I've had a really odd relationship with money since a pivotal moment that occurred when I was 13 years years old. After watching The Money Fix yesterday (highly recommended!), I found myself sharing that story with my 13 year old son, and thought it also worth sharing here.
I had just graduated Valedictorian of my junior high school, when a neighbor - who was also a close family "friend" - took it upon herself to let me know that I would probably never go to college. Yes, of course she knew that I'd always been very smart and done well in school, but it was important for me to face facts: I would not be able to go to college because my parents just wouldn't be able to afford it. I shouldn't get my hopes up to high.
I remember the smallest details of that moment: where we were standing, what she was wearing, and how her face tried to show me a gentle smile. More than anything, though, I remember the personal decision that I made at the time, in unforgettable words left unsaid, that pounded very loudly through my 13 year old head: I decided at that moment that I was smarter and more powerful than money, and that I would never let it stand in the way of achieving what I wanted to do in my life.
Two prestigious university degrees and 46 countries later, I've never regretted that decision. I worked and borrowed to pay for my own education, nor did my parents pay for much of my travel. Where there's a will, there's a way - I've never cheated or stolen or lied, but in my younger days I had a pretty strong will, and a strong faith that if I planned well enough I would always find a way.
I worked hard, married a financially stable guy, and always kept debt to a minimum. Though I actually earned pretty well for a while, money has never been an important factor for me in my career. When I moved to Africa, in fact, I stopped earning money (by choice) and started using what I had to create income earning opportunities for others. Things didn't always go well for me during that time - there's no apparent reason why I should have stayed financially afloat - but it was then I discovered a foolproof secret about money that not many people I know dare to believe.
If I give of myself to the universe, the universe will give of itself to me.
That's my secret, and my financial planning credo. Outrageous nonsense? Believe me, you won't be alone if you think that, but you also won't sway me from knowing that in my life, it's true. Since I started giving my time, talents and money to the world, I've had consulting jobs and fellowships fall into my lap that I wasn't looking for, earned more than expected on real estate investments, and somehow always had enough to be able to meet my own family's needs and give regularly to causes and people I care about.
It has not always been emotionally easy to live by that credo. There have definitely been times when I've been taken advantage of - sometimes by people I've loved. Even more painful was when some people simply didn't believe me (it's not normal, after all, to work from the heart for others) and suspected me of hidden foul play. I am not wealthy, by most Western standards, but I also don't lack any essentials. Most importantly, I know who I am, and I know that I have more control over my life than money ever will.
You don't have to live by, or even believe in the sanity of my credo, but before you write me off as completely crazy, watch The Money Fix. If nothing else, it will help you understand that money does not have to control you either.
(Oh yes - and without telling them what they can't do, be sure to share The Money Fix message with all the 13 year olds you know!)