family

“What do you see as a trajectory of our family money story?”

Paulette: Hi Mom.

Mom: Hi Paulette.

Paulette: How are you doing?

Mom: How’s my girl doing?

Paulette: I am doing good. So I talked with Amanda Clayman, the financial therapist, and she wants me to do like a money genealogy, like family tree. Why is that funny?

Mom: Because I realize how crappy our genealogy is. Once you said that, I am like, oh shit!

Paulette: So, how would you describe the money family tree of which I am the seed? Did I fall from the tree or not?

Mom: Now, when you say family tree, how far back you want to go, just our family or do you want to go way back?

Paulette: I think way back, like how much do we know? I am so disconnected from my heritage. I mean, I don’t even know what percentage I am from what country.

Mom: You are English, German, Scottish and French, and that’s just on one side.

Paulette: What about dad’s side?

Mom: Russian is dad’s. If you do the DNA thing that will be exact.

Paulette: Let’s talk about your family first.

Mom: When I was a little girl, when I was about six, my dad was a truck driver and he decided somewhere along the lines to buy his own truck. So he did that and we did not have a lot of money. Our first house was $6,000 which would be equivalent to like a $100,000 house today. And my parents didn’t have any down payment. So they went to my uncle to borrow the down payment for the house and it was maybe a $500 or $1000. But that was a big deal, because they didn’t have any money. So my parents got married when they were 18, so they never had a chance to accumulate any money either individually or together because Randy came two years later and Kenny was born by the time my mom was 24.

Paulette: And what kind of financial situation had grandma and grandpa grown up in?

Mom: Now, we are going back another step. So my father’s father was a farmer and a miner, and they were very hardworking people, and my grandmother was sort of the farmer as well but also full-time care for the babies. She had four boys. And so they had chickens, they had a garden, they had cows, they had horses – a horse I think, and two farms, because my grandfather’s daughter owned a farm down the street. That was, I think, a couple hundred acres. And then grandpa bought the farm up the street that was about half a mile away, you could almost see it. And it had less acreage, it had like 10 acres. So my grandfather, when his father died, inherited the other farm. So he was able to farm both pieces of land.

Paulette: Who was the first person to come to America? I don’t know that. How far back does our family go?

Mom: I only know my grandmother Altman was the first in her family. She spoke German and refused to admit that there was any French at all. She would say, we are German. She was very adamant about that.

 

Paulette: I was listening to the Millionaire Next Door on tape, the book, and he talks about the ancestry groups with the highest number of millionaire and Russians are really high. I think Germans are high too. I remember grandpa having the story of when he was a little kid he tried to go ice skating but they attached – the ice skates at that time attached to your shoes, and his shoes were so old and worn that the ice skates wouldn’t stay on them.

Mom: And grandma would mend his – the style has come and gone but for a while when dad and I were in our 30s, it was a style to have swayed round ovals put on the elbows of your jacket, it was very stylish. And grandma would laugh at that and say, we only did that because we had to because there was our hole in the clothing. At one time, Uncle Kenny had jeans that looked like yours except they were bellbottoms, and she mended them…

Paulette: They were all ripped up.

Mom: And she sewed them all.

Paulette: And I remember grandma telling us like you only need a dime size of shampoo and that would annoy me. And I am like, I want to shower and I am going to use shampoo as I want, like put it all out.

Mom: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, they were very frugal, and grandma and grandpa went through the Depression as did my grandparents. So during the Depression, there was not enough food, there were no jobs, it was a really bad time for everybody and I think that affected the way they thought about things, and that’s why they were so frugal. Mom was driving because she wanted to go to town and nobody had a quarter for gas, and that really affected her that nobody could come up with a quarter for gas to get to town. Neither she, nor her parents nor none of her friends had a quarter. I think a quarter then would be like $5 today I guess, I am assuming.

Paulette: Yeah. So then what was it like for you growing up? In what ways, were they frugal or not frugal? What were your thoughts about money in your childhood home?

Mom: We always had enough to eat because grandpa had the cow, so they would buy a quarter of a cow and put it in the freezer. So there was always plenty, especially beef. There was always plenty to eat and my mom would have a garden. And they canned, so there was always plenty of food, there was never the hardship of food. But when it came to other things it was always very much doled out. My father used to say about some of his friends: he squeezes the coin so hard, the eagle squeaks to try to give up a quarter. I think that they were in a place where most people were the same way. I remember my grandmother bartering one time, she had eggs and she needed flour or something. She was trading somebody on another farm for what they had, that might be bartered. I am not sure. But I remember hearing her on the phone and I was thinking, oh my gosh, that’s bartering – which is cool but I am sure in her mind it was like maybe a little bit like begging in a sense, like too bad, I can’t go to town and buy some flour or whatever it was she needed. But you can see that most of what was covered were things like the cows got slaughtered, the milk from the cows, the pigs made the bacon, the garden fed us the vegetables. So she always made gigantic meals.

Paulette: So then Amanda asks – I was telling her the line you always say: You and dad balance each other out, except you are both bad with money. And she’s like, well, in what way is your mom bad with money? And I couldn’t really pinpoint it. How would you describe your habits with money?

