Getting Real About Personal Finance

bulbGather Little by Little invited personal finance writers to talk about when and how their financial epiphany occurred. I have found many of the responses to be inspirational and motivating.

I’d love to share a life-changing story with you, but I don’t think my epiphany is anything fascinating. In fact, I’m not sure I actually had an epiphany per say. From what I can remember, there wasn’t’ a single experience that made me decided, “I need to take control.” Instead, I believe my interest in personal finance is a product of my childhood experiences and occurred developed throughout different stages in my life.

My Childhood Experience

As regular readers of my site know, I was raised by my single-parent mother and my siblings. We grew up in a lower-middle class family, though our income level probably qualified as poverty level. What may be different about my situation is that while we lived in poverty, I was surrounded by wealth.

When I was growing up, my mom was in the social work field where she was able to witness how people in certain class levels were unable to escape that environment. She found that the poor are very good at getting by being poor and have a hard time understanding or seeing what it is like to be otherwise. In other words, poor people are very efficient poor people and to a certain degree are comfortable with this. Additionally, there are very little concrete examples in their life that allows poor people to create a vision on how to become wealthy. For the most part, poor people are just trying to figure out how to get by today and are incapable of planning for tomorrow. Of course, I am generalizing this point.

My mom made sure we did not become “stuck” in a poor mentality and immersed me and my siblings in a wealthy society. She did this by finding the very best private schools in the area and begged to let us attend. For some reason the principles agreed to allow us to attend their private institutions at a very big discount. As a result, I experienced what it was like to have money and what it was like to be poor.

I was literally fascinated as an adolescent at how we had to count pennies for our lunch money but when I visited friends money was never a worry.

I could go into great detail with specific examples, but I won’t bore you. Let’s just say that my epiphany, if I had one, happened at a very young age and started with me asking a lot of questions. It is a story of part survival and part desire to learn how to become wealthy so I never had to worry about money. I think I read The Millionaire Next Door when I was 12 years old.

This may sound like the Rich Dad, Poor Dad story, but I believe Robert Kiyosaki’s poor dad was actually a high-income producer. From what I remember, Robert didn’t actually experience a poor childhood. His poor dad just never had money because he spent it foolishly and didn’t know how to manage his finances.

What may be similar to the Rich Dad story is that I was infatuated with how my family, who worked so hard yet never seemed have enough money. My friends, however, never had any shortages and were able to spend nights and weekends together. Not only was I completely intrigued on how this could happen, I really like the idea of having an abundance rather than having to struggle. When I was a kid I wouldn’t tell people I wanted to be a firefighter or a pilot, I just wanted to be rich.

In my opinion, life has so much to offer and it is unfair that money puts restrictions on experiences. For that reason, I made it a priority to do whatever was in my ability to avoid being restricted by money.

Letting Go of the Grip

But there was a critical turning point in my life that is an important piece to building wealth. Growing up with “never having enough,” I created a personality trait that many people who have similar backgrounds as me develop. I became a hoarder.

I developed a fear of not having something when I needed it. Anything I got my hands on I kept and clinched on to tightly. As I grew older and started making money, this characteristic became especially true. I would work hard, make money and be afraid to spend it.

For example, I remember a summer job I had that paid cash tips. I probably made a few thousand dollars, most of which was in single dollar bills. I was so afraid of losing that money that I refused to deposit it in a bank account where I could not see and touch it. I literally had stacks of single dollar bills stuffed under my bed in a shoe box.

This is a very bad habit to have, especially if you want to build wealth. I’m not sure when it dawned on me, but at some point I had to admit to myself that I was being ridiculous. My ultimate goal was to be financial free, which requires taking some calculated risks in order to turn money into more money. I realized if I want to reach my goals, I would have to take baby steps to allow myself to loosen that grip on my money. Simply saving was not going to get me where I wanted to be.

To this day I still have a bit of a hording personality, but I’ve definitely learned to relax. For example, it is recommended to keep 3-6 months of emergency fund, yet I tend to go overboard on the savings because I always think “what if.” I realize this may be a poor financial decision because that money would be better off being invested, but I just can’t get myself to change that behavior.

My Desire to Live

As I continued to grow up, I started seeing my friends’ parents retire at rather young ages. They quit there jobs, started traveling the world and having the time of their life. Meanwhile, I watched other people continue to work into old age not because they wanted to, but because they had to.

I started thinking that those who continue to work because they have to may never truly experience a retirement. Those who are disciplined enough to plan their retirement are able to stop working at a young enough age where they can still be active.

Prior to me realizing this, I always thought retirement meant old age. Now I realize retirement means the freedom to truly live. I also realized that the ability to do this isn’t just for the ultra rich. Anyone can achieve an early retirement no matter what their income level. It is just a matter of proper planning and developing good money habits.

This was the point in my life I realized the Cost of Using Your Credit Card, and decided to become debt free.

In Conclusion . . .

While I didn’t have a single personal finance epiphany that I can recall, a combination a multiple events and experiences encouraged me to make my money habits a priority in life.

I believe it was the consistent messages from personal finance authors that allowed me to think like and develop the habits of a wealthy person. These authors became my money mentors. Even though I didn’t have a personal relationship with any of them, their lessons guided and motivated me to reach my financial goals.

What was your personal finance epiphany?

Millionaire Money Habit: The reasons to make personal finance a priority can vary widely, but every story begins with a personal desire to achieve a goal. If your money situation is not a priority, figure out what your financial goals are and why you want to achieve those goals. There are many ways to build wealth, but they all begin with desire. -RT
photo by txd

8 Responses to Getting Real About Personal Finance

  1. Mrs. Micah says:

    I think it’s great that you had that retirement epiphany! I don’t plan to ever stop working at something (though perhaps not for pay), but I look forward to that freedom! :)

  2. Ryan says:

    Yeah, I’m the same way. I think I’ll always have some sort of job or busy hobby to keep me occupied and the brain working on all cylinders.

  3. txd says:

    Wow, tiny world (wide web) – I’ve been following this blog for over a year, and now I suddenly see one of my photos appear on today’s post. Amazing :)

    Thanks for writing inspiring and useful things!

  4. Ryan says:

    How strange is that!

    Sorry I can’t figure out how to attribute your pic directly under the photo without messing up the format. Is acceptable I add it at the end of the post? That’s great work, and I don’t want to dismiss that.

  5. txd says:

    No worries, you’ve provided a link and that’s what matters – I’m happy!

    Good luck!

  6. I had a similar experience growing up, and I’m aiming for a year’s worth of an emergency fund. It’s interesting how our life experiences shape us.

  7. Four Pillars says:

    Excellent post!

    Mike

  8. Ryan says:

    kentuckyliz,

    Thank you for sharing your story and for another successful treatment.

    I can no way relate to your experiences and perspective on life, but I agree with you on many levels. I personally don’t spend my life working in order to have freedom in the future. But making more money doesn’t necessarily mean working harder. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite for me. And being smart with your money and building wealth does not mean working 90 hour weeks.

    I too travel internationally quite frequently, take a lot of “spare of the moment vacations” (been in New Orleans and Austin, TX just in the past 10 days for fun) and have what in my mind is a great life. If I were to die today, I would have no regrets.

    I’m able to do all of these things beause I was lucky enough to learn about money. Unfortunately I have some friends that are too much in debt and only know how to blow through a paycheck. They, in my mind, are unable to enjoy the things they really want to because they are frequently inhibited by money – simply because there is a lack of discipline.

    Amassing riches does not mean you have to sacrafice enjoying life. But I do see poeple that have so much drive that they do end up putting everything they have into reaching their goals.

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