Friday, May 15, 2009

A brief history part 4

My next job took me to Texas. When I finished my interview I had a very strange impression of the company - as I described it to my family "It is like being an Italian Chef, and you just interviewed with a great restaurant. The food is wonderful, the owners willing to do anything to help you improve the place, but something feels wrong. Then you put your finger on it - the restaurant is owned by the mob."

Ironically, I was probably closer to the truth then I imagined. While I have no reason to believe there is a link to organized crime the company was run in a way where I have to wonder if it was trying to fail. Hit and run management came down and disrupted your work on a regular basis. Company owners overrode decisions by domain experts on a regular basis, and then when their decisions backfired they blamed everyone else for sabotaging their 'genius'. Morale was the lowest I have ever encountered anywhere. It was a depressing place to work to say the least.

In the time I worked there I actually felt my personality change. I became short tempered and caustic, slept too much, and stopped caring about the quality of my work.

Financially I also went through a number of changes. The biggest: I purchased my first home. I cute little foreclosure with ugly wallpaper, stained carpets, and dry wall holes on the interior. I bought it very cheaply and started making repairs.

I also had a major raise with the new job - officially over $20,000 - combined with moving to a lower cost of living area. Ironically, it probably didn't help that much as I turned to spending as a cheap thrill and dining out every day just to get out of the office. Lots of my best habits fell into disrepair, and it is something I hope to turn around soon.

...And then the house got destroyed. Hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast, ripped off my roof, and rained inside my house for hours. I was in tears as the storm finally passed, leaving me with a living room full of wet insulation.

Luckily we were among the first to get power back, and along with bags and a shovel we quickly removed the furniture, insulation, carpet, and all the other damage. A week off of work gave enough time to deal with it all, and lots of pictures for insurance. In the end, though, the hurricane may have been the best thing to happen to the house.

I had purchased the 'best' form of insurance in the form of replacement value. For an example of what this means if I have a $1000 roof that is supposed to last 15 years, and it is destroyed 10 years later, I would usually get $333 (a third of the value). With replacement insurance I get $1000.
The hurricane destroyed much of the house - but it destroyed the unrepaired dry wall and crummy carpet. Insurance paid to replace these in full - my fixer upper went from a deal to an even bigger one. It is a beautiful little blue collar starter home, and I absolutely love it.

And then work got to be too much. Having several interviews scheduled and being sick of being told I didn't know what I was doing in areas of programming I have been doing for years I called it quits. I was unemployed just as the 'global financial crisis' was getting into full swing. Probably not the best of ideas.

On the flip side my savings habits had left me with over $20,000 in savings and a tax return that would include a $7500 credit for buying a home in 2008. Without the daily lunches out my expenses went back down, and I found myself with enough to weather well over the classic 6 month emergency.

As things would have it, I wouldn't even need that much. 2 months later, I was entertaining a number of offers. A salary to match the job I had just left in Nevada, at a company that seemed equally happy to the depression of the company I had just left. Another was a telecommuting position where I could work from home every day, though for less than I was making before. And that brings us to this week.

Eventually I decided to take both of the options above. I wrote the telecommuting job and asked if it might be possible to work part time, which they accepted. So now I am packing up and preparing to move out west. Now I'll be working a lot more - 60 hours will be a normal week, 80 or 100 if things get hectic. It will be quite the challenge. On the other hand, my income will be extremely high and my savings might never be higher.

I also have a number of decisions - what do I do with the house back in Texas? As mentioned, I love the place and I would rather keep it. I am considering renting it out, with the intent to return after the Nevada job wraps up, but nothing is set in stone. In particular, I'm having trouble figuring out if 'intent to return' will allow me to keep the $7500 interest free loan on the house, which would be handy. I also have to decide if it is worth buying in Nevada - their market has been hit extremely hard and so a great deal could be found, but if I am going to head back to Texas will it be worth it? If I rent the house out I would probably need a manager, or at least a friend to check in on the place. Even as cheap as I got it, could I really get enough to cover the mortgage, maintenance, and make a positive cash flow on the property? It will be a challenge, and a hard choice.

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