Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why people don't talk about money

Oh, man, am I ever learning as I go. I really am.

Sometimes I feel like obvious things get past me. Here's an example, as illustrated by a true story.

About a week ago, I was at a party. It's October, so it was a pumpkin carving party. I had a great time. Tons of friendly people, a push-up contest, eating pumpkin macaroni and cheese and talking about gratitude and love. All the proper ingredients to a good party.

I also met a charming and handsome gentleman whom I had great conversation with. He was my main entertainment at the party, and very easy on the eyes. We were both into talking about money. This last year I've been highly focused on improving my finances, and that came up in conversation. Some of the things I mentioned were that I use a budget, my net worth is important to me, I save 20% for retirement, and that I work to keep my expenses down. I also told him I've been trying for about a year to get a group together to talk openly about finances. We just don't understand why money talk is so taboo! And so we declare ourselves immune to the perceived dangers of money talk!

The cute guy, who I'll call Mr. Handsome for our purposes, congratulates me on my dedication to using a budget. He doesn't do that. He says I appear to have my financial head on my shoulders straight. That feels good, and I like to think so too.

Then Mr. Handsome tells me that he's stopped saving for retirement. I thought, oh no, this will not do! At only 30 years old, this is the time to save! I'm thinking of compound interest with reinvested dividends, employer matching and the function of time in these matters. As a wise old lady of 34 years, I tell him my advice that he should be saving now, no matter how much he's already socked away. Trust me, young man, I'm wise in these matters.

The conversation swims around in this general area for a bit, and he mentions that he's maintaining a net positive monthly right now (making more than he's spending), and feels good about his $200,000 he's got put away. Plus he's renting out two of his high-price condos and living somewhere more modest. Cool. Right on. We continue chatting.

I've met lots of people in lots of income brackets. I've lived in a homeless shelter and had a close friend who was a multi-millionaire. I am pretty convinced that I can be completely understanding of our minor difference as I go on having fun and feeling good. And I do. It's a fun night.

Then the next day comes. The next four days come, actually. And they're all the same. I'm depressed. So depressed I quit doing my school work (that's right, haven't done it yet) and even call out from work one day. So I can stay numbly in bed and eat ice cream. Lots of it.

I didn't get what was up my rump at first, but as I washed between anger and sadness and grief and self pity, it showed itself to me. I was taking a bumpy ride on the my-life-sucks train. I work hard to make ends meet, and that's cool. I wasn't feeling hurt because I'm poor or because Mr. Handsome isn't. I think Mr. Handsome is a super good guy and he deserves good stuff too. I recognize that there are people he seems poor next to and people that I look rich next to. It's all relative.

Takin' it to the BANK$Y
Takin' it to the BANK$Y (Photo credit: guano)
I was sad because I want to have money to donate to causes that I care about, money to free me from work so I can volunteer and travel, and money to do important, kind things for friends, family and strangers. I want to always know that I can afford the vet care my bird needs. I want to fully believe that I am capable of taking care of myself and my loved ones. And I've placed blame on people other than myself for my not having that money.

Completely true. Up to the moment as I write, I still do. Instead of building my net worth, getting a useful education, and making good money decisions, I spent my whole life so far being wounded and healing, unable to move past trying to make it another day. I spent my teens depressed and my 20s crazy. Really.

I had a rough childhood, I had fleas and was filthy and had no breakfast or lunch, and really really crappy things happened from there. I've been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (for believing my face was so ugly that it made other people feel pain, get sick and die), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (we'll not be discussing that here, or ever probably). I've been homeless in multiple states, sold sex to get shelter, and generally had a hard time staying alive and also believing that I wanted to be alive. Life was tough, violent, and scary. I was sober, but my mind was cluttered. I was distracted. You might have seen me smelling horrid and talking to myself as I putzed down the street.

By the way, I'm good now. No need to worry about me. Not only am I not crazy, but I'm actually a very happy, stable person in general. Time, therapy, food and shelter: it really works.

But now I feel like I wasn't given a fair chance. I'm years behind all the other smart, capable members of society, and basic evidence suggests that I may not be smart and capable. But I am. I was really supposed to be a prodigy. Stephen Hawking was supposed to hang out and play chess with me. I'm supposed to have created life-saving technologies. And also have a car.

So now I get something I didn't get before. The reason people don't talk about money is because it touches their wounds. There is probably no one who doesn't wish their money situation was better than it is. We're eternally unsatisfied with our finances. Must be better! Get more! I deserve better, more and faster! Do I not have it because I'm unworthy? Am I horrible and useless?

Nope. You're not bad, and neither am I and neither is Mr. Handsome. Money is not distributed based on worthiness as a human. It's important to keep that in mind if we want to talk about money in ways that are helpful to us. And not end up eating nothing but ice cream for days on end.

As of now my net worth is -$25,051.18 assets $29,844.87 debts $54,896.05.

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