In The Atlantic Magazine, Neal Gabler wrote an article about his struggle with financial woes with startling vulnerability. Titled The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans, Gabler shone a light on the hardship of almost half of America! He wrote:
“The Fed (took a survey) and asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?”
“Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.”
“I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others…I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs… And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.”
We can either follow the laws of personal finance or live in misery our whole lives like Neal Gabler, who because of an erratic income as a writer, and overspending on life’s big events, struggled with having financial stability into his old age. He also said he didn’t care about keeping up with the Jones’, but he cared about his children keeping up with the Jones’ kids. After reading his wretched account I felt like any sacrifice I made towards managing my money well was worth making. Anything but the way Neal Gabler lived, to feel secure and peaceful about my finances.
P. T. Barnum said “Money can be a terrible master but an excellent servant.” We can either be controlled by our financial choices or have our money do the work by learning time tested financial principles. I want you to imagine never worrying about money again. Think about your family thriving on one income, instead of two, because you have cut your desire to spend to the bone and want to start saving. Even more astonishing is the idea of neither husband or wife having to work after hitting their forties. They can work on whatever they want, but no “mandatory work” where someone has to show up every day at a job. Imagine not worrying about bills anymore, having a sizable emergency fund and not living paycheck to paycheck. Think about the deep feelings of peace and comfort our families would experience.
Part of waking up is to take responsibility for ourselves. Don’t just let our partner do it, because they may not always make good decisions or through divorce or death they would be gone. First we must change our mindset. Usually this can happen when we have had some big disaster financially. We can shake our heads and put a line in the sand and say– “This is it! No more! Things have to change!” This first principle of waking up and taking responsibility is key, because we decide that we will do whatever it takes to manage our money well, so we can live prosperously through the end of our days. We will also be an excellent example to our children on how to live in peace and comfort. In this first critical step we are making the change from money being a terrible master to becoming an excellent servant. It will be a hard transition, especially if we are big spenders who have never understood or been in control of our money.
Please read the article Neal Gabler wrote. As you read it, you can see some of the mistakes he made. It is a cautionary tale for the rest of us.