Sunday, September 5, 2010

The reasons

I've written quite a bit about my quest to get out of debt and build up my savings before I move out on my own, but I haven't written very much about why it's so important to me.

I don't want to save a bunch of money so I can be rich and buy whatever I want. I don't want to live in a mansion, drive a Maserati and have a lot of expensive toys someday. Taking control of my money is not about putting myself in a position to buy more "stuff." It's about putting myself in a position where I can be free.

The classic, bestselling book Your Money or Your Life (which I'm currently reading) puts it best:
"To have savings is to be free. Savings means freedom from debt. Money in the bank means the freedom to leave your job if the boss is intolerable or the benefits have just been yanked. And if you lose your job, having savings is the freedom to keep your house and car because you can cover your payments — if you have any to make in the first place."
Having savings also gives you the freedom to do work you love for less pay. It gives you the freedom to live your life without constantly worrying about making ends meet. It gives you the freedom to retire at age 65, or earlier, knowing that you'll be able to cover basic expenses for the remainder of your life. And yes, it gives you the freedom to buy toys, to travel, to give fantastic gifts, to donate, to do whatever you want. Freedom.

My family didn't have this type of freedom while I was growing up. My dad lost his job when I was in the third grade, and from then on, I can't remember feeling very financially secure.

We always had a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs, but I was always very aware that my family had much less than other kids' families. I was very aware that my parents sacrificed big-time so that my brother and I could stay in the same school district with all of our friends. In a few years, and in the same city, we moved from a house to a rental house to a too-small apartment with too-few bedrooms. My parents got divorced.

I'm not saying life would have been perfectly rosy if we had just had more money; it's fruitless to look back on life and say, "If only...". But I do know that I can change my life in ways that will ensure that my future family will never have to go through the same types of moves, and that my future kids won't have to have the same types of worries and fears about money that I had growing up.

Of course, every generation hopes to do better than their parents. Rebekah Monson wrote a fantastic article about how twentysomethings are dealing with the crappy hand we've been dealt by the floundering economy, and about how our observations of previous generations have informed our values and goals:
"We are working and waiting for a chance to change the establishment to reflect our values. No, we don’t want what you have, just as you didn’t want what your parents had. We don’t want to spend our lives as perpetually burned-out slaves to a company that does not value us. We don’t want to be in bad marriages and isolate ourselves in McMansions. Neither did you when you were our age. Of course those things will happen to some of us, or perhaps most of us. But, right now, we’d rather hope they won’t."
I can't guarantee that I'll have a happy marriage or satisfying work life in the future, but I can arm myself with the knowledge and tools I'll need to help me do my very best to achieve those goals. About half of all marriages fail, and Dave Ramsey says that money problems are the biggest causes of divorce. I'm doing what I can now to, as Kanye says, "get my money right" so I can have a better shot at success.

As a currently single gal, I also agree 100% with Jenny Blake's "money manifesto" on Life After College about funding her own independence. She writes (emphasis hers):
"I made a promise to myself a long time ago — before I ever started collecting paychecks — to never stay in a job or a relationship because I can't afford to leave.

"When I was in college my mom told me that even if I get married someday, I should always know how to support myself. I should always know where my money is going, how to bring home a steady paycheck, and how to pay the bills if anything ever happened (like death or divorce)."
Right on, sister. My mom told me the very same thing. To feel trapped, whether it's in a terrible job, living situation or relationship, is one of my biggest fears.

So the reasons for my newfound obsession with personal finance are numerous, but they can all be summarized by these two: my desire to be free in every aspect of life, and my hope that I can do a little bit better as a worker, a daughter, a friend, a someday-wife and a someday-mother than I would have been able to before I got my money right.

Or maybe a lot bit better. Dream big.


  1. I love hearing stories like this one Devon.

    My parent's divorce is something that has created my passion for personal finance that I haven't wrote about freely yet. Your openness inspires me to do so. Its about time I fully share the reason why "I am the way I am".

  2. I like this article & have read a few of the books mentioned. Thanks for sharing!

  3. you're not so free as you claim : you still want your own family and you're a photographer : two materialistics way of thinkink life


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