By: Kelli Johnson
There are some financial catastrophes that you simply don’t expect. When my father decided to bankrupt our family out of spite, we were faced with both heartbreak and unprecedented financial difficulty. Never before did we have to worry about the value of the house, mounting lawyer fees, or putting dinner on the table each night. Although I never saw myself as part of a family ‘living in excess’, in retrospect I realize that we would have benefited from a bit of saving.
There is no downside to preparing for the worst, no matter how many excuses one can supply. And short-term financing is an indispensable investment in one’s future. It would be easy for me, a university student home for the holidays, to just chock up my mother’s troubles to bad luck; I could easily assume that my future will be free of all the bumps in the road and hardships I read about families facing every day. But when I think about all the experiences I want from life, the children and friends I will want to protect, it is difficult to sit back idly.
A few years down the line, I know well enough the importance of savvy financing. When I decided on my school, a private university a bit more expensive than I planned, I had a mission: I will use this education to the best of my ability to help me wring out the life and career I dream about. I could have gone to a less expensive college to save expenses, but my perfect school kept calling my name. After busting my butt and achieving excellent grades in my senior year of high school – and paying close attention to financial aid opportunities – I won a great scholarship to my college and enrolled in the honor’s program.
Alas, my propensity to save has earned me the title of the “stingy” friend. In an effort to hold onto my savings I avoid eating out as often as my new friends, buying $4 frappuccinos from Starbucks (which are always tempting!), or seeing movies on any other day than Five-Dollar-Tuesday. I don’t regret any of these lifestyle changes. In fact, the new way I view money has helped me learn that it is important to live below my means. Material things bought in the here and now don’t turn into happiness later on. I find that the less television I watch or the fewer visits to the mall I take, the better I feel about myself. The rampant consumer culture of our society tends to distract us from the real reasons we get jobs and try to save – to have something we can be proud of, a career, a purpose, a family, or friendship.
Short-term financing doesn’t always need to contribute to some big dream for the future. The reward can be as simple as a first car, or a new television, or even a special anniversary gift. Spending wisely, using store credit responsibly, and keeping a budget can all take the worry out of wondering whether or not we can afford some future expense.
Things indeed look bleaker than before, when my family wasn’t broken, when we weren’t experiencing a recession, when I was a child and never had to worry about room and board expenses. Because of our family breakup my mother had to drop out of college, where she was going to become a nurse, in order to get a job to pay the mortgage. Her life is pretty stable now, though I can hear it in her voice sometimes that she still mourns for her lost opportunity.
What I have learned about financing and its necessity has led me to take on a second major in economics. Increased knowledge about the benefits of short-term financing will help people in both the business world and their personal enterprises to build a life that is secure and fulfilling.