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.)


Jo said…
An interesting post. I agree to some extent -- however, I'm not motivated by money at all, I don't adhere to the 'save it all theory', simply because I've seen people live carefully thinking they'd travel and have fun when they retired early -- they never made it that far.
Anonymous said…
Here here! Credit is the downfall of our society! once it was helpful, now it is simply mean. I'm still getting out from under my expenditures from 1994...UGH!
Kay Cooke said…
I always like it when you talk money! You have such sound advice - I agree with every word.
Anonymous said…
I use plastic money only for bigger payments. That too I plane very well and pay it as soon as as possible without paying the interest.

I am rather a good planner. I might know how to inves wisely but I do know how to not to go overboard spending. I never had to scrimp for it.

I never had to pay of any debts. I will prefer to keep it that way.

School teachers do not earn much but planning works any time.

Your post made lot of sense to me. A good advise from your parents.
January said…
Thanks Gautami. Paying off your debts quickly is a good rule of thumb.

And I think you're savvier about money and investing than you give yourself credit for.
January said…
Melissa, I remember you having a post about CC companies not too long ago--they are the root of all evil.

And they've convinced us all that we can't survive without them.
January said…
Jo, I don't think people have to be motivated by money to have a healthy financial life. 401ks, for instance, are great because they are automatic--we don't have to think about it. And for those who don't have a retirement plan, putting away just a few dollars a month better than not doing anything at all.

I’m more motivated by the 60-year old unmarried schoolteacher who never made more than $20K, but managed to pay off her house and have a comfortable retirement than someone who invents a new widget and makes scads of money.

I'm not saying don't have fun or don't enjoy this life with the money earned. I just think people should be careful with their purchases and not buy everything they see.
I've never had a credit card and the only debt I have is the mortgage on our flat. You're so right about financial stability and education being important
wendy said…
A worthy post. I just disagree with one point. No amount of money will make me ever feel secure.

I do agree responsiblity is key...
Anonymous said…
"Like fire, it must be handled with great care." very wise words, I am a believer of having just enough and being content with it. Thanks for sharing.
Anonymous said…
Brava! Wise words, as always, P-mom.

We just payed off our credit card--not a lot racked up on it, but enough to have it hanging over our heads. Now all we owe on is the house. Amazing, amazing freedom.
January said…
Woo hoo! Good for you, E!

Now you can do three really cool things with your money, and do them guilt-free: save, spend, and give!

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