I started this financial journey a year and a half ago after floating around aimlessly for the past decade, clueless about finances. At age 34, I had just gotten married. My wife and I closed on our first home the week of the wedding. We had been checking off the adult “To Do” list at a rapid pace. The next step, of course, is to start a family. This prompted a more serious look at our financial position.
We had talked about our finances before we got married. We were both on the same page about being smart with our money. We didn’t over spend on our wedding. We purchased a house in a growing part of Phoenix with the intent of being able to rent it out when we decided to move. We had tallied up all our debts. We found it was not an insurmountable amount and had a plan to aggressively pay it off. I felt like we were doing pretty well for a young couple.
One summer, Saturday afternoon, I met some college buddies up for lunch. We were planning to have a few beers, reminisce about stories from our ASU days (Go Devils!) and just catch up. We were playing a friendly game of bags (or cornhole as otherwise known) when the conversation of investing and finances came up.
Armed with my newly acquired Dave Ramsey knowledge, I thought I might even turn a couple of them on to living a debt-free lifestyle. Boy was I wrong….
These guys started to go on about how they had been adding to their 401K’s for years, were building houses and giving each other stock tips that their brokers dropped on them. I was completely lost and felt totally out of my league.
These were my college buddies, my classmates, my peers. The group of guys that I had drank too much alcohol with on countless occasions. The group who thought going shirtless and painting themselves for football games was a good idea. The group who jumped off roofs into pools all summer long to impress girls. How did these guys get so financially educated? And how did I miss the boat on this knowledge?
I shrunk back in the group and sipped my lager as I tried to decipher what these guys were talking about. What exactly was an IRA? What do you mean Apple stock split 7-1? What is a 1031 exchange? ETF… I have never even heard of that.
I felt pretty small and very out-of-place. I left our get together in a panic instead of happy to have seen my friends. I burst in the door to our house and started to google terms. That may have even confused me more. What also set me back was the numbers these guys were talking about. The amounts that they had saved in the bank or were standing to make on stock and home deals were intimidating to me. In hindsight, the numbers were not outrageous, but to someone who had negative dollars saved up, it might as well have been a lotto fortune.
I thought back on the decade that had past since we were all attending Arizona State. What had I done with myself? I was on the financial treadmill to nowhere. What had I spent all my money on in the last decade that not only didn’t leave me with any type of nest egg but had actually put me below zero? I pretty much had nothing to show for it. The sum of my net worth was a used Saturn Ion and a small 401K from a previous job. Not even enough to cover the wedding and down payment on the house. Then the shame of all the nights out, the surf trips to San Diego and live concerts came tumbling around me. The anger of living in the trendy part of Scottsdale, getting tables at the poshest nightclubs and dating materialistic women in the past washed over me. The fear of being a decade behind and wondering if we could afford a child gripped me. What had I done? I had lost so much time living a life that didn’t even make me happy… in fact I was miserable back then.
I was 34 years old and starting at the ground floor… actually the basement.
After some frantic days and nights where I couldn’t sleep, my wife snapped me out of it. I cannot tell you what a blessing the right partner can make in your life. My wife sat me down and asked me “What are you worried about?”. I told her about my buddies and their financial position and how we were nowhere near that stage. Dave Ramsey alone was not going to get us to that level. After rambling and spouting off for a half hour, you know what she said to me? She just said “So What? Let’s start right now”. A simple statement but with a brilliant sentiment.
After a couple of deep breaths, I realized she was right. We were going to be okay. We created a goal and communicated how we planned to achieve that goal. We were going to be intentional as a team to make it happen. We were starting a bit late but that was okay. The point is that we started and were making our goals a priority and a focus. There is no shame in that.
It really doesn’t matter what anyone else has done to this point. What are YOU doing to secure your financial future and hit your financial goals. The mistakes of your past are just that… in your past. Your past also does not define you or your future. You are the one who has control of your future.
Getting wound up about the financial positions of others is a fools game. Beating yourself up over mistakes is not productive in any way. What I should have done was learn and ask questions instead of panic.
There is a Chinese proverb that states: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago…The second best time is now.” I suggest you heed those words and leave the past in the past. Your financial future is as bright as you want it to be…. even from a late start