Okay, so where am I going with this? Well, I've been working very hard to pay off credit indiscretions of the past. I've never screwed up my credit record with delinquencies, but I racked up a lot of dollars writing checks for my future self to pay in full, with interest. My mantra has been "Debt Free in 2003." Getting there has meant cancelling all but one credit card, a hard freeze on any card purchase that doesn't have money in the budget to be paid off in full the by the next payment cycle WITHOUT also reducing our scheduled debt reduction payments. When the mortgage payment and the credit account payments and a couple of car repair bills and other "non-delayables" hit...all of a sudden it's "franks and beans" and no play-money until the next pay period.
So, while I can't say that my net worth is negative any more, I can still tell the panhandlers that I don't have any money to spare. My problems have shifted from net worth to cash flow. In a big way. I think this month I'm even going to hit the overdraft accout (on a bank credit card used only for that purpose and paid in full any time it has a balance...without reducing that month's debt payments). The bottom line: We may be "worth something" right now, but until these )@$)(@$)(* cards are all paid off, we're still flat broke.
Of course, the prospect of more than $2,000/month of "disposable income" in 2004 to invest, save up for a nice vacation, have money in the bank for emergencies...that's a nice carrot at the end of a long haul of nothing but stick.