Something Has to Change
Posted by Ken | Filed under Ken
First, a joke to brighten your Thursday.
Question: How many social workers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: Just one.
But the lightbulb has to WANT to change.
Change is scary for a lot of people. Often it means confronting a part of yourself that you wish wasn’t there. Maybe you shop to feel good. Maybe you’re a credit card junkie. Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough or strong enough or disciplined enough to change. I personally didn’t want to change my money habits because I didn’t feel like I possessed the right knowledge, skills, or discipline. I’m also not very patient with things that I don’t understand right away – “If I’m not going to be able to do it correctly right from the get-go, I’m not going to do it at all.”
In my mind, the concept of ‘personal finance,’ was an adult preoccupation that I had neither the maturity nor the mountains of cash to have anything to show for all the work it was going to take in order to maintain. Basically, I’d had myself completely defeated before I’d even started and besides, it was easier to ignore the reality of my situation and just live my life unchecked.
Let’s face it: ignorance is bliss.
But ignorance has a way of gnawing at you in a way that makes the bliss FAR less blissful.
I remember when I made the conscious decision to change how I dealt with my money. I had just returned home after celebrating Christmas ‘10 with my family. I was lazing about on a particularly snowy day in Toronto and took to the internet to distract my brain. I got a craving for some reality TV and one episode of Gail’s ‘Til Debt Do Us Part’ turned into about a few dozen over the course of a day (Gail is rolling her eyes at me right now). “Guilty pleasures, right Gail?”
I remember watching the unfortunate couples on TDDUP and thinking, “how could these people let things get SO bad!” At the time, part of the reason I watched Gail’s show and others like it were primarily schadenfreude-istic (a term for the satisfaction we get at the misfortune of others). On paper this is an awful concept but in reality, we all do it. We watch people who have made a mess of their lives because, in a way, it makes us feel better about our own lives. After watching an untold number of episodes, it slowly dawned on me that these couples represented the good, bad, and the downright awful of ALL of our financial lives – including mine. I felt myself shifting from just being a voyeur of their lives to being an active participant in their dialogue. If these normal people could start from scratch and turn their lives around, then why couldn’t I?
I certainly had good reason to want to change. Three years out of university, I was gainfully employed but it seemed that all my money was going to my two biggest expenses: my downtown apartment and my $25K student loan. I had no assets other than my shiny MacBook, modest credit card debt and a slowly-shrinking savings account (yes I know these aren’t assets).
My earnings had increased a couple times since getting my first post-graduate job but without a strategy in place for that extra money, I wasn’t getting any farther ahead. I could feel my biological clock ticking (call it a quarter-life crisis) and at 27 years old with this this debt looming over me. I had less than nothing. The anxiety this spurned was enough to get me motivated.
I had crossed the threshold and no longer felt blissfully comfortable with the ignorance that had dominated my financial life. I decided then, on that wintry December day that I was ready to change and and embrace a new money savvy lifestyle.
Tomorrow is my birthday and at the ripe-old age of 29, I can say without a doubt that my picture looks a lot brighter. My debts are paid off, my net worth went from -$30k at age 24 to +$30k today. I’m more content with what I have, I’m a LOT wiser, more patient and – all things considered, I’m living my life free of financial stress. The idea of investing, home ownership, seeing the world and enjoying a happy retirement are now tangible concepts in my life and, most importantly – I’m in control.
Obviously I’m going to get more into the specifics of how I got here in my future entries, but my point is this:
If you want your financial situation to change for the better, you not only have to WANT to change, but you have to be ready to ACCEPT change.
For you readers who are well on your way to financial independence, I’d love to hear what motivated you to commit to the positive change in your life!
Until next week. Stay savvy.
P.S. Don’t forget to hug your Dad this weekend.