How I Want to Overcome a Serious, Scary Situation by Acting Right

Sometimes, keeping positive is challenging.

You can tell yourself how better off you are compared to others, but taking that sort of superior / inferior comparison mindset is dangerous. You can review your positives and blessings, but then there’s the worry that things can be taken away from you.

I’m learning that reviews and reassurance get me so far: that what I really need is to act.

But not just take any action and take it now: Act right.

When is it not about money?

It’s half past three in the morning as I start writing this.

In all honesty, I’m scared.

As she came to bed a couple of hours ago – Vickie’s a night owl – she mentioned a Facebook update she saw on one of the latest results of the Federal Government’s budget: The seniors’ concession is being axed.

After that I couldn’t get back to sleep. (Vickie’s having some trouble, too, so I reckoned I’d best leave her to it.) I hit Google, and found a Sydney Morning Herald article I found after Googling “seniors supplement” says the following:

The pension concession and Commonwealth Seniors Health cards offer travel, electricity, phone and council rate discounts in an agreement with the states.

But buried in the budget documents the government reveals it will be “terminating” this agreement after July 1, saving $1.3 billion over four years.

In case you aren’t aware, my wife Vickie is a pensioner. She’ll be above the retirement age even if the government lifts it as they’ve proposed and even if our current transport situation improves there’s no way Vickie can go back to a nine-to-five job.

Since moving back up to Cairns, we’ve refinanced three times: to cover post-tenant repairs to our place, to clad the deteriorating outside of the house and to fund urgent surgery to remove Vickie’s cataracts. It’s seen an ever-increasing proportion of our income taken up by loan repayments.

The drops in interest rate have helped, but in the back of my mind has often lurked the thought:

“If rates go back up, we’re stuffed.” 

I just went through some of our statements, and if I’m reading them correctly, the discount we receive for electricity, council rates and car registration comes to around $20 per week (we don’t seem to get a phone discount, but I could be wrong there) and I haven’t looked at the discounts Vickie gets on things like pet registration yet.

$20 per week my not sound like much, but to put it in perspective, in our current budget, Vickie and I have a little over $15 a week in disposable income each.

I read somewhere once that an ideal budget consists of 50% must-pay living costs, 30% disposable “fun-stuff” income and 20% savings. Well, in our current budget, the cost-of-living chunk takes up 85% of our combined income.

Add in that every main expense – electricity, rates, etc. –  is likely to rise with the new financial year, and this change in pensioner support will hurt us. And it kicks in in less than two months’ time.

What can we do about it?

Well, I could panic and scream and grab onto any passerby and ask for help. Or I could sit and hope that I get a raise in the new financial year – which is a minor blessing, as Vickie’s pension will drop as a result.

Instead, I’m doing the following:

Incorporating the vege bed into my daily routine.

I’ve blogged about the vege bad in the past, but I’ve not often mentioned it, mostly as I tend to neglect it as much as I neglect blogging about it. The number of times we’ve got it good and healthy only to see it overgrown with weeds in a handful of weeks…

Anyway, I’ve already yanked up most of the weeds and with the rain of the past few days the soil is good and soft. We should be good to get some plants over the weekend (I budget a little every week toward gardening expenses), so with any luck we’ll be able to reduce the grocery budget soon.

Still, in order to ensure we don’t lose our investment, I need to make sure I’m out at that vege bed daily, even if it’s just to check it out.

Developing a sideline.

This is something else I’ve taken a few half-hearted stabs at over the past few years. While I’ve read and listened to various blogs and podcasts and made the odd visit to business groups around town, I’ve not often felt sure just how to go about starting a sideline business – or even been sure what product or service I should market.

I worry that if I pick the wrong type of business, I’ll be stuck doing it forever.

Lately, though, I’ve been taking my own advice by starting smallI’m focusing on freelance writing, and have used that lens while doing things like reviving my LinkedIn profile, revamping my portfolio and “Hire me!” pages and approaching my current web of contacts.

On that score, I think I’ve landed myself a gig writing an article a month for a significant career advice web site. It’s non-paying, sadly, but it’s a start, and with any luck having that public byline and a link back to my “Hire me!” page for freelance writing will land me some work sooner rather than later.

Working on my sanity.

I’ve mentioned in passing a few times that I’ve been meditating. I’ll confess to having let that habit slip – according to my Don’t Break the Chain habit calendar I’ve “been dropping the ball for 7 days straight”, and that’s because I did one day after a break of five weeks.

The problem is that big changes like this can take you to some dark and scary corners of your brain, the ones in which you feel as though the best hope you can give to those you love is the contents of your life insurance policy.

Sitting down and getting some more quiet time in every day (instead of trying to cram more noise and distraction in through my eyes and ears) would be just as big a help in, if not avoiding going to those places, then getting out of them as quickly as possible.

Then there’s talking about the problem, getting it out of my head, making it smaller than it seems. Writing this post has definitely helped, and I have another initiative in the works that I hope to be able to show you all soon.

Making a start

I’m glad I was already moving on this stuff when I got the news; I’d hate to imagine how I’d be feeling right now if I hadn’t. Those dark corners can get pretty tempting.

But that, I think, is the only real solution in the face of situations that seem desperate: Steady, unhurried, measured movement toward a better situation.

What are you doing?

How have any recent financial shifts affected you?

What are you doing to counter them? What does “acting right” look like to you

Featured Image: “Staring at Fear” by Barry Kuts. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license.

  • Jess

    Hi Rob
    I really relate to yomeanur post… in fact, I’ve been meaning to post myself but haven’t found the time. We’re also a couple who are stretched thin financially (85% sounds about right now, after selling our house due to financial pressures). We’re younger (late 20s / early 30s) but the stress, fear and worry are similar! I watch the budget news and worry that we’ll never be able to afford to have kids. I too have let my quiet practice (yoga) slip away… I must dig out that mat!
    For us, “acting right” meant selling our house, paying off debts, me giving (a lot of) notice for my job and volunteering in a writing role, and planning a move to Cairns. I’m also avoiding the news when I’m too anxious and trying to get enough rest. I wish I had something more meaningful / some advice to share!
    Wishing you and Vickie all the very best in these troubled times!

    • Hello, Jess! Thank you very much for taking the time to reply! Don’t worry, that was plenty meaningful enough. A wise man once wrote, “If you have a hurt and I have a hurt and we share it, some crazy-how-or-other we wind up with half a hurt apiece.” Saying “Me, too!” can be plenty on its own!

      I’m sorry to read that you’re having to face these worries earlier, but then again I don’t feel much older than a teenager myself – there’s another aphorism that inside every “mature age” person there’s a twentysomething wondering what the hell happened!

      Where do we find your web log, by the way?

      All the best to you and your love too, Jess, and let us know when you hit Cairns!