debt debs

Personal Debt Wrangler – Had my money head in the sand – but no more!


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7 Financial Lessons Learned from My Parents’ Debt

I am very happy to have a guest post from one of my blogging friends, Erin from Journey to Saving.  I’ve mentioned before about how I worried about the impact that our financial bad habits have had on our kids.  Erin shares her story about this below.

financial-lessons-learnedI am no stranger to debt. While I have only personally experienced student loan debt, consumer debt came knocking on my family’s door decades ago, and nearly destroyed us.

Debs is very open in sharing her mistakes and experiences when it comes to debt and her own family, so that others can learn from her. It’s for that reason I only thought it fitting to share my own story here, with all of you, along with some of the lessons I’ve learned from my parents’ debt.

Debt is a common enemy of ours, and even though it brings dark and trying days, I’ve been able to get a few things out of it after starting on my own financial journey. After reading this post, I hope you’ll be able to as well.

The Beginning

It all started when I was 7. My dad had been laid off. I suddenly began hearing the word “No” much more often, accompanied by frustration at the predicament we found ourselves in.

My 7-year-old brain didn’t comprehend this as I can now, but I knew enough to be scared. What will this mean for us? I often wondered, especially after hearing my parents speak in hushed tones.

Bits and pieces made their way to my ears: losing home, can’t afford, might not recover, and can’t keep this up, were just a few phrases that clued me in to what was happening.

The real warning sign was that my lovely grandma was showing up at our house more often, always with food and household products in tow. It was as if we didn’t have to go grocery shopping anymore!

My childhood self was more than a little naive, thinking my grandma was stopping by just to spoil me with goodies. While that was part of the visit, something deeper was going on, as I saw her attempt to hand my mom cash several times. My mom usually refused.

Thankfully, my family recovered in about two years. My dad worked part-time until he found a full-time position, which put us in a better place. On top of that, my mom began to work full-time once I turned 13.

We went on our merry way, and I was none the wiser to the increasing pile of bills that would slowly bury us in several years.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

financial-lessons-learnedIt was only at Christmastime that I was told money might be a little tight, but my parents always managed to get me what I wanted most. I never truly knew just how bad of a state we were in, until my dad lost his job again, this time, while I was in college. This time, I knew what was going on, and I wanted to run.

My parents had never gotten their financial act together. They had never saved, and they still hadn’t paid off their debt. I was angry at them. Why hadn’t they learned from their mistakes the first time around? Was I the only one that remembered those times? I didn’t know how they let history repeat itself.

What’s worse, my mom became resentful toward my dad. Without his income, we were relying solely on her income, which was only half of what my dad made. I should say that my parents were never extremely high-earners, so while we kept a mostly frugal lifestyle, losing my dad’s income was a huge blow that we never recovered from for many reasons.

My parents have always been prideful and unwilling to take “handouts.” As such, my mom shouldered the burden of making ends meet by herself, even when I offered to help. Likewise, Debs is the primary breadwinner in her family, and I know it’s not easy at all. There are plenty of mom’s out there who are shouldering this burden, and doing an amazing job of it. While it can be a thankless job, your children will grow up to appreciate and respect you for it.

To say this was a difficult time would be an understatement. I can’t even begin to tell you all how happy I was when we finally got through it. There were times I doubted we would. I took mental notes through everything, because I knew I never wanted to go through that again.

I wanted to make sure I could safeguard myself against debt. Student loan debt had been different in my mind, so I sadly didn’t avoid that, but you can bet I won’t take on any consumer debt after what I’ve seen it do. For that reason, I’d like to impart to you the financial lessons I learned from watching my parents suffer with their debt.

