It’s funny, but I spend a lot more time browsing financial advice websites than I ever thought I would. Money is…a fraught subject. It’s fraught with emotions. It’s fraught with perceptions and assumptions. Sometimes it’s fraught with guilt, or distress, or sadness. Mostly, it’s just fraught.
I’m not going to lie. I don’t remember learning about money much as I was growing up. I think I remember a bit on checkbooks in Home Ec, and I sort of remember my parents discussing it, but I don’t really remember much. I got my first job at 14 (and damn near bombed it, so I’m eternally grateful for Robin at Domino’s Pizza in Diamond Bar for laying down the law on a rather ditzy kid), but I never developed good money habits. I’m not going to blame anyone but me on that. I was a smart kid, I just did some *really* dumb things.
So, college happened (and that entire thing was a financial disaster for everyone concerned, except possibly the college, since they got my parents’ money), and then a marriage that ended rather ignobly, and and and and and…
Fast forward to a few years ago. Maybe 2013, maybe 2014, but definitely in the timeframe of John’s stint in Houston. Things were…stressful. Between his living in Houston doing the awful awful recruiting gig, and my working full time and doing National Guard stuff on the weekends, we were seeing each other an average of nine days a month. Nine. Days. A. Month.
We were supporting two households. We were trying to handle two people who did not live together and did not reconcile their spending moving money around. We were trying to handle being utterly miserable, and failing. It was a bad time, and honestly, there are days I still don’t quite know how we made it, not just financially, but as a couple.
There was more going on- I was in a job that was making me increasingly suicidal, and my performance was deteriorating along with my mental resilience. John hated his job, and had no support structures in place, and he was so very angry all the time. Money was one more thing to stress out about, and so, we just kind of avoided it, until we simply couldn’t avoid it any more.
Because John was so miserable, and he wasn’t really able to keep a good eye on the bank account, he’d handed most of the finances over to me. I wasn’t really in a good headspace, and so, I tended to try to keep it all in my head, which led to John checking the bank account randomly and then calling up asking for answers to money questions.
It got bad enough that I was looking at cashing in that $400k National Guard life insurance policy. If I did, I thought, John could pay all the bills ad he’d be set for a while, financially. The things that were totally in my name might be able to be returned to the creditors, and take a few more things off John’s plate. In short, I was so freaked out about money I though killing myself was a reasonable way out because it would solve a lot of money problems.
To say that was not a good sign is…well, it’s an understatement.
We dug out, with a lot of help from friends (more than I could ever repay), and now, we talk about money fairly frequently. Weekly, usually, in MoneyBox, and I’ve been playing with You Need A Budget (YNAB) to see if it will do what I want it to. Things are perfect- we’ve still got more debt than either of us is happy with, but we’re making good strides, and we’re working as a team, so I’m free to focus on something that pisses me right off when reading financial blogs. These folks are able to make choices that so many other people *aren’t* able to make.
Great, so you managed to sell your vehicle, move to within walking distance of work, etc. and with all that, you’ve got a million dollars sitting in the bank, and you’re living high on the hog on an income that generates itself.
Good. Good for you. But how about you get off your high horse, and, instead of telling me to sell my van (which I wouldn’t have gotten the payoff for) or walk to work (do you have any idea how freakin’ HUGE Ft. Hood is, and how limited the employment opportunities are for spouses?) or buy a bike to bring my groceries home, or whatever, how about we talk about the real stuff that is useful for folks.
No, not cutting out that $5 latte, because really, when I was looking at feeding the dogs or keeping the lights on, I wasn’t *buying* $5 lattes, but actually teaching folks how to look at budgets, how to give every dollar a job, how to refocus.
I know the biggest thing that saved our butts was taking the chance and sitting down and talking to each other. Being honest about the debts and the income and how we were talking to each other about money. I was so scared John was going to walk away from me, and he was scared I’d want out because it was an all over terribly hard time. We were also lucky enough to have a friend who talked me through looking at all the numbers, and used the right words to unlock John’s interest.
I’m not sure what the answer is, honestly. I don’t have the tools to write the blog I want to see, but I know that I’m tired of seeing blogs that are totally not even close to where I want to be, or sometimes, not even willing to admit that most folks *can’t* make the changes they did. A lot of folks *won’t* make the changes, but a lot can’t, and I find it irritating that no on seems to want to admit that.
Ah well, I’m sure I had a point here somewhere but…I really can’t remember it.