I was raised in a working, lower-middle class home raised by my aunt and uncle. My uncle retired as a painter from the Defense Construction Supply Center (DCSC) and my aunt was a stay-at-home domestic goddess.
As a youngster growing up, I wasn’t aware that we didn’t have much. That notion was lost on me because we seemed to have more than everyone else in our community. We were homeowners, not renters. We had reliable vehicles. I had two bikes to ride, when some of my friends had none. My aunt took me shopping at Macy’s for new school clothes and Easter outfits every year. We ate dinners out if we wanted to, but rarely did because my aunt was an excellent cook. Life, as I knew it, was entirely grand.
It really wasn’t until college where I was exposed to wealth that I learned where my family actually fell on the wealth spectrum. Of course, I was grateful for all that we had, but I came to realize that there was so much more out there.
My uncle’s financial mantra worked well and was quite simple, “Don’t get in debt and don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.” Good advice! He maintained an excellent credit rating and paid all the bills on time every month. We never went without.
When my uncle was around age 85 and no longer able to keep up with their financial affairs; I assumed that responsibility. That was about 10 years ago, and it was then that I came to realize how inadequate their savings were in relation to their overall financial picture. There was virtually none. Needless to say, as they continued to age, the lack of financial resources dictated many of the decisions I had to make on their behalf: about their healthcare, home repairs, and sadly even the burial arrangements for my aunt last year.
When I took over their finances, I couldn’t help but to reflect back on how long and how hard my uncle worked his whole life. He wasn’t a ‘sit still and lay around’ kind of guy. Even after retirement, he went back to work as a hotel maintenance man. My aunt and uncle were generous when it came to family, those in need and faithfully tithing to the church of which he was a pastor for over 44 years. With all that hard work, his true aversion to debt and a giving spirit I would have never imagined there wasn’t a stash of money sitting high and pretty in a savings account somewhere. But, there wasn’t. Thankfully, they had his government pension and social security incomes to maintain their modest standard of living, but that was it.
As I came to terms with the state of their financial affairs, I often wondered: What if my family had been introduced to a financial planner while my uncle was yet in his working prime? What if someone explained the concept of investing and making his money work for him? What if someone helped him develop a savings plan? Because of his frugality, hard work ethic, and fiscal responsibility I can’t help but imagine how different the outcome might have been had that introduction taken place.
Although this article is geared to a particular audience, the message is appropriate for all to help avoid potential money mistakes, and consider available resources like PDS Planning to help reach your financial goals.