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This post comes from my wonderful reader Lucille Morgan. She is a writer, activist and free spirit. Believing that life is too short, her mission is to live creatively and joyfully. Wealth and healthy relationship building are some of the themes she waxes lyrical about on her blog. She is also a contributor at: www.pinkvox.com
You’ll find her “uncommon sense” at: www.wisdomona.blogspot.com
Money, men and me are the un-holy trinity in my life. I‘ve had endless conflict and wrapped myself in knots because of that terrible trio. Alone, I’m just fine but as soon as one of them enters the mix I’m back on the financial rollercoaster. Money I can handle, but as soon as I’m in a relationship, there’s trouble. There’s a thin line between frugal and mean and the men in my life veer between the two but it’s not enough of a happy medium. Mine’s not an uncommon story. The 3M’s have pushed me to the edge of heaven, hell and the space in-between.
Where should I start? My financial history has been marked by inconsistency and sheer irresponsibility. At times I’ve been a great saver, automating my bill paying and setting up regular savings but I’ve not stuck to any major life plan; not even solvency! In my youth, I went over the top with shopping. I used and abused credit. I made a few investments but felt twinges of resentment for having to sacrifice quantity of life in the present to have a life in the future. I hated the job I was in and was plagued with a series of “What if’s” – “What if I have to work at something I don’t love for the next 20 years?” “What if I get laid off?” “How am I going to stand working with so many jerks?” “ I don’t want a living; I want a life!”
Money is like my evil twin. It perches on my shoulder and eggs me on to do reckless things like booking a holiday before budgeting for it. Money is my love-hate relationship. I’ve loved some of my purchases but hated what I paid for them. Each time I have a decent amount saved in my emergency fund, sure enough I’m soon forking out for something essential. Once that fund is depleted it’s slow replenishment. My money lies could cover the spectrum of the rainbow from white to indigo. I hid receipts and purchases in the trunk of my car. Ironically, I gave financial advice to others (I worked in a bank) whilst in debt up to my eyeballs! Money never stays long around me and it’s only in my 40’s that I’ve finally got a grip. For 10 years or more I never opened a bank statement so didn’t have a clue about where my money was going.
After my divorce in 2010, I started to find out just how badly I’d mismanaged my money. Then, I went cold turkey. I stopped spending except for the essentials and cut down on my social life. For 18 months, I existed like a hermit and only now I’m feeling as if I can come out of my cave.
The foundation for my money values has been weak. If parents are your first financial guides then we don’t need to look far for the reasons for struggle or prosperity. We were a middle class family with poor money sense. My mother worked part-time outside of the home and my father was the breadwinner and the dominant financial force. He was ego-centric and emotionally distant. Money was limited and so was love.
My relationship history mirrors the one I have with money. Men have loved playing the “bad guys” in my life. My dear ex, at first, was an attentive boyfriend. He did all the right things but he said he didn’t believe in getting silly over birthdays, Christmas and Valentine’s. He also didn’t believe in joint bank accounts and he would pay the mortgage and I would pay for the utilities and food. Had I had enough forethought and self-esteem I would have heard the alarm bells ringing. A few years into the marriage as new parents, the debts started to accumulate. He told me he’d “take care” of them and that I needn’t worry as he was now investing in stocks. Pre-occupied with the growing needs of a young family I dismissed all the niggling doubts. Twenty years later, the doubts re-surfaced and I confronted him. Much like my father he became evasive and often abusive. I ended the marriage and my lawyer proceeded to dissect his finances. It wasn’t pretty and he was bankrupt and insolvent to the tune of over $25,000. I’m still paying for some of the joint debts and will be for a long time.
Am I bitter? Do I regret? Am I a victim? To all those questions my reply is no. I’ve faced my demons and grown stronger as a result. If knowledge is power then I need to use it wisely. Fear doesn’t have a hold on me as it once did. I savour my independence and maturity. I know I’m leaving my children with a healthier financial model than what was passed to me. Life is learning and learning involves making mistakes and risk taking. I’ve learnt and grown through my challenges. I shop less and save more – that’s my simple philosophy. I’m on the right mental track now….even if it takes me awhile to reach my destination. If there’s downer then it’s that I’m less trusting and less sociable. I’m seeking my financial match before I commit again. I’m getting rich on the inside by keeping a lid on my emotions. Riches on the outside will have to wait.