Give me your money or your life? In the interest of full disclosure, this is not a hold up! Do you have to choose? Every personal finance expert talks about the need for a budget, reducing your debt and saving for retirement. After forty (40) years what do you have?
The Most Important Question
This is not an either or question! What kind of life do you want to have? Are you willing to deny yourself all the pleasures of life so you can have a great retirement? There are a lot of personal finance experts that say sacrifice now for something later. The mantra is delay gratification! It sounds like a financial diet to me. Can you do this for forty (40) years? I did not and I want to share how I did it.
The Early Years
I was very fortunate to have parents who taught me a lot about money. They never sat me down and actually taught me anything. In fact, they never had any time for me. I was sent away to school at eleven years old. They worked 24/7 and never had time for me. Don’t feel sorry for me, I turned out okay and I broke the cycle with my own children. I just thought you need to understand what influenced me growing up. I grew up hungry for recognition and I was always fascinated with money.
My parents sent me to a fancy prep school, but gave me very little money as an allowance. I received $2 per week when many of my fellow students received as much as $40 per week. To put this in context, everything was paid, unless I wanted an afternoon snack on the weekend. This materially affected me. I was forced to save my money to have some of the things my friends could buy with their increased allowance. I was always a saver, but this kept me inline.
For six (6) years, I was away at school. Every summer, my parents kept me busy taking classes or going to summer camp. They did not have time for me! I graduated prep school at seventeen (17) and found my first job. I earned a lot of money as a commission salesman. I used those funds as my spending money in college. I think I did that to have some independence. I paid myself an allowance. I had $10 per week to cover laundry, Sunday night meal, dating and haircuts. Things were less expensive in the sixties (60s), but I had to be creative.
When I needed additional money, I did paid laboratory experiments, took in ironing and reduced my expenses. My college years taught me how to survive with practically no money. I learned how to date for free or very little money. University football or sports were included in the fees, but everyone went for drinks after the game. A couple draft beers had to last and a lot of double dating. I found free art gallery opening, beach outings, picnics and long walks were some of dates.
I met my wife in college and I am married forty-three (43) years. This is not the time to express my love; instead we have the same goals, values and enjoy the same things. I try to get the most value out of everything we do and she provides the wonderful environment for it. We started out without any debt, one new car (graduation present) and some savings. I was facing the draft and I do not mean the NFL! I was drafted a few months after I graduated college into the army. This upset all my plans! I faced going to Vietnam, leaving home and a new wife. I was lucky and was stationed at the army prison teaching business classes.
I left the army thinking I lost time. I took advantage of every opportunity to accumulate great experience to ready myself for my eventual career. I did not want to work forty (40) years and retire. By the time I hit thirty-one (31) years old, I had my dream home on the hill, two (2) children, and a plan to reach financial independence. In seven (7) years, I achieved it! My children went to private school, paid for their college and we had nice family vacations. I took on only a modest amount of debt to do this. My mortgage was small, car loans were small and no credit card debt.
I have a very good life! No apologies! Some of you will say it was because of no student debt or no credit card debt. I graduated without debt because my parents paid for college. The rest was up to me! I chronicled my journey to success before. Do you really think the outcome would be different if I started with debt? I don’t! It may have taken longer, but the result would be the same. I made a lot of choices to avoid debt. What was my secret? I learned how to live on very little and savings were always a big part of my plan. Putting emphasis on what you value most and finding ways to achieve it. You do not have to choose money or your life?
Photo by: Inha Leex Hale