Arc of the Diver


Guy Willey (architect, BKS Architects)

Income: $45,000 (1999)

Health Insurance: covered by employer

Rent: $520

Utilities: $50/mo.

Phone: $80/mo.

Food: $500/mo.

Transportation: $100/mo.

The Money column reported over a year ago that Guy Willey got anxiety attacks when he went to the cash machine and that he wrote down everything he spent every day— “$6.50 for valentines, $4 for snacks.” He prepared weekly and monthly money charts, which he took to his therapist for discussion. A few months ago, Willey, now 34, abandoned his charts. His financial situation had taken a turn.

I stopped writing expenses down and broke up with my shrink. I got indebted to my shrink and that’s why I stopped going, even though I was making more money at my job, about $5000 more a year. Everything was sort of like out of control. I wasn’t balancing my checkbook.

“I’ve read books on psychology where they explain the importance of paying the shrink as part of the whole process. All of a sudden, I felt that my relationship with my shrink was the same relationship as me in the universe. I thought, How did I get into this? My parents’ philosophy was, if you can’t afford it, don’t do it. That’s never been my philosophy.” Willey was one of 11 children in a Catholic family in St. Joseph, Michigan.

“Before I left my shrink, he was explaining my relationship with money in a lot of different ways, some of which I bought, some of which I didn’t. Like the relationship I’d created with this indebtedness to him. He said it
was some kind of thing where I was trying to gain control in my relationship with him. That explanation I would buy.

“He was also saying that in creating an indebtedness to him, I was re-creating a situation that I was familiar with from my childhood, a sort of background chaos and tension. He said that, by owing him money, I kept my presence very near to him, that it kept him thinking about me. He said I did this in other aspects of life, that I created tension to maintain attention. I don’t know if I’m buying that one.

“He also calls my relationship with money smoke and mirrors. That it’s a distraction that keeps me from dealing with bigger issues like sex and love and happiness. We had gotten to this point in therapy where I was completely managing my money, making the charts, and that’s when we started to deal with the bigger issues. And that’s when I started to get behind the eight ball with my payments. So in effect, he was right on that one. Once I cleared the money issue away, I couldn’t deal with him anymore. I felt too vulnerable and I began not consciously but deliberately creating this financial mess again.

“My last entry in my money diary was in March. I quit him at the end of April. When I quit, my debt was around $1000; now it’s $700 plus or minus. His rate is now $70. Last summer his price went up $10. After the article about me appeared.

“What will I do? Chip away at the iceberg of my debt to him. And get my student loans to a stable state. They’re like more than $30,000. MIT was one of the most expensive private institutions in the U.S.”

Willey said that when he is writing down everything, he is “a lot more frugal, and when I’m not, I’m just spilling money out of every pore.”

Where has his money been going? “I joined a diving club. It’s like 20 bucks a pop, three times a week. I love being in the air and in the water. I can do reverse dives, back pikes, inward tucks, the basic basics. It’s my favorite thing in the world right now. I feel good physically and I get the approval of my coach and I never allow myself to get indebted to him for some weird reason. The diving payment is making me feel great and the therapy one was making me feel miserable.”