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Paying your mortgage with a Mastercard

I talk to my mom on the phone just about every day; usually, that happens when I’m walking to the gym or grocery store. In the pre-Covid times, I’d often call on my walk home from the subway at night, just to chat.

I talk to my dad on the phone maybe once a month; not because we don’t have anything to talk about, but because that’s how our relationship works. I wouldn’t say my mom and I have something to talk about daily, but it’s a matter of habit.

Today, I called and my mom said my dad wanted to talk to me when we were done. That usually entails a 50/50 proposition of hearing about a crappy TV show he recently watched on Netflix, or him relaying something important. This time fell into the latter category.

“I want to give you some family history,” he said. I wasn’t sure where this was going.

“Your mother and I bought our house in 1980, and your brother was born in ’81. Right around that time, I went down to four days a week at work and wasn’t making a lot of money. I couldn’t pay all of our bills,” he said. “I picked up a part-time job with your uncle remodeling a party center.”

At this point, I was wondering if my dad was going to tell me to get a part-time job. I’ve been working for myself for about a year, and it’s had its ups and downs.

“We had to put a couple house payments on our Mastercard. But nobody can afford that—the interest is like 20 percent on a credit card. I had nothing to fall back on, with a baby at home and a new house. But I managed to pay off the credit card with a bonus I got that year from work, and we were OK.”

He said one or two more things about not falling into debt, but then the important part.

“I had nobody to fall back on,” he said. “But you do.”

I thanked my dad for saying this, and I took it to mean two things: In the end, my parents are there if things don’t work out, both financially and emotionally. They’re not rich. But they are supportive. They’ve encouraged me to keep working for myself, no matter how tough that can be at times. They know why I’m doing it, too.

I told my dad it’d be a hit to my ego if I ever had to ask for financial help, but I’d tell him if things were bad. They’re not, though things can change quickly. All it took for me was having my biggest client drop off, and suddenly, my income dropped by 60 percent.

That’s the thing with working for yourself: Nothing really prepares you for it. You can spend your whole life having other people tell you what to do, and do that well. But when you’ve gotta find the what and not just the how, you’re playing a different game.

I’ve always looked up to my dad; he’s the hardest-working person I know, and I can only imagine what not making ends meet did to him at the time. I’d heard some version of this story before, but never the part about him picking up a part-time job just to get by.

Progress isn’t linear. That much I know. It wasn’t for my dad, and it hasn’t been for me. But he got there, and I’m gonna try to, too.

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