Welcome to a guest post from my insanely talented brother :) Needless to say, you can tell who the “real” journalist is in the family. But even more importantly, he’s finally got his financial act together out of all these years! You’re my boy Blue!
This may be a little long, but if you like my writing style you’re REALLY gonna love his. Perfectly punctuated and grammatically correct too (imagine that?). If you dig it, drop a comment and show him some love :)
I used to be a squirrel – a bearded, six-foot-two varmint who routinely stored his hard-earned acorns in the mouth of a tree trunk. I wanted to be prepared for those proverbial “rainy days.” I told myself I was saving up for the inevitable. You know, in case I needed to have my car fixed, my condo upgraded, or if Jessica Alba ever put herself up for auction.
Point is, I was preparing … but for what, exactly?
Growing up, my parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility that still resonates to this day. Always floss, don’t drugs, yadda yadda yadda. All of that after-school-special stuff guided me along my path from geek to chic, but what really hit me was the importance of staying financially healthy. I had to always balance my checkbook, save my receipts and look for sales. I had to build a home, put up those tacky lawn ornaments and live in the black.
My parents vehemently stressed the importance of saving money, of putting portions of each paycheck into a bank account and leaving it there. I remember when I was making a few greenbacks at a seafood restaurant, and I would come home smelling like I had spooned with a lobster for eight hours. They wanted to know if I would be putting some of my paycheck away for the future. Yes, I told them. Right after I spend some of my hard-earned money on outrageously priced Nikes.
My folks were always on my back about money, but it worked … to a point. After I graduated from college in 2003, I applied for my very own credit card. One thing led to another, and I found myself owing $1,000 to Best Buy, $800 on two credit cards and several hundred against my bank’s line of credit. At the time, I was only making $30,000. While I could have been paying down my debt (slowly), I instead felt obligated to beef up my savings from a paltry $1,800 to somewhere in the $2,500 realm. I needed to save money, a la my parents’ advice. Besides, I could always pay off that debt, right?
Wrong. That line of thinking was ridiculous. I was so dumb that when I had a brainstorm, it just drizzled! I had a lot of unnecessary debt at the time, but I still felt the urge to store my acorns for that rainy day. Truth is: That was the rainy day. Debt is bad. It’s like kissing your sister and liking it. You don’t want to have it, and you certainly want to pay it off before you fatten up your savings account. Nothing’s worse than having to relegate whole checks to debt payment.
Long story short, I wound up paying it all off by stripping for money at my family reunions. That was about five years ago, and today I have a 401k I’m trying to maximize; I bought a condo as an investment; I’ve built an emergency fund of $6,000; and I’m planning on investing in CDs and stocks. I no longer rely on a savings account that gives me a few dollars in interest every year- I’m beginning to diversify. Oh, and I’m debt free.
My parents taught me a lot about money, but what I learned on my own is just as important: Spread it around, baby. Act like your money is margarine and the bagel is your future. You’re the knife, and if you’re sharp enough, you’ll cover all the financial bases. In the end, you’ll find it’s better to have a lot of nuts in various trees than soggy nuts when it rains.