Miel and I enjoy observing our cultural environment, having both lived abroad as exchange students at an early age, and continuing on to major in International Affairs/Studies. Miel has lived abroad for far longer than me, but paying attention to your cultural surroundings can be practiced anywhere.
Our money stories are so deeply intertwined with our culture that it’s impossible to separate them from our personal beliefs.
Here are some personal beliefs that I/we have held in the past that we are more than ready to release:
- The economy is scarce, and there isn’t enough to go around.
- There aren’t enough great jobs for everyone.
- In order to earn a living, you have to work for someone else.
- As women, we can always expect to earn less.
- You have to work hard to get ahead.
- Success is tied to stress.
- More money means more responsibility/stress.
- Managing money is boring and stressful.
- Selecting and buying stocks is difficult, risky, and should be avoided.
- It’s better to save for tomorrow than to live for today.
- Going to college was/is the only way to succeed professionally/financially.
- Paying off student loans will take half a lifetime.
- You have to “do your time” in unfulfilling work to get to where you want to be.
- Kids are damn expensive (this may still be true, but I am ready to remove the damn part 😉
- Saving for college is prohibitively expensive.
- Money will spoil our kids.
- Wanting more money is selfish.
- Getting what you want is somehow bad.
- Having money, or making more, is something to worry that your friends will resent.
- We shouldn’t talk about money.
- Retirement either means living on a fixed income or spending your kids’ inheritance.
- You have to wait until the government allows you to retire.
- You’re lucky to retire “on time” and by the time we get there Social Security will be bankrupt.
- We’re beholden to an economic model that doesn’t value the social good or environment, and politics are too corrupted for us to change it. A sensible carbon tax will remain a dream. A socialized safety net will never happen in the U.S.
This feels like it just scratches the surface of all the negative money stories we’ve bought into through our American culture.
What negative money beliefs/stories are you ready to stop believing in?
Darcy & Miel
Perhaps the most important aspect of sharing our stories is to accept and forgive them. Sometimes that means a particular person, a more naive version of yourself, or a belief that you simply soaked in through your culture. Our stories have more to do with our understanding of the world than the actual reality.
In writing my stories, I felt that honesty was the most important thing in helping release any doubts about my self worth or my ability to manifest my dreams. I knew that no one else could possibly remember things the same way, and that each of my close family/friends has their own version. I wanted to be sensitive to those diverse perspectives, but I needed to be completely honest in order for this whole forgiveness thing to work.
So, it didn’t entirely surprise me that a close family member read my post about Before Becoming a Cronin and took offense for saying “Essentially Kevin forgave me for growing up poor. He fell in love with me in spite of my meager upbringing, knowing that I was determined to be successful in life.” We had a long heart-to-heart, and I explained that it wasn’t that I felt poor growing up (with the exception of a few minor hardships), but that this realization of “growing up poor” first came to mind once I was out in the world. And, yes, wealth is all relative. As we both shared, we were very well off compared to most of our friends growing up and our parents were/are very generous. My parents were/are successful in life, just not in a monetary way.
My point in detailing Kevin’s comparatively elite upcoming was to share the fact that we come from very different socioeconomic backgrounds. Early on a running joke of ours was that he fell in love with me even though I lived in trailer when we met (to save money for returning to Denmark), and I would loving remind him that he was an even poorer grad student. For the longest time he would tease me about the rednecks I grew up with, knowing full well that I came from a very distinct and privileged hippy breed. I honestly don’t think that Kevin would have been attracted me if I weren’t already a confident and hard-working person. And just as he forgave me for growing up poor, I in turn forgave him for growing up rich (As Miel did with James). He wasn’t saddled with college debt and could always afford his picky tastes. I was probably secretly happy that his parents didn’t continue to support him into adulthood, because I don’t know if we could have related if he had never known what it feels like to come up with rent.
So, I hope my sincere apology will be accepted. I know in my heart that any adversity I’ve faced in life has only made me a stronger person. Publishing these personal stories isn’t about tooting my horn or raking mud with my family, but it’s my/our first step in releasing the subconscious money baggage that’s been holding us back…and no, I don’t feel held back by anyone but myself. I’m responsible for my own abundance, even as I give gratitude to everyone in my life who has and will help along my path.
Again, with each money story, big and small, repeat this forgiveness mantra:
I accept you. I forgive you. I love you.
After our father, Wally, passed away we both seemed to have a new lens on life, especially on how to spend our time and energy. We started to call it, What Would Wally Want? and his lifelong partner “best-ex” liked to think about What Would Wally Do?
Before we share that chapter of our money stories, there are a few that surround Wally’s death
- One of the most surreal things about Wally’s death was that he was found peacefully in his bed on the same day that he was supposed to meet with the lawyer and his sister, our Aunt Carol, to settle the estate of his mother, our Grandma Jones. She had passed away at age 94 the summer before, and it turned out that we scattered his ashes on the one year anniversary of her death.
