In the Beginning

young game match kids

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I’m having a lot of trouble organizing my thoughts. I’ve got a lot of ideas for blog topics, but they seem to be all over the place. I’ve been keeping a running list to help with my goal of writing 100 posts, but it’s difficult to choose the most relevant one. I guess the best way to keep things clear is to start from the beginning.

Growing up, I never really had any discussions about money with my parents or siblings. I really had no knowledge of how money worked. My parents were doing their best to provide for us, but as in most Asian families, money was never an important topic to be discussed, especially with kids.

I was born in the Philippines, but my family moved to the US when I was about 11 years old. My mother was a nurse and my father was a civil engineer. Looking back, I realize how lucky we were compared to the rest of the country. My parents both had well-paying jobs so we had a very comfortable life–in a third world economy. We grew up with a paid housekeeper who helped with the cleaning and the cooking and all the general housework. All we kids did was play and do well in school.

That all changed when we moved to the US. There was nobody to help with the housework so we had to do everything ourselves. Luckily, we were old enough to be left alone by ourselves, legally, and so both my parents could work full-time.

My older sister and I were responsible for most of the cooking and cleaning, while my younger brothers were in charge of their own rooms and other minor chores.

Every week, my dad would give us 10 bucks to buy lunch. We never really thought of that money as something we earned by doing chores. It was just understood that we had to do the chores or the house would be really messy or nobody would eat anything. My mother worked two hospital shifts from 3:00 in the afternoon to 7:00 a.m. the next day. She slept during the daytime while we were in school, but she was not by any means a stay at home mom. My father worked just as hard as my mother but he had nothing to do with housework. So, with my parents working to feed the us and keep a roof over our heads, it fell to the kids to cook and clean and study.

I did learn that I had to work hard to earn money, but nobody ever sat me down to explain that I should save part of it. I worked hard in school to earn good grades. I got rewarded sometimes with money or small presents. I also started working at the age of 12 babysitting my neighbors’ kids. I worked in high school during the summers and throughout college. Of course, since I didn’t know anything about saving, I spent everything. I must have earned at least $15,000 during those years, but I had nothing in savings.

And this is one of the major mistakes or missed opportunities that I only discovered in my 30s. I wish I had saved a portion of the money I’d earned when I was younger. I was never afraid to work hard for my money, but it didn’t make much of a difference because I was such a spender that I never had any money at the end. Of course, this meant I had to go out and work again to get that back. I became stuck in this cycle of work, earn, spend.

I’m trying to avoid this now. I’ve done a lot to curb the appetite to spend every paycheck. I’m being more selective on the things I spend my money on. Instead, I get a lot of joy watching my savings account grow. I’ve grown to appreciate how much of my life energy goes to work, or doing the things that I don’t like to do at work. I still enjoy the teaching process, but a lot of times I am stuck doing things I find boring or useless. 

If I had known this earlier, my life might have been different. As such, this is the life I have now, but I don’t think it’s too late to course correct. After all, the journey is also part of the fun.

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