November 21, 2021
The best financial advice I received came in what was not said – be responsible for your own financial future. My parents fought a lot when I was a child and most of the problems centered around money. From my perspective, my mom was not involved in any of the financial decisions, from paying the bills to investing for the future. Not having any insight into how the money was being spent each month, my mom couldn’t understand why my dad kept the heat turned down to a certain temperature or would get upset when we splurge on something expensive. My mom was essentially given an allowance and reprimanded when she went over her budget. Not knowing their collective finances, my mother was at a disadvantage when she did finally divorce my father – she didn’t know how much they had so she didn’t know how much was hers when they split.
Growing up in that environment, I knew that I was not going to put myself in a similar situation. I have definitely made mistakes about relationships like my parents. But I have always been an equal, if not an overbearing voice, in any relationship when finances were mixed. I’ve learned to take care of myself financially because I didn’t want to be dependent on anyone. I have definitely had my financial ups and downs, from eating the cheapest instant ramen to eating fresh ramen in Japan, but I have been responsible for my finances. I know where money is coming from and where it is going and I can manage the ebb and flow. On my terms.
When my younger brother got married years ago, I tried to think of something thoughtful to give them for their wedding. Not a typical wedding present but something meaningful that could help them navigate the problems I saw in my parent’s marriage so they could avoid those mistakes. I ended up getting my brother and new sister in law their own copy of David Bach’s Smart Couples Finish Rich. In researching their gift, I also learned about and purchased his book Smart Women Finish Rich for myself. That book helped me hone my financial education and introduced the idea of paying off debt and investing. I read and followed the information diligently, including making a 5 year financial plan, my first plan achieved on my 40th birthday. I am a long term investor as a result. When I have debt, I work to pay it off quickly to not pay high interest rates. I do my homework to understand where I am placing my investments and once I do I don’t look at the ticker daily. Instead I check in once a quarter or so to make sure things are still going as planned.
My mom is remarried and happier now. She is responsible for paying the bills and she and her husband have had their financial ups and downs. I am sorry that my mom had to experience all that she did but I am grateful that the underlying lesson came through to me so that I didn’t have to make that same mistake. I am trying to be that example to my niece and nephew and got them each a student subscription to 7investing so that they can start taking responsibility for investing in their financial future from a younger age.
I’ve definitely made mistakes but they have been mine to make. If I had to do it over again, I probably would do things similarly. Sadly, it’s rare to win the lottery or be that unicorn business. But take calculated risks, do your homework, and trust yourself. You know what your financial goals are and you are responsible for whether you achieve them.
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