Saturday, August 9, 2014

Five for Friday: Financial Regrets/Advice

I know this is a day late, but better late than never. This week, I am full of regrets of a financial nature. Despite a raise in hubby’s pay, we find ourselves broke. The cost of living is so much higher in Maryland, and the raise was not quite enough to offset that and continue our standard of living. That does not mean that I am unhappy to be here—the state is lovely, with so much to do, and the people are very nice. However, pretty and nice does not pay the bills, nor does it help save for a house, and so I am back to working a job, outside of my Avon business. We will get back on top--but it's tough to have a setback, however temporary, at my age.

I don’t necessarily like the job itself, but at least the hours are good, and my bosses are decent; the pay isn't too bad, either, but there’s no hope for a raise, ever. Add to that the fact that they are older than me, and I will probably be out of a job in the next ten years or so. And so I find myself not only working thirty hours a week give or take, but I am looking for a second (or different) job while trying to build my Avon business, and get at least one other business off the ground.

This doesn't sound like a bad thing, until you realize that I will be celebrating the 13th anniversary of my 35th birthday this September. I’m too old and tired for this crap. I should be working a job that is easy, that I’ve been at for years, and could do with my eyes closed. Something that’s not only not too physically challenging, but doesn't have me sitting all day, either. Something that is easy, but that keeps my mind and body occupied.

I know I should be content to have such a decent job, but I've always been the kind to want more. I should have been in a house that we have halfway paid off by now, not renting an apartment while trying to save enough in the next couple of years to have closing costs on a house so we can get a new 30 year mortgage when I’m 50.

Because I’m not where I wanted to be in life, and I've recently seen friends and family who are where I wish I was in their lives (continuity of living in one place for the past 40+ years, houses paid off or at least halfway there), I am writing this as advice to the younger me or to my boys, should they decide to read this and listen and learn.

1. Work hard when you’re young. I did this, sometimes working three jobs. For the past six or so years, though, I have allowed myself to be “lazy”, working only my Avon business, barely making the bills. Had I kept my job, too, or gotten serious about either my writing career or proofreading business, I’d be good right now.

Now, I am a wife and a mom still, and both jobs have gotten easier as the years have passed; I am also still an Avon rep, which has become harder and harder to make money at; I am working a direct sales job cold-calling businesses (which I hate). I want to get some books written, and get the proofreading business and/or the natural homemade products business off the ground. So, yeah, full plate. Like I said, I’m too old for this shit.

2. Save. Set aside $100/month, or more, when you are financially flush. Had I only set aside that small amount each month while I was working and in college, living at home, I’d have had almost $5,000 by the time I was done with getting my bachelor’s degree. Add that to the money we received from our wedding, and my husband and I could have had enough to put money down on a house in Texas, thus beginning our home ownership eighteen years earlier.

And that is assuming no interest and such a small amount of savings each month. If we had been able to set aside only $500 per month, we could be halfway to a quarter of a million dollars saved for our retirement. Now, it will take twice that amount monthly to achieve the same ends.

Along those lines, live within your means. Living high on the hog is great, if you have the funds to do so. Living large when your income is small is not the best move. And yet, in this day and age, where so many think they are "entitled" to live the good life (and yes, we even fell into that trap), it can be hard to resist the temptation and swim against the current. Oh, it's harder, but the destination can be well worth the fight.

3. Invest in real estate, and mutual funds. I’m not talking about scams or flipping houses or anything. Just buy a house to live in when you’re young, even if you have to work a couple of jobs to afford it. Take some of the savings and invest it in bonds or something that’s steady and stable. It’s always good to have something to fall back on. Read about investing—become familiar with it.

In this vein, keep a close watch on your finances. Know where your pennies are going at all times. Avoid credit cards if you can, but if you must use them, pay them off immediately, or as quickly as possible. Interest rates will kill your financial goals, and late fees are the whetstone that the credit cards use to sharpen the knives they will use to carve the meat from your financial future.

4. Get a degree or license that will pay for itself. My Bachelor of Arts in English cost me into the double digits. I have yet to earn it back. It did nothing to further my waitressing career, nor did it add value to any customer service or cashiering jobs I worked over the years.

If, however, I had had a degree in book-keeping, I could have added value to my earning potential, possibly even given myself an opportunity for a higher-paying job or to earn money on the side. So many opportunities are out there—book-keeping, medical transcription, welding, electricity, plumbing—all good trades to fall back on should the need arise, or to choose as your main income.

5. Do what you love. Even if you just do it as a hobby, your soul needs this healing time after being battered by job, family, and other stresses of life. Having something that brings you peace—reading, writing, drawing, yoga, BMX-ing, horseback riding, martial arts—is as necessary as breathing. 

Regrets are a terrible thing to have to live with. Try to have as few of them as possible. In twenty years, what will you regret doing or not doing?

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