Well, I used to hate money.
This may come as a surprise, because I’m a gal who has a pretty decent relationship with her money.
But my prudent money-saving habits didn’t originate from a TV sitcom-esque family, where supermarket trips were opportunities to teach children budgeting basics.
Like most people, what I learned about money came from how the grownups around me treated their finances.
My earliest memories about money were ugly and painful
Once my mom got her nursing degree, she left her job at the nail shop to become a full-time nurse. This was indeed bright news, because my mom worked more and earned more money.
The downside? My older brother and I saw less and less of her.
Then there was the time when my dad was being a deadbeat and my mom had to take him to court for child support. This eventually looked like heated exchanges between my mom and dad over the phone, and my mom waiting on checks to come to cover our bills.
Money was the root of family turmoil
We were in subsidized housing in the Los Angeles suburbs for several years.
We collected cans for change.
The adults around me worried over not having enough of it, fought over it, and literally cried over its loss. During one trip to the cans-for-cash machine, my mom lost a handful of change in the strip mall parking lot and starting crying uncontrollably.
Naturally, I formed an early belief that money was an all-consuming monster that needed to be slayed. I realized that money could get in way of what I cherished the most—my personal freedom.
How I fought my fear of letting money dictate my freedom
I couldn’t let this happen, so I sublimated my fear and fascination over money by keeping a close watch on mine, and to do everything I could to exert some control over the damn thing.
As a teen, I asked everyone their thoughts about money and made a ‘zine out of it.
I taught myself to balance a checkbook, and when I was in college, I kept detailed Excel sheets to track my spending. I turned saving money into a game. I experimented with different ways to slash my spending, and read as much as I could on savings, budgeting, credit, and investing.
Money wasn’t going to get me
And in some ways, it hasn’t. I’m debt-free and I have a decent f*ck-off fund, which is a fund that allows you to drop everything and leave if you wanted. And while I’m far from rolling in it, I have enough.
While things aren’t perfect, I don’t struggle with the same money issues others have, but my relationship with money remains complex and at times troubling.
I still worry about wiping out my f*ck-off fund and digging my own debt grave. I worry about being a penniless old lady in retirement.
And some days the thought crosses my mind: “I hate money.” I don’t think that feeling will ever go away entirely.
Things aren’t perfect, but everyone has money woes
That’s right. No one's perfect. Even those who seem to have it all figured out.
Even those who are champions of the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE movement), who retired in their 30s, tout Instagram-worthy lives, are free of debt, and are seriously wealthy mofos (at least that’s what their social media profiles would have you believe). Their issues with money may take on a different form, but they persist.
The important thing is to recognize the ever-changing relationship you have with your money. Pushing it aside will just cause further damage. Only by keeping one’s money issues top of mind can you solve your problems and change your relationship with money.