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Honest Financial Conversations in Difficult Times

Honest Financial Conversations in Difficult Times

This post feels like a confession. It feels like a deep, dark secret that I want to keep in, but feel the need to let out. 

Have you ever read Post Secret? It’s an ongoing art project created by Frank Warren back in 2005. When this project first started Warren asked people to send him anonymous secrets on homemade postcards.

Each week he revealed ten of those postcards to the public. Fifteen years later the website is still running and people are still sending Warren postcards.

There are two simple rules for submitting a postcard.

  1. Secrets have to be truthful.
  2. This must be the first time the secret is revealed.

If you’ve never checked it out before take a look, but beware. The secrets can be quite disturbing. The posts include a wide range of messages including secret desires, habits, hopes, and dreams.

I feel like I need to send in a postcard that says, “My life is remarkably good and that feels terrible to say during a pandemic.”

That truth has kept my hands idle here on this blog. It keeps me quiet, unsure of what to say.

Financial Modesty

In real life, I’m modest about my financial success. No one knows how much money my husband and I have accumulated. We keep our financial accomplishments locked up in a secret vault.

When we owned our own business my husband didn’t upgrade his car. He drove a dinged up, 1999 Toyota Camry that originally belonged to my grandmother. 

When we go to the beach, we tell friends where we are going, but we leave out the part about owning a vacation home.

I understand why others climb high on their ladders and sing of their success, but that’s never been my goal. It’s not who I am. I may ask others about throwing a mortgage-free party, but I’d never really host one.

‘Rich’ feels like a dirty word. Especially, right now, during this pandemic. It’s tough to feel like things are financially okay when you know that others are struggling.

Am I alone? Does anyone else feel like I do?

The Ups and Downs of Life

Life is like a roller coaster, sometimes it takes us up and sometimes it sends us barreling down. I know what it feels like to take that ride.

In my mid-twenties I faced a medical crisis that nearly killed me. In my mid-thirties I endured years of infertility. I currently suffer from chronic pain.

My relationship with my husband has been incredibly rocky for almost a decade. Selfish extended family members continue to seep harmful drama into our marriage.

I know what it feels like to be down in the dumps, to look in the mirror and ask, “Is this the life I planned?”

Feeling Lucky During a Pandemic

I’ve often looked at others with envy. How great would it be to get pregnant on the first try, get out of bed without aches, or have extended family members emotionally support you?

Yet, right now, despite my long journey, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky.

Financially speaking my husband and I are on solid footing. Other things have gone awry more times than I can count, but our privilege and financial decisions have helped us forge a solid path.

Why Do You Save?

I am a born saver. In my youth, I was willing to forgo many things to watch those dollar bills pile up.

What was I saving for? I had absolutely no idea. That’s been the most remarkable thing about saving for me.

I never imagined I would lose my job and decide to stay at home with my children. I didn’t think my husband and I would lose our company. Prepare for a pandemic? Who in the world did that?

Yet, here we stand on solid financial ground. Do I feel strange, proud and guilty all at the same time? Yes, I do. Is anyone else with me?

How Can We Talk About Money?

I’ve found it difficult to write during this pandemic. How could I write about school options when others are struggling to juggle child care and work?

My words feel careless and insensitive, which is why I find it so hard to write. But what about those who are experiencing the same things that I am? Wouldn’t it help to know they aren’t alone?

That’s the thing about writing this blog. It’s like sitting on a see-saw as I try to balance my story with those who may stumble upon it.

Are my words out of touch for those who aren’t in the same circumstances? I’ve thought a lot about this during the decade and a half that I’ve been writing. I’ve tried to be modest, down-to-earth and real.

Looking Up and Looking Down

My husband can be a bit negative at times. Whenever he starts to get down about things I tell him to imagine he’s standing on a ladder. Then I ask him to look up and look down.

We all need to look at how far we have climbed. When you look down you can see what you have accomplished.

What goals have you checked off your list? What kind acts have you performed? How have you worked to grow your career? What money have you saved?

Then we can look up. We can look towards our future and imagine an even better life. That might not seem possible right now, but a better life does await most of us.

What Can I Learn?

Before the pandemic, my twitter feed was full of questions like:

  • What can I learn from someone earning six figures?
  • Why would I want to see the net worth of fellow personal finance bloggers? Isn’t that bragging?
  • What could I have in common with a blog written by a doctor, lawyer, or other professionals?

I don’t know how to answer those questions, but I can tell you that I have learned something from each of these examples.

