I opened my first savings account when I was six years old. My mom was a bank teller and she set my sister and I both up with Calculator accounts at the Royal Bank. I loved playing with my passbook, pretending to push the little buttons on the cover. I loved rolling up pennies and giving them to my mom to deposit, watching the typed numbers increase in the passbook.
I always had a little bit of cash, even as a little girl. I got an allowance of $2 a week and I liked to spend it on books (usually Judy Blume). I remember coming up with extra chores lists, and would charge my parents 25 cents for anything above and beyond my usual chores. My sister always spent her money right away and would come to me to "borrow" my money because she knew I always had some.
I had an ATM card when I was twelve, and used it wisely. I knew how to write a cheque. I took a business class in high school, with a component in personal finance and did very well. I took business math and marketing and excelled in those classes too. I had my own apartment at eighteen and always paid my rent on time. I didn't have a lot of savings but without a credit card I never lived above my means. I lived with cash only.
Even when I was 20-21-22 I worked for minimum wage and still managed to share an apartment in downtown Toronto. If I wanted to buy something new to wear, I would save my lunch money for a week or two. I saved coins and rolled them up to buy myself a bass amp to play in a band.
With this kind of a background, how did I wind up at thirty years old with a $20 000 credit card debt? I think it started with the first student loan when I was 22, and the credit card with the $500 limit I got when I started college. I spent several years in university, each year borrowing just under $10 000 to get through. When I finally got a full-time job, I lived in overdraft and always had my hair professionally done.
I've hinted at it enough here that I have suffered most of my life with severe emotional problems. I won't go into detail because this is not that kind of blog. I seemed prepared for a life of good finances, but was always completely oblivious to the things under the surface that would come up in my twenties and put me in heavy debt: student loans, compulsive spending, online shopping addiction ...
Today I am thirty-five years old. I have just over $40 000 combined debt and almost no savings. It will be a long time before I am approved for a mortgage, even though my credit is still somehow stellar. I work part-time so that I can be more available for my four-year old son. Money is tight, but we rent a nice apartment and we have a nice little life. We have everything we need, especially love. I put away $40 a month into an RESP so I can at least pay for Bean's first year of university.
I don't know how his personal life, emotional or financial, will turn out. I can't control everything. I can only control my compulsive spending and the amount of affection I dish out. And that's enough for me.