Young@Heart: How To Make Choices with Wonderful Consequences

                       When it comes to finances, we all need to make mature choices.

Have you made choices in your lifetime that caused consequences you didn’t like? We all have and that’s how we learn to be more careful as we grow up. (Second marriages, for example, are almost always better than the first ones, if we made a lousy choice the first time.)

I recently took a much needed three-day vacation away from home with two girlfriends who are incredibly wise women. Both women are extremely private people. They both gave me license to quote them, but with no names so I don’t get to give them credit for some of their wisdom.

We were having lunch in a beautiful restaurant in Astoria, Oregon when the subject of self-improvement came up. I explained my theory of having fun with the inner child and they both loved the concept. I told about how far in debt I was after my sister retired and left me with a huge company debt. It was a little embarrassing to admit, because both these women are very wealthy and they were shocked at how immature my sister and I had been with our money.

Here comes the first quote; one of them said, “Don’t make choices that take away your choices.” That’s what credit cards do. They give you a false sense of prosperity, especially when you let the child in you have your purse. You know the thrill of purchase and the agony of the credit card bill.

Here’s an excerpt from The GOOD Book: Get Out of Debt, that I wrote about my journey out from under $27, 000 in personal credit card debt. My sister and I had been offered a chance to write a “funny” book on getting your finances organized.

On February 3, 2002, I was suffering from a bug that really liked me and opted to stay for a while. Fully acquainted with it, I can honestly say that it had to be a close relative to EBOLA. I couldn’t get it to leave and ended up in the hospital on death’s threshold. (Quite a dramatic way to escape writing a funny book on finance.) I survived only to face $3000 in hospital bills. That was my share after the insurance paid.

By March, I had also survived the annual post-Christmas shock of seeing the credit card statements. It was some time in that month that it occurred to me that in the eight or nine weeks of sopping up financial wisdom from the experts, my finances hadn’t changed for the better. They had gotten worse. The hospital bill didn’t help, but it wasn’t the main problem either.

Through March, I continued my research, re-reading some old books I’d charged years earlier. One of the authors was now in prison. I re-read Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, by Catherine Ponder, You’ll See it When You Believe it, by Wayne Dyer and The Millionaire Next Door, by Stanley and Danko.

By May, I was starting to panic. I thought it would be stupid to glut the market with yet another book on abundance, prosperity and finance.  Just because I could find humor in everyday life, who’d care that I’d re-stated the basic principles of financial responsibility doused with a few laughs here and there? I hadn’t written anything about getting in the black. Besides, I knew my next windfall was just around the corner. We’d had a big piece of property on the market for over a year and when that sold, I could pay off my CCs and start over. THEN I’d cut them up. THEN I’d invest. THEN I’d change my ways. No, Terry and I didn’t have a savings account or retirement plans, but with all the knowledge I was accumulating, soon we were going to be just fine.

By June 1, I was suffering from a paralyzing episode of writer’s block.  I had written about my family, told about my “windfall mentality,” and I was getting down to the wire on what publishers call “substantive material.”  How was this book going to help people change their lives by reading it?

On June 15, Terry and I went on vacation and charged it on MasterCard. I was depressed and ready to plead for a prescription of Zanex.  

On July 4th I awoke at 2:30 AM as my state of affairs jerked me out of bed and sent me to my computer in a financial night terror. In a panicky fit of fear, I decided I couldn’t in good conscience write this book. I cried because I wanted to write another book and make some much needed money to bail me out of debt. But I knew my book would not sell because it would say in the introduction: Here is a list of books written by renowned financiers who can tell you how to get out of debt. I read the books but I didn’t take any of their advice because I didn’t want to! I am in debt, but won’t be as soon as you buy this book. My advice to you is to write a clever book and the sales will get you out of debt.  

What was I to do? I sat for two hours in the dark of my office with just the glow of my computer terminal and the blink of my cursor waiting for something about the “F” word (finance) to strike me funny. While in that silence I asked, “What is wrong with me? Why don’t I want to mind the basic rules of finance?  What is it in me that’s rebelling?”  The answer came with a question. “When you refuse to budget, ignore the value of compound interest, flagrantly charge, and refuse to mind the experts what age have you been acting?”   

I thought about that for a couple of minutes and answered, “I’m about nine-years-old.”  

“There is a part of you that is very immature. Just look at your behavior. You ignore the experts even though you know they’re right.  That’s a brat. A spoiled, rotten, I-want-it-now-and-could-care-less-how-I’ll-pay-for-it, immature brat. It’s a dramatic tantrum throwing, self-indulgent, entitled, conniving and manipulating brat and she’s been running your life! Pamela Irene Young, meet your inner brat!”

My life suddenly flashed before me. I realized I’d allowed a nine-year-old to run my finances with her immature demands. No wonder I was in such a mess. It was then that I realized that if I were going to help a nine-year-old do something, anything, I would need nine-year-old tools. I couldn’t throw The Wall Street Journal or Suze Orman’s book at her. She’d blank out on me. Come to think of it, I’d bought several subscriptions to different financial magazines like Business Week, Fortune and Money Magazine over the years and she’d refused to finish a single article. I remembered that she liked the pictures of fancy cars and the yacht advertisements.

Meeting Nelly (I named her after Nelly Olson on Little House on the Prairie) changed everything. She was responsible for every impulse purchase that ever landed in my cart at the grocery store. It was she who just had to have those shoes, see that play, get that ring, charge that chair, buy that new car, have that piano delivered, hire that professional landscape designer, or whatever met her fancy at the time. It even occurred to me that she was responsible for my first marriage, the one that ended in divorce. Once she found out that Sandy Neal was after that boy, she wanted him too. She wanted him bad. Besides, she wanted to have sex (a nine-year-old in a teenager’s body) and marriage was the only way that would happen. All the misguided choices I’d ever made were hers. Nelly was to blame.

Choose to get to know all the parts of your glorious consciousness. You’re the only person on your path and it’s a path to self-discovery. The more you know thyself, the less chance you’ll make choices that take away your choice.

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