How I Had Everything When We Had No Money

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailAs a kid I hated the end of summers.  It meant school starting up again and seeing some my classmates.  It meant hearing what everyone did over the summer, from summer camp to going to that magical place called DisneyLand, and for some Disney World.  Living in Hawaii means you can’t just jump in the family car and do road trips. It costs thousands to fly a family out, with car rentals and hotel lodgings all factored in.

As a fourth grader I wanted to be an astronaut (what fourth grader didn’t want to be one?).  This kid in my class got to go to NASA for space camp, coolest summer trip ever.  I didn’t get to go on my first real trip until the fifth grade on a school sponsored event.  The only way I could afford to go was earning money through a school fundraiser.  I was so jealous that other kids parents loved them so much more than mine did.  So and so’s parents were divorced also, but they got to go to Disney Land.  Even in my housing complex a lot of my friends still got to go to the mainland.  I promised myself when I grew up I’ll get a good job and never miss out.  I’m going to have the same experiences everyone else has.

Of course once I got the nice job I was able to fulfill that promise to myself.  Road trips to Vegas to gamble, Arizona to float down the salt rive.  Check, check.  Overseas trips, just call me international man of mystery.  No worries put it on the credit card for a month, two or three, when I get my bonus it’ll be paid off.  Buying a $35,000 BMW on a $40,000 salary?  Of course a man’s got to date and show the ladies his fine taste.  The trifecta of achieving the American Dream?  I’ll have one of each please: student loan debt, fancy car loan, and credit card debt.

Here’s the biggest irony, when I was a poor 10 year old kid I had everything.  I never went hungry, I had a home to live in, I had clothes and shoes for school.  I didn’t owe anything to anyone.  Yet when I got my first real job and had negative net worth, I was worse off than when I was a 10 year old kid.  If I had lost my job I couldn’t afford to pay the interest on my loans, much less food and shelter. My need to “live” the American Dream meant a life of constant worry.

We all have so much more than we realize, we often overlook our blessings.  The ironic thing is when you pursue what others have you often end up with nothing.



  1. Great story, Charles. I think it’s tough as a kid growing up to put things in perspective. You have little control over what trips you take or what you do during the Summer. It’s an interesting thing to think about how many recent grads (myself included) have negative net worth but still feel so much better off. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “charge it” habit that allows you to justify almost any purchase.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Job Search Check ListMy Profile

  2. Well said, Charles. I often regret not enjoying my childhood more. I was so anxious to grow up. I wish I would have enjoyed those long summer days much more. For some reason though, I was always bored. I had to be occupied doing some activity otherwise I was going crazy. Why couldn’t I learn to just relax?!
    Liz recently posted…The Debt Payoff Journey- Are We There Yet?My Profile

  3. Thanks, Charles, for putting it all into perspective. Awesome post. :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Beware of MonstersMy Profile

  4. Love this post Charles! The “trifecta of the American Dream” so true…my friends often wonder why I don’t upgrade my car and other possessions. My co-workers often talk about credit card payments like they’re normal and something that is unavoidable. They really need to change that perspective…it’s much better on the other side.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Financial Decisions: Emotion vs LogicMy Profile

  5. That’s good perspective to have. It makes me wonder why we don’t teach kids this kind of mindset when they are teens, to help them make better decisions when they are purchasing their first car/house/whatever. We just let them step off the edge and see how deep they’ll dive into debt.
    FI Pilgrim recently posted…June In Review – Income Expense and Net WorthMy Profile

  6. The “stuff” we get with money we don’t have is visible. The anxiety it creates we keep hidden. That’s why I love your closing sentence:

    “The ironic thing is when you pursue what others have you often end up with nothing.”

    The statement is true in so many ways.

  7. Totally LOVE this! I think as we get older we really neglect the simple things in life. And there does seem to be a constant pressure when you see friends (ok maybe this is just me) traveling internationally left and right, wearing cool threads on their fb photos, eating out all the time, but I don’t know what situation they are in. Maybe there is debt, maybe there isn’t…but it doesn’t matter. I live in a nice area with GREAT weather and great friends. I have a comfortable home and a reliable car. That’s why having a gratitude practice is so important…so we don’t forget the little things.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Workin’ on Stress-Free Living, & Giveaway!My Profile

  8. Great story! It just goes to show that debt sucks. Being debt-free and having very little is much better than becoming a voluntarily debt slave.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…The Secret Way to Save Money on Fireworks This YearMy Profile

  9. I think, as children, people just don’t appreciate what they do have – they’re always looking at what they don’t. I was definitely one of those kids! Back then, life was more much simple, if only I’d realised at the time.
    Nicola recently posted…July AimsMy Profile

  10. Great reminder – thank you!
    Amy recently posted…July 1 Debt TotalsMy Profile

  11. That would be crazy expensive trip for Hawaii to Disney. We never even went from Kentucky because it was so expensive and my Dad does not stand in lines, ever. Kids certainly take things for granted. It’s nice to look at it from an adult perspective where you can appreciate the example your mother set for you instead of watching her go into debt for things you didn’t need at all.
    Kim recently posted…Strategies for Running a Successful Family BusinessMy Profile

  12. The things I want definitely help me stay motivated to reach goals, but spending most of my time focusing on and being grateful for what I already have makes me a happy person.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Thank You For Your SuccessMy Profile

  13. Really great post about putting things in perspective. It’s hard not to. E jealous as a kid, isn’t it? I think I was a little the same way as you (although I did get to go to Space Camp) – always wondering why other kids led a cooler life. And it think that influenced a sense of entitlement as a young adult, making decent money.

  14. Well said buddy. At times, I have to remind myself I have been much more satisfied having much less.
    Ryan @ Impersonal Finance recently posted…a quick rundown of my past 90 daysMy Profile

  15. Nice way to express the life lesson around having too much wants. I wish we all had a bit more patience in life to avoid all the dumb mistakes we made in the past. IF you don’t learn the lesson its a dangerous cycle. Im glad I learned my lesson.
    EL @ Moneywatch101 recently posted…Can People Avoid Disrespecting MoneyMy Profile

  16. So true Charles! We just had our first child, a little girl, 10 weeks ago and we honestly haven’t spent very much money since. This is partly because we’re pretty busy and don’t have the time, but it’s also because we’re so happy with our new family that we don’t feel the need for anything else. Hopefully this feeling never wears off, its very good for our finances!
    Thomas @ i need money ASAP! recently posted…Become A Virtual AssistantMy Profile


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