I’m a pretty independent person. I tend to do things on my own and dislike depending on others. When I was younger, I’ve always worked so that I could have the money to buy the things I needed. Honestly, I’ve been working since I was 12. Back then, I made five bucks an hour watching my neighbors’ kids. It was awesome! I loved having the money. Of course, as soon as I got it, I spent it.
Maybe I wasn’t the best at saving money, but I was not afraid to work for it if I needed to.
Granted, we got allowances when we were kids. We all did our chores and did homework. As students, that was our job. My older sister and I also had to cook dinner because our parents were both working full-time. We got twenty bucks a week, but that usually went to lunch.
When I was old enough to work legally, I went out and got a part-time job. As a teenager, I hated asking my parents for money. I just didn’t like the feeling of guilt every time I asked them to buy something that I wanted. I got a job as a store clerk at the local Bradlees. Since then, I’ve been working.
This didn’t stop when I got married. I had to. I had student loans to pay off. I always knew that debts had to be paid off, and I wanted them gone as soon as I could.
For some reason though, I was so focused on paying off my loans that the idea of saving for retirement never occurred to me. Maybe, at the back of my mind, I had my husband.
And that is the key. My husband is Japanese, first of all. And, he is in the military, which is considered a civil servant job. He is what they call koumuin (公務員). In Japan, a government worker is in it until they retire. They can never get fired, unless you do something really bad–or if you choose to leave government service. Not many people do, however, because if you can last until the end of your employment, you’re pretty much set for life. You have a guaranteed pension and health insurance until you die. Talk about job security!
Maybe because of that guarantee, I knew that we would be set for life. He would get a pension and social security, enough to cover our needs once we both retired. I knew that he would get a nice, big check once he was done working. With that security, I really thought I didn’t need to worry about that stuff because we were going to be okay in the end.
“Hope is not a financial plan.” Suze Orman
Of course, I never figured that he would get sick.
I imagine the feeling I had back then was akin to the feeling that many people experienced during the Great Recession of 2008. My world fell apart. And how easily, too. Everything happened in a few months. He just couldn’t function normally and the stress we were both under was incredibly difficult and strained our marriage. But I knew we had to get through all this.
First of all, my husband’s health became the main focus of our relationship. It was imperative that he got better. Anything that would help him heal, whatever amount it took, we did. I had to stop working a little bit to focus on his recovery.
Eventually, he got was able to bounce back. His job was kind enough to grant him paid leave to heal and also provided the means for him to get drugs and treatment.
It was during those two difficult years that I realized I can’t rely on his job for providing the security we would need in the future. That was when I realized that I had to contribute and do something about my lack of knowledge. If I didn’t do anything to tackle my fears and this limiting belief that I was powerless when it came to my finances, we would sink under the weight of it all.
I decided I couldn’t be a moron any more when it came to money. I started listening to podcasts and reading online whatever I could to make sure that I would get our finances in order. Gradually, I became empowered and understood enough to start saving and investing in my health, my retirement, and also in our marriage.
I’m glad to say that my husband is healthy, and we’ve overcome what I hope is the worst of his illness. At least now I know that I can’t rely solely on him, that this is something we have to do together. After all, we are partners in this path to financial independence.