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What Financial Health Means to Me

   Posted On: June 29, 2016  |    Posted In: Random  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

Three things about me became clear before I turned 10:

  1. Delayed gratification is an innate part of my wiring. Unearthed by my mother when she tried testing my toddler self using the old marshmallow trick and I patiently waited for her to return so I could receive two marshmallows.
  2. I’m a control freak. Call it Type-A, bossy or whatever else you like – but even as a small kid I wanted to be the leader, have all the answers and be empowered to make my own decisions.
  3. Powerful women intrigued me. Perhaps being a feminist is nature and not just nurture because I started following successful women as soon as I could consume content. From adoring Pocahontas (who notably didn’t need to end her movie with getting married) to idolizing woman saints like Joan of Arc to woman pirates like Anne Bonny and then literary and political movers-and-shakers like Emily Bronte and, of course, Queen Elizabeth II.

Mix a control freak with the desire to delay gratification plus a need to be independent and you get a woman obsessed with saving money to fund my own financial freedom (no interest in an Mrs. degree here!). Sprinkle this mix with regular doses of education from two financially literate and savvy parents – and you’ve got yourself the recipe for financial health from the moment money first entered my hands.

To my 27-year-old self, financial health means the luxury to never spend a day of my life fretting over how to pay down debt, how to cover my bills, how to save for an emergency fund and how to prepare for the future.

But before I completely lose you in a self-indulgent narrative, let me say financial health also means privilege.

It’s a privilege that I’ve been able to avoid the stress of debt because my parents were financially successful, handled their money well and taught me to do the same.

It’s a privilege to grow up in a home where money never carried the stigma of being taboo and routinely got discussed over the dinner table, in the car and during vacations (and keep in mind the women out numbered the men 3:1).

It’s a privilege to know I can take bigger risks in my career, in my business, in my life because if all if it fails tomorrow – my family has the means to temporarily support me.

It’s a privilege to know my parents are financially secure and I don’t need to account for their future care into my own financial plan.

It’s a privilege to have been raised to appreciate, understand and appropriately deal with money, because many people never get the chance to be financially healthy without first making painful, costly mistakes.

Financial health is a privilege that should be afforded to everyone – and it starts with being willing to have the conversation while also recognizing our own background and bias. Hopefully, this little corner of the Internet can be a catalyst for change.

Image from Pexels 


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37 responses to “What Financial Health Means to Me

    1. The intersection of privilege and money is such an interesting topic to me and thanks for sharing your recent work! I always love to read other takes on the topic.

  1. Your Mom is legit. I’ll have to remember that test for my children haha! I have experienced many of the things in the article (debt, taboo to talk about money growing up, poor spending choices). The one thing I think I gained from my upbringing though was how to be resourceful. I didn’t have parents that were examples so I had to go out and find my own way to do things. I have other friends who didn’t have to work as hard and they’re not as scrappy/as much of a hustler. Clearly your mom had you guys preparing for the financial hunger games (ha) so you had both the privelige and the teaching to be resourceful. Kudos to your parents and you!

  2. I’m definitely lucky that my mom is financially stable and has supported me at times when my health (and therefore earning ability) was debilitating.

    The major privilege most people take for granted is good health. At 37, Tim and I pay exponentially more for health-related medical expenses than almost anyone else I know. Not to mention that he’s unable to work, which hinders our ability to stabilize ourselves.

    I don’t know how single disabled people (without family support) manage. The average disability payment is $1,166 a month — and that’s really for people who *were* able to work a fair number of years. Tim’s is $776. It’s hard to live on that, let alone seek financial health!

    1. You are so right about good health. It is a privilege that you certainly don’t consider until it’s gone.

  3. I wonder if they could do a study where they followed the babies that chose the two marshmellows to one and see how their net worth ended up compared with the babies that chose one immediately. That would be fascinating.

    Only sad part is that so many people in this country grow up in financially illiterate homes and that gets passed down to the next generation

    1. I think they have done those studies… I’ll have to Google it!

      And like many other bad habits, poor financial behaviors are certainly tough to break.

  4. It really is a privilege to come from a successful family that also taught you about finances. I can only imagine I would be in a much better position right now if I had that but dont get me wrong, I am very happy where I stand today.

    Haha I love what you wrote about mixing a control freak and delayed gratification to get an obsessed money saving person. Classic!

    1. Some of those money habits have to be psychological, right? It can’t all be from parental guidance. Or maybe it can…

  5. Hi, I’m new reader to this blog and I find it very useful. As I’m a new parent, your delayed gratification story inspire me to use it to my son. I see some of my friends splurging money as if they have no control on their spending to fulfill their wants and I don’t want to raise the same kind of person.

    I consider myself as a saver compared to people around me tho… thanks 🙂

    1. Great that you’re already a saver and strive to stick to it! I’m sure you’ll pass on plenty of healthy financial behaviors to your son. If you dig around my archives, you’ll find lots of other ways my parents taught me about money. The first blog post ever is one of my favorites.

