As I mentioned in my New Year post, one of my focuses this year will be financial health. Here’s why…
When I wrote “financial health” in that post, I had changed the term several times and decided on the vaguest way to say it. This is because money, politics and religion are three topics that I usually avoid. When I say I avoid them, I mean not only would I never write a blog post about them but I don’t really even discuss those topics with my closest friends. Politics and religion are really sensitive topics and I admire educated people who can debate and discuss these things in depth. I have political views and religious beliefs, but have no interest in sharing or debating them with others. I think that maybe is because I am not a fan of confrontation in general. Plus I find politics depressing in general for the future of the world. And I prefer to stay optimistic.
Then there is money. I absolutely hate talking about money. I mean, I want to win the the Powerball $1.3 million and I’ll share that information with the world – but my personal finances are a sore subject. When I was in college – like many, I got my first credit card. I picked it because they had a table set up on my campus quad and gave away a tshirt and some M&Ms. How’s that for a financial decision? My first ever credit card purchase was a leather jacket. I was all grown up. Long story short, credit cards are a bad idea when you do not budget well. This was a real lesson for a girl who didn’t have a 401K until she was 30!! For the 20+ years from that first credit card through today, I have not made great financial decisions on my own. Luckily, for the past 15 years I have had a smart man by my side. My husband thinks before a purchase, checks his credit often and his bank account daily. I am the type to avoid checking my bank balance because it might say something quite negative.
Still, I kept my independence and accounts because my husband trusted and respected my financial intelligence and common sense. Plus I work full-time so one would assume I know the value of a dollar. (Bad idea, Hun!) Any time my husband would want to talk about money or financial planning, I’d change the subject as my anxiety would kick in. I literally got a bellyache from the topic of money. Unfortunately, the ‘ignorance is bliss’ cliché does not work in this situation. This avoidance was a recipe for disaster resulting in a high credit card balance that seemed to be unexplainable. It’s a scary secret to keep. Then I started talking to friends and realized it’s SO common. Turns out I know a ton of people who are currently or have in the past hid debt from a spouse/significant other or family members. I got advice like – take out a loan from your 401k and just pay it back slowly, don’t tell him before the holidays, and someone even offered to lend me money and then pay them back.
After some soul searching and sleepless night, I realized that lying to my partner in life was the dumbest move. It was time to come clean. It was so difficult to admit because I was embarrassed that at age 40 I still could not manage money. My husband made it so easy to be honest and we immediately discussed a plan to get back on track. It will take some time, but I no longer have that anxiety about it. We merged accounts so now I think before I spend – which is key for me. For the first time ever, I can be completely transparent about money and discuss it without my heart racing.
I’m not sharing this story to air my dirty laundry, but to let anyone out there in a similar situation know you are not alone. We all make mistakes. What matters is how we move forward from them. Keeping a secret when you need help will only make the situation worse – this is truth with money or anything else. I learned that lesson the hard way and it cost me a ton of stress and interest payments.