Money makes the world go ’round. Or does it? And if it does, why can’t we talk about it?
My parents, when times were tough, were horrible with money. I found out, only recently, that they almost lost their home – not once, but twice – when I was a small child.
When I was very young we lived very simply, very frugally. I remember sharing a bedroom with my three other sisters and my parents sleeping on the pull-out couch in the den. We ate every kind of noodle and rice casserole to stretch the dollar. We walked instead of starting up the car. (But then, we lived in a neighborhood where we could actually walk to the market and drugstore.)
My father worked hard at a job that he loved. He worked hard at a job that he hated once new management took over. Bottom line, he worked very hard for the things that we had. And by the time I was a middle school student, we were doing very well. Really well. Designer clothes, high-end restaurant meals, a large beautiful home decorated by professionals, new cars. Money was flowing and my parents were no longer poor money managers.
Me? I’m the exact opposite. My chosen profession was education. I loved teaching. I loved it so much that I passed up the opportunity to earn a higher salary in the public school system where I felt my creativity would be squashed. I taught for a much lower salary at a small private school.
With my low salary and as a single parent, I was just above the poverty line. In fact, if the car I drove was a few years older, I would have qualified for food stamps. But I was happy. I had minimal debt. I was a good money manager. We were getting by.
Life circumstances changed and now there is more money to manage. Unlike my parents, when the money is flowing, I am a terrible money manager. I allow myself to get lulled into a false sense of security. Because I know the money is flowing, I use the credit card more often. I buy things I don’t need. I spend before I think.
Anything I’ve learned about money I’ve had to read in books or listen to money experts on TV or radio. What they talk about is so foreign to me. Putting into practice what they preach is difficult.
My parental model has flaws. My parents never spoke about money with me. They bought. They spent. And I never saw the consequences. When I was 16 they gave me a department store credit card. In my name. I’ll never forget when the first bill came and I freaked out because I couldn’t pay the balance. They laughed at my distress and told me they’d cover it. I cut up the card and told them I didn’t want it anymore. I couldn’t handle the responsibility.
I also vowed I would teach my kids about money. With my daughter, I’m not sure I did any better than my parents. I’ve tried one theory and the next, but she’s a spender. A generous, kind, loving spender. When money is flowing, she buys for herself and for the ones she loves. She had her first real job this past year and at Christmas she was so excited to be able to buy “real gifts” (her words) for her family and friends.
But she’s had the job for 5 months now and has yet to save a dime.
How can I stop this cycle with my sons? Which money theory is the best one? Some say you shouldn’t pay your kids to do household chores. They are part of a family and chores are part of being a family member. Others say if your child doesn’t do their chores, they don’t get paid. Just like the real world. But both theories make sense to me. What’s a poor money manager to do?
I wish my parents had been more open about their mistakes and their successes. I have no idea how my parents became “successful” with their money decisions. They just did. One day we were poor, the next day we were very, very comfortable. (See? I can’t even say the word wealthy.)
My money issues are just too big for this blog.
So I’ll do what I do best. I’ll bury my head in the sand and distract myself with a little humor.
You can, too, if you’d like. Just press play.
Money For Nothin’ And Givin’ For Free
Remember when my blog exploded because of a little Random Act of Kindness post?
Remember how I promised a post on the random comments I received?
Well, here it is.
I’m tempted to just end it here. Leave you in suspense. But what suspense? Oh, sure. I got the same crazy spam that prompted this post. Or this one, when I thought aliens were sending me spam.
Then there was the 2000 word comment. (I’m not kidding. I cut and paste it and put it into Word so it would count the words for me.) A 2000 word, nonsensical comment. Just a string of 2000 words. Who does that? And why?
But quite honestly, most of the spam I received was of your garden variety.
Except for one.
A comment from someone who claimed to have been a sexual slave for 18 months in Morocco. She began listing her financial troubles and general woes. And then she shared that she was praying that someone might bestow upon her, some random act of kindness – in the form of a couple hundred dollars. She ended her comment with this line: “Love to Jane and everyone who agrees with her talent of giving for free.”
That comment has been gnawing at me for over a week now. Is it real? Should I have let her comment appear? Why did I feel so strongly about censoring it?
Is it real? – Who knows. We can never know. There is so much deceit and scam running rampant on our internet waves. It’s hard to tell.
Should I have let her comment appear? – No. Then why am I telling you about it now? Maybe I want to be absolved of any guilt should it have been a true cry for help. Maybe I want her to see this post so she can hear me say, there are other places to go to for the kind of help you need. And then, when I write that response, I start to feel silly. Of course it was another scam.
Why did I feel so strong about censoring it? – “Giving for free.” Handouts. The old story about giving a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. (Oh, don’t I sound like a hardened, old Republican? Shudder.)
I was a member of the Junior League in our area. No. I wasn’t one of those bored doctor’s wives, looking for a few volunteer gigs to put on my resume. I was a single mom, passionate about giving back to my community. The years I was in the league we had out-of-this-world, amazing leadership. True givers. Movers and shakers. I learned skills about organizing and getting things done that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.
I also learned that there are tons and tons and tons of resources out there for the downtrodden. For the infirm. For the poor. And they’re not that hard to find.
The world owes me. Stick it to the man. If I can get away with it, why not? Who does it hurt?
It hurts me. Most of all, it hurts you.
There are people out there, families truly hurting. Living each day without knowing if the next day will bring food or shelter. I am much more willing to help someone who is desperately trying to eek out a living – pounding the pavement, visiting soup kitchens and United Way and free health clinics and applying for food stamps when necessary – than someone standing in front of me with their hand out saying I owe them because I should be kind. Or because I have more.
I am much more willing to help someone who is taking responsibility for their destiny than someone who wants to ride coattails.
Oh, goodness. I sound like a cold, hard, witch.
I’m not. Really.
I’m just wondering when personal responsibility will be in vogue again.
Filed under Blogging, Ponderings, Soapbox
Tagged as charity, comments, giving, handouts, kindness, money, personal responsibility, poor, scams, spam