First, let me clarify that “Bag Lady Syndrome” should not be confused with buying designer bags that one can’t afford. Bag Lady Syndrome is a syndrome suffered by women who imagine that they will end up alone living on the streets with a shopping cart containing all their worldly possessions.
I must confess, that I suffered from BLS at two different periods in my life – the first being in my twenties working at a low-paying job and living paycheck to paycheck. BLS kept me up tossing and turning many a night. I eventually got my act together and finished college which included a Teaching Certificate – which in my world meant “job security with a pension.”
Well, I had a relapse. I came to the realization that for me “job security with a pension” really meant “job security in prison.” So, I quit (I can hear my mother in my head (“Why are you quitting that good job with benefits?”) I went to graduate school to become a marine biologist – exciting yes – but isn’t a career known for big paychecks. I worked for the government – “job security with a pension” met a lot of really cool people and did a lot of really cool things.
As a biologist, one of my responsibilities was to work with the Shrimping Fleet. Providing information on fishing regulations and best business practices. I put on a workshop for the Fleet regarding the latest technology and upgrading their vessels. As well as the boat manufacturers, I invited bankers (so they could get financing). As the Fleet was in, we had a packed house. After the presentation, one of the bankers chomping on his cigar asked me if I wanted a job. I was curious and met with him – and in a manner of two weeks went from being a Marine Biologist to a Banker specializing in financing Fishing Vessels.
This job paid well. I immediately began maximizing my retirement fund and started a cash emergency fund. I was successful – and made money I never dreamed of – I continued to save – but started splurging on extravagant things – clothes, purses, houses, travel – you know all the fun “stuff.” I thought the ride would last forever.
Now we come to 2008 and the financial crises. My income was slashed by two-thirds, retirement accounts were devastated and all my “stuff” was just clutter. Yes, my BLS relapsed. Luckily, it was not too late to rebuild my retirement/savings. I read as many financial books/articles as I could. I stumbled across the book - Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan. She has written my books since that time and can be seen on PBS. I followed it to the letter and can say that I now sleep at night knowing that I will have enough to enjoy a secure retirement – when that day comes. As to what my “secure retirement” will look like, well, that has yet to be determined.