2023: The Year of Uncertainty

The year 2022 has been a bear in more than one way. It has been physically and emotionally taxing. It isn't until recently that the toll has come due. And, it is due in 2023. Unlike years past, I do not look forward to what is to come with t...

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The year 2022 has been a bear in more than one way. It has been physically and emotionally taxing. It isn't until recently that the toll has come due. And, it is due in 2023. Unlike years past, I do not look forward to what is to come with the new year. At the very least, I still have no opinion of the years following. I try to be hopeful whenever possible.

Quest for Counseling

I will be searching for a counselor in 2023. I believe that I may have locked myself into unhelpful patterns that are undermining me. I've never had a counselor outside of school. It is near 30 years since. It is not that I have been against seeking help. I just did not have the time or money for such things. If I'm honest with myself, I also didn't feel like I needed counseling.

I had already started the search this month. I've been waiting for a referral from my employer's wellness contractor for weeks already. I'm starting to suspect that none is coming. This is annoying as much of my time at work is spent moving projects along. I have to deal with contractors and coworkers to get things done. And, it now appears that this is going to be another project for me to manage. I would like to try it for a few sessions to discover if this is something that would help me.

Physical Matters

Early in 2023, I will be undergoing a surgical procedure to repair an umbilical hernia. This is a problem that has been mostly manageable in 2022. However, in recent months, the problem is getting worse. So far, my experience has been that my umbilicus has days when it is tender. I suspect that this is a result of additional tearing of my abdominal fascia. The resulting protusion has grown. Of course, this comes with cost. I have decent health insurance. Yet, this still leaves me with significant co-pay and out of pocket costs.

Part of the reason why I have a hernia, not entirely, is a result of weight gain. This brings me to the next physical matter. I need to exercise, lose weight, and eat better. Having a hernia does not prevent me from doing any of those. I could, at the very least, walk. I could also eat better to help me lose weight. But, there will be limits to my physical efforts. It is uncomfortable to lift things and to exert myself having a hole in my belly. Perhaps it is a degree of perfectionism that stops me from taking half measures towards improving my health.

There are other concerns as well. It seems like my body issues are starting to cascade. I also have problems with one knee and one shoulder. And, one elbow is starting to complain as well.

All of this wrapped together means that I'll be recovering from surgery for two weeks. That will be followed by six more weeks of light duty recovery. We are already looking at about March 2023 before I am able to start addressing the aches and pains through physical means. At most, I can work on improved diet. But, without physical activity, I don't expect crazy results.

Financial

Our fnancial outlook for 2023 does not look very good. Thanks to inflation, my surgical procedure, family obligations, and taxes, we are expecting our outflows to be extraordinary. I have seen evidence of this from my cash flow statement, which has been inching higher every month. Our grocery bills have increased significantly. Where we used to spend $20-25 on basic ingredients to cook at home, we are now routinely spending $40-45 on those same items. We fortunately locked in our energy costs for 48 months. We'll avoid that problem in 2023. The net result is that debt that should have been retired in 2022 is taking longer to retire.

Taxes are another uncertainty. Last year, thanks to crypto gains, our income was massive. The resuling tax bill was the largest we have had in our lifetimes. With the 2022 bear market, I suspect that we will be showing a loss. But, tax time is usually a Shroedinger box in which your taxes are simultaneously higher and lower until you submit your taxes to resolve the probability one way or the other.

Given that my employer does not reward hard work, everybody gets the same raise, I don't expect my income to keep up with inflation. Those earning less than I do are getting raises that keep up with inflation. However, for me, the raises have me losing real income despite a nominal increase. This puts us in a position in which we will have to adjust our standard of living in 2023 to be able to retire debt, pay for our upcoming large obligations, and to be able to save for future needs.

Finally, there's the possibility that student loans will resume this year. We have benefitted from having our student loans paused since COVID first came around. No payments. No interest. The attempt at forgiving $20,000 in loans seems to have fallen on its unconstitutional face. That would have helped. Fortunately, we have the Public Service Loan Forgiveness scheme on which to fall back. After completing 10 years of payments, whatever balance remains gets wiped off. It doesn't help for the short-term. But, it's something we can work towards for the long term.

It's Manageable

All of this might seem like a bunch of kvetching. It is more like laying out the project. 2023 is going to be a project, that is certain. There are places in which we can tighten our budget. There are expenses that we can defer. There are ways in which we can reduce the amount of interest we are paying. And, there are ways in which we may be able to generate additional income.

One risk in all of this is if one of us becomes injured, disabled, or unemployed. This could drastically cut our income. Another risk is if we have some unexpected large expense such as the sudden need to buy a vehicle. We have enough credit to be able to handle unexpected expenses. But, this obviously delays our ability to retire debt. As projects go, risk is not just about financial cost, risk also encompasses falling behind schedule.

Other risks that are beyond our control include runaway inflation, or other macroeconomic disasters. I think we all know that pain is coming. It's just a question of how much.

Ultimately, 2023 will require that we operate in a regimented manner. As with many regimens, it likely won't kill us. But, it won't exactly be pleasant either. I can plan so much. But, the uncertainty of what 2023 will bring is what mostly worries me. All I can do is prepare for the storm. With any luck, I will have overprepared.

If one were to look for a bright side to any of this, it is that by carrying out the 2023 project successfully, we can expect 2024 to be less challenging. But, even if the project extends beyond 2023, the following year should be less of a slog.