7 Financial Lessons Learned from My Parents’ Debt

  1. Save, budget, and track spending. Keep an emergency fund. Please. It kills me to know my parents would have been fine had they actually taken the time to save money. Because they didn’t have anything to fall back on, any unexpected expenses would go straight on the credit cards. It was a vicious cycle they were unable to break out of. My parents also thought they had a good hold on things, but I guarantee that a budget or spending sheet would have opened their eyes.
  2. Communicate. According to my parents, there was a bit of miscommunication going on. My dad believed that they were paying the cards off in full every month, when in reality, they were paying the minimums. This was because my mom balanced the checkbook and paid all the bills. I know Debs has mentioned a few times that she didn’t realize how bad things were because her husband was doing the same. Even though I handle all of our finances, I always keep my boyfriend in the loop. Your other half needs to be included.
  3. Perseverance pays off. I want to inject a little happiness into this post! I’m glad to say that my parents fought the battle and won, in their own way. They are still in debt, but they were able to retire and move to a place that is much more affordable. They purchased their house outright and no longer worry about a mortgage. With the sale of their old house, they were able to put a large chunk toward their consumer debt, and they now have a good buffer in their bank account should they need it.
  4. There’s more to life than possessions. Having a little less than my peers made me realize early on that there’s simply more to life than having the newest gadgets, prettiest clothes, trendiest accessories, etc. My parents never purchased name-brand anything, and they always shopped frugally. They’re both deal-finders. I got a hand-me-down car (from my grandma to my mom, then to me) and only replaced it once it was unreliable to drive. Even though it was a funky teal color, I didn’t have to pay for it, and that made it valuable.
  5. Experiences matter. I’m an only child, and many of my memories growing up involve my parents. None of these memories revolve around things, though. Yes, I can remember the gifts they’ve given me over the years, but what matters most to me now is spending time with them. No one lives forever. So the next time you feel pressured into buying something for your children, remember that prioritizing experiences is the way to go. They will thank you for it some day. Remember to enjoy the little things life has to offer.
  6. Keeping up with the Joneses? Nah. I never got the sense that my parents were trying to keep up with anyone, even though there were plenty of people around us that were clearly questioning our priorities. They were never phased by it. Sure, it’s a little sad to see people from college “living the life,” (or so they want us to believe?), but I’m happy where I am. I have a great boyfriend, two adorable cats, and supportive friends and family.
  7. Don’t give up hope. This has to be the most important lesson I’ve learned. My parents went through a lot in a short span of time, twice. Yet, they’re still together. They pulled through. And I turned out fine. Looking at my student loan balance can make me feel hopeless at times, but I know I’ll reach a $0 balance someday. Being in debt has taught me things I never would have discovered about myself, and for that, I am thankful.

 

financial-lessons-learnedI want to close this out by saying that things could have been much, much worse. Compared to some people, my family had it easy. I am very grateful that my grandma was there to help us through everything, because I’m not sure we would have survived without her generosity.

Don’t let debt take away from you any more than it already has. I know it can be soul-sucking, and that the journey is a long one, but you’ll make it through if you choose to fight. And I know you want to, otherwise you wouldn’t be here!

What are some of the lessons that debt has taught you? Did you grow up around debt? How has it affected you?

erinmauthorpicErin M. is a full-time personal finance freelance blogger and virtual assistant. She’s passionate about helping other millennials get started on their financial journey. She blogs about frugality, being happy with less, and tackling student loan debt on Journey to Saving.

 

PART OF

brokeGIRLrich


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To Take or Not To Take Early CPP

take-CPP-earlyHey y’all I’m excited to be featured on two sites yesterday and today.

First @ Cash Cow Couple, Vanessa featured questions and answers from a bunch of talented and accomplished women in Woman Crush Wednesday (follow hashtag #WCW) and I was delighted to be part of it.   This is a one stop shop for some fantastic career advice and you don’t want to miss this!

Did you know Mr. Canadian Budget Binder has a newborn? While they’re adjusting to their new (lack of) sleep schedule due to bundle of joy baby CBB, he’s been featuring some great guest posts on his site.  Today I will go through our decision making process on whether The Irishman should apply for his Canada Pension Plan early, as in now.

Canada Pension Plan Dilemma

My husband just turned 62 and we’ve been in a quandary about whether he should take his Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) early (before 65) with penalty or not. We’re both still working and plan to be for the next 4 years while we pay off  a whack of debt.  Because of penalties introduced in 2012, the amount you receive if you take early CPP is less than before this legislation was introduced.  Let me try to walk through the peculiarities of our situation and how we reached our final decision.

Continue reading … at Canadian Budget Binder.
brokeGIRLrich
vision-retirement


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What is Your Vision of Retirement?

Today on Worth-it-Wednesday, please welcome Kassandra from More Than Just Money today. We are doing a guest post swap ’cause it’s just fun to mix it up once in a while.  Kassandra is talking about my favourite topic and one that is near and dear to many early FI planners. 

vision-retirementI started earning my own money at the age of 14 when I worked a paper route for the Montreal Gazette. I would wake up every week-day at 4 a.m., zip on my snowsuit and brave the minus 25°C winter mornings to throw neatly place over 100 papers on people’s doorsteps.

