One of my greatest faults, is being a shopaholic. I love to shop, and up until a few years ago, I didn’t understand how much of a problem it was. It was fun and cute to have every accessory, for every outfit, until the thought of my children’s financial well-being started to weigh heavy on my conscious. I would have to say my problems began because growing up, I didn’t learn much about financial stability.
My parents worked hard in mediocre jobs, that only allowed them to live paycheck to paycheck. Financial literacy is not something I can say they knew much about either. My father worked his regular job and part time as a janitor at a private school in order for my sister and I to attend for free. My mother, a small time country girl, didn’t care much about the finer things in life. She was simple. Give her a pair of flats, some wranglers, and a sweatshirt, and she was content. My father on the other hand, may be the reason, I am the way that I am, because that man loved expensive things. “Keeping up with the Joneses,” is the term we use. I’m not sure who he was keeping up with but, he stayed styled and profiled in the best attire. My mother hated it. She was never interested in living above her means. I wish I could say I took after her. Unfortunately, I took after my father in that sense. He wasn’t a saver, he knew nothing about investing, and he owned nothing.
This is the financial IQ that was passed down to me. I was raised to know nothing about finances or credit. What I knew was that every month you have a bill, and then you pay it. My first encounter with the stock market was in high school. I had a social studies teacher who always went above and beyond to teach us things we could use outside of class. Her husband was a stockbroker and she decided that it would be a good idea to teach us about the market and how it works. Each quarter we would pick a company to invest in. We would monitor the company’s growth all quarter. The person whose company had the most growth by the end of the quarter, would win $25. I was absent the first day of the contest. When I returned to school the next day, I realized all the company’s that I was familiar with, were taken. While searching the newspaper, I saw a ticker that caught my eye. I thought YHOO was funny. I had no idea what it stood for. My teacher told me it was for Yahoo. I only vaguely knew what Yahoo was back then. I followed Yahoo every single quarter. I never changed companies, because every single quarter I won $25.
I would love to say that learning about the stock market inspired me to want to invest, or learn more, but honestly, by the time I got out of college, I’d forgotten everything I learned. Finances weren’t important to me because, I had never seen them be of any importance to my parents. The damage of financial illiteracy was already instilled in me. I had taken out unnecessary loans from school, not because I needed it (I had a full 4 year scholarship), but because I wanted to have the finest clothes and accessories. By the time I left college I had a closed credit card and several thousand dollars worth of debt.
To be completely honest, it didn’t really start to hit me, how unprepared I was for my children’s future, until my son started playing basketball. He began playing travel basketball, which required a lot of financial investment. I could not disappoint him, and let him know that, because of my careless spending, there was no money for him to participate in his activity. Therefore, I worked my “you know what,” off. I made sure he had what he needed. And I knew that being unprepared again, was not an option. I started to research ways to make my money stretch, and how to invest so that they would have something for their future. That became cool to me. I shopped for the right type of portfolio, instead of the right accessory. I invested in their names and my own so that when they reach a certain age they’d have money saved away. I began to teach them about the market, and we started to learn new things together. I want to break the curse of financial illiteracy in my family. I don’t want that to be passed down to anymore generations. My next task is ownership. Unfortunately, my older son is already in college. He never experienced living in a house that his family owned. I’ll forever regret that. I don’t want that too be the case for my other children. That is my next financial goal. I no longer consider myself a shopaholic. I have more willpower today than I ever had before. There are times when I do have to remind myself that I don’t need something, we’re all a work in progress!
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