If I only knew then, what I know now. No truer words have ever been spoken, especially regarding my past financial situation.
You see, I’ve been poor, rich, living paycheck to paycheck, rich, poor, and comfortable – my new definition of rich.
I grew up poor and was fortunate to marry someone who was rather well off. After we had divorced, I lived as though I was still married and soon found myself living paycheck to paycheck. But, I was determined to move up the ladder and get a high paying job, which I did. I was pretty well off until a string of bad decisions brought me to the point in my life where I found myself poor again.
During those times that I was well off, rich as some would say, I wish I had done a few key things differently. It would have made an enormous difference in ensuring I never got to the poor later phase of my life.
Three Things I’d Do Differently With Money
1. Don’t Use Credit Cards To Make Yourself Feel Better
I learned at a young age I could make myself feel better by making purchases. In the beginning, I would spend my entire paycheck on things I felt I needed or just had to have.
Eventually, I applied for my first credit card. It was an American Express; the kind you had to pay off each month. Of course, that didn’t always happen, and when I could no longer keep up the payments because my purchases were more than I could afford in a month, I graduated to a revolving credit card.
Over the years, my spending habits and corresponding debt rose and rose until I had amassed so much debt I was drowning in it.
It took many years and a lot of self-reflection for me to see how the ways in which I used credit cards was a replacement for what I was missing in my life.
Denial was my best friend; it helped shield me from all the ways in which my spending habits were detrimental.
When I finally hit rock bottom, I got my head on straight and found new ways to fill my needs that had nothing to do with spending money and creating debt.
2. Remember You’ll Want To Retire Some Day
When you’re young and naive, you think you’ll live forever. You don’t understand how much the clock is ticking and that you’re heading for your twilight years.
But, the reality of life is we all get old, and when we do we’ll need the resources to live out our life, hopefully in comfort.
Because I didn’t fully understand the realities of life, I thought I had plenty of time to save money.
But life moves fast and, coupled with my bad decisions, I wasted many years not saving the money I’d need for retirement.
Fortunately, I’ve course corrected and have been on the right track with fully funding my retirement. But it’s been difficult to think about the time and money I wasted on stupid things and how I could have seriously jeopardized my retirement.
3. Stuff is Just Stuff; Relationships Are What’s Important
When I was 21, I gave birth to my daughter Carrie. For the first five years of her life, I was a single mother.
During those beginning years, due to feelings of guilt, I would usually overspend and make way too many purchases. Christmas and birthdays were opportunities for overindulgence.
She would often tell people; I’m spoiled but grateful.
After I had married, it was a little better controlled, but once I found myself divorced, those feelings of guilt crept back in and my spending ways dramatically increased.
Instead of cultivating opportunities for us to be together doing things that were free or low-cost, I often would take her places that were quite costly. I felt like I needed to splurge all the time to make up for all the guilt I had for divorcing her father and taking her away from a pretty good life.
Unfortunately, I taught her some terrible money habits and worked diligently to help her correct her course and change her relationship with money. But it’s a process, and she has her own money journey to take separate from mine.
Today, I make a conscious effort to spend time with my family in ways that don’t cost an arm and a leg. We spend time together hanging out, watching a movie, Sunday dinners, going for walks and lots of other ways that don’t end up costing a fortune.
Going back in time would be wonderful. It would give us all an opportunity to right all the wrongs.
But we learn from out past mistakes and without the errors, I wouldn’t be able to reflect in a way that is not only helping to me but beneficial from all of you who learns from my past.