As a Money Coach and a proponent of financial education, I’m always on the lookout for ways to inspire people to manage their finances well.
One way to do that, I believe, is to share our personal stories of triumph over economic adversity. It’s encouraging for those who are struggling financially to realize that they can have a positive financial afterlife – no matter what kind of crisis they’re currently confronting.
That’s one reason I’ve been open about discussing my own past financial mistakes, including getting myself into – and out of – $100,000
worth of credit card debt.
But now I want to share with you the true story of one of my favorite financial literacy educators in the country. Her name is Marlene Ware and she does tremendously valuable work at the non-profit National Foundation for Debt Management, along with her volunteer activities throughout the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida area.
Best of all, Marlene truly cares about people and has a heart for helping those in financial need.
Here is Marlene’s story, in her own words:
From birth to 18, a girl needs good parents. From 18 to 35, she needs good looks, from 35 to 55, good personality. From 55 on, she
needs good cash. I’m saving my money. ~ Sophie Tucker
Well, I better start saving my money. I’m too old to get help from my parents and I am beyond the threshold for good looks and personality. It happens in a flash – one day your entire future is in front of you and the next your toes are on the doorstep of retirement! Sophie Tucker knew what she was talking about!
So, you “plan” to save money (someday) – but how do you begin? Start with recognizing your Achilles’ heel when it comes to spending.
If you will indulge me, I want to tell you a little bit about my spending history. It truly did not serve me well.
I am single mother with three daughters – all grown up now with children of their own. I was very lucky to earn a comfortable income as a teacher, but with three daughters I still found myself moonlighting as a caterer/ convenience store clerk/ yearbook editor/ summer employee at the jail/ produce stand cashier, etc. And when my income didn’t cover my “needs,” I would supplement with credit cards. You know what I mean? It was often much easier for me to use my credit cards than it was to part with my cash. The cash in my pocket gave me a sense of
security. My credit cards (eight open accounts!) gave me the feeling that the financial playing field was equal. I was able to buy prom
dresses and shoes just like all of those dual income married-moms.
Eight credit cards and thousands of dollars later I finally had all of my daughters in college. It was time for me to look at my financial mess. There are so many reasons that people spend every cent they earn (and more).For me it was guilt – that was my Achilles heel.
I could not provide a two-parent family for my daughters and didn’t want them to feel “different” from the other kids. I truly believed that if I made sure they had everything the other kids had (and more!) maybe it wouldn’t matter that their father was not around. I was wrong on so many levels.
My guilt was diluted by the steady stream of temptation in my mailbox every day – catalogs, advertisements, coupons, and invitations to
grand opening events, and especially credit card offers. I would climb over snow banks and wade through raging water to get to my mailbox. My mailbox was the vehicle I used to push back my guilt. It helped to build my beaten-down self-esteem and gave me the option to become something that I wasn’t (rich!).
The credit card bills in my mailbox created a whole new level of guilt. I spent many hours working odd jobs at night and on weekends just to keep my financial head above water. I was working to support my credit cards instead of spending precious time with my daughters. Trust me when I tell you that I have great regret.
My daughters do not remember the “stuff” I bought them – they also don’t have wonderful memories of the times we spent together. So, my
guilt was not effective. I didn’t give my daughters what they really wanted: my time. I know because they told me.
I believe it is even more difficult for single moms now. Internet shopping, Facebook, cable TV, and junk mail all create a sense that we must buy, buy, buy each new thing. It looks like everyone else is doing it! Someone has to stand up and tell the truth! None of us can afford to keep up with the hype!
Take a lesson from me: memories mean more than stuff. Ask your kids to tell you what their favorite gift was Christmas before last. You are probably still paying off the credit card you put it on – and the kids may not even remember what was under the tree two years ago.
You can stop the cycle and reduce the spending temptation in three easy steps:
First, OPT OUT of credit card offers. You can go to www.optoutofprescreen.com or you can call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). This will stop the credit reporting agencies from selling your credit information. Selling your personal information is wrong on so many levels, but it is as common as rain. (Read these 5 reasons to opt out of credit card offers, along with more information about how to opt out).
Second, stop telephone marketing by going to the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov, or you can call 1-888-382-1222 to stop those irritating phone calls. You can stop the marketing to both your home phone and cell phone.
Finally, stop the junk mail. I don’t miss the barrage of holiday catalogs that used to entice me with beautiful glossy pictures of items I never knew existed – but couldn’t imagine living without! Go to www.dmachoice.org/consumerassistance.php and select the type of advertising you want in your mailbox.
And now my final words: Pay Yourself First. Saving money is critical to your secure future. Your kids will grow up and you will
grow older – this I know. If you don’t begin saving TODAY your retirement future is at risk. I started late, but I am on track and
may be able to retire by the time I am 75. Not what I expected for sure. I had visions of travel and adventure! Take a lesson from me!
You have the power to take control of your own financial future. Think about your spending triggers and eliminate them. Have a portion
of your paycheck automatically deposited into a savings account (one without an ATM card!). Even $5.00 is a start.Teach your children the same lesson.
You can turn your financial future around – one dollar at a time!
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