In the LearnVest Personal Stories series, everyday people share the details of their money lives, discussing the individual choices they’ve made and how it’s impacted their financial journey.
Today, one woman shares how she laid down the financial law for her husband-to-be—by postponing their nuptials until he paid off his debt and rebuilt his credit.
I Get It From My Mama
I grew up in a home with a lot of contradictory messages around money. My mother was the first of 10 children; she was also the first to immigrate to the United States from Antigua. Because of her ambition and birth order, she became the unspoken matriarch and surrogate caretaker of her siblings, both as children and adults.
Growing up, I saw this burdensome role leave her emotionally and financially depleted. She grew resentful and sad when her siblings would borrow money and never repay it. I grew up thinking that family members were never to be trusted in money matters.
Simultaneously, though, she instilled in me the value of being financially self-sufficient and the importance of small-scale entrepreneurship. My mom, a registered nurse by trade, also ran Mary’s Place, a home-based boutique in our living room, after work and on the weekends.
She taught me to take pride in being able to buy things for myself and use my creativity to generate wealth and different streams of income. Before I could legally work, I was able to earn extra money babysitting and filing documents and typing in a neighbor’s home office.
When it came to men and money, my mother’s views were not that positive. She supported my father through medical school by working two jobs while taking care of me and my brother. He later abandoned us and returned to Antigua, making her a single mother and sole breadwinner in one fell swoop. Her opinions weren’t wishy-washy either: When she spoke of men, she always warned me that they would strip me of all of my money because they were predators and financial scavengers.
All of these messages groomed me to be a hard-core saver with a latent phobia of poverty and a deep disdain for male moochers, family freeloaders and professional women who were financially reckless. In particular, I was wary of men who didn’t want to complete all of their education or establish themselves financially before marriage. In hindsight, I now realize that my need to proactively save and invest was rooted in a childhood scarcity belief about money.
My financial forecast almost always predicted that there would be rain.