I’m just a poor boy
Nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity! — Queen
For exactly one year of my life, I earned what most would consider good money. According to my tax returns, after bonuses, I made $113,561.21 — almost 9.5k per month!
But here is the thing; I still remember never having any money!
First, I made some idiotic decisions. I borrowed $40k at high interest in a second mortgage to fix up the house I just bought, but I still remember much of it spent at the mall. We did get all new paint and carpet, and our furniture was fancy, but day after day, our bank balance shrunk down by impulse purchases and Christmas shopping.
We also leased a fancy meat freezer and paid $1K a month to keep it stocked with fine cuts of beef.
Then there were the credit card bills and a few other items my ex-wife bought on high-interest credit that ate into our earnings.
I had a four-hour commute back and forth every day, so I could get to my job in Boston, and I ate at restaurants more often than not.
I also spent hundreds every month on my cannabis habit — because who wanted to smoke cheap weed?
We never saved any of that money, which would have helped us when I lost my job and couldn’t find another. We ended up losing everything to the bank, so we loaded up a U-haul with a few things we couldn’t sell and moved near my parents, who helped us with money because we would have starved otherwise.
It’s a long story, but a combination of poor money management, lay-offs, and severe mental illness put us back in the poor house and almost on the streets.
The sad thing is, my life is full of pockmarks caused by financial disasters like this one.
Will I ever learn?
A Pattern of Financial Abuse
Growing up, I can’t remember our family having money for anything, and although we had daily lessons and study from the bible, I never learned anything about finances. School was no help either. I remember in middle and high school taking woodshop for four years, but why didn’t I ever get class on how to save money, do my taxes, or build good credit?
College math was more about programming when what I really could have used was a class on how to understand student loans and grants.
Sure, what I should have done was pick up a few books and learn about it on my own, but when you are dirt poor for most of your life, and you never have money to save or manage, when you do get a little windfall, it’s spent before anything good could have come from it. My credit was ruined before I was 19 years old because as soon as I could, I got a credit card and went crazy.
It’s a cycle that I followed for most of my life — dreaming about money and what I would do with it but never getting enough to help me out of the ruts I was always in.
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”― Will Rogers
I am willing to bet that most poor people have little knowledge or experience dealing with money and credit, which is one of the main reasons none of us ever get ahead. Most of the people I’ve known through the years were in the same boat.
When I moved to the Philippines, I knew I would start having a little extra money, so I started working on my credit, but before long I bought houses and cars and computers and cellphones and T.V.’s, and I was right back in the same boat I always find myself in.
What am I, stupid?
After my son was born last year, we set out to start paying off everyone we owed. We got rid of our cars and sold everything that didn’t serve a purpose. Our house is very minimal now, with little clutter except for a jungle of plants, which we have deemed essential, so we don’t sell them.
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”― Epictetus
By Christmas, all our Philippine debts will be paid off, except for the mortgage, which we will still pay another eight years. We have a clean slate, and I will finally be able to take care of a few bills from the U.S.
Oh, and the ever-present student loans I incurred a few years ago when I tried to finish my B.A. degree.
My wife and I committed to each other that we would stop buying unnecessary things. We are also starting to sleep on decisions more instead of impulse-buying. We have done very well, with no significant purchases and no new credit expenditures.
I’ve taken to trying to understand my debt, so I don’t fall into the same ruts again, and so I don’t make the same mistakes when my writing will start helping me earn a living.
Sadly, I waited 51 years to become financially literate, but here I am.
Know Your Finances — Act as If You Do Have Money
If I had it all to do over again, I would learn early about money. Even if I were poor all over again, I would act as if I did have money that needed to be managed.
That is the mindset we all need to have, because whether you believe in the law of attraction or not, people who watch out for their money, have money to watch out for.
Please don’t wait until you drive yourself back into the poor house as I did. Learn about money, credit, taxes, retirement, and anything else you can think of that has to do with money.
You will be much better off in the long run.
“Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.”― Voltaire
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