Nowadays I live a comfortable lifestyle with few money woes, but this was not always the case. In years past when I was working part-time and/or getting my business started, money was tight; the bulk of my earnings went towards rent, with the rest going to business expenses, taxes, my car, and health insurance. Given that I was determined to travel abroad and see the world as well, that meant there was very little, if any, left over. I never considered myself to be in bad circumstances, but I did have to be really careful and follow a strict budget.
There’s been a kerflapple on the internet about potential tax increases for those who have incomes over $250k, with both sides of the debate represented. John Scalzi discusses this disconnect of someone having a high income yet still not feeling rich in his usual eloquent way. I agree with him completely that while more financial resources do require a certain amount of money management skill, this is a high-class problem.
I hope the following changes I have noticed in my day-to-day life will illustrate the privilege that comes with being financially secure. Having come from a past in which none of these items were true, I appreciate one or another of them on a daily basis. (Also check out Scalzi’s essay on Being Poor, which is much more comprehensive and gives me a pang every time I read it.)
1. It’s highly likely that I’ll have to get my first crown in the next six months. Instead of worrying about how I’m going to afford it, I only have to worry about the pain factor. Not only that, I actually have dental insurance that will pay for part of it.
2. I have secure and high-quality health insurance. When I get sick, I no longer have to worry about whether I can afford the doctor bills or medicine (not to mention worrying about time taken off from work since I never had paid sick leave).
3. When I have a physical problem that can’t be fixed with Western medicine, I have the wherewithal to afford other options. Ditto if I get seriously ill and need experimental treatments, etc. I have found that increased financial resources have generally translated into greater choice and more options.
4. Housecleaning has never been easy for me with my RSI issues, but now that I also have knee and ankle issues, it’s nearly impossible. Before, my house would have gone dirty. Now, I can afford to hire someone to clean for me.
5. I can have a pet. Part of this is because I can afford to own a house, and part of this is that I have the margin necessary to be confident I can pay for any vet bills and other expenses that might arise.
6. I can give to charity. I rarely gave to charity when I was running my life on such a tight and uncertain margin (the joys of being self-employed). But now I am able to research and give to high-impact local and national charities and know that I am helping people.
7. I don’t have to hide my embarrassment when people assume I have the money to spend on xyz (where xyz often equals social activities like eating dinner out or going to the movies).
8. I once had my car broken into and the window smashed. The thieves took nothing of value, but the cost of simply replacing the window was enough to worry me for weeks. Nowadays, I’m covered for small and medium disasters without having to give up other necessary purchases.
9. I can buy books more than twice a year, and I can go to the theater.
10. I have greater peace of mind. This is the most important difference of all.