Sitting across from my financial planner I finally got it. (First let me allow that sentence to soak in. I am not in any way someone who would normally have a financial planner. I have nothing to plan with. He is, however a very nice fellow I met at a networking group five or so years ago and so I consulted him to help me understand finances in general. I’m a creative, remember, money just sort of happens. Or doesn’t.)
Anyway. As I was explaining that credit cards are such a gift to me because they allow me to travel he got a look of concern bordering on alarm, and he was trying to subdue it. It was an awkward face, but it settled into something stone-like and he allowed me to continue and he clutched the arms of his chair.
I always pay them off – or close – mostly so they’ll just be ready for the next big adventure. I believe this is probably not the best wealth building tactic, so some guidance would be helpful. As long as I can still travel. There. I’m done now.
“Well,” he started, “let’s look at some of your assets.” I did not laugh, but a “ha” escaped before I could call it back.
I produced a sheet of paper with four quadrants: Regular monthly bills (power, water, etc.); Credit, including a student loan that refuses to go away; assets (a savings account that won’t even cover my car payment and a retirement account I pillaged years ago and never replenished); and income, such as it is.
“Ok.” I thought more was coming, but no, so I jumped in.
I own my own business, as you know, and it’s pretty variable as incomes go. I sell a few photos, do some copywriting and make jewelry on the side. All also variable. I am a challenge. But I see him sit up straighter collect his thoughts and dive in. He’s a problem solver after all.
“Credit cards really need to be paid off first. Even before contributing to your IRA (which is with him). I would also recommend building up your savings, too before adding to retirement. You may want to open a “vacation” account…'”
What? Why would I want to do that? Oh, I get it. You think these trips I’m taking are vacations. That’s when it hit me. Most people think I am taking vacations. These are not vacations. Vacation implies leaving something behind – getting away. Vacating. It connotes beach umbrellas and too much alcohol. Postcards and golf.
What I do seems miles from a vacation. I travel. I explore. I go places. A vacation account? So I can save for a few years to go to Las Vegas? I get it. It’s sound advice. Saving and all. And I see now the paradigm I have created for myself that allows me to be okay with thousands of dollars of credit card debt.
Is there some sort of in between option?
“What do you mean?” That’s a no.
We are different. He has wealth and knows how to build it. I have debt and know how to play it. But I don’t want debt anymore. I want to build wealth and travel too.
I cannot express to this sweet man across from me that my need to go to India, Italy, the next town over to see what I can see and feel what I can feel, is not some whim or desire to get away from it all. I cannot convince him that my life is rich because I can go places and be completely present in any environment, open my pores to the local energy and get it. I can sit on a park bench in a small town in Florida and watch an alligator or turtle in a pond with the same focus as standing at an open window in Baroda in the pre-dawn light listening to the Muslim prayers.
By letting go, I become part of the experience.
With a curious heart I can let the best and worst of any place wash ove and through me, creating a more tolerant, accepting, educated me. In nature I can watch a snake without fear – he is not interested in me. In Manhattan I can see the beauty in every corner of the subway station, imagining the lives that have pushed through and jumped over the turnstiles. In India I can pray and meditate along side a dark man in a dhoti who rocks and murmurs chants in Sanskrit and feel every bit as connected to the great big something as he must feel. In London I can find the beauty in the rain on the windows of the ferry, blurring the twin towers of the bridge. In Italy I find the strength to hoist my own luggage onto a high-speed train without complaint and cry at the beauty of a little known church in Venice. In the Bahamas I can swim into deeper waters with a tiny bit of fear mixed with excitement just to see what I can see. And what I can see is a whole world of underwater enchantment.
It’s not a vacation. I am actively inserting myself into these places I go. I am duty bound to feel, experience and share. I must show others the magic that is in this world. What they find beautiful is up to them, but if I can plant tiny little seeds of oneness here and there, I have done my job. We are all the same race, the human race. We cannot harm another without doing greater harm to ourselves. Yet, our egos would have us believe a far different tale.
This is no vacation. This is my calling. This is my job. It doesn’t pay so well in ways that matter to a financial planner, but its dividends are immense.