It’s really not been until the last few years that I actually gave money much thought. I worked to get it. I worried when I didn’t have what felt like enough of it. I think I always just believed that I could adjust to whatever my money situation was. And I did that, quite well, I think. When I faced bad finances, a job layoff (which really only happened once) or a raise in the cost of living or a reduction in salary, in times of a job change, I always have been good at changing my spending patterns to make ends meet. But for so many years, mostly while I was raising my children as a single mother. I just made things work in the moment. Sometimes it was downright terrifying. I spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about what would happen if I didn’t get that next paycheck. Would I not be able to feed my children, keep a roof over their heads, would I lose them altogether? It was no way to live.
I think I was working so hard to just survive that I didn’t look to the future beyond the next paycheck. I couldn’t even fathom saving for retirement or a life after the kids were gone. My only purpose during that time was for us to survive and have a roof over our head and food on the table.
I was fortunate. For the most part, I had good jobs and sometimes very workable salaries, that made life easier and let me sleep at night. I was always aware of how lucky I was, as a single mother, that I never had to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. I sometimes accrued too much credit card debt trying to stay afloat, but somehow, I always managed to pay it down and still manage.
I was also lucky that my children learned quickly the reality of our finances and they never made demands or pressured me to buy them things they didn’t actually need. Their father and grandparents did fill in some gaps, and that was helpful. We survived the lean years and I think my children, now adults, are better for it. I think they learned the real value of things.
Now, I’m officially an empty-nester of nearly five years. I bought a house and accrued a lot debt, furnishing said house. I’m kicking myself now, because it’s more than I need or want. But, what it has done for me is make me truly see what I value in my life, and it’s made me see that I need to take a more pro-active role in my financial life.
I now have investments and and a retirement account. Feeling now like it’s fair to think I may live past retirement age (it’s gaining on me quickly), I need to start planning for a future where I no longer have a real job. I like working, so I don’t intend to give it up anytime soon, but I can’t keep living with blinders on, so I am learning to plan.
The odd thing is, for me anyway, I’m enjoying all the new apps I use to manage my finances. I like watching my credit score increase as I make necessary efforts to drive down my debt. I like seeing my money grow in various accounts. For me, this is such a departure from the mindset of “if I just ignore it, it will go away” that I’ve carried for my finances for most my life.
I still believe that all things work themselves out in the long run. But I have also learned that the long run can be a lot shorter with a little concerted effort. Where I focus my attention matters. This is true in all aspects of life, but for me, it’s always been money where I felt the most lack and focused the least attention. Anything worth valuing, protecting and building requires attention.
Money will likely never be the most powerful motivator in my life, but it does require some attention and some care. Now I can honor it with that. In turn, I trust that it will honor me back.