January 8, 2013

Money, Money, Money

I am thrilled to share with you today the thoughts of my dear friend (not to be confused with my dear sister) Stacey.  I'd love to hear from YOU too.  Be a part of the conversation!

Your comments about your financial adviser struck a chord with me.  When my husband and I were about 30, we went to a financial planner whose message was that we were already fucked and our lives would have to be painful and full of financial sacrifice if we were to save enough to avoid our almost certain fate of dying destitute in the gutter.   We never went back to her.  We saw our next (and current) financial adviser before our son was born to discuss life insurance and our financial future.  He matches our approach to life and money much better (i.e. be responsible, live without debt and do the best you can).  That may not be great financial advice, but we are following his plan.

My parents never talked about money other than to share their freak out moments, which I would not recommend as a parenting strategy.  One of my earliest money memories is my dad sitting on my bed while my sister were about to fall asleep, breaking into tears and telling us that he didn't know how he was going to pay his bills.  I had never (and have not since) seen my dad cry.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep much that night.  I remember thinking that I could always eat at my mom's house and I probably would only have to miss two days of food before I was back at Mom's where there was food.

My parents ended up doing fine, but I think that was due to dumb luck.  I don't know that my mom ever had a money strategy.  She was lucky to get the house when my parents divorced which in that California real estate way of the 80s allowed her to have a good nest egg when she sold it.  She then moved, bought a house and again was able to cash in on the exploding real estate market there.  I don't think that plan is available to us or our kids any more.

My dad has had many careers and is doing fine now, mostly because the recent careers are working out.  He also was able to cash in on his parents’ financial choices; he bought the ranch my grandparents had and it is now worth a chunk (see California real estate reference above).

My point is that despite my parents’ financial solvency, I think they did a terrible job teaching, modeling and talking about money which has had a life-long influence on my approach to money.  We are trying not to make the same mistake.  We talk to the kids about our financial choices and why we buy or don't buy things.  For example, when the kids say they hate one of our cars, we explain that we could have a new car or we could take 10 trips to California.  Most importantly, I hope I am passing along the lesson that money is something that can be managed and controlled and It isn't a force that randomly grabs you by the balls and throws you against a wall.  I don't want them to worry about money because that gives up control.  I want them to know they are in control of their finances by the choices they make.  

So, your post made me think about my 

* Organic, local and healthy food
        I shudder to think about how much we could save if I shopped at Walmart, but I really want my kids to have a relationship with the places that grow food or the people that provide us food at the Farmer's Market.  I want them to know what foods grow in different seasons so they can appreciate the peaches, melons, strawberries, etc. when they are available for a limited time.  

* Kid activities and enrichment
        Again, this would be an easy one to cut and I could save a chunk of change but I think it is important the kids learn what they like to do for fun.  So, we spend money on fencing, Irish Dance, music, swimming etc.  I don't care if they are good at it but I want them to have hobbies – something I never developed when I was young.  My husband has hobbies and which offers us an opportunity for some financial negotiating / stress when he needs / wants a new item for his hobby.  

* Travel
        Ug.  This is a huge money suck but I look at this expense as the price of admission for living in a rural state.  If we don't travel with the kids they won't know there are people who are not white in the world.  Our town is a pretty fantastic place, but it lacks any worldly influence, and I think the kids need to get exposed to the big world so they don't get shocked back to our home state when they spread their wings.

* Good jackets
        I have decided that I would rather spend a little more on Patagonia items and have them last for 2 winters rather than buy 1.5 jackets a winter because the stupid zipper broke.  Plus, I get this Patagonia outlet email with super deals so I can buy winter coats when they are cheaper during the off season.  The items we buy are not super pretty, but damn it, we are warm.

* Fun traditions
        Birthday parties, the Easter party (not at all financially responsible but I can't let 75 people down), Christmas traditions, etc.

* Braces for the kids
        I didn't realize this was a negotiable until I talked to my boss who said he wouldn't get his kids braces if they needed them due to the cost.  Spoken by someone who has reasonable teeth I think.

Here are the things I could dump but I don't want to:

* Wireless - I am not sure that I could dump this actually.

* Having my hair cut and colored 3 times a year

* My husband and I going out sans kids 2-3 times a year whether we need it or not.

Here are the things 
we don't have:

* Nice, new cars
        Yep.  And I really don't care.  I hate spending money on cars.

* A house that is warmer than 68 degrees in the winter.

* New books

       The library is free.

* A 2-dimential TV
        We have a cube which is fine because we don't watch it much.

* Phone-thing-ys
        No iPhone, droid, whatever.  I have a cheap pay-as-you-go phone.  My husband has something nicer from work, but I am not even sure what it is.

* Cable 
        Don't miss or want it.

* A lot of clothes or shoes
        I do a lot of laundry so we don't need as much.  Plus, once I find a pair of shoes I like I wear them every day.  I am a creature of habit.

* Debt (other than the house and my husband's student loan which will be paid off in 3 months)

What are your non-negotiables?  What could you dump, but don't want to?  What do you choose to go without?

Many thanks, Stacey, for your story, and the rich (!) food for thought!

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