A Little Bit Smarter
(Editor's note: I received the following note with a request to share it.)
As I read your recent page about financial land mines to avoid in 2017, I couldn't help but think of my own experiences in this area. I didn't expect to be sending those thoughts out in a letter, but here they are, so I hope they help someone.
About a year ago I took the advice from another page on this web site and read Dave Ramsey's book. So I knew as I took note of those nine things to avoid, that I had been part of several of them myself. (Editor's note: The book is "The Total Money Makeover" and the link to that page is just below.)
The two biggest roadblocks for me were the first two. I had a bad habit of just winging it, without any real plan. I was also very guilty of putting things off for later. I just hoped things would get better in some mysterious way. I wasn't changing any habits or actions, but I still wanted different results. So I guess I was also guilty of number 4 on that list. I was making excuses.
The epiphany or "magic moment" that finally led me to doing something different was when I realized that my own son, who was in college, was making some incredibly bad financial decisions. He was piling up debt at an alarming rate and just didn't seem to get it. He was setting himself up for years of problems.
And then it hit me. He was doing what he saw me do. I've been working for many years, but didn't have any money saved for emergencies. I didn't even have the cash to pay for new tires. I did have plenty of credit cards, but I also had balances to go along with each card.
I had taught him exactly how to put himself behind the eight ball. Because I was squarely in that spot myself. But with the help of Dave Ramsey's book, I began to make progress.
After taking a hard, honest look at what I was spending, I made some fairly obvious cuts. I should add here that actually writing down what I owed was a huge step. I was always afraid to accurately list how bad it really was. This was another example of hoping the problem would go away by itself, while I didn't do anything to help with that process.
By making those cuts, the $1000 emergency fund suggested by Dave Ramsey came together very quickly. And I didn't miss the things I stopped buying. A big chunk was restaurant food anyway and by eating more at home, we not only have more available cash, but we feel better and have more energy. I consider that a free gift from that book.
I won't go into any more specific details because I think everyone really looking for solutions to their own financial problems has already gotten the drift from what I've written so far.
And the real point of this letter is to illustrate how much influence we have on our children. During their teen years it seems as though the last person they listen to is their parents. But I know they watch because my son followed the same flawed financial path that I blazed for him.
And now he has my copy of Dave Ramsey's book. He also has my recovery example. I wish he didn't have to go through these things at the same time as he tries to manage classwork.
But that is part of being an adult. We own up to our mistakes and we fix them.
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