Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Relationship 101: Doing a 360

I'm always talking about relationships and what it takes to make them work or not work. I've chronicled some of my personal ongoing trials and tribulations, as well as, asked many of you for your thoughts. In these crazy eco times, GLBTQ couples are dealing with a myraid of issues especially those may involve MONEY. The issue finances often causes a great deal of strain and disolving of realtionships. As a frequent reader of QueerCents, an online resource GLBTQ blog, I discoverd this item posted by Alex who lays it all out there for your understanding. I found it inspirational and hopefully you will also. If you got relationship items, stories, dilemma or implosions feel free to share them with us.

My Financial Implosion: Better Support by Alex

“Here is the basic rule for winning success. Let’s mark it in the mind and remember it. The rule is: Success depends on the support of other people. The only hurdle between you and what you want to be in is the support of other people.” – David Joseph Schwartz

Although it would make for a much happier story if I could say my life suddenly and dramatically improved for the better after my partner moved in, the truth wasn’t nearly as nice. When she moved in, we were very optimistic about finances. We figured that with our low overhead living in the trailer and two professional incomes, we’d be quickly out of debt and on our way to financial bliss.
It didn’t work out that way. Just three months after my sweetie moved in, I lost my job. Had it not been for her employment and support, I may well have starved. I didn’t have much in the way of savings, nor could I count on help from my parents.
I spent the entire summer looking for a new position. Since my partner was employed, I was able to be a bit pickier in selecting my next job. I turned down one offer because the interviewer was verbally abusive, and offered me nearly $10,000 less than my previous position. I turned down another because everyone seemed just a little too happy, to the point of being creepy. Three months after being laid off, I felt like I couldn’t wait any longer, and took a 32-hour/week position that paid 10% less than my previous job.
Even though I ended up working far more than 32 hours per week, it was fortunate I accepted the position. Shortly after I was hired, my partner lost her new job.
In both cases, our layoffs seemed a little suspicious. Things got weird at my job after I came out, and things at my wife’s job got weird after her company hired a new Chief Operating Officer who was fresh out of the military and ex-special forces. We thought about filing discrimination complaints, but decided that long, drawn-out legal battles wouldn’t solve our immediate financial need. We both needed to have jobs that offered health insurance coverage.
We managed to squeak by during the six months when only one of us was working. It seemed like it should have been easy, since our living expenses were so low. It turned out to be quite difficult, because we didn’t want to let our health insurance lapse. As unmarried partners in a time where domestic partner benefits weren’t widely available, we had to pay enormous COBRA premiums to keep our coverage.
Finally, my partner found a position at the company where I was working. For a while, it was ideal. We were able to commute together, and later we were able to work at home together. We both had a decent salary, health insurance, and vacation. We started to make real progress on our debts, but of course it didn’t last. Shortly after the company’s December holiday party, nearly everyone was laid off.
We were included in the layoffs, but since we were working from home, nobody bothered to notify us of the dismissal until nearly a week later. After considerable embarrassment, and realizing that our projects weren’t quite finished, our manager extended our employment for a few more weeks. We quickly made last-minute doctor and dentist appointments, and found ourselves unemployed the first week of January, 2001. It was the second time, within an 18-month period, we’d found ourselves unemployed.
Although we expected to be out of work for quite some time, we were hit by a sudden stroke of luck. One of our employer’s former clients contacted us and asked if we’d continue working on one of his projects. Our ex-employer gave us the ok, since they no longer had any interest in this particular line of business, so we suddenly found ourselves navigating the waters of self-employment. I was rather reluctant to start another business, having my last one fail so terribly, but since we didn’t any better options, I agreed.
Self-employment definitely wasn’t easy. We were trying to operate a business in a 22-foot travel trailer where we had to eat, sleep and work. There wasn’t much in the way of space, and we had to move laptops and computer equipment on and off the dinette table every time we wanted to work or eat. It was stressful, especially since our new client managed, due to a banking problem, to bounce his first check to us. Fortunately, we didn’t bounce any checks as a result, as I refused to spend any money until I knew the check had cleared.
Lessons learned:
1. During periods of financial instability, it takes a lot of dedication and communication to keep the relationship going. When money is tight, it’s easy to blame your partner (or for your partner to blame you) for the financial squeeze. It’s important to support one another, and to communicate clearly about money and the emotional toll it takes.
2. Emergency funds are indispensable. Every financial planner will repeat this bit of wisdom over and over. Once again, had we had more of an emergency fund, the transitions from employment, to unemployment, to employment and ultimately to self-employment would have been easier.
3. Don’t spend money unless the check has cleared. It’s very tempting, especially during times of economic crisis, to spend money before you know your deposits have cleared. In our case, our client bounced a $28,000 check, and it would have been disastrous if we’d spent the money right away.
4. Make health insurance a priority. Less than six months after becoming self-employed, my partner needed emergency surgery. Had we not kept our COBRA insurance, we would have incurred nearly $30,000 in uninsured medical expenses.

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