By: Revanche

What Financial Health Means to Me

June 29, 2016

Why financial health matters to us: please share with the #FinHealthMatters tagThis is an entry in the #FinHealthMatters contest sponsored by Center for Financial Services Innovation and FinCon. This is my first year attending and the prize would help tremendously. One of the winners will be selected by top engagement on Twitter and Instagram using #FinHealthMatters.  I’d appreciate your support by sharing this post with the hashtag on Twitter!

My parents did their best. Graduating from high school, daughter of immigrants, I headed to college armed with a $1000 scholarship, a minimum wage job, and the knowledge that it was my turn to study hard and make good on their sacrifice.

Ignoring for a minute that I’d been experiencing increasingly debilitating bouts of idiopathic pain, I couldn’t hide the thrill of embarking on Ye Grande Adventure of Adulthood.

“Weeping may endure for a night…”

It happened fast. Mom was diagnosed with diabetes. There were complications, she needed surgery. I stepped in with my meager paycheck temporarily, I thought, until she was better. Post-surgical anxiety and depression set in, the diabetes was complicated by a stroke, the stroke left her unable to work, and her inability to work sent her into a tailspin from which she never recovered.

Managing the household in her stead, an endeavor chronicled here for moral support and posterity, was more downs than ups, more tears than laughter.

To my horror, I discovered that Mom and Dad had been using credit cards to fill in gaps for years, paying only the minimum payment, to the tune of $100,000. It didn’t make sense! They worked 365 days a year. We never ate out, never vacationed, rarely shopped. Where did it go?

Answer: They’d been helping our extended family for decades.

I couldn’t leave. No one could pick up the pieces. Their family was unwilling to return the help, Dad was out of work and Mom wasn’t well. I felt obligated to fix the mess while hiding our shame from more affluent friends. (Y’all, everyone was more affluent than we were.)

The next decade blurred into a haze.

I ran the overtime meter, paying the bills, cutting swaths off the Family Debt, started my first IRA, started saving, and brought home my college diploma without any debt attached. Success, purchased at a steep price.

At my lowest point, sick with embarrassment, in chronic daily pain, seeing our car get repossessed because Dad lied to me, and having to fix that humiliating mess, my hope faltered. And then Mom died, suddenly.

Reeling, I stumbled into my new reality.

While I was focused on my family, my life path had changed, irrevocably. The stress of trying to settle my family on firm ground exacerbated my long-elusive diagnosis (fibromyalgia) so the career I’d dreamed of was impossible. And now, Mom, my inspiration and strength, was gone.

Any hope of rescuing my good health was sacrificed on the altar of filial piety. Now my job was to create my own financial safety net before my body gave out. It was time to make my own way in life, career and especially money.

“…but joy cometh in the morning (Psalms 30:5)”

I learned to plan: for tomorrow, for forty years from now. I needed to pay this month’s bills and know we could pay next year’s. I needed to know we would retire someday. Saving and investing were top priorities, equal to paying off that crushing debt, and I never regretted it for a minute.

Financial health means we work for our future, instead of scrambling to escape the morass of our past.

It means PiC and I were home together with our JuggerBaby when ze was born.
It means that we can afford reliable (expensive) childcare.
It means that when, not if, my health declines further, we don’t have to choose between medical care or food.
It means we can support those in need, lend a hand, and celebrate friends and family.

It means that we can grow old, keep a roof over our heads, and try to leave the world a better place than we found it.

:: What was your moment of joy, when it all turned around for you, financially? How are you financially fit? What drives you to do better?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Money Can Buy Me Happiness

16 Responses to “What Financial Health Means to Me”

  1. When we paid off the last of our credit card debt! It’d been five years of struggle on low income to pay off debt that we had no options on (medical) and that my husband had blindly taken up before we met (student).

    By the time we paid off the debt, I was a few months into a job that could actually support us. It was a new world, a calmer one (well… somewhat anyway).
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…What financial health means to meMy Profile

  2. NZ Muse says:

    Oh man, a few moments in the past 12 months!

