As I write this post on the morning of my birthday, the importance of mindset and perspective are on my mind. Birthdays always make me reflect on the year and years past. Without question, this past year was the worst year of my life. I experienced multiple deaths in my immediate family and financial setbacks. It's also the year that I became a homeowner and obtained a career position that I wanted for a long time. I now fully understand the phrase, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
When I think about how I made it through this year and other difficult times in my life, I know that a large part of the reason is my faith and the belief that where I am now is not where I will always be. That same belief has been the fuel for my financial life. Most of us don’t have the privilege of being born into wealth. It’s not a privilege that I had either.
I started working at the age of 13 (apparently child labor laws were disregarded), and I have been working ever since. Before I started working, I was at the mercy of waiting for whatever money could trickle down from my parents after bills and necessities were paid for.
That meant wearing sneakers that were too big (because they needed to last me for years as my feet grew into them) and stuffing the sneakers with paper to make them fit. That meant wearing my older brother’s hand-me-down clothing even though I was a girl. That meant stretching box braid extensions from the first day of school until Christmas break. Overall, that meant getting clowned at school.
I used to feel so miserable and that I was at a disadvantage from everyone else that I knew. It was hard for me to envision a future that was different from the present moment. Everything changed after I got my first job as a McDonald’s cashier. Having my own personal source of income empowered me and completely changed my mindset about my circumstances.
What a difference it made in my life! I was able to buy my own clothes, get my hair done more frequently and do other things for myself. I realized that I had the power to change my financial situation. Obviously, I wasn’t ballin’ out of control at Mickey D’s, but it opened my eyes and mind to possibility.
When I worked minimum wage jobs during high school and college, my rationale was that I was building a work ethic. I couldn’t do much with what I earned other than transport myself to work and back or buy cheap outfits, but I believed that one day I would earn substantially more money. When I first started saving money, I could only save a maximum of $25 a month.
What could my future self do with such a small amount of money, you ask? Not much. When I put the money aside, it was because I knew that my future self needed to learn the habit and discipline of saving money period. My rationale was that as I earned more, I would save more. When my first car had a mailing label with the letters P, R, N and D written in permanent marker on the gear shift panel, I believed that one day I would drive a better vehicle.
There is always something that you can do to positively influence your financial circumstances. Where you are today financially is not the same place that you will always be. Even if it feels insignificant, every step that you take to make a change (e.g., saving what you can, investing in yourself, pursuing a degree or certification, learning a new skill, calling a lender to arrange a payment plan, etc.) is an important part of your journey. Don’t be discouraged if it appears that everyone else except you is prospering. You and your situation are not a lost cause. Keep doing the things that are in your power to change, and you will find yourself in a different place.
Zikora is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by day. When not assisting and advising clients, she can be found writing, singing, songwriting, exercising, cooking, and or plotting her next move. She is a sounding board for friends and family and enjoys showing people that they can indeed do things that they believe to be difficult or impossible.