In our “Let’s Talk Money” series, we ask respondents from all walks of life the same set of raw money questions. The answers reveal intimate details of their financial lives.
Talking about money is one of the longest held taboo subjects in our culture. With this weekly series, we open people’s wallets (and with them fears, hopes, and closely held beliefs). We don’t approach this with a certain outcome in mind—we just want to open doors and find out if money is taboo for good reason, or if remaining quiet is keeping us all down. We hope you’ll join us in considering this question: Is it time to reimagine polite society when it comes to money?
To participate in this series, please email us at [email protected]
From: Anonymous, Age 47
Location: Northern Virginia area
HipLatina: How do you make your living?
Anonymous: I make my living as an entrepreneur/independent contractor.
HL: How worried are you about money? How do thoughts of money affect your life?
A: Though I have my moments of insecurity, I make my living by my intellectual output so I know that I’ll be successful no matter what. I can always make more money by finding another contract to work on, and doing what I do best. It doesn’t really affect my life that much, except I want to be able to provide for my family as I’m the sole breadwinner.
HL: How do you spend your money? How would you describe your level of debt?
A: My husband and I spend our money on the basic necessities, then we save and invest. We also indulge in a few choice things like higher-quality food and household goods that allow us to live comfortably. We enjoy the simple things as well as the luxury of adventure and travel. In our past we experienced high levels of debt and stress; now we pay cash for everything. We also only buy something if we have the money right here and now and we know it will not put pressure on our basic living expenses and savings goals.
HL: How would you describe your credit score? How does your credit score affect your life (for good or for bad)?
A: My credit score was affected considerably by the economic downturn, followed by a government sequester and shutdown a few years ago, which cost a startup company I was a partner in a huge amount of money. We chose to pay our employees rather than ourselves, so for a period of time, we went completely without, which meant that many of our bills went into collections. That just comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. As an independent contractor, I’m recovering our financial losses, and would take the risk again. I have other start-up plans in the works.
HL: What regrets do you have about money–decisions you’ve made, actions you’ve taken, or not taken? Have you changed anything because of these regrets?
A: I don’t have any regrets about money, although sometimes I question the lifestyle we’re living, as it’s very high maintenance. I often think about shifting our lifestyle completely to live in the wilderness or some remote piece of land and live a simple life that does not require such a high level of monetary maintenance. It would be so much less stressful but I also wouldn’t be living with the intellectual challenges that I feed on so hungrily. I’m sure I’ll get to a point where I’m no longer satisfied with this fast paced, up-tempo lifestyle, and will seek out a much simpler life in a rural setting.
HL: How do your parents talk about money with each other, with you? How is money handled in your family?
A: In the early years, that was the source of most of the fights in my family; it was about money. Everything was about money. There was nothing else that mattered. My mother was a spender, my father was, and remains, a saver. I knew everything about my mother’s finances. I knew nothing about my father’s and I still know nothing and want to know nothing. What I do know is that he has made arrangements to provide for himself so he won’t be a burden on his children in his senior years.
HL: Are you in a relationship? How do you handle money issues in your relationship? How are financial decisions made?
A: My husband and I have been together for over a quarter of a century. In the first few years we kept our finances completely separate and each paid half of everything no matter what. I am now the sole breadwinner in the family; he is retired. He has no income. So it’s really more of a situation where he is the homemaker and we handle it as such. I would not be able to do what I do if he didn’t take care of the household, so it’s an equal relationship where we make decisions about money together. We’ve rarely had disagreements about money.
HL: Do you have children? If so, how do you make decisions to spend money on your children’s interests? How do you plan on teaching them about money management?
A: We do have a young child. So far we haven’t had to make many hard decisions about money, because he doesn’t need much right now. I’m sure eventually we’ll have to make the decision about private or public school so we’ll have that conversation but I don’t anticipate it being a stressful one because we tend to think alike on most issues. We plan to teach our son about money by example, and by letting him make progressively more important decisions as he grows. I believe strongly in not getting into debt, and that is just a way of life except for things like a mortgage or a car loan. I think if you set the example and lay a good foundation, over time a child will grow up with your same values about money.
HL: Do you have friends in different economic situations? How do you make social decisions with friends who have different incomes?
A: We definitely have friends and family in different socio-economic conditions. Since it’s about friends and family, and not about spending money, we tend to try to do things that will allow people to spend at their own level of comfort. Picnics for outings to a pretty location or a winery where you can either buy or not buy. And we offer to pay more often than not. We haven’t often traveled with friends of different economic means, but when we do it falls under the same principle — what matters is that we’re all together having fun, so we can go camping just as readily as we can go to the Caribbean.
HL: How does your financial life differ from others in your life, such as friends, family, or neighbors?
A: Our financial life differs significantly from that of the people we know. Most of our friends, neighbors, and family have regular jobs and have never taken the risk of being an entrepreneur. They have opted for the security of a steady paycheck, but I have risked, lost, and gained a few times over.
HL: If you had more money, what would you do with it?
A: If I had more money, enough not to worry about having to generate an income ever again, I would probably do much of what I already do, but in different arenas, like working on social justice issues. I simply cannot afford to dedicate my life to causes that I’d very much like to spend more time on given my priority of having to provide for my family. We would also travel much more. I plan on traveling with our child anyway, because that’s something you can also do with bubblegum on a shoestring if you are willing. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.