Personal finance is about money, but more importantly, it's personal. We each have our financial history, motivations, values, goals, and circumstances. Today I'd like to tell you a bit about why saving money is so important to me and how that influences my finances, as well as this blog.
I grew up in Philadelphia many long years ago. While my family didn't have a lot, I was fortunate that we had enough. Both my parents worked, and with my mother as the shopper of the house, I learned that stretching your money as far as possible was important.
When I grew into a young man, I settled in New Jersey with a family and focused on my career. I worked my way through retail management and financial planning. Along the way, I discovered that the daily grind for more stuff wasn't what I wanted. I'd be happier earning and spending, less while living a simpler life.
At age 47, after a long marriage and two children, I went through a painful and costly divorce. With so many marriages today ending in divorce, it's not uncommon, but amicable or not, it is expensive and puts a dent in your assets after years of building them. When you add alimony and financial child support, it feels like you're back at square one.
When I remarried at age 56, I decided to go into retail merchandising and price auditing, where I could set my schedule and work my way. My wife, who was dealing with an autoimmune disease, worked an office job. Between us, we were comfortable as long as we budgeted and tracked our expenses.
But then life happened, as it is prone to do.
Just before our wedding, my wife was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis on top of her existing condition. Despite trying various expensive treatments for this systemic disease, she was getting worse and having trouble working. A year and a half later, she had to stop working and go on disability.
Fortunately, she had long-term disability insurance through her employer, as it took two worrisome years for Social Security to approve her claim. But this only provides a fraction of her income from working, and it was a significant cut to our modest budget when our medical expenses were growing.
Then life happened some more. When I was 62, I suffered a heart attack and underwent a cardiac catheterization to implant a stent. This should have been my wake-up call to change my lifestyle, but instead, I continued as before, only with more medication. Now my medical expenses were climbing as well. I tried to continue working over the next year and a half, but it was too much for me, and I reluctantly retired.
Then I did something foolish in 2013: I stopped taking my medication and going to the doctor.
The result was a hospital stay for congestive heart failure in March. I had gained 30 lbs. of fluid and was having trouble breathing. Luckily I heard that second wake-up call. Since then, I changed my diet and began exercising, stayed on my medications, and kept up with my doctor appointments.
I've lost weight and made real progress with my health, but I still have a ways to go.
Paying it Forward
With our incomes cut back and medical expenses high (not to mention living in a costly part of the country), saving money and budgeting went from good habits to critical survival skills.
While the average family's healthcare expenses represent 6% of their budget, our healthcare expenses represent 30% of our budget! Even if you've never dealt with it yourself, you can imagine how costs related to illnesses easily suck people into the black hole of bankruptcy.
Thanks to a combination of good financial habits earlier in life and careful financial management now, we've managed to avoid that black hole. We track all our expenses to the penny, have a tight budget, and maintain an emergency fund, savings and investments, a mortgage, and a car loan, but no credit card debt.
So far, we've managed to remain comfortable enough in a very uncomfortable situation, but it is a constant balancing act, and that's why saving money is so important to me.
While most people don't share these circumstances, the majority want to stretch their money further for various reasons. I wanted to share what I know and have learned to help others avoid catastrophes and reach their goals, so I started blogging about saving money.
We all have challenges to overcome and aspirations for something more significant, and when we learn from each other, we have a better chance of getting there.
So why is saving money so important to you?
This article was produced by Super Saving Tips and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.