I actually make a decent amount of money. I should be able to pay all my bills (even my outrageous mortgage which is only outrageous compared to what my rent was) and manage to build a savings account. The truth is that I am bad with money. I could blame the examples of my childhood, but it wouldn’t be fair to them. My money issues are my money issues and cannot be blamed on other people. I like to buy things—presents for myself, presents for my friends, things that I think I need (and sometimes actually do), tattoos (that’s a new expense though), clothes…
You get the idea, I’m sure, that I like to spend money. I have been making reasonable and awesome budgets for fifteen years; I have also been ignoring those budgets for fifteen years. The only smart choice I’ve ever made regarding money was starting two retirement accounts that weren’t Social Security or PERS in my mid-twenties. I’m going to have to put in a full forty years teaching before I can even think about retirement and even with my extra accounts, I still worry about whether or not I’ll have enough money to enjoy retirement or to just exist in retirement.
I also spend money when I’m sad or when I’m anxious or when I’m depressed or when I want to celebrate.
This means I have debt—so much debt. I’m well on my way to catching everything up within the next five years if I can stick to my totally reasonable budget. Again, I can’t help but look at my friends and family who have made smarter financial choices. I also can’t help but think about my students (those who have graduated and those who will) and how difficult earning enough money to make ends meet while paying off student loans is going to be.
To be fair many of my former students make more money per year than I do by working at skilled labor jobs and I am a huge supporter of their choices and their successes. These were often kids who just needed to get through high school so they could go on to apprentice in a specific field or take a technical program. These are kids who spend their first ten years going to where the jobs are which means they learn a lot about what makes someone a good manager or a poor manager of others. They get ten years of good experience, so they can land a job close to where they would like to settle down.
I think the only people that think money doesn’t matter are people who genuinely don’t have to worry about money. If I’m being real, a windfall would solve many of my current problems. Instead, I get to hold to my budget and admonish myself for my mistakes and remember that I alone make the choices that mean eating peanut butter sandwiches for a week or eating like a “normal” adult.