Facing My Personal Finances Fear-Free
Numbers Are My Enemy
As a kid I used to read all of the time; anything I could get my hands on. I would walk to the library as often as I could but many times in the winter, it was too far for my young legs to carry me so I would rummage through the garage to see what might be in a box or on a shelf. One time I found a book on economics. I was 9 years-old at the time. I do not remember the contents or anything that I read, but I do remember it was a big book and I just wanted something to read, so I read it as best I could.
I tell this story because it is a moment where I had two very strong passions that were in direct conflict with each other; my passion for reading, and my passionate aversion to mathematics and anything that had to do with numbers. In this case the determination to find something to read won out because I remember this time in great detail. However I know the other side also must have been victorious in its own way since I remember nothing about the contents of this particular book.
My aversion to numbers and all they represent began early, and it may be something that was just destined because of my intense love of all things literary. They say that the mind is either a math mind or a word mind, but I also had influences to literature, words, art and music all around me. My mom, sister and brother all found mathematical concepts to be difficult and no one took much pleasure in anything numerical. My favorite cartoon was one where a young boy named Ralph kept daydreaming during school and in one of these daydreams he was battling enemies which were numbers. I totally related to this! Unfortunately, this has not helped me with my financial state as a now grown adult. I would not say I am completely non-functioning when it comes to finances. I can budget, coupon, and pay my bills. However, I never seem to have extra, I never go shopping for clothes for myself or my kids, and any time something comes up that is unexpected, I have no financial resources to take care of it.
It is time to make what is currently my 'enemy', my friend. What is that expression...keep your friends close, but your enemies closer? It is time to get very close to the numerical acquaintances that surround me.
Facing the Defeat
When it comes to my financial state of mind, I would say it is chaotic and also has a feeling of constant defeat. My personality is nothing like this, so I often am confused as to why I am not better off financially ie; savings, stable checking, retirement, college savings for the kids. That also adds to the mix of my inability to be honest and face the fact that I am not as competent with my money as I think I am. And if I get a little behind on something, I think I can catch up and don't make arrangements or calls, and then before you know it I am avoiding that incoming call that shows the caller id as unknown.
So now that I am ready to begin restructuring my financial life I have to understand where to begin. Do I begin with information on what a sound financial outlook looks like? Do I call people who are waiting for money? Do I organize my files and make a plan or a goal? These all sound like good ideas and they are things I have researched but there is so much to each one of these steps, and there are more steps I could take as well. And the reality for me is if I try to begin by understanding the aspects of finances, percentage rates, 401ks, and other things, it is just going to overwhelm me.
Here Goes Nothing
There is plenty of reference material regarding financial freedom, but to be honest I am looking for financial stability because are we ever really free of financial anything? So I am using words that will benefit my frame of mind and help me focus on my goals.
One thing that I found was that I needed to start with organizing. I work in an office environment and am always filing, filling out expense reports, completing expense reconciliation, keeping track of daily communication, etc. So I am organized. My home is organized. But I am not organized with my personal paperwork and expense reports. I had to admit this, and once I did I decided to purchase some binders that allowed me to list my current outgoing expenses versus my income. I think I had my head buried. I knew that I had several debts - mostly medical. I only have one credit card, I have student loans which I consolidated last year, and I have living expenses such as utilities, food, fuel. It is the medical that is killing me, and there are several small bills from the same company. One here, one there but it added up to a stack that I found too much so put them aside.
Now that I can see what I have to do it does not seem as daunting. Not that it will be easy, but at least I have a clear understanding of my avoidance behavior and can work on changing it to accomplishment and ultimately reward. I found a great daily journal in which to write down any financial achievements for the day. I think my second - since organizing was my first - will be putting my $4.00 coffee money into a bank to save instead of into a cup of coffee.
I will also set a goal to reach which is another suggestion found in the research and reading I have done. It will be a reasonable goal that will benefit both myself and my children and begin to put me on a path to financial stability. After that is reached I would like to make my way to financial capability.
The bottom line for me having sat down and thought about this all is that financial status does not have to do with just numbers. I have come to understand that there are words and numbers that can work together and if I accept the numbers into my life, there will be those wonderful words to help me understand them. It is not all about just numbers. Maybe I will not understand the financial language ever, but hiding my head, avoiding numbers, not facing fear and giving into defeat has not been helpful either.
I would not say that I am as bad off as others that I have heard of. I know I do not want to be in the position that my mom is in right now; 74 years-old and struggling each month to stretch her few dollars. I also know that should I enter a serious relationship, I do not want to enter into it dragging any financial worries with me.
Who knows, maybe one day as I go through this process, some of what I read in the economics book so many years ago will come back to me! Maybe I have always known more than I gave myself credit for.