If you read my blog you will discover that I am a multi-millionaire. You will also discover that I’m a former software engineer turned stay-at-home mom.

If you aren’t a millionaire, software engineer, or stay-at-home mom should you close this page? I hope not. I hope that my readers will see where I have been and where I hope to land.

When I started this blog I was twenty-six, newly married, and earning $50,000 a year. I was nowhere close to being a multi-millionaire.

When you read a snippet from someone’s blog realize it’s just a snippet. If you are asking yourself what you have in common with someone who earns a high salary ask yourself where they came from first.

Most of us didn’t start at the top. We started climbing those rungs just like everyone else. Yes, some of us have privilege that started us farther up the rungs, (no doubt about that), but few of us got here in one giant leap.

You can learn incredible lessons from those who started the journey before you did. This is why I think it’s so important to find a money mentor.

Your peers can be incredibly motivating, but it’s important to seek out those who have already traveled on this journey.

Maybe you will never become a millionaire. Hell, maybe you don’t even want to become one. You can still learn incredible money lessons if you are open to listening to other stories.

Money Lessons Unite Us

My first exposure to personal finance blogs came from reading blogs like Dough Roller, Consumerism Commentary, and Get Rich Slowly.

These blogs were written by a bunch of men who were a decade older than I was. Did I stop reading those blogs because I earned less or because I was a different gender? Not at all.

I continued reading interesting blogs. The ones that provided insight into not only where I was at that moment in time, but also where I wanted to be.

I found incredible female voices among personal finance blogs too. Don’t believe anyone that tells you women haven’t been writing about money for just as long as the men out there.

Newlyweds on a Budget, Graduated Learning, Surviving and Thriving, Little Miss Moneybags and so many others were among the first blogs I read. I loved the depth I found in different perspectives and I miss the voices of those I came to know throughout those early years.

Continue to Write

I hope that writers in the personal finance space will continue to write. We must be cautious with our words, but we should also be open to telling our stories.

Somewhere out there someone is feeling the same way that you do. Someone has the same amount of money in their pocket. While another person has similar goals.

We need to continue to hold open, honest conversations about money so that we can continue to learn and grow. I will continue to tell my story.

She's FIRE'd

Sunday 2nd of August 2020

I have known for years that comparison is the killer of contentment, but I still can't help doing it when someone (looks like) they have it better than me. And then the opposite, guilt, when I think I'm struggling so much less than those around me. Why do I torture myself this way? Clearly I'm not the only one though...

I started a blog because two blogs I read were helpful to me in getting up the courage to retire early. Your blog is interesting because it is so honest, and you write posts all the time that are perspective changing. It's hard to be so honest. I'm know because I've deleted some posts that were a little too raw. And you're braver than I am in your posts. This was a good one.

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone in my struggles. I do torture myself with guilt. I don't feel jealous very often, but guilty yup, I'll raise my hand to that one. As for your blog don't delete your posts just make them private so only you can see them. There is no sense in erasing our feelings. If you don't feel brave enough to share them with the world just keep them tucked away for yourself.

Steveark

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

Your life has been hard compared to mine. If I just looked at my spouse she got pregnant. I was overpaid hugely so she could stay home without any financial ramifications. We've never had a fight in 42 years of solid marriage. I respect you because you've fought to have a good life, I didn't have to. Fighters are better people, like you. Props lady, you are the real thing.

One Frugal Girl

Thursday 30th of July 2020

Thank you for sharing those kind words Steveark. It's amazing that you've had so few struggles in your life. You are incredibly fortunate. I find that many people struggle in one aspect of their life or another and most of us struggle at different times (childhood, middle adulthood, late adulthood, old age). Telling my story helps others open up. That's why I keep telling it. I hope that you continue to stay happy and healthy and that the world continues to be good to you!

yetunde

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

Thank you for your incredible honesty in this post and on this blog. As a longtime blog reader (and blogger) I've grown weary of the picture-perfect lives and stories. I can definitely relate to being in your 40s and looking back at the trials of infertility and an imperfect marriage.

Thanks for sharing and hope your words keep coming :)

One Frugal Girl

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

Thank you for your kind words. It's been a long road for me and while my finances are in order I have certainly faced my fair share of difficulties along this path of life. My goal is to tell my story without making others feel bad about their place in this world and to remember that just because one thing is going well, (money in this case), it doesn't mean everything else is picture perfect. It's tough to talk about the good when others are struggling. I'm not exactly sure how to do that or if I'm doing it well, but I'll keep on trying.