October 27, 2011

Scott's Money Background

As I mentioned in the previous post, Scott comes from a completely different money background.  The difference has caused us a lot of fights but, after a lot of discussions and tears, we are finally at that point where we are communicating clearly and seeing eye to eye.  Here is his story.

Scott had a normal childhood in an affluent suburb.  His dad had his own company while his mom worked for their family owned company part-time, even after the kids were grown.  Both kids were able to participate in extracurricular activities and never remember going to bed hungry. Scott remembers his dad trying to talk to him about money a few years back but Scott didn't want to talk about it.

Sounds like a normal childhood, right? Except, we recently learned, this was all a facade.

In reality, the childhood seemed normal because they were keeping up with the Jones.  Living in an affluent neighborhood meant that they saw their neighbors upgrade their cars every few years.  His mom is an awful cook, so the family went out to eat regularly. When the family came across a lot of cash, they went on expensive vacations, rather than saving it for rainy day.  When the business wasn't doing so well, they refinanced their homes.  When they decided to retire, they custom built a home on a property they already owned, during the peak of real estate. By the time they decided to retire, they had absolutely no retirement savings and had a mortgage and a line of credit.  The only stream of income they had were some commissions from his business and social security.  Even then, they used social security to pay for Scott's younger brother's tuition. 

Monkey see, monkey do. Scott was not much different than his parents.  He had some low paying jobs in his early twenties and used credit cards to pay his rent and food. But he loves cars and he kept on purchasing new cars every 2 years or so and modified them, putting thousands in to car parts.  He kept on justifying his car habit, telling himself it was okay because he didn't put them on his credit card.  This was on top of his student loans.  The only smart decision he made was to purchase his condo. Except this was at the height of the real estate bubble.

These credit cards are the consumer loans we are working to pay off today. Luckily he kept on climbing the corporate ladder and now make sufficient money. Together he learned to budget, to think about retirement, and to enjoy a life without car payments.

How are his parents? We did not discover their financial situation until after we were married. One day, we received a call from Scott's dad saying they were about to get their car repossessed.  We found out that they were three months behind on their car payment and ended up giving them money to keep the payments current. The parents thanked us and claimed they were on the "up and up", although I couldn't figure out how that could be the case.

And I was right. Next month, Scott's dad asked Scott for money and told Scott not to tell me. Since then, each month they were asking us for money to help with payments.  I put my foot down and said no, telling them that unless they get professional help from a CPA or a financial planner (which we offered to pay for) and find out how they can get out of this situation, I said we can't keep on just giving them money.  On top of all of this, we found out that the mom was giving Scott's younger brother money to help him keep his bar habits. Since I was so against giving them any more money without a professional plan, Scott gave money to them behind my back, which I eventually found out about and absolutely broke my trust. We were thisclose to getting a divorce. We even pulled our accounts and kept separate accounts for close to a year.

It was hard but things have improved.  Jason has stopped helping his parents and now also realize that if they are unwilling to get professional help (and our offer will always stand that we will pay for the sessions), their situation will not change much with us helping them with payments each month. He contributes to 401k and RothIRA, maintains a budget, and is weaning himself off his car habit. We are still working on rebuilding my trust in him, but I am confident we will get their soon.

I am sorry for the tomb but I feel that without knowing our backgrounds, it might be difficult for you to understand why we would make the choices we make.

October 26, 2011

My Money Background

Since I know money will be one of the main focus in this blog, I thought I would start off by giving you a quick background.

I grew up in California to immigrant parents. Although we grew up in low economic class for the most of my childhood, I did not know it until recently.  And there was really no reason for me to know -- I grew up in an upper-middle to upper class neighborhood and whenever I needed anything for school, my parents bought it for us. Sure, we ate in almost every night but that was largely because my father prefers our native cuisine. They drove their cars into the ground (and still do to this day) but that is because they are not flashy people. My mom's hobby is to go shopping at the nearby mall. But I realize now that my parents were extremely frugal and made smart money decisions to spend their hard-earned money on purchasing great real estate (both commercial and residential), living below their means, and investing heavily in my and my sister's education.

Unfortunately, these are all things I am having to piece together now in my adulthood. Although they were great with money, they rarely talked about it with me or my sister. My parents saw what happened to their friends and former colleagues during the Asian economic downfall in the early 90s and never seemed to have recovered, therefore still do not invest in the stock market. Retirement system is completely different here than in their native country so I didn't know about RothIRA or 401k until my first full-time job. But I was able to see first-hand that fulfilling homes could be created on relatively low income if managed right.

When I was blogging as Fiscal Responsibility, I was a recent college grad, living in a mid-size city and trying to determine my future career path.  I had attended a private colleg but, thanks to generous scholarship and partial assistance from my parents, I was able to graduate free of student loans.  I was just getting into investing and contributing to RothIRA when I decided to attend business school.

As funny as it sounds, it is in business school when I suffered from life inflation the most and also made some bad financial decisions.  I was able to obtain substantial scholarships for my MBA, yet I still took the maximum Stafford and Perkins loans during my two years just because I could. That extra money helped me travel around the world to multiple continents, which I do not regret. Instead of living a student lifestyle, I went out and lived the life of everyone else, which included eating out multiple times a week.  I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend who spent money to brag and he dragged me down with him.

And it wasn't until I graduated, moved to Chicago, then met Scott that I finally decided to get serious about money again.  When Scott and I started to talk about marriage, I tried to steer him in the right financial direction (story for another time) and started to invest in things like RothIRA and 401k again. Although I tried to be frugal for awhile, I started to suffer from frugal burnout and a perfect storm of being tired of fighting about money with Scott, feeling underappreciated by my then company, and deciding that I deserve a higher income led me to switch up my life.  So, three months ago, I switched careers.  Because it is at a start up, there are plenty of risks of the company being not stable and it is leading me to stay on top of my finances.

So now we are here.  After I provide you with Scott's money background, I will do a post on our current financial standing that I hope to update monthly.

October 25, 2011

Maybe this time it will stick?

Hi, my name is Bree and I am a former blogger who is hoping to return to the scene once again.

I used to have a personal finance blog called Fiscal Responsibility back in the day and fell off the bandwagon while I was in business school.  I have thought about returning to the blogging world off and on, and have tried on and off.  I am trying again, hoping I will gain the momentum this time to keep the blog running.

I have changed a bit since the days of Fiscal Responsibility and it seems only logical to also change the direction of my writing.  Fiscal Responsibility was focused on all things money.  I seem to be very one-track minded and, although that is great at helping me achieve goals, it seems to hinder me from achieving a balanced life by focusing on few key areas, which I hope to identify in the next few weeks.  One of the few things I do know now is this will not become a how-to blog -- this blog is intended to share my journey with others, not to give advice.  I am not a specialist in any of the areas most likely to be covered by this blog and I think it's important to remember that every situation and everyone's risk tolerance is different.

A little bit about me... I live in Chicago (hence the name of the blog) with my husband, Scott, and fur-child, Karma, in a condo in the city. I work as a management consultant at a consulting start up, which has the potential to take me across the country and sometimes across the world. We have some debt -- some consumer loans but majority being student loans. We have a mortgage on our condo but we currently do not consider that as "debt" in our minds. We come from different money backgrounds so it has been a struggle to come to an agreement on money management, but we are getting there.

I will leave it at that for now.  If you are visiting, please stop and leave me a comment.  I would love to hear from you and any feedback you may have. Cheers!