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  • April Lynn James

Florida Holi-dazed

Cities vs. suburbs. Perhaps that’s the issue. In March 2016, I spent my Spring Break week in the Orlando Florida Metropolitan Area, and I use the word “metropolitan” advisedly. I really felt like I was in Suffolk County on steroids. I’m from New York City—Queens, to be precise—and Nassau and Suffolk Counties define suburbia to me. Strip malls, cars, and few to no sidewalks. Public transit? Mmm, negligible to non-existent. Don’t try to tell me that buses are public transit. In my mind, buses only count if they’re a supplement to a decent rail (subway, trolley or light rail) system, and even then, they don’t really count. I stayed in a two-bedroom villa at a Resort-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. I was checking out a time share, deciding for myself if this would be a good investment of my money and time. Now, I liked the accommodations—spacious. Right now, in real life, I’m sharing a five-bedroom house with two other people, so having an entire place to myself for a week was heavenly. I was actually OK with the fact that each of the three friends I had invited to share the trip with me had turned me down. The Universe granted me copious “me time”. Of course, part of the trial by fire of this trip was that I would have to sit through another sales presentation from the time share people. I had been through one of these already, in Las Vegas. The upshot of that was that I gained two years to plan the present getaway and use the money I paid for it as an initial investment in the time share, should I decide to take them up on their generous offer. At the end, I would get a $400 credit that I could use for such things as tickets to Disney World and Universal Studios (aka, Harry Potter World). The format of this sales presentation was exactly the same as the previous one. I am taken under the wing of a male sales rep who proceeds to tell me that he’s not going to try to sell me something. Well, great! Why don’t we just call it a day then? That is what I should have said, just to see his reaction. But no, I played along and tried to ask cogent questions at all the appropriate points. I let him take me on a tour of the property. I got to see the stunning view from the top floor premium suites. And then we came back inside to the sales room, and the dealing began in earnest. I expressed the desire not to get into further debt. I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately, and reading a lot of books on what it really takes to build wealth in one’s life. I feel, perhaps like many of my generation, that I was given poor to no training in how to really support myself—emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Sure, I learned to value education, but how to actually put it to use in the world in such a way as to support myself? That part was sorely lacking. I had put my faith in institutions, rather than in myself. I had been told in various ways that “Harvard takes care of its own”, and thought it applied to me. I should have asked, “Its own what?” I am at the point in my life where I want to invest in real estate, not fake estate, and this time share stuff, from what I’d been able to research in the previous two years, clearly fell under the label of fake estate. Not that they didn’t try to make it sound really good. He brought his manager in to give me an even better deal: what had started out in Vegas as a time share going for 18k was now being offered as something I could take advantage of for only 11k. Of course, there was this yearly fee to gain 100,000 points that would add up to a week’s vacation at one of their resorts outside any major city in the US and the world (more or less). And then, when I actually booked the vacation through them, there was this fee, and that other fee. And, oh yes, there was the yearly maintenance fee of $800. But we can get your monthly payments down to under $175! Excuse me, but you did hear me when I said that I didn’t like using credit cards, and I don’t want to take on more debt, right? The part about how I want to put my money toward a house or a car, right? To be continued

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