Just like the famous song We don’t talk about Bruno. In Latino culture we also don’t talk about dinero!
For many years I fed into the lies of capitalism. I went to college with the promise of high paying opportunities waiting for me at the other end. I ended up working a miserable, shitty paying corporate job that rewarded me with pizza parties and $50 gift cards for making them more money. I felt like I had to have a white collar job because that’s what I went to school to do. I felt like I was expected to work in a corporate job to show that I had made it. The immigrant story that echoed in my head was that I was here to get educated and get a good desk job. That is what I felt back then, like I had to do this.
Consumerism (and my mom) convinced me that I had to buy a brand-new car right out of college that I couldn’t afford. At the time I thought that being able to pay the monthly payments meant I could afford the car. But the reality was, being saddled with a car payment for 10 years really held me back from being able to save money or pay off the student loan debt I had. I also felt like I earned this new car because I had a fulltime job and I could make the payment. So that meant I could “afford” it right?
For the first 10 years of my adult life I lived paycheck to paycheck. Believing that as long as my bills were paid I was doing well. I worked 12 plus hour days. I kept moving up the corporate ladder thinking that making more money would solve my problems. It didn’t. I was also being drastically underpaid and living beyond my means. But I felt like I deserved to treat myself because I worked so hard.
What usually happened was I got a raise of a few cents or a dollar and I inflated my lifestyle. Taking myself on lavish vacations, going out for drinks with friends, eating out constantly, all charged to credit cards. I did this year after year.
But I did everything right, didn’t I? I felt like the right thing to do was go to college. I went to college, like my immigrant mother insisted I do. I got a corporate job and was promoted once a year. So why was I going backwards? I wasn’t making a ton more money, I sure was not saving and I was still living at home because that’s all I could afford. Once I left that company years later, I realized how horribly paid we were. No one ever discussed our pay. I didn’t know anything about negotiating my salary. I didn’t even think that was an option. I was just happy to have a full time job.
These days I feel like I am able to think more like my authentic self because I released the chains of my mother’s expectations. In my home we didn’t talk about money. I didn’t know how much money my mom made until a few years ago. I used to feel ashamed talking about money like it was a taboo. We shouldn’t talk about that, it’s bad manners. The expectation in my home was to go to college, get a good job and always work hard to make more money. Yet I was never taught what a good salary was, how to budget my money, how to save, nothing. I honestly don’t think my mom knew.
When I started my debt pay off journey, I started talking about my money unapologetically. My mom still hides her money from her husband and doesn’t tell him certain things she does with her money. She continues to think we shouldn’t talk about money. The more I learned about personal finance, the more I realized how important it is to talk numbers. If I hadn’t talked numbers with a close friend of mine, we both wouldn’t have realized how underpaid she was. Since that conversation she has negotiated her salary up by 15% and changed jobs.
I share my very real numbers all over my instagram page @mom_money_boss. I show real life examples of my budget and I shared other coaches’ numbers so we can see how vastly different people’s financial situations are.
In my last column I talked about how I was able to get myself out of debt. This time I want to be transparent about what my reality used to be. I do not feel shame about where I was because I have worked on the money narrative, I tell myself. I have worked since I was 16 years old. I worked multiple jobs in college just to get by.
My lived experience did not include any education in personal finance. I was told that if I worked hard enough the opportunities and the money would come. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Sure I was paying all my bills, but I was not saving any money. I was over drafting my checking account and my credit card debt had me drowning. At the time I thought this was normal. I didn’t know there was another way to live. I felt like I was the problem because I couldn’t control my spending. I now realize had I been equipped with financial education and exposed to open conversations about money management, then I would have known there is another way to live.
I encourage you to take back ownership of your money story. First, let go of whatever perceived mistakes you think you have made. Holding on to the past and the mistakes we made doesn’t serve us.
Create simplicity for your finances. Build a financial plan (budget) that works for you. In previous columns I broke down different types of budget styles. The point of your budget is for your money to have a purpose, to have a plan. So as soon as your money hits your bank account you know exactly where you WANT it to go based on your financial goals.
Be honest with yourself about your spending. If you value spending money on eating out then make space for that in your financial plan. We want to create a plan that you can feel good about so you can lead with your financial goals, not with the shame of “don’t spend on this or that.”
But before you can create any plan, you will need to check into the feelings you have about money. How do you feel about money? Why do you feel this way? What did your parents expect of you? What was your first money memory?
In my 90 Day Money Empowerment Program we practice money “therapy” as the first step in our financial journey. We deal with our emotions when it comes to money and dig into them in order to move forward. If you are interested in learning more about our program, you can do so here: https://90daymep.podia.com/
The doors for our program are currently open and my co-coach and I would love to help you feel empowered with your money.