One of my heroes, Suze Orman, reveals stealing from her father’s wallet as a child and asks “What is your earliest money memory?”
My earliest memory of money was having 26 cents to get penny candy for summer movies. It didn’t mean anything to me, so it wasn’t the first time it had really had impact.
I might rephrase Suze’s question as “What is your earliest money memory that had emotional impact on you?”
The first time money had emotional impact on me was a postcard that I got from my childhood friend, Laurajean. It was from Yellowstone Park and had bears on it. I still have it.
At age 6, here came JEALOUSY and wanting WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION (“I want it for me, not you. You seem to have have more stuff, so I should have some of yours! It’s only FAIR!”).
I wondered why her family went to so many well-known places and she came back with things from GIFT SHOPS: toys, dolls, bracelets, necklaces.
It was then I realised that perhaps I had less and I thought it was fate that made me poorer as in Cinderella. We weren’t poor then, we were middle class, and went to beautiful camping places all over Canyonlands and the Rockies. A 6 year old girly girl doesn’t really appreciate those camping places until later in life. At 6, I felt something was different, and the jealousy welled up even though she shared all her toys and things with me.
One day, I stole a tiny plastic baby doll from her. One small enough to fit under my tongue thinking “she’ll never miss it. She has so much.”
But she did notice it was gone and asked about it.
Jealousy is an evil thing.
I couldn’t sleep that night because of the guilt.
I had taken what was not mine, what was not a gift, and was not earned.
The next chance I had, I snuck the tiny infant doll back over and put it back where I found it.
Besides a single grape at a closing grocery store at age 7, it was the only thing I ever stole in my life.
How did that affect me as an adult?
As a young adult, I felt that I was a victim and that I should be pious and poor. I married a man-child who I enabled by being “good” and paying his bills. That helped keep us in debt and poor despite our income.
Poor me. Martyrdom was my payoff.
Wanting others to feel sorry for me.
Wanting someone to “rescue” me.
“Someday I will win the lottery and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” will play and I will be featured on TV as a rags to riches story.”
Life doesn’t work like that.
I realised that the only person I could change was me. The only accounts I could mend were mine.
It took years, but I did it.
I stopped paying my exes’ bills and paid mine.
Then I saved up and divorced him.
The following years were tough on the heels of the housing market crash, but I survived because I had finally been true to myself and let go of martyrdom.
When I did that, love and peace came into my life. I married someone who was aligned on money principles like me.
We took Financial Peace University together.
And we followed a budget.
And lived way below our means.
And saved like mad.
Today, we are completely debt free and I was able to retire at 46.
Suze Orman asks her clients 10 questions:
What is your significant money memory?
How has it affected you as an adult?