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February 22, 2013: Still More about Being Responsible

Being an adult will always be something that mystifies me. I’m learning that responsible adults do things that children do not. For example, they drive cars and obey the rules of the road. They buy wholesome and healthy food, and they never shop when hungry. They plan. They also make mortgage payments.

Conversely, irresponsible adults drive without their licenses and often get in accidents. They buy and eat junk food, and they never, ever sit down at a table and eat with their kids or spousal equivalents. They don’t plan. Some are known to fall behind in their rental payments, and others are known to fall behind on their mortgage payments.

I also used to think that the most telling sign of irresponsibility was debt. That is, such individuals routinely bounced checks and maxed out credit cards. I was raised to believe the only time one would want

to do this was if they were diagnosed with an incurable disease or a brain tumor. Then no holds were barred.

The question that recently came to the forefront of my consciousness was, are Pete and I responsible or irresponsible adults? I’m still not sure what the answer is. Up until recently I’d have said that we’re on the good end of the responsible/irresponsible continuum. Lately, I’ve had reason to wonder. You see, Pete and acquired a small, but growing debt, and so began to mull over refinancing our place.

Refinancing. I equated this with the lowliest of the lows. Soon enough, we’d be sent to debtor’s prison, and there have to hang out with the likes of Bernie Madoff. Pete, who was not, as I was, frozen into a state of near indecision, checked this out. Here’s what he later told me: We could refinance with our credit union, and get a new mortgage, with an interest rate of 2.75 percent, which is considerably less than our current mortgage rate. Then we could put out credit card and horse trailer payments on this loan. Their interest rates are considerably higher.

I said sure. What I subsequently learned is that the entire process cannot be done unless one possesses an iota (and all you need is one iota) of responsibility. You don’t just walk into a bank and say you want to refinance and have this be a done deal. No, it’s not like asking for change for the Laundromat. The process is very involved, and involves many, many people, several phone calls, and several trips to the bank. You also have to turn in your old paperwork and you have to fill out new paperwork. And paperwork begets more paperwork. Heck, you even have to have your old tax records on hand.

And in addition, you have to get your place appraised. This involves having someone come to your home and having a look see. You must then know how to talk the talk and walk the walk. Being able to smooze knowledgably about all house things considered is very important. It’s also an art.

Pete (of course) did all the leg work, because really, he is (if you haven’t yet figured this out) the most responsible person ever. So today, he and I (you see, I’m semi-responsible) went to Wasilla and met with Joyce and another woman – Joyce put together our loan packet and the other woman processed our application. We then signed papers – lots of papers. Far more papers than I am even submitting for my upcoming artist grant application.

It was Friday afternoon – we were all chatty. No one talked down to us, or treated us like we’d been delinquent in our financial dealings. The paperwork kept coming, and of course, Pete and I asked innumerable questions. My training was as an English major, so I of course thought that I should carefully read all the documents. But the title woman provided succinct summations of each document. This made me wonder why English teachers are told to discourage students from writing summaries. Go figure.

So, after all was said and done, and said and done again, we exited stage one, with our paperwork in hand. We now have a ten-year mortgage and no other debts. And after, we went and paid off the tractor. So our tractor and vehicles are ours, although our place is still owned by the bank. What I learned from this was that in our case, refinancing reduced our debt. If we were irresponsible doing this would have never crossed our minds.

I did test the waters by asking Joyce what happens if you cannot pay up. Her response, which was very no nonsense, scared the bejesus out of me. As I understand it, if for any reason can’t pay up, you lose everything. It was right then, at that moment, I got the sense that bank people know there are no absolutes, meaning that even we, who are considered to be responsible, might not be responsible.

Oh well. Pete and I are determined to pay off this loan in five years. And we will.

Having refinanced, both Pete and I are now feeling better about the upcoming year, a year that’s going to open more doors for us both. There’s the trip. We are both, afterwards, envisioning having time to finish many writing projects, one of which is his chainsaw book.

Next: February 23, 2013: Forward Ho – Trip Plans Continue