Thursday 3 June 2021

Buying Security

Today Benedict Ambrose went online and made a lump-sum overpayment on our mortgage. He waited until I was in the room so I could feel the buzz. I suspect the endorphins caused by overpaying the mortgage will increase as the interest projections decrease, and I will be as high as a kite the day we make our last payment. I hope there's a lot of B.A.'s homemade elder flower champagne around when that happens. I won't need it, but we can serve it at our party. 

Would it be in poor taste to have a mortgage freedom party? 

Increasingly young people have been asking me for marriage advice lately, and I keep mentioning being financially prepared for ILLNESS and DEATH. I'm not sure that's what the young people expect or want to hear. 

Before B.A. got sick, I concentrated on the just-being-a-decent-person stuff. For example, if you suddenly feel acutely pleased with your spouse and grateful this spouse is in your life, you should tell him or her at once---if Spouse is not at home, send Spouse an email or text message. You should tell other people, too, although not in a gushing way or in a way incongruous with the local culture. When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me, my brothers and sisters that my father was very clever, often just by exclaiming, "Oh, clever Daddy!" or variations on that. My father would extol us to thank my mother for the wonderful meal.  They're still together, seven hundred years later. 

While B.A. was sick, I concentrated on keeping him alive and me sane and employed. Fortunately, being a writer I could write about B.A. being sick when I couldn't make myself write anything else. This led to some very poignant articles about marriage that have made people, including me, cry. 

During B.A.'s illness, I learned a lot. One of the things I learned was that his death-in-service payment would actually be enough for me to bury him and buy me enough time to get the rest of my life together---if only he had joined the pension plan. Oops. 

So while B.A. was still lucid, I brought him the pension plan paperwork, explained it, and got him to sign. That wasn't really the hard part. The hard part had already happened: calling up the HR guy--in Britain, where we don't really talk about money, let alone death--to ask "How much?"  

I don't want anyone to ever feel the shame I did making that call at that time, and so now that B.A. has recovered, I bang on about the importance of being rooted in the realities of family finance. And the big daily question of family finance is "How much?" 

Yes, in the West we marry for love, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm not sure how marriage could work in the West any other way. But even so, love can survive and thrive only under certain conditions, and one of them is mutual tranquility about finances.  B.A. and I are mutually tranquil about paying off debt--and a mortgage is indeed a debt--as soon as possible. We have learned our student loan lessons.

In 1990, I remember young men in the pro-life movement saying "My wife should not HAVE to work," and I heartily approved of this opinion. It definitely makes sense if a young engaged couple is planning on having children, and if they are believing Catholics under 35, children they will almost certainly have. 

However, life is not as easy as all that. In fact, the very summer I first heard someone say that, the market crashed, ushering in a recession and Reality Bites. (This guy was okay, though, because he A. had a good job, B. bought a house and rented out its rooms to other bachelors until the mortgage was paid, C. married a good woman, had kids and as far as I can tell from social media, has lived happily ever after.) 

B.A. and I were lucky in that we had saved enough for a down payment on a two-bedroom flat in a not-horrible neighbourhood by the time we left the Historical House. I remember feeling sad, though, the first time I saw it because I was still in "entitlement" mode and, deep down, wanted to live in a magnificent Georgian flat in Edinburgh's New Town like everybody else while knowing that this was the best we  could do.  

Now, though, I am thrilled. Our mortgage lender, looking at our past record, may have thought it was dealing with a couple of financial ninnyhammers and would make gazillions in interest over the next 20 years. What it did not know was that I had made a deeply humiliating--and therefore life-changing--phone call to a (very kind, by the way) Human Resources man, and was therefore never, ever going to stop thinking about money for the rest of my puff. 

By the way, I have changed the title of this post from "Buying Freedom" to "Buying Safety" to "Buying Security." Never having to pay for housing (beyond taxes, insurance and repairs) again sounds like a giant step towards security to me. It sound better than travel, eating out, fancy clothes and a host of other things I really like. 

Meanwhile, the roof maintenance man has called to say he's free to come tomorrow, and I just cheerfully invited him over. We've got "roof money" in our savings account; we're good. 

Gardening Update: My French beans all withered. This is probably from being brought outdoors to "harden off" too soon, but this could also be down to some illness. Thus, I have thrown them in the garden waste bin and planted 5 new beans in the veggie trug.

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