Have you ever asked yourself what motivates you to be financially responsible? If you feel that you aren’t, have you thought about reasons that you should be? I think that a lot of people have the misconception that your personal finances are just that, personal. I learned from a young age that how you handle your finances can affect your family as well. I come from divorced parents that handled their finances in very different ways, both good and bad, and I learned valuable lessons from both as I grew older.
My mother never went to college, and she instilled the need for a good education from as far back as I can remember. She grew up in a family with two sisters, and my grandparents never had much money either. She never had a lot of money, and to this day she still doesn’t. However, my mom made it a point not to live above her means. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t provided for. There were always Christmas presents under the tree, I never went without on my birthday, I ate well, and she did her best to keep up with the clothing trends when I was in school.
She remarried when I was very young, she and my stepfather worked at restaurants, she as a waitress, and he as a chef. Both had to work long and less than ideal hours, and many times at second jobs. I remember my mom would moonlight as a bartender at a private country club during the busy holiday season. For a number of years she would come home from her day job, eat, and then go and work at a nightclub as a coat checker, working mainly on the tips provided from the patrons. I didn’t see her as often as I would’ve liked, but I understood why she made the sacrifices that she did. When she was home she would spend most of her free time tending to my grandmother who was in remission from Lymphoma cancer, promising never to put her in a home, a promise that she kept for the rest of my grandmother’s life.
There were four of us living in a two bedroom home, it was cramped at times, and I didn’t always have my own bedroom, but we made it work over the years. It wasn’t always easy, and the frustrations got to her at times, but unfailingly she got us through the hard times, and I’d like to think that I’m better for it. When I graduated from high school I was fortunate enough to have good enough grades to get into a good college. It was at that point that I saw what my mom had worked so hard for over those years, as she promised to pay for all of my schooling as long as I agreed to be the first college graduate in our family.
My father is a good person, he always showed me love, he was involved in my life, and I often spent the weekends with him growing up. When I was a child he worked long hours as a bartender himself, in fact that’s how he and my mom first met each other. Over the years he got into restaurant management, but at times the work hours were even worse, and the pay not all that better.
Unlike my mom, he tended to live above his means. I knew when I was younger he had gotten himself deep into credit card debt to the tune of about $50,000. Eventually he remarried as well, to someone in a better financial situation, and together they were able to pull him out of debt. He had the same agreement to help pay for my college as long as I graduated with my degree. Nobody on his side of the family had gone to college either, and he knew this was important to avoid working the long hours and unstable jobs that he was used to.
Despite knowing the importance of money and finances, he was really never able to be financially responsible himself. He had gotten himself back into credit card debt through the years, so much so, that he was unable to contribute anything towards my tuition during the last year of my undergraduate degree. By the time I graduated, my father had been married and divorced three times, as well as having to declare bankruptcy.
Fast forward nearly a decade later, my mother and stepfather live in the house that she grew up in, the house that I grew up in, and the very same one that my grandmother left to them after her passing. They are nearing retirement age, and have saved a little money, not a lot. I always wonder how much more they would have if she hadn’t paid for my college, and instead invested that money for themselves over the years. My stepfather still works long hours in a very hot kitchen (I know how hot because I worked there in high school one summer!), and my mom now works for a food broker doing sales.
My father lives in an apartment and is doing his best to get himself back on his feet, working as a bar manager at a pub within walking distance to his place. Admittedly, there was a period of my life that I helped my father financially quite a bit, but now he is trying to take responsibility of his life.
I learned a lot of lessons from my parents, obviously from two very different perspectives, but both were invaluable. I graduated with my finance degree from the University of Michigan, and later received my MBA from there as well. I work in corporate finance for a fortune 500 company and have enjoyed a lot of success in my career. I live in a nice suburb of metro Detroit, I own a home, contribute regularly to my retirement accounts, I invest regularly, and try to spend wisely. I’m 30 now, I’ve been dating my wonderful girlfriend for two years, and it’s no secret that marriage is on our minds. I know this long and drawn out article you have been reading seems like a ploy for sympathy, and then perhaps my chance to brag, but it’s simply an opportunity for me to explain what motivates me to be financially responsible.
I love my family, and I love my girlfriend, and eventually when I have children of my own I will love them as well. I want to see my parents be able to relax and retire at some point in their healthy lives. I want to provide for my soon-to-be wife and children, and give them the love and comfort that I know my mother did her best to give me when I was child. I don’t want my family to worry; I want them to feel safe and secure, and know that they will never have to go without. If someone ever asks me what motivates me to be financially responsible, or why I blog about personal finance, I’d be happy to tell them…my family!
What motivates you to be financially responsible?
This is a guest post by Justin who blogs at Money Is the Root . . .of all things good and believes, “Money isn’t everything, but if it’s handled properly then it can certainly make things easier on you and your own.