Blogging about personal finance has never been a lifelong goal or dream, and yet here I find myself. To understand where I’m at now, and why I’m doing this, it makes sense to start from the beginning. I grew up in a single parent household with my younger brother. Some times were better than others. I won’t lie and say my upbringing was a catastrophe because it wasn’t. However, looking back on it now, and knowing what I know now, I can confidently say our family was treading water when it came to finances. Through observation and experience, I absorbed bad financial habits. Wealth is passed down, but so is poverty. That’s an important theme that drives my philosophy on money. I won’t bore you with the details of my adolescent years, so let’s get to the first major life decision.
Did I go to college? Yes, but not yet! I did not attend university at 18 right after high school. There were a few reasons why. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have any money, nor did my family. I didn’t feel comfortable taking out student loans, either. So I enlisted in the military. It was a tough four years which included two deployments to Iraq, but I managed to pull through. These years were interesting, financially. It was the first steady paycheck I’d ever received. I took out a car loan on a used truck with an absolutely terrible interest rate. I spent all my money on clothes, partying, eating out, and who knows what. There is nothing I bought in my early twenties that I still have with me today other than stories of my glory days. These were my years of financial blunders, and I learned a ton of lessons from them.
After my years of service I was ready to go back to school. Being a tech nerd, I chose to study Computer Science at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors. Most of my bad money habits continued during these years, with one saving grace. I didn’t have any student loans! I didn’t need them as the G.I. Bill payed my way through school. I know, I know. Lucky me, right? Just don’t forget what I had to do to earn that money. There were other expenses, anyways. Big ones. I got married and we bought our first home. My wife was already full time in her career in medicine, and I was coasting through college with no debt. We were young, we had our own house, no kids, and some disposable income to burn. And we did. We burned it! The major financial takeaway from these years is that I wish we had saved and invested more. Or any. Any would have been good!
After graduating, I started working for a private software company in the state I now call home, North Carolina. We moved once or twice. Rented our home. Sold it. Then we bought another. We started having kids, too. Back to back to back. Three kids who are all two years apart. Life started to get complex. We were making good money, but we still had bad habits. And now we had more than ourselves to think about. And then one day it just hit me. Why did we have maxed out credit cards, no savings, minimal retirement, and we were supposedly “doing well”? These questions, and the research that followed, urged me down the path of financial education and getting my financial situation under control. Now I’m coasting again, this time towards millionaire status. But before I get there, I wanted to start sharing my knowledge in the hopes that others will learn from my mistakes much earlier than I did. I didn’t work on Wall Street. Nobody showed me the ropes. I had to learn everything the hard way. So here we are. A person who was really bad with money, 14 years later, is starting a blog on how not to be bad with money. Wish me luck!