“Money & Debt” is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Some people just feel uncomfortable talking about money to strangers; others are confused about how money and finances work, and others just like to keep things private. Hide their money under the mattress, if you will. But it’s a topic I absolutely love talking and learning about. I love learning and discussing personal finances, to be more specific. Since personal finances are a sensitive topic, this results in awkward conversations for me quite frequently. I bumped into my boss in the elevator the other day. Being socially awkward, I proceed to tell her the latte from Starbucks she’s holding can really hurt her wallet and add up to well-over $1,300.00 a year. She smiled politely and sounded intrigued. The next time she saw me, she hid her Starbucks behind the binders she was carrying and walked swiftly away with a smile and a nod. Way to impress the boss for that next promotion. So that’s where the idea for this column comes into play. A way for me to express what I’ve learned, and hopefully a way for Voice readers to learn something new or engage in constructive conversation.
Since I hit 30, money and finances have always been on my mind. Not in a greedy, money-hungry sort of way. But in a constant pursuit of financial peace. Financial freedom if you will. My husband is the spender in the family. I, on the other hand, have been labelled “the frugal one,” amongst many other things. I’ve been told I can be frighteningly stone-hearted when it comes to making financial decisions. Until recently, I used to feel bad for being this way. It’s not something I control, it just comes naturally to me. When he complains, I just say “frugal wife wealthy life.” I’ve learned to embrace my thirst for knowledge around personal finances and, hopefully, this will now serve a purpose.
The funny thing is, my love of all things money-related started in my early 30s, because that’s when I started paying for all my financial mistakes. Pun intended. I’ve now spent nearly a decade trying to learn how to correct those mistakes. It’s only the past year, however, that I’ve been able to see meaningful progress. And, once I started to see this headway, I started to love the whole process. I love the daily budgeting and tracking involved when I make spending decisions. I love setting up our bi-weekly budget and making sure each and every dollar serves a purpose. I love watching the credit balances finally start to slowly go down. I even, in a painful sort of way, love putting away a set amount of cash each month for my AU classes, knowing I will get out of this with absolutely zero student loans. It is a bit painful, however, when you have to fork over those crisp, clean hundred dollar bills every three-four months. But I soon get over it when I tell myself that I won’t have to pay double that amount since no interest kicks in. Why do I love all this you might ask? Because now I understand money better each day, even just a little bit more than I did the day before.
AU’s introductory microeconomics & macroeconomics classes lit the flame. They were probably the most painful classes I’ve ever taken. But I loved soaking up the information and understanding “the system.” This, in turn, made me want to learn more, to dig deeper into how money works. And the more I learn the better the sense of control I feel. We are finally controlling our money, rather than our money controlling us.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, by documenting my family’s journey of trying to break free and get out of the rat race, I am hoping I can not only keep myself accountable toward our goal but hopefully, even minutely, inspire or help someone else do the same. Financial illiteracy and poor choices have been passed down for many generations in both mine and my husband’s families. This is our greatest attempt, to date, at breaking free from this generational curse and setting a new standard. My name is Angela and this column will serve as record of my family’s journey towards F.I.R.E. – Financially Independent, Retired Early.