I have to preface this by saying that I have no “financial” expertise whatsoever.
I worked for a hedge fund in NYC for nearly two years and soaked up nothing.
— Bear with me. What I do have plenty of in spades is LIFE EXPERIENCE. Ask any of my friends. I reboot my life once every two years or so and it’s been going on so long I’m beginning to think I’m doing it on purpose. That is another story for another blog– this is a website about lifestyle and money choices. What sets me (and other financial bloggers like me) apart, is that most of us have dug ourselves (or are currently digging ourselves) out of deep financial holes. I’ve lived to tell the tale, and I’m still pretty young, AND I don’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
What we are is the generation that had the rug pulled out from under us, the generation that may not get to live as luxuriously or handsomely as our parents did. The older I get, the more I see the one thing our generation is good at is rescuing ourselves-which counts for a lot. Our generation will never have a government bailout, or social security to comfort us in our old age- the only thing we do have is the knowledge and capability to learn from our mistakes. This website is my attempt at writing about and learning from my past mistakes, it is my attempt at holding myself accountable, and my attempt at living a life where I don’t feel my self-worth is based on what is in my bank account.
A lot of you have written to ask me where the name “Money Tree” comes from, and I’d like to share the following story with you:
It was the summer of 2007. Due to various personal reasons I wasn’t very happy at the University I started at in 2005. I was toying back and forth with the idea of transferring and had changed my address so my mail would come to my parent’s house just in case I ended up going to a different school.
I thought I had signed up for paperless statements, but my mother started receiving a few stray ones in the mail. Maybe if they hadn’t I’d still be in the same old habits, in deeper than I was….but whatever. It could have saved me a HUGE row with the parents, which is always more painful than fights with lovers or friends.
My mother–clever little internet snooper that she is-saw the statements, hid them from me and used my social security number (which she would know, she is my mother after all!) to obtain a credit report online. They were appalled to learn that I was close to 7,000.00 in debt, which seems like a small sum now that I’ve been out in the “real world” making “real money” and know what things cost, but for a college girl whose parents were paying for everything, and I do mean, everything…it was a big deal.
I remember coming home from a date with my new boyfriend that hot July afternoon, elated because he’d just told me loved me. I remember closing the door only to hear my mother say in her sharpest tone:
“Lauren Ashley, get in here.” (Really? The middle name? You know you’re in deep #$%^ then.)
I walked into my parent’s master suite to see piles of paper statements on the floor. I don’t know how they got into my cardholder accounts, but they did, and they were in the process of printing out ALL of my bad behavior. My mother sat in the middle of it scouring the charges like a fiend. I didn’t have to look at the papers to know what she was reading, the look on her face said it all.
I remember her looking up at me, face red with fury and dropping the only f*bomb she probably ever dropped in her life:
“What the fuck were you thinking?”
She ran through how irresponsible I was, how I had probably ruined my credit, and how does one girl rack up 7000.00 dollars in just a little over two years, anyway? It was just stupidity, sheer stupidity she said. My Dad sat quietly on the edge of the bed. He was hurt I had broken a prior promise to him not to get another credit card, after I had maxed out a card and had to have him bail me out.
My mother was irate. Perhaps she felt taken advantage of: after years and years of sacrificing and giving me and my brother everything and I still felt it wasn’t enough. Maybe she felt offended that I’d gotten myself into this and hadn’t stopped when I’d hit the limit, that I just assumed they’d be there to swoop in and help me again. Perhaps it was me not being grateful enough for all the things they had given me, (private school, a college education, a happy childhood…) and the fact that I needed make myself feel better, prettier, with more things. It probably all felt like a slap in the face to her. I didn’t get it then, at a ripe 20 years old…but now that I am older I definitely do, and there is no measure to the guilt.
I remember my mother just looking at me almost breathless, the hurt so evident on her face and saying, “It’s not like we have a money tree just growing in the backyard.”
And since that day I’ve always kindof looked at finances and money as a tree metaphor, although not quite in the way my mother imagined. I believe people do have money trees….some are fortunate enough to have big trees, others have smaller ones. The only thing we have in common is that it’s up to us to take care of our trees, nuture them, and make sure they grow. In December 2011 I finally paid off the 7,000.00 in credit card debt. It only took me four years (haha). I still have a student loan left, but I feel confident I can knock that out soon. The most important thing is that I keep my tree strong, and try not to pluck off all the dollar bills on the branches as I navigate my twenties.
Welcome to L Bee and the Money Tree.