My parents went through bankruptcy… twice. When I was 11, I was keenly aware of the repo man towing away the family car, a gray 87′ Pontiac Bonneville. When I was 28, already far far away from home, my mother called to tell me that again my parents were filing for bankruptcy, this time however, no cars were repossessed oh-no, but their home was. My point is this, I learned about money from my parents, and presumably they learned the same way. I’m not blaming them, it was my choice to accept that attitude toward money and then repeat their mistakes, I had my own car repossessed when I was 22. I’ve known for some time I have skewed relationship with money, but only recently decided to do something about it. I love it money and I hate money. For me, money has always been a me against the man kind of deal, after all, it’s just a matter of time before someone comes and takes all I’ve worked (myself into debt) for away.
I get that this is a ridiculously unhealthy look at what money really is. Money after all is just a way to measure the value of goods and services, and I have that equation all kinds of screwed up. So, the question becomes, “How do I change my perspective about money and how can I be sure to pass on this more correct view of the stuff on to my children?”
A few things I’ve been doing:
I’ve put a $50 in my wallet that I never spend. I just happen to know it’s there and mentally spend it on things I walk by or see online. Some people use $100 bills for this, but to tell you the truth carrying around $100 bucks cash made me feel a little skittish, so I’ve been sticking with $50. The reason I’ve been doing this? It helps me kick the feeling that money is scarce, and it feeds the “impulse buying” beast that lives deep down in my debt riddled soul. I trick my mind a little into thinking that I have money to spend AND that I am responsible with it, which I guess is true – however, the idea is that I carry this feeling/reality will carry over into my macro finances as well. It doesn’t always work, sometimes I have to spend it, like when we’re an hour from home and the kids are starving, but for the most part, it’s been working.
I’ve been learning about how folks who actually have money use it. Yes, I actually called up wealthy acquaintances of mine and asked if I could talk to them about money… and for once it was not about me borrowing it. Turns out, they don’t spend more than they have, even w/loans etc. they have equally valued collateral, and still some liquid assets (i.e. savings). Also, every one of them invested in the stock market and not surprisingly all of them had parents who were also responsible about money. Shit. Not that people aren’t out there that have retaught themselves about money after a crappy childhood introduction, I just don’t know them. (I’m really hoping those people are out there, I’m counting on becoming one of them)
Which brings me to the last point, I started to learn about the stock market, and teach my children about it. I figure since the stock market is all based on the perceived value of a dollar it might help me with changing my perception of money. Plus, all my rich friends are doing it, and it’s not exactly like jumping off a bridge so I guess it’s ok to do what they do… this time. It’s a little intimidating to figure out, but I was clued into a site last week at Sobcon called weseed.com that has been a pretty easy to understand guide for us as a family to understand. It lets me make stock trades based on the real market but with imaginary money, which is kind of nice to have the pressure off while I’m ramping up to comfortably. I joined the Sobcon investing group and bought some stock in auto parts (people aren’t buying new cars so they’ll need parts for old ones.. right?), and am hoping for a little friendly competition within the group to keep it interesting, but what I’m really hoping is that it becomes part of the daily lives of my children, and that they become more comfortable and confident about money… a little healthy competition with our investment portfolios wouldn’t be bad either.
May 18th Update: I’m kickin’ my 14yr old’s ass w/this whole stock market thing. (Is it appropriate for me to be giddy about winning a game that I’m playing with children?)
Do you have any tricks that you’ve been using to change your perception of money?