One of the worst messages I’ve given myself is: “I’m bad with money.” It wasn’t until last week I realized this statement should be in past tense because I’m so much better with money now than I’ve ever been. As I was sitting with a mortgage banker roughly the age of my son, it was as if the financial picture I presented didn’t belong to the hapless bubblehead but a confident and competent woman. How is this woman who knows to the penny what’s in her savings account, knows what her tax burden is from her tiny LLC and saves for it; saves 16% of her annual salary in a combination of investments, and is blissfully debt free. Wow, that’s some other woman…that’s not me because I’m bad with money.
My parent’s lesson about money: “Don’t spend it” didn’t come with how to create and stick to a budget. When I was given an allowance, I wasn’t taught to “pay myself first”. Mom and Dad did all these things but the assumption—because I was a girl—I would have someone taking care of all those details. A husband would give me an allowance for throw pillows and manicures. My mom paid the bills but didn’t bother to teach me how to pay the bills or keep a checkbook. I learned that in some sort of Underwater Basket Weaving/Family Living Class my senior year.
I was absolutely hapless with money when I was in my twenties and beyond. I had debt out wazoo. My husband wasn’t any better, he had crazy debt and we made crazy debt together. What was really crazy about it was my cluelessness about our situation and how easily I surrendered complete control to him. I was the wife with the allowance for groceries, things for the children, and for myself. I wasn’t allowed to even look at the bills and the balances. Sure, I signed the tax returns but never looked it over very carefully.
I shudder when I look back at that 35 year old. If I had a daughter whose approach to family finances was akin to that, she would be on the receiving end of a loud and stern lecture. But it wasn’t until my mid-forties when I finally awakened, smelled the coffee, and started behaving like a grown up with two brain cells. I don’t learn very quickly and this lesson came in the form of a mountain of debt, a foreclosure, and a terrible credit score.
I really hate dealing with money, too. Why would anyone want to cope with something they sucked at? But I had to cowgirl up and deal with the debt and rebuild. I did it and have managed to remain out of debt (by the grace of God). So how does someone who is “bad with money” rebuild their credit score and stay out of debt? Was it because I suddenly had buckets of cash after I gleaned a hot stock tip?
I broke up with the idea I am “bad” with money. Granted, I’m so thoroughly honest I couldn’t change it to an affirmation of: “I’m so good with money!” But rather it was: “I’m much better with money.” I also started looking at money, as energy I could draw towards me and worked towards looking at what I had rather than what was absent. This hasn’t been easy. My parents were children of the depression and scarcity thinking was engrained in me. But I plod along and concentrate on what I have rather than what I perceive I’m missing. I’m also mindful of envy. I try very hard not envy people my age who made sound financial decisions and have more to show for it. Which leads to the most important piece of this change: Forgiveness. My envy isn’t really envy, it’s a message I deliver to my heart that serves to only reinforce scarcity thinking. !” I also refuse to tell myself: “I can’t afford_______” It isn’t I can’t afford it; I don’t want to afford it. Two vastly different things.
Finally, I’m working on forgiving myself all the money I’ve squandered, the time wasted, and the simpering thirty-something who didn’t have the spine to demand a financial partnership in her marriage. And a few times a week I look myself in the mirror and remind myself: “You are getting so good with your money!”
And I mean it.