I was recently featured on the front page of my local paper. While I’m thrilled to get the recognition, I’m afraid I’m not as happy about how they chose to frame the article.
Nothing in there is factually incorrect, and I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt as to his intent, but certainly I’m finding that people are getting the wrong impression from it. The article makes it sound as if we were on the verge of foreclosure and in debt up to our eyeballs. The real story, as they often are, is considerably more nuanced.
I was a pre-IPO dot-com employee. We had a some very good years and earned enough money to buy a very nice home. Now, I’m not an idiot, I am well aware that stock option income is uncertain, and of course I was not going to rely on it. We budgeted for a 66% reduction in income. Think about the shape you’d be in if 66% of your income disappeared tomorrow; we would have been absolutely fine.
But as the stock market crash progressed, we eventually lost 75% of our income. We were still able to pay the bills, but had little left over for emergencies. Unfortunately, the past two years have been full of emergencies, including my son’s premature birth via emergency C-section, my wife’s emergency appendectomy, and seven or eight trips to the emergency room for various reasons between my two children. One of my wife’s relatives also ran into problems and had no one else to turn to, so she moved in with us for nearly a year and depended on us for care and financial support. It was a lot to deal with all at once.
So it is true that my wife and I were discussing how much longer we could continue to afford our mortgage payments at the rate things were going, and had reached the conclusion that we were going to have to sell our home unless I could manufacture a miracle. I certainly wasn’t excited about selling our house, especially in this market, but we would still have been fine. In this economy, almost everyone is having to tighten their belts, and if the worst that had happened to us was having to sell our luxury home and move into a more modest dwelling, I would have had little reason to complain.
So yes, my family was facing a lot of challenges and we were looking at downgrading our home in order to make ends meet. But people seem to be getting the impression that we were destitute, or in foreclosure, or something along those lines, and that simply is not the case. We were simply making sure that we were living within our means.