Sunday, May 5, 2013

Debt Free in Dubai

 (Indian men in Dubai play cricket in a parking lot on Saturday)

There are a great many blogs devoted to personal finance.  “Manager Mom” blogs giving tips on coupon cutting and save a buck home repair.  “Financial Advisor” blogs on small business budgets and retirement planning.  Even “Graduating Student” blogs about desperate early twenty-year-olds mired in 100K of university debt depicting the strains of tight-walking shoe string payment plans over a thirty year period. 
(Emirati pirate and smuggling ships line Dubai Creek) 

These blogs provide honest and straightforward advice. They’re good for the mind and body. It’s like having a long conversation with a friend about something that matters. And the best of them… well, they tap into something even more important, about finding something in yourself. A discipline. A lifestyle. A freedom. A soul.
On my best days, this blog aims for that too.
(The hard lives of the sailors in the gulf, living aboard these derepit vessels) 

Of course, finances make all that possible.  Back in 2008, like most Americans, I carried usual leftover debt from a pretty usual life.  I owned a house, sold that and moved to a bigger house, owned two cars, one bought and one borrowed from a bank.   These two combined payments were equal to about 500K.  Added to that was my Master’s degree, graduating in 2004, which added another 40K (which was more like 60K if I followed their payment plan) and credit card debt which, with three kids, ran up to about 10K (more like 30K if I paid premiums plus a little extra over a twenty year stretch) faster than I ever imagined.  And like most Americans, I would sit at night and crunch numbers and think… I’m forty, I want to retire in twenty years, how am I ever going to pay this off?
(Disgusting child vomit poster along Dubai Creek) 

Looking back, I know that I was very fortunate.  I sold off the bloated house and finally unloaded the minivan, stuck all our stuff in boxes and headed to Asia.  But that still left me with 50K still owed to the bank.  The first three years were tight.  I was putting almost my entire monthly salary in hiding… really just surviving.  I would stretch late payments and shift numbers around to do two things:  Make Payments and Put Away Savings. 
(Dubai Creek, the financial gateway to the city and much of the Arab world)

It was the last bit that was the most difficult, like someone trying to lose weight, those last thirty pounds were the hardest… and that of course led me to Saudi Arabia, with the promise of all this money.  People ask me how I could leave my daughters for all that time and none of it was easy, but writing a check for thirty-thousand dollars and wiping my debt clean, being able to stick the rest of it in the bank untouched, to be completely debt free, owing nothing to no one… knowing that I’ve paid my debt… seriously, being able to say to anyone that I have paid my debt, that I don’t own anybody a thing… it feels ... like the beginning of my life all over again.

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