I procrastinated on finishing this book for ten years. This is even worse than it sounds. Not only did I quit reading a book subtitled "Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny," but it was a signed copy. I found out that Suze Orman was coming to my area to do a reading, and I physically ran out the door after work to try to make it on time, driving through Napa County like a madwoman. I MET HER. It's true, I actually met Suze Orman and spoke to her in person! She was incredibly gracious and charismatic. I felt that she really looked at me, really saw me, and in that moment, I saw myself. I saw myself as a young woman, trying hard, but not reaching her full potential. I saw myself in the context of Women & Money. That changed everything.
Going back and reading a personal finance book ten years later was really interesting for a lot of reasons. One was that everything in the book still very much holds true. Another was that I could give myself credit for actually doing everything that the book recommends! I even have an advance care directive. I'm quite comfortable picking stocks and managing my own investments. My FICO score finally passed 800. The young woman who bought this book - a young woman who could barely follow a recipe - had so much hope and passion. All of it came true. Thanks, Past Me, for trying so hard.
It was also intriguing to see that I had left a sticky note in the book as a bookmark. It had a few days' worth of expenses, all for amounts under $14. I was still tracking every penny I spent back then, in a little spiral notepad that I kept in my purse. All of my focus in those days was on paying off debt and trying to follow a lockdown budget. I felt like I would be broke forever. Fourteen dollars felt like a big deal to me at the time, and definitely the $25 I spent on a new hardcover book felt like a big deal. Why, then, did I drift off and quit reading it?
The reason I write about my procrastination is that I believe it's a near-universal reaction when it comes to personal finance and retirement. We go blank. We vague out. We dislike doing System 2 thinking anyway, but when it comes to learning about money, most of us are too intimidated. An octogenarian acquaintance of mine goes around saying, "Nobody PLANS to wind up in a trailer in their old age." That's exactly right. We put it off, we let it bore us or scare us, and then decades go by and suddenly we realize that there's a big blank spot in our lives where RETIREMENT was supposed to go.
Sometimes we realize that we wouldn't have stayed with someone if we'd had more of a sense of financial security. I would never have married my ex if I had been earning more (not that I understood that at the time). There's a crushing sadness there. Only when I took charge of my own career and my own finances could I stand toe to toe with the man I love today, knowing my choice to love him comes from a place of power.
I let my focus wander at the Retirement Investing chapter. This was super-dumb because I lost out on a free $100 because of it. The book came with a limited-time offer to deposit $100 in your brokerage account after you deposited $50 a month for 12 months. I want to beat my head on the wall when I think about this. I was so fixated on becoming debt-free at that time, but I absolutely could have afforded $25 per paycheck. It's not so much about the free $100, but about how much money I would have made by going into the market at that time. ARRGGGHHHH! Past Self, Past Self. What were you thinking? I could have been fully funding my IRA all that time. All I got out of paying attention to other things and delaying was lost opportunities and less money.
Explain to a 32-year-old that she'll eventually be 42, and 52, and 62, and 72. Go on, explain it.
I met Suze Orman and she changed my life. I listened when she spoke. I paid attention to her story of coming from a poor family and starting out as a waitress. Simply seeing the polish of wealth and prosperity on someone I admired made something click in my head. I was wearing clothes that were three sizes too big and I had a hot chocolate stain on my shirt. My haircut wasn't doing me any favors. I decided to invest in myself and push forward. I was still in scarcity mindset, but I was starting to make the shift.
Women & Money is a great starter guide, a book for confused beginners as well as women whose financial issues do not stem from lack of knowledge. It's about setting boundaries, communication, and managing relationships in which money plays a part. It's about confronting the blocks we have around taking charge of our own money. It's about personal power. This book is easy to read, but it has the potential to blow the roof off your life. In the world of self-limiting behaviors, avoiding the role of money is a great place to start.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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