Why and how I started learning about personal finance

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I grew up in a family didn’t talk about money. But I still saw how stressful life could be if you don’t have enough of it. As a teenager, I watched my oldest sister borrow money from my middle sister (I have two older sisters and am the youngest in my family). When I was in college, my middle sister borrowed some money from me. They’re both responsible, resourceful people – but needed that boost that most young people do in the U.S. while starting  adult lives from scratch in a first apartment, first job, just out of college situation…and don’t have the option of parent support.

Naturally, I started thinking “Who am I going to borrow from if I need help?” So I chose to go to the college that gave me the most money in financial aid and scholarships. And in my freshman year of college I decided to set a goal of earning $20K by the time I graduated college. I saw that cache as my cushion to avoid getting into debt while setting up my post-college life. It was a huge amount of money to me at the time and I didn’t really believe I could reach my goal.

I worked part-time jobs during the semester and interim jobs in-between classes when everyone else went home for break. I did a lot of volunteer work too. I didn’t feel like these jobs were a burden. I saw them as opportunities to explore new fields, gain new skills, and meet new people. I learned so much from those part-time jobs and made some friends in the process.

But I did overdo it a few times in my quest to save as much as possible. There was one semester that I took off from classes and lived at home with my parents in Brooklyn. I worked three jobs and seven days a week. I would be so tired when I came home that all I did was watch movies (thank goodness for Netflix and my then-obsession with film). I don’t think I would do that again.

At the end of my junior year I hit a turning point. I realized that I was going to reach my goal of $20K by graduation. But for what? I realized that I wasn’t going to need that much as “startup” money. And I wasn’t enjoying it. So I bought a round-trip ticket to visit Greece during winter break. That was when I discovered that I needed to find my balance been saving and spending. That started my reflection on what money is really for. My current answer: freedom, especially from having to make choices based on money. 

At the end of my senior year, I started getting real about managing my money. I got my first credit card, signed up for a Roth IRA, and started reading non-stop about saving, investing, and retirement. The blogs that helped me were: The Simple DollarWell-Heeled, and Boston Gal’s Open Wallet (who stopped posting, unfortunately). I talked to a few friends about my newfound interest but they quickly got sick of it. Eventually, I started reading books about personal finance.

Around this same time I was developing my ideas around a minimalism. The next post will talk more about that.

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2 comments

  1. […] Personal finance. Frugality. Minimalism. For me it’s about separating what matters from what I’m told by others to care about… by the media (blogs included), advertising, and strangers and friends around me. […]

  2. […] how you live your life. You can pay down your debts. You can create smart and manageable budgets. You can learn how to save. You can learn to invest your money in the stock markets. You can really do […]

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