I have been asked this question a couple of times by other adults in my life. I figured I should write out my response because it is a little complicated and I believe there are many contributing factors as to why I am obsessed with being financially “ahead” (I also think it is an interesting story).
I am only 21 years old (22, in August 2020) and I started this financial journey at about 19 years old. After being out on my own, I quickly learned the value of money. I started to read books about money management, investing, real estate, and they motivated me.
Then I started to work as a bank teller. I got to interact with a wide variety of people and seeing so many retired people live from social security check to social security check really shook me up. I realized I did not want to be 70 years old depending on a small government check every month. Again, this motivated me even more. (No shame to those that do! I do not know their life story, I just believe in pushing myself.)
The problem is, people do not start thinking about retirement until they’re in their 40s/50s, by that time they’ve already missed out on 20-30 years of investment growth. The younger you start, the better. If you do realize this in your 40s/50s, don’t feel bad about yourself or panic, the second best time to start investing/saving is today! Also, there is almost no excuse these days with the easy access to the internet, books, blogs, and podcasts. It was a lot harder for someone to learn about investing and invest in the 1980s vs. now in 2020.
I then became obsessed with reading different people’s success stories of retiring early and started to study the wealthy, so that I can one day become them. Many of the books and blogs I am referring to are on my Best Financial Education Resources page.
What really started all of this, was my Dad. He was obsessed with Finance as well, but he wanted to find a “Get rich quick scheme” and life usually doesn’t work like that, which I learned on my own later. My dad always emphasized the importance of money and how to manage it. He was also constantly reading finance books, reading the Wall Street Journal, and tracking the stock market’s every move. It seemed as though he never truly applied all of the things he learned and read, I think he was scared of failure. I learned from this behavior, but I realized I need to act on what I have learned, or the knowledge would be pointless.
Then my father died unexpectedly at the age of 44 (He did not have any life insurance.) when I was 14, my mom was left $300,000 in debt with three kids to raise on her own (ages 3, 5, and 14) with a salary of $30,000/yr (my father made the majority of our income). Our whole world flipped upside down. Overtime, my mom started to figure things out. She has totally pulled that household out of the hole (Now a very positive Net Worth) and got a new job making more than double what she was previously. It only took her a couple of years, she started investing and aggressively paying down debt. My parents grew up poor, but they got up to middle-class, my Mom and I now believe it is our duty to continue to try and rise up.
I think a big reason why people come to have major revelations (including financial) in their 40s/50s is because around that time is when most people’s parents pass away. When you lose a parent, you begin to realize your own mortality, where you are at in your life, and what you truly value. Often during these times you are left to sort out the parent’s finances and you may come to realize they did not have as much money as you expected, you realize how unprepared you are for your future, etc. I had to experience these revelations at the age of 14/15, so that majorly impacted how I would approach my finances (and many other aspects of my life) later on.
I think it is an insult to those who came before you to not try your hardest to better yourself and the future generations, if you can. I do understand that some people are far more privileged than others (including myself), whether it be because of your economic status or race, but you can still fight your hardest to make the best of the life you have & improve the world around you. For Example: Your ancestors did not flee their old countries and risk their lives for you to sit around and put in minimal effort. If your ancestors came to the U.S. via the slave trade, do you not owe it to them to try to create the best life you possibly can for you and your family? Or however you ended up where you are, think about what quality of life you or your ancestors deserve(d). -All of these things are very personal and will look different to everyone.
Because I think this way, I always feel like I am not doing enough or accomplishing enough, which can be very frustrating. I am proud of how far I’ve come in the last three years and I am excited to see where I will end up.