Six months ago, I didn’t have any income. Now I have advanced to a magical plateau: I don’t have any cash.
I realized this today when I had a long conversation with a marketing exec. Six months ago I would have been begging her for work; today, she was offering me some, and I wasn’t all that eager to grab it.
“You owe me four thousand dollars,” is what I said.
There’s another $4,000 due for writing jobs I’ve already performed, plus $500 from a small publication that I’ll have to take to small claims court, plus $5,000 in advance on another job.
And then there are the real estate commissions: $6,000 from a sale that should wrap up in a month, $750 from a rental ditto. That’s not even counting if either of my two condo buyers, who I have been nursing for a long time, decide to go for it.
Oh, and rent on the beach house: $4,000 is due there.
Total it all up and I sound rich, at least for me. I can imagine the next six weeks bringing in a spill of more than $20,000 worth of checks, which would certainly put me on the trail to happyland.
But unfortunately, my mortgage lenders can’t imagine that world, and it’s the eighth of the month already. My contractors can’t imagine that world, and they want to be paid in cash. Even now, I am staring at the Zen koan of a $200 checking account balance and a $200 property insurance bill. The “total debt” odometer (which many would say doesn’t count because it includes mortgages, which any right and just person ought to have) is about ready to flip over to … $600,000.
A friend from college called me, and said he was really interested in looking at houses in Brooklyn. Half of me went, yay! hanging out with a college friend — and getting paid $15,000 for it — what an effing scam!
And half of me went, “what’s your timeframe? Oh, a year?”
At home, I lean upon my husband — who has started freelancing in the evenings — for everything. That insurance payment, I’m pretty sure, will come out of our wedding money. And my checking account balance won’t fall that quickly, because I know hubby will volunteer to buy groceries and even slip a twenty into my wallet when he thinks I’m not looking.
The credit card bills are five-figures, and troublesome, though not horrendous. What’s worse is that I am in the middle of a bathroom renovation at the beach. You see, once I gave the upstairs tenant some renovations the downstairs tenants wanted some too, and it’s hard to begrudge renters a new bathroom if they haven’t had one for 20 years. But of course I timed it to coincide with some checks that haven’t come in.
I have a HELOC on the house, which I’ll use for the renovations, but I hate to draw it down because I haven’t paid one cent of taxes this year. Not one! My hope, frankly, was to use my fall earnings to pay down the credit line, so I could draw it down again in April when I saw my tax bill.
Other than the fact that I’m flat out broke, business is grand: old clients moving further along in the sales cycle, new clients who want to transact at high prices, writing clients who come back for more. Of the real estate clients who have been referred to me, the first one will pay out by the end of the month.
At Christmas, I was so worried about my future I wrote in a column, “Oh, Lord, let there be a bridge.”
Things are better now, much better. I really do believe this new career’s gonna work.
But oh, Lord, let there be a bridge loan.