Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day

Where would we all be without our wonderful mothers?  Well for one thing, we wouldn’t have been born! 
My father left our family when I was in elementary school.  It was just my mom taking care of my sister and me.  She took several jobs ranging from bank teller to jewelry sales.  No matter how bad things got, she never failed to put food on the table every day.   

We moved around frequently and at one point, we lived in a cockroach-invested apartment.  Imagine coming home at night, turning on the lights, and seeing several cockroaches scuttle away into the crevices of the couches.  Imagine pulling open a drawer in the kitchen and seeing a cockroach crawl away on top of the utensils.  We used to wash our utensils prior to using them.  I still shutter thinking about that.  

Our family grew up very money poor, but rich in experiences. 

Since my mother had to support our family, she was always working.  There was no way for me to go out unless I hopped on my bike or rollerblades and took myself there.  As a side benefit, this helped me stay healthy and in shape.

Not getting an allowance helped me to get out into the job world much sooner.  From the time I first learned to drive, I had a job.  Working at my mom’s store helped me to get exposed to different people and fine-tune my communication and customer service skills.  It taught me how to interact with people.

Since my family could not pay for college, this helped me work hard to apply for scholarships, financial aid, and part time jobs.   There was never a time that I did not have several side jobs bringing in money.  With help from the US government, school scholarships, and good old-fashioned part time work, I was quickly able to pay off all of my college loans before starting graduate school.

At one point in graduate school, I had up to 4 part time jobs at once including: computer room technician, lab assistant, jewelry store salesman, and private tutor.  I never felt burdened by doing all this work.  It was a great way to sharpen my personality and character.  And I will say that getting rich with money was also a great feeling!

Not getting any money from my parents while I was in high school and college helped me learn how to “hustle” my way with various money-making schemes and tactics.  I chuckle thinking about some of the things I did:
  • Used my car as a taxi service for underclassmen who needed rides on dates, going to school dances, or rides to the mall
  • Signed up for independent research trials (I remember some stress study I had to do where they strapped a heart monitor on my chest for 3 months and had me do surveys on a portable palm pilot and submit saliva samples weekly)
  • Did a bunch of paid surveys
  • Worked as a telemarketing phone interviewer and made thousands of random household calls
  • Worked for a medical group doing data entry (paid surprisingly well for a college student at ~$20 an hour!)
  • Worked as the college information booth attendant, giving directions to the campus to students and family
  • Worked as a computer lab attendant, basically getting paid to surf the web while watching over other people surf the web
  • Became a private tutor in math and sciences
  • Became an online reseller, finding deals and then buying and selling stuff on ebay and yahoo auctions (before they were shut down)
  • Became an internet gambler (prior to being made illegal in the US there were many profitable tactics to make money regularly from online casinos)
  • Worked as a professional fish tank cleaner for a private medical office ($100 an hour)
  • And other activities that I am not too proud of and/or can’t recall at the moment

You would think I would be rich with all these side gigs going on.  Unfortunately that's not what happened.  Somewhere along the line I quickly inflated my lifestyle with a bunch of stuff.  My old attitude in college was that since I worked so hard to earn money, I should spend it on crap to make myself happy.  New palm pilots, new digital cameras, new cell phones, new car, new watches, etc etc.  In college and graduate school my attitude was to “spend now and save later.”  I used to eat out at fancy restaurants, easily spending over $100 on my meal alone.  I thought that I could just start saving money once I started making a real income. 

It was only recently in the last year, after a 3 year real working career, that I decided to simply stop buying so much crap.  

It’s only been a short while but as it turns out, if you make a good salary, and spend money normally without buying too much crap, you will get rich very quickly.

My mom ended up doing great.  Her skills in sales, ability to save money and ability to invest in real estate helped her quickly become financially independent.  She went from being a housewife, to working in sales, and then becoming a business owner.  

A few years ago, my mother had enough money saved up to purchase a home for herself (cash) and even for her mother (cash).  She also helped me with the down payment on my current home.  In return, I give her money regularly and she gets all of my yearly tax refunds without question.

Pretty much all my life my mom has constantly nagged me to "save more money" and to stop buying frivolous stuff.  For over a decade, I never really took any of what she said to heart.

Last week, I was catching up with my mom.  I mentioned to her some of the big changes that the wife and I were implementing including:
  • Bringing lunch to work, eating out only 2 days a week
  • Fixing our broken dryer instead of buying a new one
  • Hang drying our clothes to reduce electricity
  • Me biking to work for the first time (of many), and us (me and wife) biking to the market instead of driving
  • Adding a new roommate to our home, while looking to add another roommate
  • And a few other tidbits on how we’ve cut back our spending and increased our savings rate dramatically.  

I even mentioned to my mom that we were even thinking of getting rid of one of our cars and becoming a one vehicle household.  We've been carpooling almost daily now.  It helps that our offices are only 2.7 miles apart.

My mom paused for a second.  Son, do you need any money? I can give you as much money as you need.  She sounded genuinely worried about us.

NO MOM,” I said.  “You’ve already given me so much, too much.  I want you to keep your money and enjoy your retirement. "

I went on to explain to my mom that I didn’t need any economic outpatient care.  I told her that I've been taking care of myself just fine for several years and could continue taking care of my family.  I told her that if we were getting money from her, how could we instill the value of money into our own child(ren)?  

I summed it up by simply saying: “we are relentlessly improving our finances so that we can work less and retire early.

My mom paused for a moment.  “I am so proud of you son she said, “you finally get it.

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