Then I’d rush back home to shower, change, eat breakfast and head back out to take the bus for school. I did this because my mom wouldn’t pay for a Nintendo gaming system because she didn’t agree with my argument that it was a need. I bought the Nintendo in short order but a few months in, I gave up the fledgling newspaper career and began a new hustle babysitting for several neighbours. Fast forward 20+ years, a career change and several side hustles later, I am a self-employed EDI consultant and creating a second stream of income as a blogger and freelance writer.

While I was always focused on making money, and spending a lot of it especially during my twenties, I never stopped to consider what I wanted out of retirement.

I knew that it was important to save money for my future. I was smart enough to contribute the minimum required in order to get the company match. Sometimes I surprised myself whenever I deposited part of any income tax refunds into my RRSP account. But back then I was only focused on the here and now when it came to my finances.

So What Changed?

It was a series of events that happened in the past five years. First I realized that I was crushing any hopes of a decent retirement and a comfortable daily existence by having $55K worth of consumer debt hanging around my neck. I got rid of that beast in 3 ½ years.

I had also been reading a lot of personal finance books and sites and some suggested that I needed 70% or more of my pre-retirement salary in order to reasonably retire. When I ran the numbers I about fainted because that was not about to happen with the way I was spending money. Within that previous sentence lay the answer to my problem: the way I was spending money.

Only with time and conscious effort did I adopt a lifestyle of less is more. Along with reducing expenses and increases in income, my husband and I now save and invest a little over 50% of our combined income.

Financial Independence

I learned through reading sites like JL Collins, Mr. Money Mustache and Mad Fientist that financial independence isn’t a pipe dream! I didn’t need to save “70% of pre-retirement salary” in order to retire comfortably. If we already managed to live well on 50% of our income, save and invest the other half, meet all of our needs and with planning indulge in some wants, then we were already on the right track.

With a commitment to living on 50% of our income, and not confining ourselves to a typical retirement scenario, it sparked discussions about what retirement would mean for us.

  • We wanted to travel more frequently while we were still physically able and healthy.
  • If our young son has children of his own one day, we’d love to be able to spend as much time with our grandchildren as we wanted. This desire also extends to wanting to share memorable moments with our son more frequently.
  • Spending time with close friends, especially when they are in need of support during a difficult time. I also plan to spend more time volunteering.
  • Establishing long-term financial security. I had experienced years of living paycheque to paycheque and hated the stress it caused me. As children, both my husband and I saw first hand the effects of financial instability. We don’t want to feel the fear of not having enough ever again.
  • I wanted to work because I gained satisfaction from what I do, not primarily due to needing to earn an income.
  • I didn’t foresee myself ever not working, but having the choice to take extended breaks, be location independent, cut back my hours or not work at all without a negative financial consequence really appealed to me.
  • I wanted to enjoy today a level of flexibility and control in my work life that could extend into retirement. That’s one of the reasons why I transitioned from a salaried position to self-employment.

A Picture In The Frame

Having lived for 38 years, and working for over 22 years, for once I’m very excited about the future. Our financial independence is not too far around the corner as we’re aiming to reach FI before the age of 50. Yeah, I know, that sounds old given the fact that you hear some people claiming FI status at the age of 27!

Our journey with money didn’t start out with being financially astute at the age of 18. I made some big mistakes financially that set me back for years. My husband also struggled for a long time before he began to see success in his career and personal finances. Neither of us can erase the past but we did learn from our shortcomings.

So many tell ourselves that we need to save for retirement, but throw money into our retirement plans without any sense of direction and hope for the best. You need to get real. You need to run the numbers and figure out the answers to standard retirement questions such as:

  • How much do you need every year to live on?
  • When do you want to retire?
  • How much should you contribute to your 401K and a Roth IRA or RRSP vs TFSA?
  • What type of investments should you opt for based on cost, tolerance and length of market exposure?

This all goes without saying. But your reasons for retirement should be the driving force of every investment decision you make.

I often say when it comes to decision making “You need to first know your why”. Retirement should have a picture in the frame. It’s something you should want to dream about and come up with things to do that will put a smile on your face. So tell me, what is your vision of retirement?

About the Author:

vision-of-retirementKassandra Dasent is a self-employed wife and step-mom striving to live life beyond what money can buy. She blogs at More Than Just Money and shares on Twitter about a variety of topics and personal experiences that all intersect with money.

To read my post Mentors I Admired please mosey over to Kassandra’s blog.

 

P.S.  I did the ALS ice bucket challenge last night.  Nothing else to do since we cut the cable cord. ;-)  j/k

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