Sunday, January 14, 2007

Learning Hard lessons


I grew up as an only child, my mother’s prized possession. My mother, a proud, slightly introverted, fiercely protective over me, private and uberly fabulous fashionable woman was always in style. When I was little I can remember going to the then J.L. Hudson’s ,Saks 5th Avenue and a local upscale type of store called Jacobson’s department stores and loving seeing all the clothes. Usually when we went, my mom would buy me a little something and as I got older I came to expect it when we went out. It didn’t take long for me to be lured by the intoxicating elixir that malls entice so many women with. And I was living up to my “genetic predisposition” towards shopping!

I can remember being 9 years old (this was in 1979) and Gloria Vandebilt, Calvin Klein, Sassoon and Jordache jeans were all the rage. Well, G.V. had the matching jean jackets in a plethora of pastels to please everyone. My mom would ROUTINELY buy me these name brand clothes and at that age I can REMEMBER getting a STANK-ASS attitude if she DIDN’T buy me what I wanted, when I wanted it. I was turning into a brat. She would of course threaten not to get me NOTHING and I would still silently pout (if nowhere else but in my mind) and hope that MAYBE she would still get it (whatever “it” was) for me. Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn’t.

Little did I know that my mother, being a single mom, sometimes had no money or little money. She was the type if I asked her how much she made or ANYTHING about her “business” the only answer I would get was a question, “why?” She was fiercely private, even with me. Just the other day when we were talking she said to me “I tried to shield you from the fact that sometimes money was soooooo tight……. *pause*…..sometimes I only had soup for lunch or no lunch at all”. These are things that I have gleaned from her only in recent years. I never saw a hint of that shit. All I can remember is getting MOST of what I wanted and having a normal, happy childhood. When I was a child I can remember Christmas morning’s waking up to at LEAST 30-40 presents under the tree and I looked forward to that SOOOOO much. I remember us living in a fairly upscale downtown apt. (partially because as a single mom she did not want a house with a toddler to raise----she left my father when I was 3----nor did she want to have to even THINK about my father, who was an alcoholic, possibly being able to gain access to our domicile or showing up acting crazy at our door, so she paid MORE to live in an apt. building with a 24-hr lobby guard and underground parking). My father could act a COMPLETE ass when he was drunk. But I never knew how HARD it apparently was for her or what kinda credit card debt she was in.....not until I was WAY grown. She was the type of parent that was DEFINITELY of the “I am yo momma, NOT yo friend and MY business is just that---MYYYYYYY business so don’t ask!”

I think that type of mentality did me both a service and a disservice. On one hand it was great that she shielded me from some of the grown-up harshness of not having or struggling or just being stressed out. I can literally NEVER remember my mother being impatient or cross with me due to her bad day or lack of money. My mother was a constant even keel. I found out in recent years that that is because that is how she deals with things…..she bottles them up until she can’t take it and then shit comes flying out. She says that is something about herself that she wishes she didn’t do. Thing is, I never saw that side of her. On the flip side if I had have seen some of her angst over money or situations, I might not have developed a false sense of “I'm really not worried about what might go wrong.....everything will just take care of itself” that haunts me even today. It is so hard for me to save money. She is and was a great mother and I am glad she doesn’t read this because she might take what I am saying the wrong way and that is far from my intent. But I now know that it is because of how SHE dealt with money that has, albeit unintentionally, taught me how to deal with money and has caused my STILL tumultuous affair with money.

I am a person who believes that because I work hard, I should be able to get whatever the FUCK I want to get and uh…yeah, yeah, yeah….. I’ll pay for it later. When in college and immediately after I had more credit cards than the law allows. I amassed a $22,000 debt in about 4-5 years. I traveled some with friends, shopped, bought Via Spiga shoes like they were Nine West shoes and generally did what I wanted. Then when I was about to turn 30, I decided that enough was enough. I could hardly make the MINIMUM payments on my credit cards and of COURSE the balances BARELY decreased each month. I was so bothered that I PHYSICALLY felt the effects of having that debt hanging over my head. I felt like I was about to develop an ulcer. There were months where after paying bills and gas for my car that I had like $70 for food and I DO NOT take kindly to Ramen Noodles, so I got a second job to help. I hated it. I do NOT like working 2 jobs. I like to relax and fucking CHILL when I come home! I swore EVERY.DAY.THAT.I.WORKED.I consolidated ALL my credit cards except for one Visa with a company that simply talks to your creditors to get you lower payments each month and basically cancels your credit with that store (which DID fuck up my credit) and paid it all off by the time I was 34. I did it 10 days before my 34th birthday.

