Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Making Assumptions

I need a break from Israel-blogging for a moment... so here's a post on making assumptions.

As many of our friends and close readers of this blog know, Serach works as a SEIT in the neighborhood while I will iyH start working as an accountant in the fall. Thank God, we both will have very good jobs, with good pay, and my job has very good benefits as well. Many people think that we've got it made: Cute baby, good jobs, happy lives, lots of friends (especially nearby)... and they're right, we do. I can't complain one bit about our prospects for the future and how everything has shaped up.

But people also assume - because we have such great prospects - that everything is fine and dandy right now. That we have money to pay all our bills: Our rent, our health insurance, our electric and gas, etc. And the truth is... right now, we don't. We're not even close. We're sitting on [tens of] thousands of dollars of debt, with no chance of even paying off a small portion. There are no rich parents funding us, there are no people we feel comfortable borrowing from (though we have as it is and may again).

And before anyone asks where all our money has gone, think about this: In two years of marriage, we've probably had about $25,000 of income, maybe more, maybe less. Take that and our wedding money, subtract tuitions and living expenses, and you're left with a big negative number. We don't "waste" money (though we are not 'penny-pinchers'), and our biggest expense is probably Shabbos, because we tend to have a large number of people every meal.* Other than that, we're pretty much living on a tight budget and still can't afford it.

So, assumption #1 people should not make:
Don't assume that because someone may be or will be successful - even in the very near future - that they already are. Or that someone has money, just because they're not "poor" or complaining.
Then there's the reverse. We've talked with a number of close friends who were getting married about finances. Many are worried about how they're going to make it, considering the amount of school they have left, or the cost of living versus what they are making for now, etc. Our friends are smart, so they generally understand this, but others do not: When a person is explaining to you just how much debt they're in, and what the cost of living is, and how hard it is, their point is not to scare you, and their point is definitely not to complain. Their point is to show you that despite all of that, it can be done, and that there is no reason to stress a marriage or a relationship or a life over it. Do you need to be aware? Yes. Do you need to be smart? Yes. But do you need to constantly fret? No - it is only harmful.

So, assumption #2 people shouldn't make:
When someone does tell you about their finances, don't assume it's because they want to complain or whine (though it could be, and they just need someone to listen, so listen!). Often, they're trying to make a point - a point that can help you.
I don't need to complain about my finances or inability to pay my bills. I don't need a place to vent - I have a wife, family, and friends for that. I'm not anonymous, so for me, this isn't a place where I can vent anonymously when I don't want to go to any of those - if I needed that, I'd create another blog. (Maybe I did! :) ) That's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to tell people simply: Stop assuming so much. You never really know.

*This is the one expense we're pretty much unwilling to cut out, as we enjoy it, we think it's good for us, and we think it's good for our guests. What's somewhat ironic is hearing my friends who have just gotten married comment, when having a Shabbos with just themselves or perhaps a couple of guests, "You know what's really expensive? Shabbos. Shabbos is expensive."