I grew up poor on a farm in Kentucky. Made it to this point in my life through staying humble and working hard and through the hands up and words of encouragement that kept me going when I didn’t know enough to stop.
Since I didn’t have anything, money was hard to understand. When I got to college, I accepted the first credit card that was offered to me, and the others that followed. I wish someone had warned me, or at least given me an honest idea about how I needed to be responsible, that credit had to be paid back, that there was something called a credit score.
About 15 years ago, I met a friend who helped me learn to begin to create a positive relationship with money. He is an accountant and taught me the ins and outs of doing my own taxes (though he will do them for me if I ask), money management, cause and effect…he has been my financial literacy lifeline.
Fast forward to now, 40. He thinks that it’s time for me to pursue the ultimate “American Dream”: to buy a house. Honestly, I never thought I’d ever be able to afford a house–a few people in my family do, but more don’t. My credit score is now excellent, I have worked on my savings. I qualify for a mortgage and…
I cannot get myself psychologically ready to be a homeowner. I’ve attempted to figure out the sources of my hesitation. They largely fall around a few issues: the responsibility of it, the concern that I have to be tied to something regardless of it being a “good investment,” the permanence of being some place that is far away from my family. Given, too, that I want to move to the neighboring city where I teach, the housing prices are so high I’m going to be able to afford a shoe box. A teeny, tiny shoe box.
Then, there’s the issue of schools. I want E to attend a school where he loves learning. I’m already doing lots of research about where those places are, and more and more, they’re leading me to private schools. We have a couple of years in between, but, if I do go that route, I’m going to most likely have to pay something. I’m a supporter of public education, but I also know what it does to Black boys, so I have to be vigilant.
I don’t want to buy a house and have school payments and not be able to live my life. I’ve also been doing some serious thinking about what I value. It is my child, education, friends and family, experiences (I only can articulate these things because my students and I are working on some financial literacy stuff before they graduate). It’s not a house. At least, not yet.
I had that realization this morning when I felt stressed about talking to my financial advisor. I was starting to feel a bit resentful towards him, honestly, about him telling me what I needed. I had to pause and get myself together, because, while I appreciate his hopes, he can’t live my life for me.
At this moment, this is what I need:
- To be calm, relaxed and happy as I try to find the joy in most days as E’s mom
- To be grateful for the present moment
- To be silly and happy and absolutely ridiculous about some things (i.e., preparations for E’s first bday)
- To be okay with spending some of my money without guilt; I’m not blowing it and I am completely aware of it (plus, I have an emergency fund and a rainy day fund and, most of the time, I live within my means)
Once I made myself sit quietly and think about what I needed, I understood that when and if I decide to purchase a condo, I want to be ready, not resentful. Able to look forward, not backward. Willing rather than reluctant. When that time arrives, I’ll know.