    First was paying off the car.

    Then buying a house.

    Then paying down the bloody credit card balance built up during unemployment.

  3. jill says:

    Financial independence came for me at around 14, when I was running two paper routes and babysitting so that I could buy some clothes. Mom would talk me into buying chickens for dinner as the specials limited how many chickens she could buy at a time. Sometimes those chickens were bought and carried back on my over-used bicycle, because Mom had a migraine or had to help one of my younger brothers. I was pretty proud of my helping out the family. Told myself I could survive anything, because I knew how to navigate life.
    Weird how bitter I became when my dying parents admitted to having hundreds of thousands in savings that they would now use in their 90’s to pay off health care costs and the like. Financial freedom was always a dream until I met my husband, who had the same dream and the same needy family problems. When we separated from our families, we finally found that we could save plenty. Hopefully, without leaving our children bitter. Bitterness has not helped me. Fear of stuff does not help much. Blame, what-ifs, and guilt will come around from time to time, but in the end, we just focused on our goal of financial stability. Through health problems, deaths, dying parents, and family squabbles my husband and/or I would make sure the finances were in order. Thing is, we could lose it all tomorrow due to no fault of our own. So security is only there as long as you know deep down, you and yours will survive, even with nothing.

    Good luck, although you probably make all the luck you will need. Finances can become the constant the keeps you sane, enjoy.

    • Revanche says:

      Usually parents having savings to pay for their own elder care is a good thing because it means you’re not burdened with it. I must have missed something important in the story between these two lines? Something they did that prevented you from saving until you moved out with your husband?:

      “Told myself I could survive anything, because I knew how to navigate life.
      Weird how bitter I became when my dying parents admitted to having hundreds of thousands in savings that they would now use in their 90’s to pay off health care costs and the like.”

  4. Sharon says:

    I clearly didn’t have the heavy duty wake up call you had, and at such a young age! But I do remember when I said enough is enough. Right before I started my blog, our debt hung over us to the tune of $60,000. Credit cards, home equity lines of credit, car payments. I had finally had enough. I read everything about money I could get my hands on. And, when I totally committed, my husband got a big bonus at work. It paid off all of our debt. I’ve never had credit card or home equity debt since. Car payments….well they are another story…
    Sharon recently posted…A last minute purchase…just in time.My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      That’s an amazing windfall story! I love that it feels like it came when you made the commitment. You can beat that car payment, I have faith in you!

  5. I admire you for your grace to work hard to help your parents. Sounds like your life story just keeps getting better!

  6. Honestly, for so long for me it was about surviving. I had zero safety net at a relatively young age. Then, when I had kids, it was about building something that could sustain my family and help my children excel.

    I’ve never seen your whole story in one post like this. Mad kudos for being such a strong person and amazing example.
    FF @ Femme Frugality recently posted…It’s back! Massive #SummerReading #GiveawayMy Profile

  7. Linda says:

    When I got divorced I was terrified that I couldn’t afford to keep the house. I had put a lot of time, money, and energy into my garden and didn’t want to abandon it, but the thought of paying a mortgage on my own was terrifying.

    I not only managed to do that, but also to build up enough savings that I could take some fabulous vacations (Galapagos Islands! Spain! Scotland!) and buy a (four year old) car with cash. I think that car buying experience was the best, in fact. I had never, ever imagined I could buy a car with cash.

    There were compromises I made along the way to build up that level of savings. I took in housemates for a couple years, and hosted through Airbnb for a year, too. But those compromise experiences worked out pretty well, overall. I guess that’s why I’m not intimidated at the thought of doing it again in a new home.
    Linda recently posted…Decisions, decisionsMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      That’s a huge step you took going from not being sure you could swing the mortgage to saving enough for awesome vacations and buying a car in cash! What an amazing feeling to know you can do it all and on your own.

  8. […] financial health means to Revanche, and it is a MUST READ. She is amazing. It doesn’t mean you’re a saint either […]

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