Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Sign of the Times . . .

A Sign of the Times . . .

About a week ago, I heard from some dear friends. I hadn’t heard anything from them in quite some time. I’m going to call them Bill and Mary, not their real names, but at this time I’d rather not divulge that information. Mary had worked with me in some of my business involvements a few years back and Bill is an artist. Both of them are very intelligent, talented and capable. Both, had worked at different careers at various times over the years, but ultimately, Bill wanted to focus on his art and Mary was his strongest supporter. They had raised five kids and each was out on his or her own living their own lives. Bill and Mary had a very nice home they built about 10 years ago or so - before this crazy real estate bubble began. They had a million dollar view from their property. Bill kept reasonably busy with commissions for his art. He is highly regarded by his peers in the particular field of art he pursues. About two or three years ago, they decided that they were in a position to leave the Winchester, VA area, cash out on their home that had appreciated considerably due to the real estate bubble and move to an equally beautiful part of the U.S. where real estate was less expensive and make this their retirement move. This is where the phrase “timing is everything” comes into play.

They put their home on the sales block right when the real estate market began to crash. Over a couple years, from what they told me, they had very few people show any interest in their home and worse, yet, no one even made offers on it. Then, as the economic crisis began to rear its ugly head (before the major crisis of the past six months or so), the demand for his art dwindled and commissioned work dried up. Ultimately, they found themselves in financial difficulty (this is nothing uncommon these days), the value of their home decreased, no buyers were anywhere to be found and finally, they simply packed up, left the key with the mortgage holder and moved to that beautiful place they planned to go to anyway - unfortunately, not on the terms and conditions they had been planning. Bill and Mary are the first personal friends who have become victims of this economic downturn to the degree of losing their home and essentially, their retirement funds.

Bill and Mary do have some minimal residual forms of income coming in, but not enough to cover everything. The new home they thought they’d acquire in this new location is still a dream, but not affordable at this time, even at the lower real estate costs. So, they are living in a small apartment. Bill has found fulfilling work with a niche business that is allied to his art. He works half-time, which still allows him time to pursue his art and passion. Mary still contributes to their overall well-being and lives. As Bill said, they are basically back to where they started out when they were first married. Needless to say, they are not happy about these events and certainly their dreams have been battered. But, from the attitude I got from Bill‘s e-mail, they are handling the situation and moving forward. He said things are going fairly well, all things considered. They are living and working free through difficult times.

Of course, their story is not an isolated situation. There are literally tens or even hundreds of thousands of people going through the same thing. But, it’s their attitudes that make the difference between total negativity or finding the positive opportunities that are always there somewhere.

Ed Helvey

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