Saturday, November 03, 2007
Sunday Scribblings: Money
Next to poetry and family, money is my favorite topic.
It’s not about being rich, but feeling secure. It’s about being responsible financial citizens, and passing that knowledge along to the next generation of financial citizens. Funny that we live in a society that feels more comfortable talking about sex on TV, yet ask your neighbor how much he owes on his credit cards and he’ll punch you in the face.
I believe I make more money now that my mother or father ever did at their jobs, and they both worked for the government. Of course it was a different time, but they did their best to pass along to me a sense of worth. In other words, they taught me to only spend money on the things that will last. Since I’m an only child, the message that resonated loudest in my teens and twenties was that I should not have to depend on a man for my security. Save. Invest. Prepare for the future.
I wish there message had been a little more direct: Don’t get a credit card. Like many college students, I got a card—an American Express—and took my friends out to lunch often. Then when I graduated in the early 90s, I couldn’t find work in my field right away. So I floundered, having just enough money to cover my expenses and debts. Fortunately, the hole I dug was not that deep, so I shoveled my way out over a period of years, never missing a student loan or credit card payment.
When I met my husband, we felt that having financial stability was key to building a relationship. Again, it’s more than money—it’s about communication. So during our courtship, marriage, and the first few years after, we paid off two cars, probably $15K in combined debt, $35K in my student loans, and put a good down payment on our house.
This year has been difficult because my husband has his own business that he’s trying to grow without racking up debt—not an easy thing to do. So it means the business expands at a snail’s pace. But he’s positioned himself for growth next year. And I have a few irons in the fire that should also get us on track. With any luck, we’ll be back on pace to do the near impossible: pay of the house in the next 10 years.
Why do I say all of this to you? Because so many people are struggling with debt. Imagine not having to send your money every month to a credit card company. Imagine having a paid-off house. What cool stuff could you do for yourself, your family, and your community? I believe money is meant to be enjoyed. We’ve gotten so used to credit cards that we can now use them at fast food restaurants. How crazy is that? But we have to use it responsibly. Like fire, it must be handled with great care.
Today, we try to live a debt-free life. We live by simple tenets: don’t buy things we can’t afford, don’t spend more than we earn, don’t carry credit cards, use a budget, and save for the future.
My greatest wish is for everyone is to cut up the credit cards, live on less than you make, and save for the wonderfully rich future that you deserve.
(image: Andy Warhol Dollar Sign, 1982© The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)