Brisbane readers share their stories about the good, the complicated and everything in between. This month, we discuss: money. What is the price of comparison?
Jessica // 27
I’m a spender by nature and connect emotion to money a lot. I believe it stems from my childhood seeing my parents go from (literally) throwing cash around the room, to declaring bankruptcy. For them, money was tied to either a yelling match or a splurge and, until recently, I basically did the same. I would get frustrated when cash was low and spend like crazy when it came in. Debt was also part of everyday life for my family, so I thought debt was normal and even necessary. It was only in the past 6-12 months that my long-term partner and I really got our act together and stopped the debt cycle. We educated ourselves with podcasts and reading, and with the help of a financial advisor, were able to (mostly) clear our debt and save a home deposit. I do believe that normalising conversation around finance would help younger generations understand that debt ISN’T normal. But I’d never heard anyone say otherwise. Now I know.
Peter // 34
Early in life, I didn't understand the concept of wealth, compared to the concept of spending. I didn't understand that having money in the bank to spend didn't ensure your financial freedom. Now I understand that having financial freedom requires some short-term sacrifices in order to build wealth. This is because once you've created sufficient wealth, you're able to earn residual income from your wealth assets without draining them. Did you know that if you saved $5,000 a year from the age of 15 to 25, and kept it invested until you're 60, you'd have almost $1 million more than if you save $5,000 a year from the age of 25 to 60? That's a total investment of $50,000 early in life OR $175,000 later in life. It was when I learnt this, that I truly understood who I needed to compare myself to. If I had just sacrificed a little bit of cash when I was younger, I would be in a much better financial position than trying to do it now, at 34 years old. Now I feel like I am playing catch up in order to generate enough wealth to secure a strong financial position for both myself and family; so that we can have all of the nice things later, rather than some of the nice things now.
Dominique // 21
My fear of being stingy means that I am absolutely awful with my money. I’ve always preferred a ‘you pay for this, I’ll pay for that’ attitude, rather than whipping out a calculator at the till, but my blasé response of ‘what’s $5 in the long run’ has unintentionally turned into ‘what’s $10’, ‘$20’, ‘$30’ or more. I’ve now realised that of course a $50 dinner isn’t equivalent to some $3 fries, but everyone now expects me to be their unofficial sugar momma so I worry that drawing attention to it will also slap me with the frugal label. While I used to think my friends were grateful, I now suspect they take me for granted and I know that it’s completely my own fault.
Michael // 23
I guess my money story is probably fairly common for my age group. Living paycheck to paycheck (most) of the time.
Mum and Dad were always neat little savers and I’ve seen it pay off for them over the years. They completely own their cars and the family home, they have money in the bank and only (as far as I know) use one or two credit cards. Soon after I left school, my dad taught me to always pay for things upfront and in full (wherever possible), and that the only association I should have with Afterpay is to own their stocks.
In the past when I’ve bought big-ticket items, my parents have always paid for them and then I would pay them back in instalments. I guess this was an effort to steer me away from credit cards – which I’m pretty thankful for because I’ve seen a lot of my friends use credit cards as an excuse to just spend and spend.
My friends and I are all on different salaries and we do compare but I’ve always found that I don’t really envy those of them who are on more money than me. We all have different skills and work for different sized companies – it is what it is.
Lauren // 30
Someone once told me "if you don’t own a home by the time you’re 30... you’re likely to struggle financially throughout life" – which for the record, I think is total B.S! Regardless, it’s stuck with me ever since and is something I refer back to in my mind all the time.
Prior to meeting my husband, I was an erratic spender who didn’t know the meaning of a budget. I was 21 and living at home, my car was bought for me … and yet I was still 13k in debt with absolutely no assets (unless you count a really great wardrobe). I wish someone told me then to invest my money in something worthwhile or to save more.
Nine years on, I am proud to have just bought our first home (I just made the ‘30' cut-off date!). I have a clear five and 10-year financial plan with set out goals and I know what my weekly spending needs to look like in order to achieve them. I don’t think I compare my financial situation with my friends, but there is definitely a scale of success I measure myself against. Things I tick off and hope to achieve by a certain age. I think it’s all about how your priorities shift naturally as you mature. In my 20s it was all about self-indulgence, in my 30s it’s all about investing in my future – home, car, interiors etc. In 10 years-time I bet it will shift to investing in my children’s future.
Check out the Unfiltered feature in our July magazine below