I spent a lot of time at my parents’ house over the holiday season, and my mom and I were working on a little project which required us to look through some old photo albums. First we went through the cute baby and toddler pictures, with the obligatory first birthday shots and a tiny me with cake smeared all over my face. Then we went through the elementary school years, which featured all my first day of school pictures, taken every year in the same spot, the front stoop of our old house. And then we came to the middle school years.
And I nearly died of embarrassment.
Dear God, every single photo was painfully awkward. My hair, my clothes, even the way I was standing – all so cringe-worthy. As I flipped through the album, growing increasingly nauseated with the knowledge that there exists photographic evidence of my adolescent years, I kept repeating the same phrase over and over again: what was I thinking?!
Now, almost fifteen years after most of those pictures were taken, I can say that my ability to dress myself and put on makeup has markedly improved. And just as my style has evolved over time, so have my ideas about a lot of stuff – including money. In the same way that I used to have some pretty wacky ideas about what looked good (stripe-like blonde highlights, why?!), I also used to have some pretty wacky ideas about finances. But unlike my middle school fashion missteps, my stupidity about money is something that I held onto until pretty recently.
Nevertheless, I’m happy to report that I’ve let go of a lot of inane ideas I used to have about money. Here are a few examples:
1. Don’t worry about spending too much money – you can always make more!
I suppose this line of thinking was motivated mostly by the youthful idea of invincibility. It never occurred to me as a teenager or young adult that I could get hurt or sick and not be able to work some day. Also, my teens and early twenties were boom times for the economy; I couldn’t envision a day when jobs would be scarce. Oh how times have changed.
2. Parents should feel obligated to pay for their childrens’ college educations
This idea pretty much came from the environment I was raised in, which, honestly, was one of privilege. Everyone I knew had parents who were paying for their college tuition, so I came to believe that this was a parental responsibility, like providing food and shelter. It wasn’t until I went to college and met people from very different backgrounds that my views started to change. Also, I realized just how lucky I was that my parents were in a position to pay my university bills, since I understood for the first time that it’s not just a given that parents pay. I’m really glad I let go of that bratty idea.
3. It’s silly to save money just for the sake of saving
I don’t really know why, but I used to not understand the concept of saving for a rainy day at all. The idea of saving money just for the sake of saving it – as opposed to saving up for something specific – was lost on me, which is why all the money I made at my summer jobs slipped through my fingers pretty quickly. The truth is, I still battle with this one a little bit. I intellectually understand that I need an emergency fund, but I’m always thinking up excuses to justify abandoning that goal and moving on to something more exciting. I suppose I’m still a work in progress
4. Only people who make a lot of money have a lot of money
I chalk this one up to youthful ignorance about appearance versus reality. As a teen and young adult, it would never have occurred to me that someone driving a nice car might actually be broke, or, conversely, that someone who drove a clunker might have a million in the bank. Sure, it’s easier to amass wealth if you have a big income, but I’m glad that I’ve learned that an oversized paycheck doesn’t guarantee anything. It’s empowering to know that if I make the right choices today, no matter how little I make, I can look forward to a secure future.
Just like my middle school pictures, this list of stupid money ideas was a little difficult to confront. So don’t leave me hanging! What stupid ideas about money did you used to have? How did you get over them?