Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The financial crisis – a personal anecdote

My personal credit crisis built long before the current credit crisis. When I was five-years-old my parents taught me about money; you had to work for it no matter what. Opportunity Cost was not a term a five-year-old knew, but I began to learn it with proper study and instruction.

When I was old enough to work, the power of money and the fleetingness of it soon became a weekly reality. It became the journey between “should I buy a bra”? to “what sox can I buy?” to “shouldn’t I be saving this for college books?”

I knew nothing about starting a savings account when I was 16-years-old. Instead I started cashing my paychecks at the local check-cashing station for their eight percent profit on my weekly work and then going down to the local record store to blow the basket on used CDs, videos and old cassettes. That’s before I knew I would have bills.

What I thought should have been a Stanford education soon became a pile of loans at Arizona State University. While ASU served me well, my family’s financial situation became difficult and with my penchant for adopting animals it became even more trying on the billfold.

Paying payments on a car, repairing said car and making $23, 000 a year just out of college, the credit card companies started to earn the interest they thought they would. A few Christmas seasons later I pitched a new strategy to the family, one hand-made gift going to the name you drew. It didn’t play out, nor did the spending I wanted to do. I wanted to buy my brother a new sound system for his car, I wanted my mother to have this new set of motivational books and for my father a GPS system for his “camping trips.” But I couldn’t deliver on any of it. Instead, I spent hours crafting scarves that would never be used, from yarn and fine-tuning the art of crochet that I learned in my apartment complex when I was nine.

The lesson I learned was that I would very much prefer a hand made gift (although rare with the fast paced society of today) to the junk, store bought token of a gift or even gift card. But for my own personal mental whipping, I put upon myself that I was the golden child, the college child, the one who would run off to Los Angeles and make dreams, and money, happen. Well, LA didn’t do that for me and I thought I couldn’t deliver. So I shut down. My body, my mind, everything shut down. We were poor, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it aside from getting better. Better at my job, better at understanding one’s financial limitations and better at expressing love not through money but through action.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a four-day weekend with my father in Phoenix. At first all I knew was that I would need to spend some money on food for the cats I have adopted over the years, food for my guests that would come to the house and some TLC for the pool. When I arrived I could not even get to the pool area, and I knew much work had to be done to the yard. After four-hours of work I had to pick my friend up from the airport. That night I was silently embarrassed with all that I had not accomplished, and then he woke up early the next day to work with my father. I then waking sore was ready to work with them. Six hours later, the back yard became something of beauty and the pool was almost full.

That is an action of love. I am so grateful that I was apart of a memory that will last for not only for my family but also for those who were witness to it.