By Cindy Rodriguez Kelley
There were many days that I sat at the kitchen table with bills piling up, feeling like I had no time in my day and I really needed to be doing something different in my life. I wasn’t immediately sure what that might be. I just keep thinking how am I going to pay off my credit card debt, student loans and get ahead? When the heck is that dream vacation going to happen? I just kept replaying in my head that I was just “too busy”? But, I did realize that wishing I could change all that wasn’t enough.
I was 22, a mom, a wife, working full time, a college student, and scared to death about making ends meet. I was struggling, being pulled in too many directions and not really sure where to turn. I was tired, overwhelmed and feeling desperate. There always seemed to be too much month at the end of my money. Sure, I had months where the money and the month lined up perfectly, but that was just barely. I wanted more. I wanted better for my daughter than just scraping by.
The very next semester I enrolled in a personal finance course at school. I was hooked! Suddenly, it was like a light bulb went off. I felt empowered. I had gained the knowledge to take control over my finances. From that point I embarked on a life-long journey of financial literacy. I studied hard, got my MBA and went on to a wonderful career in finance. I started in brokerage and investing as a Financial Advisor, I moved onto wealth management in the banking industry, and then to financial management in the government sector. This journey allowed me to constantly learn, grow, and improve my money management skills.
I no longer sat at the kitchen table wondering where my money had gone. I developed a financially sound spending plan and told my money where to go each month. My money was working for me. I was able to gain back my sanity and sense of security.
I found that there were 3 things that contributed to my increased happiness as a result of my improved understanding of how money works, how to earn it, how to keep more of it, how to invest it, how to grow wealth, and subsequently teaching others what I had learned.
- Less Stress- One of the main reasons for divorce is sighted as financial problems. Educating yourself on how money works allows you to no longer feel powerless when presented with a financial issue. There is peace in knowing that all of the bills will be paid and there is money left over at the end of the month.
- More Freedom- A lot of energy is expended on worry when you are not in control of your finances. For example, if you are confused by the investment options in your company retirement plan, you are worried about whether or not you invested properly. Once you have educated yourself on the options, met with a financial advisor, gotten your questions answered, you can put that energy towards fun things in your life. Having control of your finances allows you the freedom to spend knowingly, not haphazardly. When you have established your spending plan and are telling your money where to go there are no more worries. You have put the money into your plan to do the fun things in life, like vacations, shopping, or saving for a goal.
- Help Others- The ability to pay it forward is probably the most rewarding part of financial literacy. Having a firm grasp on your finances allows you the ability to teach your children good money habits. It helps you to help them start out on the right foot. It also gives you the option to give money to causes that are important to you. You can engage in directed giving of time and resources.
Now I know they say that money can’t buy happiness, but it sure helps! One of my favorite quotes about money is by Zig Ziglar, “Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the gotta have it scale.” This always resonated with me as without command of my money, life was challenging at best. I knew that I wasn’t just put on this planet to pay bills and die. There was a whole world full of experiences out there waiting for me. My quest for financial literacy took me on an amazing journey and lots of exciting experiences along the way.