I left a message yesterday with my apartment manager regarding my lease, which is ending on May 31st. I had signed a notice and turned it in on March 17th indicating that I wished to stay another year when my lease expired, but I haven’t heard anything since then, and we don’t have many days left until the end of this month. I have a certain amount of money in my bank account from the sale of my car that I have been using for living expenses but I figured that if I was going to sign another lease, the apartment manager wanted to see proof of income or a certain amount of reserves in the bank, so I decided to call the administrators of my 401k to pull all of the funds and close it out.
The simple act of getting on the phone causes me anxiety. In all of the jobs I’ve held over the years, I used to field anywhere between 50-100 calls a day, so just know that that’s highly unusual for me to dread picking up the phone and try to figure out what to say without fumbling.
It’s also unusual for me to not have one or two or three jobs simultaneously. The 401k is my last lifeline and the only thing standing between me and homelessness. Right now I have to operate under the assumption that I will never have any money coming in ever again because I have no idea what the outcome of my disability hearing will be in 2017.
The call to the 401k plan administrators only took a few minutes. The first representative couldn’t confirm or deny which penalties I would be subject to, even though my CPA said that I could probably avoid a 25% and 10% early withdrawal penalties because of my indefinite disability status. A second rep – presumably the guy who did the calculations and released the funds – advised me that he had to take out a minimum of 20% for taxes and that I should set aside an additional 10% for penalties, all in a blaring and bored voice, as if he heard this stuff all the time, as if it wasn’t a big deal for me to have no other choice.
I have a few big purchases coming up. First, I have to take care of a crown and root canal completely out of pocket because medical assistance won’t pay for any of it. Second, I need a new bed; this one started to sag about five months after I purchased it last year because I spent so much time in it, but the store wouldn’t cover it under warranty because I moved out of state and the manufacturer would only cover a small percentage (this time around I’m going for the bargain Sleep Number C2 – no inner springs and it costs the same as a traditional inner spring bed). Third, I want to buy a different a/c window unit because the one that was provided with the apartment is gross and inefficient.
After those purchases, I will have to live off of the same amount of money slightly more than what workers make at minimum wage in the U.S. I don’t know how people do it. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. It’s not like I can go out and get more jobs, or a better job.
This is the song of our people. Poverty. Desperation as our bodies shut down, especially in my case (and others out there) when I don’t have a name to attach to it or a prognosis to go by. My counselor has told me not to think a year ahead and allow myself to be swallowed up by the fear of what comes after the money runs out, but how can I not think about that? My life is already so different than it was even just a year ago; I can’t even whisper the words, “How much more can I lose?” That’s like setting up a new dare to the universe.
Hanging up with the Merrill Lynch rep, he wrapped up the call with the requisite, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” The old, working me would have awarded him 10 points for asking the question. The new, disabled me wanted to tell him to suck my ass.