Yesterday I spent the morning walking through Barnes and Noble in order to get some new personal development books. I knew I wanted to get something to teach me more about personal finance and creating/managing a budget. I also wanted to find something inspirational. Something to help me be reflective and inspire me to be a better all around human being. So after a few laps in the book store I walked out with David Ramseys Total Money Makeover and Tony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within.
Today I started with David Ramseys book. He proclaims throughout the beginning that this is not going to be a book full of things you have never heard before. Instead it is a book full of simple practices that just need to be implemented and you can be successful. No hidden top secret steps, just the basic steps that even your grandmother followed. When I reflect on my grandparents I was always amazed at hearing stories of where they came from and the lives they made for themselves. My grandfather came over from Italy when he was 3. Both of my grandparents were old enough during the depression to know what hard times were and how important it was to plan your finances so that you never had that danger hanging over your head. My grandparents were simple people. My grandfather was a chef and owned his own restaurant in the Flat Iron Building in NYC. My grandmother understood the importance of developing a life with stability and convinced my grandfather to move “up north,” an hour and a half north of NYC, to the “country,” to become the chef in a local school district. I know what you are thinking! Chef! In a school district? Yes, they actually use to get food deliveries and make their own food. That was before processed food became the new cool thing. Anyway. I remember going over my grandparents house and hearing stories of how it used to be their hunting shack. They used to come up from the city on the weekends from Coney Island and hunt for food. It was a little shack with an outhouse. Slowly but surely they continued to build on to this shack and eventually made it a home. It was a modest house. I remember my grandmother was often sitting in her office, which was attached to the dining room and barely big enough for a desk and she would keep track of their accounts. Everything was written out and meticulous. She new where ever penny was and she was not going to spend it. The came from nothing. They were a family of immigrants that mainly had labor jobs. They were craftsmen and hard laborers. My great grandfather used to carry pianos up and down stairs…by himself! They were traditional NYC immigrants from various parts of Italy. They came over with nothing and they worked their tales off to make a better life for their families. My dad used to tease them about how tight they were with their money. It was a big joke in our family until they both passed away and we found out how much money they left behind. I never asked the exact amount but it had to be about half a million dollars. That is what they cared about. They wanted to make sure that they would never be in need or indebted to anyone else. Heaven forbid there was an emergency, they needed to be prepared. Well they were. Right through the end they never relied on anyone to take care of them financially. Who would have thought that 2 little school kitchen workers could save so much. I had no idea it was possible.
Now I have grown up in a different world. My dad definitely inherited the penny pincher methodology from his parents but there wasn’t the same sense of urgency, or fear. So as you get further and further away from an experience like the Depression, the less of an impact it has on your psyche. Instead, I grew up living a modest life. I was taught the importance of saving money but it was also important to be able to enjoy some of the finer things in life. Yes I took an economics class in high school but that wasn’t practical knowledge to me back then. I never took a finance or accounting class, probably because my dad was the accounting teacher! I knew that it was important to keep track of the money you have in your account. I knew how to keep my check book….but eventually that all seemed to obsolete. There are computers now and atm cards. You have access to that information all the time. Why should I have to sit at a little desk in the small office attached to my dining room and keep records of all of my transactions. It wasn’t as valued as it was in my grandparents time. I didn’t know anyone that did it and so I definitely didn’t do it. With that said, I still saved money. I don’t go overdrawn on my accounts. I have been very conscious about preparing for retirement. When my grandfather was alive he used to laugh at me when I would tell him how I was planning for retirement. He never planned to retire and that is all I would talk to him about. Talk about a generational gap.
So now I am trying to take a step back and learn. Learn some of those lessons that I know my grandparents knew. The main quote in Davids book is that “If you will live like no one else NOW… LATER you can live like no one else.” That is so foreign to my generation. I want it now because why shouldn’t I have it. I work hard. I save. I have a good income so does my husband. Shouldn’t we be able to….. Don’t we deserve to…. Where is the balance to it all? That is what I am hoping to learn.
One of the things I find most interesting about this book so far is how most of the analogies have to do with fitness. What do you blame for being out of shape? Is it ice cream or going out to eat? The point he makes in his book is that it isn’t the ice cream, or your favorite restaurant, it is you. You go to the ice cream shop. You decide to go out to eat. If your favorite places disappeared you would just find another place to go. The same thing goes for money. If there are things you need to learn. If there are missteps you have taken. If you trusted the wrong person. They are all things that you had a role in and are therefore responsible for.
I am excited to go down this road. I’m not completely sure where I will end up but I know that I am responsible for learning these lessons and that it is past time to take control of this part of my life.