By Bobbi Dempsey
Growing up in severe poverty, smart financial skills aren’t something you learn. I say that from personal experience. Survival is the main goal, and you do anything necessary just to get your hands on enough food to make it through the day. You have a very negative view of—and relationship with—money, as it is the root of much of the stress and insecurity of your life. Yet at the same time, you know that it is a necessary evil, critical to your basic existence.
As you reach adulthood, though, you must educate yourself about the smartest ways to handle money and maintain a budget, while also keeping an eye on your long-term well-being. This likely won’t be easy, as it will be akin to trying to navigate information in a foreign language, but the payoff will be well worth the effort.
As with physical health, financial health is built upon a foundation of daily habits and is determined by a vast number of everyday decisions both large and small. The culmination of these habits and choices over time creates your financial strength. While an unforeseen crisis can always happen, establishing a sturdy foundation will help you better overcome the unexpected. This also puts you in a position to pursue rewarding opportunities or enjoy family experiences that will lead to treasured memories.
Here’s my most important message: you must get over your fear of money, and your aversion to thinking about it. This is particularly true if, like me, you were aware of feeling money-related anxiety from a very young age. You may not realize it, but this can create a mental block that prevents you from adopting good habits that let you handle money issues in a responsible and mature way.
Once you summon up the courage to face this head-on, you may be surprised to discover that you have more power and control over your financial health than you might think.
Over the years, I have had to do a lot of research in order to get up to speed on a whole array of money topics ranging from credit scores to taxes. This was all a mystery to me. People who are homeless or on the brink of it (as my family often was when I was a child) don’t worry about having good credit.
It hasn’t been easy, and I have made many mistakes along the way—including the common newbie pitfall of maxxing out my first credit card immediately after I got it. But I am proud to say that after lots of hard work, and with the help of many friends and financial professionals who are much wiser about these things than I am, I have reached a place where my financial health is no longer on life support. I still may not love money, but I have learned to peacefully coexist with it, and to accept its necessary role in the life I want.
Most importantly, I have made it a priority to educate my children about money from a very young age. My husband and I have ensured they were financially informed, and that they had the skills and essential building blocks to start off as financially healthy adults. That is perhaps one of the most valuable gifts we can give them.