My dad passed away when I was 12, his life insurance was enough for my mom to buy us a modest house near Waco. The social security my mom and I received was more than enough for us to live frugal but prosperous lives. About a year and a half later my mom decided to re-marry. Doing this meant she would lose her benifits but the guy she wanted to marry had an ok job and she was sure it would be ok. So she sold our house and we moved in with him at the trailer park. They blew every dime of the money from the house, buying what ammounts to total crap. They lived off the social security check I still recieved and he refused to go back to work because my mom got medicare now and that was better than any insurance he would get.
This was how life played out until I graduated from High School.
High School was interesting. Being in the trailer park I met a wide variety of frineds, I started smoking, drinking, and a host of other things when I was 14 because there was little better to do. I would show up drunk to class more often than not, and the school staff would have liked nothing better than for me to leave, and they tried a lot. I was lucky enough to have one teacher that thought I was better than what I was doing, and would pull me to the side often to try and get me to realize my potential. Of course I was young and stupid and thought I knew best. I'm not sure how but I did manage to graduate. and I carried on my life of part time jobs just to pay for the next party.
One day, when I was 19, I woke up from a big party hungover, looking around, and I noticed the young party crowd that I had hung out with in High School was gone. Around me there were people in their 20's and 30's passed out, high, and going nowhere. It finally hit me I was becoming my step dad, I hated his lack of work ethics. Even through everything as soon as I turned 16 I started working part time jobs. There wasn't a lot that I remembered about my dad but I did know he always had a job and while we didn't have a lot, he provided. I decided that day that I had enough and that I truely was better than this.
The next few years didn't bring much change except I looked for better jobs and stopped going out partying. I could afford my own apartment, and ramen was a gormet meal but I knew at least I was out of the park. A friend invited me to come live with him in Austin because the job market was better. I figured, why not. After moving to Austin I found a job at Office Max. It was $10 an hour which at the time was a lot of money for me. While I was there I met a girl that worked part time as a cashier while she was finishing college. I was in love at first sight. After awhile I got her to admit she wouldn't date someone she worked with, so I quit the next day. I acctually ended up finding a much better job ad came back to ask her to go out with me.
Fast forward almost 10 years later. I married her, I got a job with a fortune 500 here and worked my way up from the bottom to just shy of a 6 figure income. We had our first kid 2 1/2 years ago and our second about 6 months ago.
That alone should be great for most families, we are living the american dream with 2 kids, we own our house, we have the standard 2 cars in the driveway. It wasn't until my wife wanted to quit work and stay home with the kids that got my next wake up call. We have been extremely luckiy up till now, her Parents bought a house near us to help take care of the kids while we worked so we wouldn't have to pay day care costs. With her quitting we are finally having a true strain put on our finances. It got me to thinking, when I made this much money wasn't life supposed to be great? We should have so much extra money that we are taking vacations to foreign countries every year, I should have a 5 series in the driveway, our savings accouts should be brimming.
The reality is that we had two car payments, a pile of CC debt, 401k loans, and my wife and I are both Hyperconsumers. My hobbies I picked up were massively expensive because if I get involved in something I have a habit of going big. In my area I am considered an expert on GM LS style motors, when people buy hardware for their computers they call me, and not aunt Suzie looking to upgrade her Packard Bell from 98, we are talking the nerds that most people call first, are calling me for advice, while my day job is in database development (nowhere related to the other things). In short if I want to learn something I do, and I do it to a point that could be considered excessive. I realized with everything I learned, I never learned to manage money.
Over the past few months I have poured myself into learning about managing money and achieving wealth. I have read Total Money Makeover, the Millionaire Next Door, Saving for Retirement without living like a Pauper, and Rich Dad Poor Dad. (I stopped reading RDPD for reasons I am sure a lot of you understand, good motivational book, poor to illegal financial advice) I have poured over personal finance blogs, and articles. I feel that I have a pretty good handle on what I did wrong and what I need to do to right the course. I continue to learn more and hope to learn even more from the people here.
We have a planned out annual budget for the first time in our lives, on Thurday we will make our first snowball payment of $2500 to our debt, which before would have been wasted. My fast car is gone and a paid for 98 GMC pickup now adorns my spot on the driveway. I am bringing my lunch to work every day instead of hitting the restraunts. I understand what different Mutual Funds are and how they work. The money we had been wastefully putting into savings accounts to fund our boys college is now put into College 529 plans. We have $40k in debt to pay off but it doesn't feel like that much any more.
So that is who I am and that is how I got here. I'll be starting up a journal to chronical our journey. I look forward to meeting you all and learning even more about how to make my money work for me.