I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my future and my past. I’m Forty-Years old, gosh, typing that makes it feel too real. When you are young, you don’t think about when you’ll be 40. But now that I am, there are some things that I wished my parents would have told me that maybe could have put me in a different situation. Maybe I would have listened, possibly not. When you are young, you think you know everything and most young people live for the day. That mentality has its pros and cons.
My father, God rest his soul, was a drunk for as long as I can remember. He and my mother separated when I was still a toddler. I visited him often and on occasion he gave me money as a young teenager. At the age of 17, I went to live with him, where I was allowed to do whatever I wanted and he didn’t know anything about parenting. My mother, was a preschool teacher. She was a single mother for years but I had a couple of step-fathers too. She worked two jobs for a long time. I was much younger than my siblings so I spent a lot of time alone. When I was 12, she decided to return to her religion and I had to too. It was a very strict religion, no more holiday celebrations, or friends who weren’t in the same religion. For a while I was happy, until the later years of high school when the rebel came out and I wanted no parts. I resented her for taking away the holidays and my childhood friends. Everything was about the religion with her and college was even discouraged for fear of bad influence and no real need to plan for a future in this current life because there wouldn’t be one.
I’m sure my parents did their best, my childhood wasn’t bad. I’m grateful to have made it to this age, because I did some really reckless things in my youth and I am not blaming anyone but I really wish my parents had taught me…
The importance of maintaining good credit- Credit saves you money. The better your credit the less you have to spend up front and in the end. In the past, I’ve had two repossessions and plenty of small bills that made it to my credit. Thankfully, they happened early on. I’ve spent the last two years rebuilding my credit and my credit is pretty good now.
If you get a good job, stick with it and build a retirement fund. If you get the job while young, stay and retire from it. You’ll be able to do the job you want without worrying about the pay because you will have money coming in from the job you worked for years. And you will be one of the youngest people you know, not working so hard at 40.- I’ve been working since I was a teenager. [My mom did insist on my independence, for that I owe her a great deal of credit.] I’ve had some good jobs too but I never stayed long, always looking for something else. Til’ this day, I still have difficulty remaining at any job for more than 4 years. My mom worked as a teacher until she retired, why didn’t she teach me to do the same? I even worked for the state of PA as a case worker for four years. The retirement plan was great and I could have retired from there in my early 40’s with a good pension, but no-one told me that. Instead I left the job to go to college full time, which brings me to my next thought….
Go to college right after high school and get a degree, it gives you options- Had I gone to college right out of high school, perhaps I would not have job-hopped so many times. I had a full ride scholarship to college but no-one encouraged this, so I got me an apartment instead and a job. [I got great grades in school. I was very smart. My mother stayed on me about those grades too] I went to college later, after a husband and two kids and with those degrees came so many better opportunities. At least I went but I could have saved myself a lot of heart ache and pain, had someone, anyone, told me to go early.
Invest, build a portfolio- This is something I’m just educating myself about. I wish I had invested early, built a portfolio and gave myself future stability.
Marry someone you can grow and build with- Recently I read about a couple that did not marry for love, but for growth instead. This got me to thinking… this is very smart. Love fades, but growth keeps moving until you choose to stop it. I’ve been in relationships where one person is trying to grow and the other is simply content where they are- (Me and my ex-husband)- notice I said ex. It doesn’t work. Eventually you grow to resent that person or the two of you grow apart. It doesn’t feel good.
Budget- So many people live above their means. Before I moved into my first apartment at age 17, my mom held the money that I saved and my father doubled my total. It was enough to pay the deposit on my apartment and buy some furniture but I was almost evicted within the first year because no-one taught me to budget. I still struggle with budgeting but I’ve learned the value of paying my bills on time because the longer I let them go unpaid the more money I have to pay in the long run. And once you get behind it can be almost impossible to catch up. Now I save first, pay bills next, purchase what I need, and then decide to save more or enjoy the rest. Very soon I hope to add invest in there somewhere.
Leave your home and travel- I’ve only ever lived in Philadelphia until I moved to Qatar to teach at age 39. What a deprived life. I’ve learned so much since moving abroad about life. I only remember traveling on the East Coast as a child, and never on a plane. As an adult, I was scared to death of flying and avoided it until I had no other choice but to fly for job training to take care of my sons while they were young. I can’t help but to think, if I had been exposed to traveling as a child, that fear would not have engulfed me. I’m still afraid of flying but I no longer allow that fear to keep me from seeing the world. And to ensure my sons don’t carry that fear, I’ve taken them on many travels and moved them across the world. Traveling is the best education anyone can receive, trust me.
Live for today but plan for tomorrow, because before you know it, you’ll be 40
So now I’m 40 and it doesn’t make sense to blame my life on my parents, but it does make sense to re-invent myself and teach my children what I wish my parents had taught me.
What do you wish you had learned earlier in life?