I have come about my personal finance education the hard way. I honestly think that personal finance should be a part of every high school student's mandatory education. Actually I have worked since I was 16 during the summers, and I thought I knew plenty about money, until later when I realized that I knew practically nothing.
I always had a goal that I would marry, buy a house, a couple of cars and be able to raise a family without much effort. My parents did it all, but they never told me about all the struggles and sacrifices they had made to make it look so effortless.
Now that we are close to retiring, our ability to retire comfortably has been influenced by many factors:
Numerous moves from area to area
We have made 20 plus moves since we were married, some times from country to country.
Each time you move, there are relocation costs which must be paid. Also, you have to decide what to sell, what to keep, and then it costs quite a bit for storage facilities as well as shipping fees. Each time we moved, we had to give up some valuable things like furniture, dishes, vehicles, etc. It seemed we started over several times outfitting our home with the essentials.
Moving the family costs you time and money.
One of our moves was from a South Pacific Island back to the mainland USA. This was mainly due to health concerns. I was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis. It was decided that it would be best monitored in the United States. In the little countries we lived in they had social medicine which was very inexpensive, but you were not assured a good doctor or good medicine. As you are aware, good medical care in the United States is not cheap. Testing and treatments can run you into the hundreds and thousands per month, especially if you do not have adequate medical insurance, which is also very expensive.
You can never predict what health issues may arise for you or your family members.
When we first got married, my husband had his bachelor's degree. I, on the other hand, only had a high school diploma, but had experience working in a few different areas. I finally got my degree 30 years later, after all of my own children had graduated from college. Luckily, my husband finished his master's degree and that qualified him for teaching in a University. This gave me the opportunity to go to school free. Also, our children were able to have half off on their tuition, which has been a great blessing.
Get as much education as possible so you are more qualified for the higher paying jobs.
Even though my husband had an advanced degree, we took a teaching job in a third-world country. He wanted to help his people and share what he had learned.
I remember that we made about $300 per month in Tonga, and that was considered a good wage. We could actually pay our rent, have money for food and a little extra.
I would not trade our fabulous experiences there for anything, and feel that the experience itself was worth millions. But,I know it set us back financially when we finally did move back to the states. I know that there are certain places you can go in the world that pay wages that can set you up for the future. I have friends that live in Dubai, and they have done very well there. Maybe in my next life!
We did not actively save a particular amount of money each month until we had been married for several years. It is easy to look back and say that we should of or could have saved, but it seems that there were always little emergencies that came up which took what money we might have saved.
I remember two particular Christmases that we had in third-world countries. The first one was right after our second child was born. My husband's parents had been called on an LDS mission to serve in New Zealand for two years. His youngest sister was left behind to live with us while she finished high school.
My husband's sister got very homesick for her parents, and she begged us to take her to see them in New Zealand. We spent all our savings to purchase tickets for my husband and I, two tiny children and one teenager to go to New Zealand from Tonga. We actually only had enough money for one-way tickets, so my husband had to find a job once we got there to earn our trip home again (I know it sounds crazy, but we were very young and oblivious). We lived with my husband's aunt in Auckland, and he worked in a restaurant washing pots and pans in order to pay our way back to Tonga. It was a great experience, but financially draining.
The other Christmas, we had just moved to Samoa where my husband taught for the Department of Education. My husband's brother came to live with us for a while, and then he asked my husband to pay his airfare to Hawaii so he could get a job. It took all of the money we had saved up until then to purchase his ticket. That Christmas we did not have any funds to purchase gifts for our three children (we had added one more by then). I remember that our neighbors generously brought some gifts and food so we could enjoy the holiday. It was very difficult and humbling for me.
My husband is very generous, and his culture is such that if someone needs the money, you give it. It seemed impractical to me, but I understood that he had been helped to get to America and receive his education by others, and so he felt obligated to give back.
I never realized the importance of investing some money towards your retirement financial health until it was almost too late. Now we are in a situation where my husband cannot retire at the usual age. We would be unable to live from day to day unless he works longer.
I remember trying out my luck in the stock market just about the time when the bubble burst in the 90s. I would get up very early in the morning, since we live in Hawaii, and New York was hours ahead of us. I picked a few stocks that looked ready to fly, and put my money on them. Luckily I did not lose too much, and the education I gained was well worth it. I found out it was very similar to gambling in Las Vegas. Better to let the experts control where the money goes.
Worrying about money can either motivate or immobilize you. I have felt both. Anxiety about money is the one issue that has come between my husband and I during our marriage. We have had totally different ideas about finances, and have had to leave it out of most of our discussions. I know that this is not very healthy, but it has worked for us. Fortunately, most of our children have done well financially, so if all else fails, we can go and live with them (they have all invited me).
I hope you have learned something from my financial experiences that will help you in your future.