A Couch of One's Own
I'm thinking I should start with a warning, something like TVMA. This blog has no blood, sex , or gore, but it does have sentiment that may offend some masquerading as grown folk. It's not personal, people. It's the fruit of the seed That was germinating in my brain when I awoke this morning.
My first job out of college was on Wall Street, at Merrill Lynch. It wasn't what I wanted to do, but it beat being chronically unemployed or underemployed. When I first started, everyone took a financial principles type class and I don't remember what they taught us in there mostly, but it all boiled down (or summed up) into one thing: you have got to pay yourself first. I remember the instructor telling us that you should put something into savings, even before you paid your utility bills, religiously and without fail, even it you could only carve out fifty bucks a paycheck, because after everything else was paid, you would, God willing, still have you.
I've heard this over and over again in my life in different forms. I left Wall Street and went on to other things, but once again while grad school I heard Suze Orman talk about the same principles. She was talking to women and recommended a book called A Girl needs Cash.
At the time, I wasn't the type of Orman fan that sought out her advice, but if she were on the tv or radio, I didn't change the channel, but I still bought that book. It was mostly a refresher of what I’d learned at Merrill Lynch; money management, how the stock market worked – and retirement strategies, but at twenty something, you aren't exactly thinking about retirement. The book did add to the idea that I needed to pay myself first, a practice I still adhered to, but it also added another tidbit: a room of one's own is nice, but no matter what your relationship status, a girl needed to have a little something something of her own.
When I got married, an older female member echoed these sentiments on the night before my wedding. “Girl, make sure you always have little something of your own. Something you don't have to explain or ask for, your own rainy day fund. And you should always know where the money is. God forbid something happens to your husband, but if it does, you shouldn't have to rely on others to tell you how much you have or worry about being robbed blind because you let your husband manage all the assets, but if you do, at least what he is doing.”
All of these together, rounds out to a good set of advice for man OR woman. A person should always be able to take care of themselves. I've heard many a person say “oh, he takes care of me.” We’ve all seen someone rely on someone so much that if something happens, they are left standing long-faced, penniless, and homeless because their “boo” has cut off the credit cards, closed the bank accounts or kicked them out of their home after a breakup and the person has no means to fend for themselves.
I believe in marriage and commitment, but to not have a rainy day fund is akin to a grown person believing in the Easter Bunny. Even if you can only save that 20 bucks a paycheck, in a little over a month, that adds up to hundred bucks. A few months of that and you can buy your own damned red bottom shoes or stock pick of your choice. And paying yourself first means putting that money in your sock drawer before you spend the 60 bucks on your mani-pedi, getting your hair did, the fancy handbag, the rims for your car or the New Air Jordans.
Mothers give this advice to their daughters, but what about the sons? In our society, no matter how capable the woman is our how much she earns, the unspoken stereotype for many of us is that the man provide. Whether that is our case or not, having some fiscal know how is a good thing…but it's that other case I'm pondering, the case where a person, male or female knowingly lives with someone, with no rainy day fund or future view.
What happens when your significant other whom you may or may not be married to wakes up and starts singing Beyonce’s To The Left and you are left with no money and maybe nothing but the clothes on your back, and if you are lucky, a car that you can live in? What is it about a person that lets this happen to themselves over and over again, ending each bout of homelessness by finding another sugar momma or daddy to take them in?
Does this person ever take responsibility for themselves or do they keep waiting for Santa Claus every year? What happens when they hit retirement age? If they have been working, they have hopefully been working a legit gig where they can now receive some social security, but it seems like more often than not this need to take an easy route hasn’t been confined to relationships, and are they then society’s responsibility? If we help them are we enabling this behavior?
Many parent want their kids to grow up to be rich and famous, doctors and lawyers, MBA stars and the like. I don't want that for mine. I want them to grow up and follow their path to financial independence. (Technology jobs are the new doctors and lawyers,but that's another blog) I wish my children to understand the value of working for a dollar knowing that although they may shAre with someone they love, they are not entitled to the dollar that someone else earns. I do not care if their home is fancy or in a high-dollar zip code. My wish for them is that they work hard, pay themselves first, even if they can only squeeze off a little bit each paycheck so that the couch they choose to live on may be their own.