The year 2015 proved to be a disaster in two areas — my physical health and my relationship with money.
In the first part of 2016 I tackled and successfully regained my health. Right now I’m taking on financial health.
I am 45 years old.
My Relationship with Money Brings Financial Disaster
I took a severance package from the Fortune 500 company where I worked. I lived off of it in 2010 and 2011. Maybe also 2012. But somewhere toward the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013, I starting stealing from my 401k.
Just to live. And to pay off some debt. But also so I could continue working part-time instead of full-time.
My health was in the toilet. My brain had switched to life support systems only, and energy for cognitive function turned off.
So, by 2015, my 401k was kaput. Please don’t tell Mary (we’ll come back to Mary).
By the third quarter of 2015, I had nearly maxed out the credit card. Did you know you could use Square to get cash from your credit card? … Rent? Paid. Twice, I think (but really, I wasn’t — thinking). Alas, to be creatively self-destructive.
But when there’s not enough credit available for rent, you go elsewhere.
Don’t worry: it gets worse before it gets better. When you hit bottom, you look for a hand up or a handout from friends and family.
Regretfully, I have not been one of those incredible people who battle against all odds to do whatever it takes to dig themselves out of a hole of their own design. I love those stories. But this story — my story — is not so quickly inspiring.
My story is still being written. So, back to it.
One friend and two family members helped me out to the tune of 3 grand, total. I now have two outstanding IOUs.
Hopefully the fact that they were wiling to assist me when I needed it most says something about the caliber of person I am in other areas. I hope.
To put a cherry on top of it all, we moved in with my wife’s parents. My wife could kill me. She won’t. But if she were the murdering type, well…
My Money Horror Stories
The relationship with money started horrifyingly at a young age.
– ONE –
My father. Hahaha. So many stories start out that way. But who was my father? No. Really…
“Mom, who’s my dad?”
“I’ll point him out the next time he comes into the neighborhood,” she answers. Then one day, Mom calls me to the front window and points him out.
All my 2nd grade buddies’ dads were amazing. I know because they told me. My dad had to be too, right?
Ice cream truck day comes and I hear the truck playing its luring jingle. Lo and behold, my dad is in the neighborhood! Score!
“Dad, dad, can I have a dollar for an ice cream?”
And that’s when the yelling started. Because I asked for a dollar.
I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t remember whether I cried, ran to my Mom, or if I hid. I probably hid and cried.
– TWO –
I’ve never thought of myself as poor. I just thought other people’s dads bought them neat toys and clothes.
Marky’s dad bought him neat toys. So did Matthew’s dad. Especially at Christmas.
Every September Mom would ask Grandpa Danny and Grandpa Ed and Grandma Judy for some money to buy us school clothes.
One Christmas, Mom drove us to the Salvation Army to get toys. She’d hide them in a bag.
One of the gifts I received was a football! When the neighborhood kids wanted to play football, I excitedly offered mine. I ran to the house to get it and took it back to the yard.
“What’s this? This isn’t a football! This is plastic! Hahaha.” I didn’t know real footballs weren’t made of plastic.
– THREE –
The best catalog in the world, as far as 7-year-old me knew, was the JC Penny Christmas Toy Catalog. I studied that thing forward and backward. I earmarked pages. I made notes. One day I would buy myself every toy I ever wanted.
One year someone gave me $100. Maybe grandma or grandpa. I decided to save it. To invest it in my future. Because one day, with the magic of compound interest, that $100 would grow into a great, hefty sum.
You didn’t believe that? Did you?
I SPENT THAT MONEY AS FAST AS I COULD. The only thing I remember buying was an electronics kit. And, like the fitness equipment I would buy later in life, I opened it, took it out of the package, and set it aside to gather dust.
Money Stories Aftermath
Did I deserve money? No. Not even $1.
I have always HATED asking anyone for anything. I would rather die.
Nine times out of ten I give money to anyone who ASKS for it, especially the homeless or someone who looks like they’re going through hard times, emotional or otherwise.
When you get money, spend it on ice cream and real, pigskin footballs, and health equipment.
Whatever you do with money, absolutely do not save it.
And so, for the next three decades I allowed my childish relationship with money to call the shots.
Healing Money Stories
From family I did not inherit quality money beliefs or stories or habits. On the other hand, strangers, relatively speaking, gave me the seeds of new money stories and a new relationship with money.
– ONE –
Two years ago or thereabouts I joined the How To Make a $1,000 a Month Business community. The first exercise is to get used to asking for things: ask for $1.
No… anything but that.
I was so uncomfortable with that exercise, that I chickened out and put out a request to all my Facebook friends. Kenny gave me $1 when I asked my Facebook followers for $1 as part of a business exercise. Kenny is the only person who gave me $1.
He doesn’t know it, but he replaced my old $1 story.
– TWO –
Mary, mentioned at the start, stood at my side in my cubicle two years into my job because I had not signed up for the company’s 401k program yet.
She would not leave until I logged in and signed up.
Thank you, Mary. I will rebuild. I promise.
Mary doesn’t know it, but the money in that 401k account, though used unwisely, safeguarded me through a pivotal moment in my life.
– THREE –
Three friends gave — not loaned, but gave — me money. They valued me and loved me enough to see me through a difficult time, no strings attached. I think they’re crazy. But I won’t let them be proven crazy because of me.
THE SOLUTION: A Healthy Money Relationship
I have three horror stories, three healing stories, and one massive financial shock to the system to motivate me.
Having money does not necessarily indicate a healthy relationship with money. This I know.
So now I begin this exciting new journey of financial education and recuperation, including how to develop a healthy relationship with money.
What’s your story? It would mean a lot to me if you shared it — in the comments, in a blog post of your own, or on Twitter at @TheMoneyplayer.