My husband thinks I’m good with money, which is a testament to just how bad he is with finances.
I think I’m still trying to figure out if money matters. I know that sounds crazy, but I mean it. Of course we need money in our society, but how much really?
I grew up in a financially poor family. Like, really poor. There were no food stamps back then, but we got what was called “Army surplus food”. Each month, my dad and older brother would load up laundry baskets into the car and leave and come back with them filled with food.
The baskets were filled with canned meats, big bricks of yellow cheese, flour, cornmeal, and butter. My mom would set about taking care of all of it, and knew how to make it all last for the month. Living on a farm gave us the rest of our food, so we didn’t go to a grocery store much. Together, as a family we earned the money we needed for everything else.
So even though we were poor, money wasn’t center stage in our lives. Which is probably why, as a young wife and mother I didn’t know the first thing about money matters. I pretty much spent whatever came in, and then some.
As luck would have it that was right when credit cards became the thing. And if you had one, it was easy to get another, and another. And so we did. About the time our 18-year marriage was coming to an end, we had just enough equity in our home to pay off all our debt.
And leave us both starting over with nothing.
Trying to figure out what I wanted to do for income at that point, I turned to real estate. Perfect timing on my part. It was 2002 and real estate was hot. I not only made good money, I made enough to buy my very first home by myself. Wow, I felt like I had everything figured out.
Before long I had a Mercedes and two more homes. My sons had finished high school and they were beginning their own lives, and I was building my empire. Until 2006, when it all unraveled.
Can you imagine how embarrassing it was for me the day I sat with my colleagues in a real estate class about foreclosures, and the first name on the list they passed out was mine?
So I started over…. again.
I remember meeting my oldest son for breakfast, and talking to him about life. I was down and defeated and I said to him, “this has been the hardest year of my life”. I immediately started laughing and I could see the concern in my son’s eyes. He probably thought I was going crazy.
It was in that moment that I had a wonderful revelation. As he touched my hand and asked if I was okay, I said, “If this was the hardest year of my life, I am the luckiest person I know”.
Losing things didn’t matter one bit. I still had my sons, my family, and my health. I had it all. I stopped collecting things and set about collecting experiences.
I was lucky enough to find someone else who felt the same way. We may not have fancy cars, or a grand home, but we have a grand life. And that’s what matters.