But my demons still remain. I am 36. I still do not save and I still like to shop , for what I want, when I want (within reason and budget). The credit card debt is nowhere NEAR the 22k, but it’s not zero either. My husband is the EXACT.OPPOSITE. He is a saver. Since we have been together he has , admittedly, “let me have most of the discretionary money each month and because it makes me happy and even though it PAINS him NOT to be more frugal….spend it how I want to and NOT focus on saving”. This is counterintuitive to his soul and we have gotten into MORE BLOW-UP, KNOCKDOWN, ARGUMENTS over money. I just never seem to have enough to do/get/spend what I want AND save. So, I don’t do the latter.

Well, as all of you know my recent job loss has refocused a number of things for me. I will be starting a new gig on Tuesday and prior to the loss of my job, I had begun to really read Single Ma and starting to learn more about money in an attempt to reprogram my hardwired desire to NOT take saving seriously. After all, my mother didn’t save, thusly I never saw the value in saving and I have been “lucky” enough to have someone to bail me out of those few times when I needed some money. Like I said, I do NOT blame her because SHE was never taught and since my daddy didn’t help her out with SHIT, she was IT as far as income. I didn’t have a savings account or a college savings plan. It just wasn’t possible. But I shopped. My mother ALWAYS let me have (within reason) a lot of what I wanted. But the thing I needed was a respect for money. That’s a hard one. I can remember being a kid and my mom saying that she didn’t have money on her for something simple and I’d be like “well, just go get some out of the bank”. To me it was just that simple ---- go get it cause I know you have it----and she never gave me a reason to feel OTHER wise. My momma was college educated and had a master’s degree but those do not make a finance major and if SHE was never taught it, she couldn’t teach me. It is still a demon I face daily. I intend to reverse that with my child and with myself. After all I am nearing 40 with nothing to show for SHIT. This is my coming out and my child is my impetus for change. Change is hard, but I know that I must for the betterment of my family. I am gathering …….slowly…..books on saving and we plan on visiting this guy that I went to high school and college with who is a financial planner very soon. I am also going to enroll in the 401(k) plan IMMEDIATELY. Though I am making LESS than I was at my other job, there is no time or opportunity like the present to get it together and make some positive moves.

Through the constant urging of my husband and maybe a little bit of old fashioned maturity, I see (**I’m getting there**) that I can’t just do what I want to do and not be patient. Oh, and that’s ANOTHER HUGE fault of mine that has been one SINCE probably….birth! I am NOT patient. I would rather have things NOW…..and saving is COMPLETELY opposite of that. I have always felt when I did get a lil money in the bank “DAMN, what I could be DOING with that cheddar!”. I simply have never had a forward thinking mindset.

But I am changing that within myself and my heart so that my child knows how to handle money starting now and much earlier than his mother did.


Single Ma said...

This post made me smile. :-)

One day at a time sis, one day at a time...

Shai said...

Gurl, I lived the opposite way. My mom barely managed her money. Not to have her business out there, in many ways her mismanagement of money taught how to hold on to money.

I was partially raised and lived with my grandparents. They let her back in whenever she could not make it on her own, which I see now was good for me but enabled her. They showed me how to manage on whatever you got. My grandfather had a City job when it was considered good living. He managed to raise 5 children, 3 grandchildren and help other family members while maintaining a good home.
He was not rich but some thought he had some dough. When he died 6 years ago my grandma did not have to worry about finances.

So I keep money. I never have been into labels or what others are wearing. My grandma said do the best with what you have and I did. Some may think I am prissy or whatever because I try to keep myself looking good but I am not high post. I have not problem buying from stores others frown on.

Don't beat yourself up though. Remember you are getting your lessons and applying them. LOL. Gurl, many of us had expectations when we got to 40. You are blessed to have a beautiful family/friends who care and support you. That is enough. And as you build yourself back up know that you are truly blessed.

Anonymous said...

You just described my wife. For years she couldn't understand how not saving now was hurting us big time in the future. We finally just had a breaktrhu ( I'm doing the bills from now on) when she realised that most of the issues
we had in our marriage ( quality of life, travelling, romance) all tied into having money to do those things.

saving provides a cushion from the check to check reality of life. it allows you to live and plan for the future.

glad you rounding that curve.

Knockout Zed said...

No money, no problems.


Shai said...

Oh, did I mention I am an only child too.

Tired of being broke said...

Breaking habits are hard, it takes alot of discipline. The trick is to make it as simple as possible. For my emergerncy fund I have a certain amount direct deposit to my ING account. Once the bal of my paycheck hits my checking account, then i know it is all for me to pay bills, buy myself stuff, and just do whatever.