Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Bag Lady and the Little Banker

The thought of being a bag lady terrifies me. It doesn't matter that, according to my friends, there's no way I could be such a thing. I've got financial resources, and eight grown children and stepchildren, and social and family contacts. Still, it comes up from time to time in my life, and never in a good way. It's always a frightening experience.

Next January, Art and I are trading houses with an American couple now living in Ecuador. We'll be in their house for three weeks. As part of that journey, we're considering a side trip to the Galapagos Islands. But the islands are not cheap. Excluding airfare, ten days would cost about the same as our 17-day trip to Italy last fall. When I think about the cost, my bag lady fear twists in my gut.

I know the bag lady fear is not rational and I would like to get over it. So I talked yesterday with a woman who works as a money counselor and calls herself an "untangler". I told her about my mother - who was orphaned by the age of 18, married a military man because "I knew the military would take care of me", and held money out to me and my sister with strings strongly attached. Gifts of money from her were tied to whether we had been "good", and the definition was hazy. Mostly, I think, it was related to how she felt about us at money-giving time.

The counselor suggested that I picked up the idea of a relationship between money and being good when I was a small child - maybe five years old or so. Yesterday, during the phone call, I named that part of me the Little Banker, because she knew she had to watch out for money so she would be a good girl and she would be safe. Therapy stuff. But it made a kind of sense, because I know the bag lady is an ancient fear of mine. Maybe she comes from the idea that if I'm not good, I won't have any money and I'll end up as a bag lady.

The counselor helped me tell the Little Banker that she had done a very good job, but that I would take over the money now, because I'm a grownup and I know how to do that. She could go read or dig clams or whatever else she loves to do.

Anyway, I felt pretty good after that phone call, and I decided to make plans for us to go to the Galapagos next January when we're in Ecuador.

There's a second part to where I'm going with this story. Art and I have an ownership interest in a massage clinic a few miles down the road. Our two business partners Lillian and Sophia own a second clinic close to where we live. Lillian runs both clinics and Sophia works two days a week in the one close by. Last night I stopped by the close-by clinic and Sophia was working. I asked her how she liked working there. She said it gives her a much better idea about how the business runs than just looking at the financial statements, and she recommended I do the same thing. So I talked to Lillian and she said it would be fine if I work at the clinic down the road a couple of days a week, starting in August when I get back from the last of this string of trips. I could easily work weekends, when most people would rather be home.

As I was driving home I realized the extra money I'll bring in will be a good way to pay for our Galapagos trip. The Little Banker doesn't have to worry any more. And the Bag Lady doesn't have anything to say about it.

Just taking care of business, you know.

14 comments:

Retired English Teacher said...

I can relate to this Linda. I worry about not having enough money also. I was a single mom for so long that I constantly worry about not being able to take care of myself.

I think that working will be good for you. If it doesn't really work, you can quit. That is the great part about working after retirement.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Ecuador and the Galapagos! How wonderful! Living with no regrets. The Universe is answering your every call. How cool is that.

#1Nana said...

I relate to this one also. Retirement remains a mystery to me. I'm still in saving mode...at what point do I not save? And I plan trips after a windfall so I only spend "extra" money, although we live well below our income. I think the fears are reinforced with the constant media reports of reductions in social security or medicaid or pensions. One bad illness and all your savings are gone...even when you have insurance. Gee, I'm about ready to talk myself into going back to work!

DJan said...

I went to the Galapagos in 2004 and loved it, although you are right, it's quite expensive, and the fragile ecosystem continues to be in danger. But I did all that when I was working; now that I'm living on a fixed income, it's not an easy thing to take money out of savings that I can't replace.

You are doing all the right things, and I'll be curious about how you feel once you start going back to work, even if just part time....

marciamayo said...

I have the bag lady fear too! I guess I need to talk to the little banker.

Lynilu said...

I understand the worry. I don't know your age, but I presume you are somewhat in my age range. I was the youngest of five children whose parents held it together through the depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II, and we all inherited their tendency to worry about tomorrow. Even though I was born after all those events, their concerns came down to me. Then when you toss in the economic concerns of our society these days, I think it would be hard for many of us to not have bag lady nightmares!

Now, fergid aboud it! Practice enjoying as you prepare for that fabulous trip! I'm envious!

Olga said...

I am so envious of that trip that I feel the need to talk to my little banker and stay at home. Unfortunately, he lives in my husband and is not so easy to reach. Hmm, now maybe I should be talking to little Miss Dependent and making my own travel plans. Wow, I didn't expect to go there when I started this comment. Thanks!

Arkansas Patti said...

Well that explains your blog title. I am so glad you have found a way to make the Galapagos and not get your bag lady excited. What a rocking chair memory that would be. I selfishly want you to go so you can take pictures for the rest of us that will never make it.

Out on the prairie said...

A very nice idea, I hate taking it out of the bank once it is in.I just read a story about the area, I have wanted to go since I was a kid.

Grandmother said...

Good for you for tackling this issue head on. "I'm grateful I live in abundance." was my mantra long before it was true.

Linda Reeder said...

I worried a lot about money for much of my life. It was only after our kids were out of college, and I was again working full time at a full salary that we had extra money. We paid off debt and saved before retiring. And now, while we are not wealthy by any means, we are comfortable and secure ( I think?). But that nagging little doubt/worry is always there.

Georgia said...

Life is more than money. Do what makes you happy. Easy for me to say, harder to believe.

Deb Shucka said...

I'm so glad you're going to the Galapagos! This is such a great story and one I can relate to all too well. You've given me something to ponder in a new way. Thank you.

tixrus said...

Galapagos is awesome but a bit too restricted and regulated for my taste. Still awesome.

My parents saved and scrimped and saved and scrimped and would never let themselves enjoy any of it, then their health went south, mom died and dad is paraplegic and most of it is going to his long term care.

I am gonna spend mine now, and by the time I get ancient and penniless I hope they will just toss me out in the cold where I can freeze to death quickly instead of a slow cozy and expensive death march.

PS. Pls allow Name/URL commenting, it's a bitch for those of us who have self hosted blogs.