Money can create greater possibilities for you, but you have to be educated about it; you must be empowered. I learned that the hard way.
My father created immense wealth. He took the money he was given and he invested smartly. Throughout my life, I watched him generate ever-greater wealth and business success to become one of the wealthiest individuals in the USA. My father was a prodigy at making money. He was also a big spender.
I grew up watching my father continuously spend money on himself. He collected rare artifacts and pre-Columbian gold, and he had two huge closets that were outfitted like a fine men’s clothing store. He never refrained from buying something he wanted; he never said “no” to himself.
It is from my father – shrewd, affluent and very, very conservative – that I learned my earliest concept of household money: the husband pays the bills, the husband takes care of the finances, the husband takes care of the wife and children, and he gets to do whatever he wants.
The message delivered to me regularly was, “The way for a woman to be powerful is to marry a rich man. Go find a rich man. Marry him and he will take care of you and give you money.”
That’s what I interpreted as a man’s love, and it is a point of view I later came to regret.
I remained reliant on my father’s wealth well into my mid-thirties. I was terrified of what life would look like without money, and so I stayed in college for as long as possible and kept taking an allowance from my father. When I would spend all of my allowance for the month, Father would say, “If you keep spending money like that, you’re going to end up a bag lady on the street.”
I couldn’t figure out what he meant. I spent my allowance on practical things — my apartment, food, and car. I wasn’t flamboyant with money, and I was both desperately afraid of poverty, and fiscally ignorant.
Despite the comfort of my existence, I was utterly, completely, financially disempowered.
When I married, I did so out of love. My husband was the opposite of every man I had ever met. He seemed to want to create a better world and share goodness and love. I thought I had found my nirvana; I thought I had found a whole new life and caring family. I finally was happy, secure, and confident in my place in the world.
When we got married, I did everything I had been taught to do. I had some trust fund money at the time and, of course, I allowed my husband to manage my money.
I gave him authority over my finances.
I let him be in charge of paying the bills and I chose to have no awareness of what was going on. The problem was that we were living far beyond our earnings. We were moving frequently, buying big houses and other expensive stuff, and selling them for less, never thinking of the future.
When we divorced, it was decided that I would get custody of our children as long as I also assumed all the debt. I agreed because I could not imagine living without my two sons; however, due to my complete ignorance, I had no idea our debt had climbed to $2 million.
There I was, the mother of two young boys, with millions of dollars to pay to our debtors, and no clue about how to begin.My family refused to help, and so I did the only thing I knew. I began to learn, and I began to empower myself.
It took me a lot of courage, perseverance, clarity, honesty and vulnerability, but I eventually paid back every cent I owed. I talked to my debtors and we created payment plans. I called every person I needed to call. I sold everything I could, and I paid off as much as possible, as soon as possible. I began to see the strength in myself. I found people were willing to work with me. I discovered I was good at negotiating. And I began to learn, research, question and become engaged in every financial decision affecting my life.
I began my journey toward financial empowered – a journey I continue to this day. And that has made all the difference.
According to Curry, there are three signs you may be financially disempowered:
If you answer yes to any of the above, Curry suggests you take immediate steps to become more empowered by becoming more:
Finally, to stop impulse spending, Curry has a simple three step process. “Ask yourself ‘Can I live without this?’ The answer is normally ‘yes’. If you can live without it, realise that the purchase is a choice. Then ask yourself ‘Is now the right time to make this purchase’. This empowers you to be in control of your impulses and your money.”
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