What I needed to hear

Yesterday I met with someone who can probably bring more healing to my life than any doctor I’ve seen in years, and that’s a financial advisor.

I’ve been really afraid for a while now that someone would take a look at my finances and go “hmmm, I think you should, hmmm.” But this guy didn’t. Not even close. He scribbled out the messy details of my income, bills, debt and did more math than I’ve done since high school in about 5 minutes. And at the end of that he pronounced me not in a great place, but moving in the right direction. He said things like “this is not that bad” and “I can see you’re ready to do this” and most importantly “I see more teachers retire with a lot of money than actuaries.”

Uh, what?

Apparently people who have a nice income know how to spend it and people who have to scrimp and save become good savers. So, seeing how I’ve chosen journalism as a career I’m gonna go ahead and guess I’ll be in the column with the teachers.

I expected to get a lot of information out of that appointment, but I really didn’t expect to get confidence. All you hear and read about is how poor the economy is doing, how bad our spending habits are, how expensive gas is going to be. Nobody ever says, you can do this! You can pay off your debt, you can save a little, and you can actually pay for a vacation when it comes up.

That was a big thing, too. He reminded me that this is supposed to be the best time of my life, the most carefree, and if all I think about when I’m on vacation is how I will not be able to pay for this and that, I will never really enjoy it.

The financial company gave this presentation to my office a while back and they said that Americans have these houses with rooms that have no furniture in them, no curtains on the windows. I’d never really paid attention to that, but it’s so true! We buy big houses and big cars and then we don’t fill them because we can’t. I think I’m finally starting to see the light in that sense. If you’re gonna want something and sink a bunch of money into it, at least use it. At least get something out of it. I have absolutely no regrets about taking a trip to Europe when I didn’t have the money because I will never, ever forget the incredible things I saw. But I resent that $140 pair of shoes I’ve only worn 4 times. What a waste.

So, things are starting to click. It’ll probably get worse before it gets better. But for once in a long, long time I feel good about my money and my ability to handle it. And that was at least worth the sum total of my 401k.