  6. Thanks for sharing this article!! I agree with you..Financial health is a privilege and It should be afforded to everyone…Having conversation while recognizing our own background and bias is a great way to start..

    1. It should indeed be afforded to all. Fortunately, it is accessible but some have an easier journey than others.

  7. I totally agree that financial health is a privilege but one that shouldn’t be reserved only for the privileged. I love that this is the beginning of more financial health awareness days that will hopefully get the word out beyond certain circles.

    1. Agreed! Hopefully acknowledging that not everyone has access will help get progress started towards reaching those often marginalized.

  8. Privilege does make financial health a lot easier to attain, but I also think with privilege comes a lot of responsibility to maintain a similar standard for the next generation and to help as many people as you can – which aren’t bad things!

    1. That’s an excellent point! Your parents do want to see you do better than they did, even if they crushed it at life.

    1. It took me a little longer than I wish it had to start investing, but I’m glad I got into the saving so early.

  9. Interesting – that you would put Joan of Arc and Ann Bonny in the same statement and admire both. One a devout Christain who put God before her very life. The other who robbed people and, I assume, did nasty things like sell people into slavery, rape, murder people, etc… (I don’t know the history of Anne Bonny in particular – I’m just assuming she’s the typical pirate.

    Let me ask why it is important to you that these are “strong women,” rather than just “strong people.” How does their sex matter?

    1. Arguably, Joan of Arc also killed people, or, at the very least was an accessory as she led troops into battle. Fortunately, the books written about both Joan of Arc and Anne Bonny that were marketed to 10-year-olds tend to gloss over the gory bits. I was just always fascinated about finding women in what were traditionally “men’s jobs” or roles — especially hyper macho ones like military or pirating.

      The reason it was (and is) important to have strong women and not strong people is for the same reason it’s important to see diversity in our media and for ethnic minorities to see themselves reflected in the content they consume. It speaks more strongly when it’s a person like you and makes you recognize it’s also attainable for you. Of course I also read and learn about men, but I find it more important to ensure more viewpoints in what I consume.

      1. No, you can say it is equivalent to risk your life and lead troops to defend your homelands from an enemy that burns everything after each battle and someone who captures ships and kills or puts the crew into slavery. It is like saying that American troops who liberated Iraq from a brutal dictator in an effort to deny terrorists who had attacked their homeland is equivalent to ISIS fighter who burn and drown prisoners in cages and see girls into sex slavery. It is an important distinction.

        1. Gettin’ feisty. My only point was saying that your comment implied one person killed and arguably both killed.

  10. I don’t know if I would call all of those things “privilege.” Maybe “good luck” for you to be born into such a household, but for your parents it was wise choices and sacrifice so that they could succeed and give you those advantages. What your parents have is due to their own initiative, not privilege. Initiative isn’t reserved for a chosen few.

    1. Probably not all, but part of the reason I deliberately chose privilege is because financial education isn’t easily accessible to everyone. Some of life is of course luck, but we shouldn’t keep privilege out of the conversation. It’s important to recognize our own biases in financial conversations. I also see that my parents were successful because of some of their own privileges in life.

      1. Our blogs are open to everyone. I have at least 200 articles on how to handle your money that are free for anyone to read. I also have an ebook for sale for $3.99 – less than the cost of a Starbucks Coffee – that lays out exactly how you utilize your money to become financially independent. It is just a matter of what you choose to do with your time.

        1. That thought process is also rife with privilege to a degree because it implies that those who struggle with money are only there because they don’t try hard enough. It isn’t always that black and white. We shouldn’t assume everyone has access to a computer with stable Internet and has the down time to be able to bop around and stumble upon our corners of the blogosphere when some folks are already working multiple jobs to try and make ends meet and want to spend their valuable free time with loved ones. Fortunately, books to be rented from libraries may be a better play and easier to consume. Or podcasts/audiobooks if those are accessible.

          1. “Privilege” implies that those who are not privileged need not try because the game is stacked against them. In places like India or China this is certainly true. In free economies, not so much. It is also a result of a manipulative tactic by those seeking to gain power through assigning guilt to the successful and envy to the unsuccessful. The result of the tactic being successful is Venezualia, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, USSR, ….

            In a free economy, economic outcome is primarily determined by three factors: birth and family situation, skills and abilities, choices, and effort. Of those four, choices is by far the most important, followed next by either effort or skills, with birth/family situation coming in last. People who continually make bad choices will drag themselves down despite any level of effort, abilities, and family status. People who make good choices and either have significant skills or put in a lot of effort can overcome virtually any birth/family disadvantage. The nice thing is that while you’re best off making good choices your whole life, you can still make your life significantly better if you start making good choices even somewhat late in life. One choice is to spend an hour or two a week time reading how to improve the way you handle money, even if that needs to take place at a lobrary or on a friend’s computer because you don’t have access at home.

            To say that privilege is responsible for outcome is to say that is two people start out with equal skills and talents and make equal choices, their birth state will make one succeed and the other not. I challenge you to find evidence of this in today’s America.

