I suppose it is bound to happen if you live in a wooden house in a semi-rural area. Our house has become besieged by woodpeckers.
The insistent, get-you-up-out-of-bed nagging of their rapping on the walls reminds me of the inescapable angst of having money worries. The problem is, I know what to do about financial doubts. Woodpeckers are another matter.
Whose house is this anyway?
I can assure you that my wife and I have a clear legal title to this house. The woodpeckers don’t have a hint of a claim on the property, yet here they are. They drill perfectly round holes in the siding for their homes, and then start building additions by clearing out the insulation and whatever else is in the interior walls. After all, what self-respecting woodpecker can live without a man cave and a gourmet kitchen?
The funny thing is, we’ve been in this house for 18 years, and the woodpeckers didn’t show up for the first several years. Maybe it is because the previous owners had a gun, and we don’t. The woodpeckers have caught on. You can’t underestimate the intelligence of these pests. I started caulking their holes, so they started putting their holes just high enough for me not to be able to reach on the ladder. For now, the woodpeckers have the better of me.
Why this reminds me of money worries
What we are finding with the woodpeckers is that you no sooner shoo one off than another one appears. It’s the same with money worries — you face a series of them over the course of a lifetime and, if you are fortunate enough to put one to rest, another one is bound to pop up. Like the woodpeckers, these money worries seem to start tapping away at the quiet every time you try to relax. I’ve found that what makes me happy is to address the problem directly rather than trying to ignore it, because these things just don’t go away. Some examples:
- Job security. This was always the big one for me because, as long as I’m earning a half-way decent income, I’m confident that I can make it work by living within my means. Graduating in the early 1980s when unemployment was 10 percent made me realize very quickly that a good job is not a sure thing, even if you earn good grades and are willing to work hard.
I suspect a younger generation has also acquired a chronic insecurity about employment, since a net total of over 8.6 million jobs were lost in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the Great Recession. My advice is to make sure you are adding value where you work now, but keep half an eye on the job market. Specifically, know what kinds of jobs are in demand, and try to keep your skills in line with what the job market wants.
- Loan repayment. I have a habit of paying off loans early, just because I find it hard to rest with the obligation of owing money to someone else hanging over my head. It’s a real financial woodpecker for me, tap-tap-tapping at my conscience. I even paid my student loan off early, even though that was near the start of my career when there wasn’t much money to spare. I decided that, instead of taking a step up in lifestyle with each raise, it was a higher priority for me to get rid of the debt. That’s not going to be everyone’s choice, but the lesson is to decide what matters to you most and put your resources toward achieving it.
- Too much mortgage. Home buyers get so caught up in trying to qualify for a mortgage that they don’t adequately question whether they need such a big loan. Look, lenders and real estate agents have a financial interest in trying to push you to the upper limit of what you can afford, so you need to be the one that reins things in. It’s no use owning a home if you can’t relax in it, and having ongoing worries about meeting your mortgage payments is going to be another financial woodpecker disturbing your rest.
- Lack of retirement saving. I get that this is tough in part because people don’t want to sacrifice today’s lifestyle for tomorrow’s practicalities. However, ask yourself whether you are really comfortable with this in the here and now. It might be that you will rest easier if you start to take care of the future by adding to your savings, making you happier both today and tomorrow.
Those are some thoughts on how to keep money worries from pecking away at your peace, interrupting your sleep. They are simple and practical approaches, but that rather than tricks is what works when it comes to gaining control of household finances.
Unfortunately, I am less practical and resourceful when it comes to driving away woodpeckers. So, if anyone has any suggestions, I’m listening.