been very careful with all of the building allowances given to us by the contractor. We came in under in several categories and had ended up paying for some things out of pocket. We felt certain we'd actually get some money back. It'll come.

Then the contractor broke the news that he'd underestimated the costs by quite a bit. We were stunned. We felt torn. We didn't want him to foot all of the overage, but we were also strapped and felt there was definitely some responsibility on his part. He and Ben came to an agreement. He then told me one amount, which I paid him, only to find out later that it was more than what he and Ben had agreed on!

He acknowledged that he'd overcharged and said he'd return the money, but we'd have to be patient. To say we were unhappy is an understatement, but we agreed. He didn't think it'd be long. It'll come.

Taxes finally got filed and it turned out that we owed. Shoot.

We had this personal line of credit hanging over our head. Our ancient septic system launched into it's final stages. I was so disheartened, but we reminded ourselves that those bonuses had been accruing for almost a year at this point and when they finally showed up we could use that to pay down  - and maybe pay off - the PLoC.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened.

Instead, the company figured out that the accountant wasn't really capable of handling such a large account. All his figures that our monthly bonuses were calculated on were wrong. A year's worth of bonuses disappeared. Shoot.

Our septic sputtered and we held our breath. Oh, good news, the septic guy told us, you're eligible for a "cheap" system. Only $10k. Shoot.

The contractor couldn't seem to scrape up the money. One excuse then another. No money. Shoot.

When we finally got word, just 6 or so weeks ago, that the bonuses were, in fact, not coming, we were completely discouraged. In fact, there would be no bonuses ever again. Instead, Ben would receive stock in the company. Except, not yet, because they have some other things they are working on so it'll be a while before we really have anything solid. You know, NBD.


So, I did the only thing I could possibly do; cut expenses and pray.

We were frustrated, but we realized that we still have it pretty good. Ben has a good job with a decent salary. It's not like we're on the verge of the poor-house. It's not like we can't feed our kids or pay our bills. We were determined to take the debt seriously and pay it off as quickly as possible, but not to get over-emotional about it, either. We'd have to make some choices, is all.

I began praying. Pouring out my disappointment and frustration. Pouring out praise for all that we'd been given. Thanking God for the reminder that he and he alone is the one who provides for us. We put our noses to the grindstone to find ways to cut expenses and and things to sell.

My brother's out-of-state wedding was looming. We'd planned to attend, but now it didn't make financial sense. We agreed we wouldn't go. Then a friend posted about attending and I was upset. I told Ben I needed to be there. He graciously agreed. We'd make it work. We'd drive in, attend the wedding, drive out. Make it as cheap as possible.

My brother was surprised at this arrangement. I opened up to him about what was going on and he offered us some money to help cover gas and expenses. I hated accepting because I'm the older sibling and because, again, it wasn't like we were really in dire financial straits. But he persisted and we relented. We were blessed.

I poured out my frustration to my sister. She surprised me by sending me a beautiful scarf and a gift card. I was so humbled because she's a full-time student. We were blessed.

A dear friend paid for our dinner at the reception. We were blessed.

Our tax return showed a modest return. We were blessed.

Ben's company surprised us with a small bonus and a raise. We were blessed.

Every day I pray and I thank God for doing what he does best - making something out of nothing. Providing. Working behind the scenes. Blessing us beyond what we could ever deserve. Drawing us closer to him.

We sat down and made plans. If we are careful and diligent we should be able to repay this debt in 3 years, at the most. Maybe sooner, God willing.

I'm sure, over the course of the next three years, we'll have other setbacks that pop up. But I feel even more confident that God will supply our needs and we'll come out on the other side saying, "We were blessed."


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