Money is complicated. The fact of the matter is that I’ve never had it. Sure I’ve earned a decent living both past and sometimes in the present, I didn’t grow up having money. You could most likely describe my family and I as solidly poor.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I grew up in Garfield Park, on Chicago’s Westside about a 10-minute drive to the United Center and 20 minutes to downtown.
My mom held it down with a bit of help from family with all five of her children in tow. Looking back I never realized my mom was so young. She was just 18 when she had her first child and 28 when she had me. She was a certified nurse assistant during my high school years but she mostly worked in factories before that.
When I left home for college, it was a pretty epic first year. I’d enrolled at Chicago State University, and did well, but I was set on transferring to NIU next year when family issues had me living with relatives and without a mom for about five years.
With no parent to sign my FAFSA I had to figure out how to make money and a place to live. I moved in with my great aunt for a while before I got a crappy job a telemarketing company where I did pretty well. I got an apartment with my then-boyfriend and officially established an adult relationship with money.
Paychecks – I didn’t make much but it was an honest living. I got paid, then paid rent and bills. Anything that I didn’t use on bills and rent, I spent. I loved spending so there were ZERO dollars in savings. I didn’t even have a bank account.
Taxes – LORT! Taxes take a huge chunk out of your pay and unlike many of peers looking forward to huge returns, I was single with no children and no other bankable expenses for uncle sam, so there was nothing to look forward to. That was until I was offered a couple of children to claim on my taxes. That is right! My tax preparer told me that she could add a couple of children and that would get me a significantly higher return.
I know! I know! Unclutch your pearls sis. Now I know it’s not just wrong but a crime. At the time it seemed legit. I mean a professional was telling me this, the forms on the computer even had a relation option that fit the situation. All was good until I was audited and slapped with HUGE FINES and so much debt to the IRS that I’m still paying for it 14 years later.
Credit – Because I never had money, I never really thought about my credit. I had several delinquent accounts and I’d never needed to apply for anything that required decent credit. I’d lived in the hood where as long as you didn’t have any evictions you were pretty much qualified to rent.
When the various bill collectors would call, I’d say… “Get in line behind the IRS.” Oh, how I’d grow to regret this. But to be honest, even if I wanted to pay them, I couldn’t, I simply didn’t have enough money to cover what I owed.
I wasn’t living high off the hog. I simply couldn’t afford to live on my own. I think the most interesting thing about my relationship with money is that being bad at managing it was normalized.
I was poor and I was in a community of poor people, who got by the best they could. When I’d tell people in my hood about the tax problem, they’d wince and say… “Man, they got you. F’in IRS!”
Normalizing can be incredibly dangerous.B
Now, here I am. 37 years old, married with 3 children and good credit, taxes paid and having a saving is critical. It seems that having a start in poverty adds 200 lbs on your back as you climb to the middle class.
I’ve had some wins. I have purchased a car without needing a cosigner, my husband and I bought a home last year and while my credit has taken a hit, I do have a shot at actually getting and maintaining decent credit.
I still suck at not spending every free cent. My former Pastor said that in every marriage there is usually a spender and a saver. My husband is the saver. Thank God for him. Before my husband, I had never known the peace that comes with saving. However, I want to develop this discipline on my own.
These are my financial goals for 2020.
- Build/Rebuild our credit
- Develop a more disciplined approach to saving
- Address my State Tax status (Yeah, I’ve only really addressed the Feds)
- Increase & stabilize my income
I saved this for last because I didn’t want to talk about it. But like all the other areas I want to address, it is of the utmost importance if I want to achieve self-mastery.