          2. It’s nice you still believe this about America, but I do encourage you to listen to episode 4 (Carlos Doesn’t Remember) of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast: The notion that two people in drastically different socio-economic backgrounds are given the opportunities to make equal decisions is something of a fairytale these days. I’ve appreciated this dialogue, but clearly we’re both set in our opinions.

  11. Financial health is so important to us too. If we weren’t financially healthy, I wouldn’t have been able to take the risk of supporting our family with my business income.

  12. Financial health means that I have a commitment to my family’s future. I a mother of 3 kids should be financially responsible because if not, how can I give a good future and support my kids’ education?

  13. Thank you for referring me to episode 4 (Carlos Doesn’t Remember) of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast: I listened to it in its entirety. I think the thing you’re missing is the difference between privilege and fortune, and again it comes down to bad decisions. Carlos was very unfortunate in his circumstances. He was unfortunate that his mother made bad decisions, and when you’re a minor, the bad decisions of your guardian affect your life and it is difficult to escape from them. Her bad decisions lead to Carlos not succeeding during his early years. If she had chosen to support him in his education, to move to a better neighborhood, or even to just have let him go to the good boarding school instead of taking care of her, he would have succeeded easily.

    I’m not going to argue that a person who is unfortunate is going to end up in the same or better place than someone more fortunate, even if they make the exact same decisions. The difference between fortune and privilege is that privilege cannot be overcome regardless of your perseverance. The effects of bad fortune can almost always be overcome by a string of good decisions.

    The idea of privilege is being used for two purposes: 1) making those who are successful (normally due to their good decisions, aided by their fortune) feel guilty and 2) to make those who are not successful give up and also feel envy towards those who are successful. This is a manipulation tactic being used by some to gain power (you’re guilty, repent by putting me in power and giving me access to your wealth and talents; you’ve been abused through no fault of your own, give me power and I’ll make it right). This is how people like the Bolsheviks and Hugo Chavez get into power. Decades of this philosophy being taught in US schools are why a majority of millennials think it is perfectly acceptable for a Socialist to be put in as President of the US.

    Even if you consider the previous statements a crazy conspiracy theory, consider this: By promoting the idea of privilege, you’re throwing yet another burden upon the back of people like Carlos. You’re telling him that there is no way he can succeed, so he needn’t even try. You’re saying, “If you’re born poor, or born black, born female, there is this hidden agenda working against you that you cannot overcome, so you should just give up.” By doing this, you’re increasing the chances that an unfortunate person will decide to make bad decisions because you’re saying there is no reason to make good decisions and do the hard work needed to make it out. Carlos could very easily decide to go on drugs, go and stay on welfare, have sex with dozens of women and have a string of children, or even just take a low-paying job and do the minimum, never using his talents. You’re aiding him in making these decisions because you’re giving him a free pass to do so. “He deserves to do so – who could blame him?” He could also choose to do the same things his mother did and make it very unlikely that his children will succeed.

    I’d rather push people to make good decisions by expecting more from them. Because we live in a free economy, if you continue to make good decisions and stop making bad decisions, you’re situation will almost always eventually improve. You might not get as far as others, but you at least give your children a better chance to be wildly successful by starting them at a better place. Contrast this with places like India where you are limited by the caste into which you’re born. If you’re born an untouchable, you have no chance – unless you have a revolution – to do anything but pick up other people’s waste. That’s privilege.

    Thanks for the discussion – I’ve enjoyed it too.

  14. I am so glad that I found this post. My oldest sister and I frequently discuss how our lives would be vastly different if we had access to financial education at younger age. I am a twenty-three year old Black graduate student from a working class family. My maternal grandfather grew up in Arkansas “with the dirt between his toes” and escaped the volatile South and moved to an industrial Ohioan city. Even though he made “good money” at General Motors and enjoyed a semblance of middle class life, the collapse of the auto industry deeply impacted him (including other family members such as my father) as pensions were cut, insurance decreased/lost, ect. Unlike my father, my grandfather had some stocks but unfortunately for him the recession also dispensed of some of that income. I realize that other people suffered through financial ruin during the recession however, recovery is a much steeper climb for those without the necessary financial tools to rebuild. As for my sister and I, we are straddled with student loan debt (like other Millenials) but the lack of a healthy financial foundation makes us 30x more vulnerable to a bad economy than people who have one. These are just facts. It doesn’t mean that we will never have a chance but I commend you for being honest that there is a real story of privilege which personal finance bloggers often do not want to acknowledge (or frankly, might not even realize it exists). You’ve inspired me to write more about personal financial health on my blog because I really believe we need greater diversity in financial starting points, heck even current points. Fore example, I’ve noticed comments on other blogs where people are requesting stories about getting out of debt with a low-income job. So again–thanks for the post.

  15. Financial health is more attributed to responsibility and discipline. Yes, privilege is still the name of the game, but rather focus on building more of yourself rather than taking the chances from your so called “privileges”.

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