I've often talked about how I've dug myself out of debt twice – first was $96k in student loan debt and second was almost $300k in medical debt, plus the credit card debt I racked up along the way. And it was hard.
Like so many others, I took out too many student loans to pay for school, falling victim to the "bandwagon effect" (doing something simply because you see everyone else doing it), along with being urged by financial aid counselors to borrow the maximum amount. After the loans paid the tuition balance, the leftover amount would go to us students – or we could give it back to the lender. The counselors (rightly) told us the surplus could go towards books and living expenses if we needed it (wink, wink). I'm sure many of us did but in reality, we weren't giving back what we perceived to be 'free money'. Plus, we were seeing almost everyone else do it, both undergrad and graduate, whether they actually need the money or not (insert shoulder shrug here).
Us young and financially dumb students usually blew it all on fabulous spring break trips, cars, clothes, or even worse… just piddled it away! I'm pretty sure very few of my fellow classmates put any of that money away for a rainy day, let alone created a budget for it. One time, I actually talked myself into taking MORE under the guise of being financially responsible, thinking I'd create that rainy day fund – yeah right. I may not have blown it on trips, shopping sprees, or cars but I sure spent it. I personally preferred fine dining experiences, spa services, quality shoes, luxury underwear, high end grocery stores, and fine linens…. Chiiiiiile, lissssen…. LOLOL!!!
Like most college students and young adults, my money mindset stunk and good money habits were non-existent! I had no idea how to handle money or credit cards. I have an accountant for a dad and growing up, he taught me the basics of budgeting – X amount coming in, X amount going out – and used to make me budget my Christmas and summer job money. But he didn't have me apply what I learned or really follow it so I never made the connections to real life because I never saw how it touched our life day to day. Money was never discussed outside of how much something cost, whether something was earned or deserved based on its price, or how important something was based on its perceived value.
I watched my parents struggle with their relationship with money, therefore… I struggled too. We lived well, for the most part; solid middle/upper-middle class. We had a nice house, nice things, and attended private schools. Then my parents divorced just before I turned 12, and all of a sudden we were barely getting by. Both parents struggled for a while; my dad was forced into early retirement then decided to start his own business, and my mom decided to take a chance on herself by getting into real estate. Eventually, things did get better, so much so that my mom moved to an even nicer part of town where we had a half acre with a black bottom pool, a 3 bridge view, and a housekeeper. But for a long, long time, both of my parents were caught bouncing between just ok and not. I simply chalked it up to being business owners.
The financial highs and lows and the stress and anxiety of those highs and lows took a toll. Though it was never mentioned, I could see and feel its effect. The bottom line is that this affected how I felt, thought about, and related to money. It distorted my mindset around it and created a dysfunctional relationship filled with stress, angst, and fear.
Have you ever taken a HARD LOOK at your relationship with money? Have you ever thought about how it makes you feel when you have it and when you don't? Have you ever taken a look at your emotions around managing it? If not, I think it's time you started exploring this…once I did, it helped me tremendously.
Stay tuned for part two of my financial journey and learn what it took for me to finally understand my relationship with money and how I turned it all around!