Being in accounting, I am a numbers-oriented person. Being in accounting also means I have a lot of friends who are money-oriented, both professionally and personally. Many are frugalistas of the first order, which can be extremely annoying if they are born again frugalistas. M and I have committed enough credit card craziness sins, repented, and are vigilent about not falling back into that trap. However, that does not cause well-meaning friends to restrain their advice and opinions on how we choose to spend money. I do know they are well-meaning, that their hearts are in the right place; however, as I repeatedly say, personal finance is just that: personal. There is no one size, fits all (or even most) when it comes to income and expenses, saving and spending.

So I should not be surprised when people ask how much we spent on our concrete-palooza and what our “return on investment” will be when we sell our home. Sharing the cost is not an issue most of the time, although M feels we got a stellar deal because of our contractor’s relationship with his BFF. That may be true, he did give us a nice discount. Every situation is different, and I do believe his bids will be lower simply because paying directly for the concrete immediately cuts out several hundred dollars in mark-up other contractors will tend to add and conceal.

As for the return on investment, who knows? We have no plans to sell our home and have plenty of time to decide if we sell when I eventually leave the workforce or stay in our paid-off home. Even if we were paying this through the 15 year term (only another 13 years, 6 months left), we would still be done by the time I retire. Our plan is to have it paid in full by May 2021, when I am 60. Time will tell if we make it that long; I hate debt.

Return on investment was about the last thing I thought of when we decided on this enhancement this year. We have a lot of years left to enjoy the new concrete, and unless something unusual happens it will still look nice and be an added value 10 or 15 years from now when we might choose to sell. I asked one of the friends who posed the question if our increased enjoyment of our home was adequate ROI and he was silent, as if such a thing had never occurred to him. He finally said no, not really, because there were “cheaper ways to get the same result.” I just rolled my eyes. Again, personal finance is personal. What he sees as costly extravagance M and I view as better space for entertaining guests and activities we enjoy. To each their own, I suppose.

But it got me thinking about the ROI on other things that do not necessarily involve money. Another blogger I follow is going through a particularly tough time, and it has me thinking a lot about bad interactions I have endured. Before and during my relationship with M, I have on occasion given all in time, attention, energy, taking a risk, and had it ended poorly. How to process that loss? Before diving in, I did research and due diligence. I tried to think about and imagine and plan for every possible outcome and make contingency plans. Yet despite what I believed were my best efforts, things still went so badly. I burn with shame just thinking of a few of those circumstances and relationships right now.

I have my heartstrings tugged and I give time, money, invest in the person and the relationship … and they let me down. They are not the person they presented to me, or they never had any intention of fulfilling their commitments to me, no intention of using the funds I freely gave for the requested purpose. It’s hurtful, sometimes crippling in the casual indifference displayed to my earnest generosity, and I feel like an idiot for allowing myself to be duped this way. I beat myself up, relentlessly review our interactions in my mind, want to contact them repeatedly and demand answers as to why they did this terrible thing to me. At the end of it all, there are no answers. My self-flagulation is pointless, any emotional and financial investment is now part of my history. I hate myself for being small, weak, stupid, ugly, fat … the negative descriptors know no boundaries.

I am not an especially cynical or distrusting person; M is far more paranoid, suspicious, and fearful of mistakes than I am. Our differing perspectives on people and their motives and inclinations toward duplicity is revealing when we fall victim to it. M gets angry and upset with the offending party for being criminal or malicious in behaviors and intent, chastising himself for not listening to his instincts or simply knowing better. I, on the other hand, tend to take it far more personally and absolutely strafe myself. In my heart and mind, I have become the criminal of this century for failing, for falling, for wanting to believe the lies and knowing I know better or should have known better. I should have been wiser, smarter, more intuitive, been able to read minds and leap tall buildings in a single bound. My capacity for self-loathing is an ugly, ugly process.

Eventually I get over it. I force myself to stop obsessing. I get back up from the pity pool mud bog I am floundering in, and I seek comfort in other, ordinary things. My family and my friends still love me and wish for me to return to them, or at least let them distract and cheer me. Time passes. Life continues. Until I meet the next person or situation that tugs my heartstrings. I remember the painful fallout of the prior event, and I am a cautious at first. Maybe I even turn away, unable to reconcile or trust myself completely. Mostly I try again, resolving to be better, remembering all too clearly how awful it was the last time when it ended so terribly. I listen more carefully. I do not act impulsively, or as impulsively. I take my time, knowing that if this is a real situation, a real relationship, a real need, the natural and organic evolution need not be rushed. And in the end, a lot of times, good things flower and come to life.

I am afraid of so many things; I know myself, my own lack of personal courage. In his younger years M used to sky dive, and where I wish to be the woman who is unafraid and could find adventure exploring this hobby with him, truth is the mere idea of it gives me such severe anxiety I want to throw up. He is extraordinarily patient when we are hiking, because where he is part mountain goat and goes into everything fearlessly, I am anxious just about every step, wondering if this is the time I step on the wrong surface, in the wrong way, and fall down yet again. I try. I fall. I get up and try again, only hopefully I learned something from the experience.

I believe that is ultimately my return on non-financial investments: what I learn from my missteps. And unless I want to stop being part of the community and world where I choose to dwell, I accept that I am going to be let down, hurt, and really, really angry from time to time. For me, for the things I priorize and consider important, the worst thing to happen is regret for not trying. A few times that has been the best and only lemonade I could create. Mostly it was worth it, too.

4 thoughts on “Returns on investments

  1. ROI is an awesome analogy to use on relationships!
    I actually think in terms of this, sometimes I think to myself, “Am I at least getting back what I put into this?” It’s not the best way to think about it, because the reality is that both people have to put in and both people have to get back. Sometimes, in business, even the recipient of money has to look at the investor and how viable it is for them to be putting into you…because they can overcommit and not be able to sustain that business relationship long term. Relationships can model that behavior, as well.

    1. In this particular post I was thinking about the initial foray and trust involved that both sides are being honest about motives and intentions. But you do make a good point about long-term, ongoing relationships, and this is kind of a terrible way to contemplate relationships. But if I ever get to the point (again – this is my second marriage) when I am having ROI thoughts, that’s the time I need to grab my DH and sit down for a real and starkly honest conversation about how complacent we have become. I think there is a part two now brewing inside my head …..

      As always, appreciate your comment and thoughtful perspective.

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