- Wally also happened to pass away just after Kevin and I had signed our own wills/directives. I remember telling myself that I would have the tough conversation about writing up both (I actually had had the conversation once before when Grandpa Ellis was in hospice, and didn’t have a directive, and Wally still wanted to avoid the topic…even though he understood the need). Miel talked to him about a Will on the last day they saw each other, and luckily got some information about what his intentions would have been. It didn’t save 7 months of probate, but it did help us to know his wishes.
- In our late teens, we remember driving back from Fern Ridge Reservoir and him telling us about how Grandpa Ellis was going to sell his rhododendron nursery for a million and a half because a developer wanted to build condos near the mall, and he was way past retirement age by that time.
- We remember Grandpa Ellis deciding to buy a post office, since it seemed at the time to be one of the safest investments possible at the time. He also wanted to invest in something that was a bit fool proof, knowing that asset management might not be the top skill of his wife and kids. Now the future is rather bleak for small post offices, but we can hope that the modern one built in the 90’s will be useful for many years to come… Regardless of the future, the investment gave/gives a reliable return rate. It brings in just over $5k in rent each month, and the only maintenance is a roof and siding, even the taxes are reimbursed by the feds. Now we each earn a 1/4 of the total business (Aunt Carol owns 1/2), which we’ve fondly and playfully named Sahalie and Koosah Adventures, LLC. At the moment, our income goes directly to pay the mortgages on the beach cabins…which we’ll share more about below…
- Truthfully, the inheritance was always this “someday” thing. Someday when Wally would inherit his parents money he would travel…buy fixer houses and invest like his good friend, Robert. When we went through all his belongings, a blank passport application was sitting on the top of this desk. He had only ever traveled to Mexico hitch hiking in his youth (where he met the astonishing woman from The Survival of Jan Little).
- In the stack of mail, he had just requested to cancel his life insurance, which his mother had invested in 1963 and she had continued to pay on it for almost fifty years. Thankfully it hadn’t actually expired yet…six days later and the $40k in life insurance would have been null and void.
- He also had made two loans to his friend, Robert, with money from his father’s inheritance when banks weren’t lending money to landlords with dozens of rentals. The timing turned out just fine, and we were repaid just in time to finish paying for the beach cabins.
- Which brings us to our biggest family investment, our beloved Olivia Beach Camp Cabins. This investment feels both very intentional and very serendipitous. It’s frankly a big enough deal in our lives to warrant another post, but it’s a good way to wrap up this post…since Wally would have wanted us to invest in our dreams and live them.
- He also would have wanted us to be generous. That’s why we chose to give away virtually all of his material possessions to his friends. The day after his wake, we invited his closest dozen plus friends over to take what they wanted…music collections, skis, backpacks, furniture, dishes…it was pretty much all up for grabs. Prior to the giveaway, we had each collected a few boxes of belongings, but neither of us wanted to hoard his things. Miel’s favorite take away was a nice carabiner from Wally’s key chain that is now on her own keys and Darcy treasures the variety of musical instruments for the kids to learn and play. Within the next few days, everything else was donated.
- After we got the inheritance, we also gave $10k to his ex-partner. While never married, they were best friends and lovers for nearly thirty years. She in turn chose to use the money wisely, and occasionally on things that Wally would have wanted, like concert tickets or a pint. This was one of the wishes that Wally had mentioned in his discussion with Miel about he need for a will.
- As we come close to the country fair, I recall one of my last fair memories with him. We had met up on Sunday afternoon at Toby’s Tofu Palace, and he could sense that I was mentally debated about whether to pay an extra $3 to get an hibiscus cooler. He shared his sage wisdom, always opt to get the drink. It’s always worth it; you won’t regret it.
With that, we continue to try to live each day and spend each dollar evaluating the true worth. Indeed there are paradoxes between living in the moment, and trying to think about future generations. But the sweet spot is indeed sweet.
Who inspires your money decisions?
What dreams are you investing in?
Darcy and Miel
One critical aspect of maintaining a healthy and sustainable family approach to finances is to take time to appreciate all you have and to give thanks. Today is our 8th wedding anniversary and I couldn’t be more thankful than for all that we have in our lives.
Top on our list is Clark, the new addition to our family. We actually decided to take the plunge and try to get pregnant last year at our anniversary. Twenty-two years after we first dated, and ten years of living together (if you don’t account for time overseas), we’ve now moved on to the next phase. Perhaps we should be calling it AC, After Clark, given the change he means in our life.
|James & Miel on 7th Wedding Anniversary
Having a child definitely changes our family as well as our finances, and despite the financial cost in terms of expenses, I feel that all aspects are actually a net positive in terms of what we gain be Clark’s presence in our lives.
|Clark 4 days old
I look forward to sharing our process as a newly expanded family with our readers and hearing about your perspectives on family finances.
For those interested in the nitty gritty of our finances, you can check out our current worth at DINKs Finance. You can also check out Clark’s Birth Story.