Lately I am fascinated with money, the way I feel some are fascinated with fashion.
“Who wore what to the latest event and which designer was it modeled after? Look how flawlessly she wears that neckline even though women with her body type usually shy away from it! She makes it look so effortless!”
Money is just as much of a mystery to me. Some people make it look effortless! How do people just seem to know what to do with it? Was their upbringing that much different than mine, or are they just quicker on the uptake? Bob and I both spent our early twenties separately trashing our credit. I’m sure I’ve written about it before and I’m equally sure I’m not done writing about it. We both fell in to the trap of easy credit cards and easier school loans. Before we even knew each other we were digging holes we would be in for the foreseeable future.
Whats funny is that when it comes to financial upbringings we couldn’t be more different. Not that one of our families was more well off than the other (although that is true), but that one of us grew up always knowing the numbers. Bob grew up with his mom telling him what every family member made, and talking to him about every financial decision. She would buy things and then beg him to keep it a secret from his father. She taught him about money the way she understands money, which is good because learning from your parents about money is important, unless they woefully don’t understand money. She talked him through both of his parents bankruptcies and took him to get his first payday advance loan. When I met him she would regularly borrow money from him for her car payment, only for him to borrow it back the next week for his power bill.
I grew up in the opposite environment. Money was a private thing and talking about it to anyone was rude. I distinctly remember filling out college applications and then handing them to my parents to fill out what they made. There are things my parents did that I can see now were obviously very good financial decisions (hand me downs and used cars) but were never explained to me. I just always assumed we were poor. I realize now that my parents put money into vacations, summer camps and real estate instead of things My parents never talked to us about money and even though we did chores to gain allowance and got jobs at early ages I don’t ever remember learning about budgets. I knew that a savings account was good. I never learned about credit cards and never learned about interest or loans.
Part of the problem was that I pushed away from them right after high school. I got my first credit card to move out of my parents house. It was an Americ@n Expre$$ and I remember asking the woman on the phone what the limit was, not understanding how that particular card worked. She told me there was no limit [because it’s all due at the end of the month] and I took her quite seriously. When I was 21 my credit was already so bad that I bought a new car at one of those Low Credit? NO PROBLEM!!! places. My payment was $400 a month and interest was over 20% I shit you not. The only thing that saved me from a repossession was a wreck that cost me plenty. My point is that I made some dumb dumb mistakes thinking they didn’t matter and then I spent the next 7 or so years with my hands over my ears, just praying that if I ignored the problem for long enough it would go away. I have debts scattered so far and wide at this point that it feels impossible to gather them all up and start fixing them. Owning a house feels impossible. Buying a car in a responsible way feels impossible.
So I have become obsessed with other peoples finances the way I was once obsessed with other peoples birth stories. Budgets are the new birth plans. Financial blogs are edging out the midwifery ones.
“And then what happened? Escrow? Sounds amazing. Tell me more.”
“Tell me about your multiple checking accounts. Tell me about how you actually pay attention to what you put in to your retirement account. How did you start, how did you know what to do?”
I am sure that I have been in peoples grills about it lately but I just can’t help myself. For so many years I should have been asking questions and I didn’t because I was separated from my parents and surrounded by dumb young people making the same terrible decisions as me. I still fight embarrassment about asking questions because now it seems like all of my people have their shit so tightly together and I want so badly to seem like one of those people. It’s embarrassing to talk about money because while you tell me about paying off that last student loan, my paycheck is being garnished and I can’t even figure out which student loan is causing the garnishment! Which seems like it should be so easy!
Bob and I are working together and working with someone to try to help us fix it but also learn how to stop breaking it. Talking about money is still pretty hard because it implies a two way conversation but listening? I can listen to you talk about your money decisions all day. Tell me more.