I started planning for my future when I was about 25. I met with a financial adviser and agreed to a regular withdrawl from my account to go into a 403(b). I knew that I needed to have “something” in place for the future, but I really wasn't sure what or how much.
When I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, I cashed in that and all other retirement funds I had invested in. Ten years later, I'm kicking myself for those poor decisions.
My bad decision-making didn't end there, and now, at nearly 40 years old, I am just beginning to take the right steps to a solid financial life. What I have discovered is that my poor planning was the result of two things: I was uneducated and in denial.
I grew up as a child of divorce, living with a mother who felt very guilty about the situation. She often gave me things as a means for showing her love. She wasn't financially smart and lived her life in debt. When I became an adult, I assumed that debt was the way everyone lived and followed in her path.
My lack of financial education hurt me greatly. There wasn't a class in personal finance at my high school, and my mom certainly wasn't prepared to teach me how to manage my finances.
When I graduated college, I knew that I was supposed to be saving for retirement as well as working hard to reduce my debt, but I ignored that. I lived in denial for many years because it was easier than doing the hard work needed to get out of debt.
When I was finally ready to address the future and make plans, I had a lot of changes to make. These changes were going to take time and dedication, but I dove into it and have been working at it steadily for nearly three years.
The most important steps you need to take to address your future is to change your present and repair your past. You need to do this by:
- Setting a budget.
- Eliminating unnecessary spending.
- Making a plan to save.
- Paying off debt.
The biggest change I have had to make is to alter my thinking. I have had to stop impulse spending, learn to live with less and practice saying “no” to myself and my kids. Those changes were the most difficult part of planning for my future, but today I am able to consider what my choices mean for my future.
By the time I was ready to face my future, I was 35 years old, a single-parent, unemployed and in a great deal of debt. It was now or never, I chose now! What is holding you back from facing the future? Are you afraid to face the mistakes you've made?