It’s been noted by many within the personal finance community – FIRE, anti-consumerism, and obsession with personal finance topics are NOT the norm within the US.
Why is that?
One of my theories on this has to do with the way we’ve been brought up or experiences that change the perspective of money in our life. Both can have a profound mechanism that brings about change in your life. Internal motivation leads to extraordinary results compared to external – we just have to believe in what we’re doing at some deep personal level, and when we do, and when we’re driven by it, boy oh boy does the productivity come!
Growing Up with a Two-Parent Household
I was very fortunate growing up to be supported and loved by two parents who started with three kids by an age < 25 years old. In some ways, people would call this starting a bit behind. Even so, as a young athlete in my childhood, a teenage athlete in my high school days, and college student after that – my parents, for the most part, provided the necessary things that allowed me to have fun in those days.
What do I mean by that?
Each year we had a summer basketball camp where we would head to some college for 3-4 days, play against other teams there, and connect with the teammates that would be on varsity in the upcoming school year. These camps typically cost ~$400 and I don’t have a recollection of paying a dime for them back then.
Each year my family would go school shopping for new clothes, a new pair of shoes, and the typical student equipment (notebooks, pencils, etc.). Again, I never had to work and save up, my parents were able to provide them.
Video games and a computer. Between Xbox games and computer games, most of my free-time during those days were spent being one of those young punks who talk trash while being able to back it up lol! It took me 3 years, yes 3 whole years after graduating from college with a full-time job to buy myself an Xbox. I did gift myself a new computer for graduation – this was decided on before getting that job though. It was such a pleasure to build my own finally!
Besides working a small job on Sundays that I enjoyed and spent the money on entertainment, you could say I was blessed and my mindset was definitely different going into college compared to heading out of it. For me, there were two moments that truly changed the way I saw my future.
Divorce & Bankruptcy
Around the time I was beginning college, my parents announced that they were separating and going to get a divorce. Now for someone who grew up in such a supportive environment, I was a bit down by this. You’re talking a ~20-year marriage and it left me feeling lost.
Combat that with my parents deciding to go through bankruptcy proceedings, and now you have an 18-year old college student thinking WTF do I do now? I am truly on my own and it is up to me to figure out my own future – playtime is over sonny!
SN: The following year is when I met Jack, and with credit being due, he helped me change the mindset I had pre-college into one that helped me prepare for the future instead!
Epiphany Moment #1 – The Car
Freshmen students at my university couldn’t have a car on campus, even so, my sights were on the family Civic that eventually would be handed down. Except….it wasn’t.
With the bankruptcy process going on, for some reason (still unsure of it today), my father decided “my” future Civic needed to be sold. It was worth ~12K, but since it had a slight fender bender, the blue book value was 8K instead.
Seeing as I was in college, had no real job or income, my parents were going through bankruptcy, it all resulted in him selling it for 8K instead of me getting an auto-loan and buying it from him. It wasn’t really possible for me without a co-sign, and even with one, I couldn’t have afforded it. Further, time was a huge factor preventing me from even figuring it all out.
When he finally sold it, not only was I very frustrated, I learned a valuable lesson.
Have money set aside to use on timely opportunities!
8K was a STEAL for that car – it ran great and the fender bender truly had not changed it.
Epiphany Moment #2 – The Walmart Experience
My junior year of college was one of the most memorable living situations so far throughout my life.
5 college kids, all living in a rented house that was from at least the 1950s, maybe earlier. The central heating system was OIL heat, meaning there was a huge tanker outside of the house that was used to keep the house warm. Insulation was pretty much zero and our ability to heat the house was lacking due to high oil cost. All in all, it was awful. I specifically remember the thermometer being adjusted to 55 degrees F, while we each used space heaters in our room.
Not only was it dangerous, but we also had to transport them all around the house depending on which room we were in. For example – in the morning, I was required to put my space heater in the bathroom for ~15 minutes to before being able to take a shower. I could LITERALLY SEE MY BREATH inside the bathroom while waiting for it to heat up.
My bedroom had a huge window that let in cold air all day and night. I wasn’t the handyman type, so I gave my dad a call and asked for some help winter-proofing the room to survive that Winter.
He drove down to the university and the first thing we did was head to Walmart. We put some items in the cart from his expertise and headed towards the register. Upon arrival, the cashier scanned everything and said the total: “33 dollars and 59 cents.”
At that moment, I was waiting for my father to pay for it since it had typically been that way growing up. We had the awkward look back and forth – you gonna swipe or am I?
Welp – I did – lesson learned. I was ON MY OWN now.
I say this with the utmost respect to my parents and to those who are also on their own. For me, before that moment, I had never been fully on my own. I never had to look myself in the mirror and say – if you want the future you desire, you MUST obtain it. The days of my parents helping or paying are over and your decisions for the future must be made accordingly.
Ever since then, my mindset has been towards the future. Stability, experiences, savings, and investing.
I am nothing but thankful for all of the funds my parents provided me growing up, and like many people who go through tough challenges in their life, it can truly end positively if you just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming through it!
What’s Your Moment?
These two moments stick out to me on my personal finance journey, and I felt the need to write through them to help digest my emotions from both. I was flabbergasted at Walmart, sad about the car, and was able to grow from the experiences.
In college I had a job, then internship, that led to a career. Everyone has their own story and their own reason for personal finance. I believe my main three main reasons are stability, security, and freedom!
My theory ends here today – I believe those who are driven financially to be successful or extremely frugal have moments like the two above to drive it. They become personal finance aficionados by reading so much on the topic. It becomes their internal motivation that delays gratification, makes stronger decisions, and leads to a better life.
What about you dear Dukes? Do you have moments that were AHA moments or moments that put you into a different path? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!