I got the information in the mail on Friday. The stocks my former employer had purchased in my name totaled almost ten thousand dollars. It was one of the few benefits I reaped from working at the bank. I was giddy. I calculated, quickly, how much of that would have to go to taxes in 2007, then how much would be left over. I fantasized about paying off my car and my credit card - the only debt I have in my life, besides my phone - and tucked the paperwork back into its official-looking envelope.
"Dare I say it?" I said to my mom. "That things could be -"
"Don't!" She interrupted. "Don't jinx it!" She knew I was going to say Things could be working out for me.
"Oh! Right!" I said, and we shared a giggle over our insane attachment to superstition. But I still thought it: Yes, this is all going to work out.
I called my "Financial Advisor" yesterday to tell him the good news. We had already discussed what I'd do with the money once I got the statement. I told my friends, my family, my boss that I'd be debt free just as soon as everything went through. Visions of extra money each paycheck danced in my head as I faxed the statement and the accompanying paperwork into my advisor. Mentally, I had already written out the checks that would rid me of my monthly obligation to the bank and the credit card company. I was as good as unchained from debt.
And then I got the call.
"Uh, Laurie," Pat, my advisor, said into the receiver, "this is a retirement plan. If you take it out, you're going to pay a hefty penalty to the government on top of having to claim whatever you take as income."
I wasn't aware of any penalties.
Quickly, I scanned the documents that came with the statement. Clearly, I had been blinded by the bottom-line total of my money, and paid little attention to the subparagraph 1-B that said withdrawing any money while I'm under 59 and a half years of age - I suppose that "and a half" is very important - will result in a penalty. Taking anything will cost me 30% of whatever I take. Minimum.
"But," Pat continued, "you can roll it over into your current retirement account, or another qualified plan, and there aren't any taxes or penalties." His voice was hopeful, suggesting that I shouldn't be as pissed off as I was starting to sound.
"But I already have a retirement account. I wanted to use this now." It wasn't his fault that I didn't pay attention to what the bank gave me. I suppose the fault was solely mine. But I was still angry. I was so ready to have that extra money. So ready. And, just as quickly as I found it in my mailbox, it was gone.
My mood, since I accepted the fact that I will still have to pay my credit card bill and car loan every month, has been gloomy. It's like I have this little dark cloud hanging over me. The money was right there, so close I could almost taste it - or use it, as it were - and then it was ripped away from me. It felt like the bank seized one last opportunity to fuck me. And that just brings me down.
So, naturally, I was late getting up this morning. And I knocked over bottles on the bathroom counter while I did my hair. And I got stuck behind a bus on my drive in to work. I can literally feel my nerves, and everything that's getting on them. My hair is pissing me off, my shirt itches, and I feel fat.
Yes, obviously, I'm in the throes of a feminine cycle. Obviously. But I think that if even I weren't, I would be irritated right now. Because all it takes for me is one inconvenience or disappointment - like ten thousand dollars that I can't use until I'm Fifty-Nine-And-A-Half years old - and suddenly any and every occurrence in my day is a possible catalyst to a breakdown. I just know I'm going to cry before this day is over. I just know it.
I suppose this is what happens when you count your chickens before they hatch; You don't get chickens at all. Just eggs. Fucking eggs.