Mom: When daddy and I were first married, it was one of those things where I think it was an entitlement that we were young, we thought we had the world by the tail, and we didn’t have a lot of money but what we did have we would go skiing, we would buy skis. There was never any awareness about saving for the future – that was just not on our radar at all. It was like live life to the fullest, every day for itself. That’s how we lived. And that’s how I was bad with money, because I didn’t foresee it. And then when dad did start making a nice salary, like we went from – in the beginning of my work year, 1972, I was making $7000, and dad was wealthier than me, because he was making $8000. But keep in mind I bought my first car for $4000, so it’s all relative. But, we thought nothing of like buying the refrigerator and paying it off, buying the cars, we didn’t have any car payment. There was never any talk of doing it any differently. But I did have some relatives who did and I thought they were a little crazy for being so – I don’t know, I thought their life was boring.

Paulette: It’s the fun beast, I feel like we are possessed by the fun beast and we like to have fun, and it’s good and it’s bad.

Mom: It’s good and it’s bad yeah.

Paulette: We just need to balance it. So it’s very similar to that.

Mom: Yeah. And dad was the same way, and then when he did start making money and he got nice bonuses and everything, I mean, we started moving up in the world, we were very happy. And then, I would go to the mall, god, every week, like three times and come back with packages. And if something was on sale for 20% off, I would buy it, never thinking the credit card was 18%. I never really had – I just didn’t have an awakening of all of that. It was like I was totally money stupid. It was the 80s and the advertising on TV was, you can go anywhere you want with Visa or MasterCard. We were bombarded with commercials that pulled us ; we were on the right track. We were living life to the fullest. We were duped.

Paulette: I was talking to Jeri about it and it’s like our family is the fun family. We had a lot of fun and that’s like a good thing. I forgive us for being irresponsible in the past because it came from this other thing that was really fun too, and now it’s like, okay, how do you find that balance?

Mom: Right, and for me, the whole balance and the whole education was when we went through bankruptcy. That was like a smack in the face to me of, oh my god, and then I realized what I had done, what I should have done differently, what I would forever do differently in the future. And from that point on, I never carried a balance on my credit card. I mean, I don’t know how bad, if you know how bad it really was.

Paulette: So what’s interesting to me is like grandma and grandpa’s family has worked so hard like they really understood the value of a dollar because they worked so freaking hard. And then I think life just got easier and then we went from physical laborers as a family to knowledge workers. We made more money using our minds, sitting in offices, and we just lost that connection. I mean, I think it’s probably fairly common family story; the older I get, the more I think I am so like dad, I mean, the way – I just remember, when he was trying to start that business and he was like, any day now, a sale is going to come through. And I remember thinking, oh my god, when I am an adult, I just want a day job, just give me a corporate, nice job with a steady paycheck, that’s all I want. And now I am totally in this freelancing crazy world, don’t want to have a boss, don’t want anyone telling me what to do. Sometimes I see a picture of myself with my hand on my hips just like dad and I am like, oh my god, I am so like my dad.

Mom: And daddy would want me to leave teaching and get something where I could make more money at and I never did, I never wanted to, I never wanted to take the risk, I always wanted to make sure I had a secure job. So, I mean, who’s right and who’s wrong, I don’t know. Because dad did very well, dad did have a really good last couple of years before the collapse.

Paulette: What do you see as a trajectory of our family money story?

Mom: Well, because grandma was so brave and brilliant in real estate and with money and grandpa was ultra conservative as well, I mean, when we went out to dinner anytime, it was understood that we did not order dessert, we did not order – at that point you still ordered a drink, but we ordered like, I guess, a soda, I can’t even remember, not a milkshake. We had to do like the minimum. We could never go – and dad was like that till the day he died. We were buying the early bird specials. And so I’d go out to dinner with him, I knew he would pay and I didn’t feel like I could order off the menu other than the early bird since he was. He just was a really conservative guy. He bought the Prius, he drove an old golf cart. He didn’t have to do that. He could have had anything he wanted, really.

Paulette: The thing that upsets me is when I think about undoing all the progress that they did for our family.

Mom: I don’t think we are undoing it.

Paulette: I know that grandpa would have wanted me to save the money I got when he died, and I intended to and I didn’t.

Mom: Okay, fair enough. There’s justification in that. You also got a life experience that you would possibly never again be able to afford, that will help you with your writing, that will further you as a writer and an independent person. But would he have done that? No. They would not have done that. Are you sorry you did it?

Paulette: No. I never am. And that’s the hard part. I mean, I think about now, being around Seattle and I don’t go up to the mountains as much as I used to, and every time we did go for the weekend and had a beautiful time in the snow, it was like we never regretted.

Mom: It sounded like the Disney weekend. The Disney weekends were $300 weekends, even with us having the “free passes”. We’d spend $300 in a weekend. That’s a lot of money. And we learned, don’t go for the weekend. We just started going like Saturday. We’d leave early in the morning and we’d come home late at night, because we just couldn’t afford that, too much money. Let me go back and just tell you, grandma and grandpa Altman real quick.

Paulette: Who’s grandma and grandpa Altman?

Mom: Grandma – Cameron’s mother and father.

Paulette: So your grandparents on your mother’s side.

Mom: My grandparents on my mother’s side. So, grandma would do things like sell Avon’s but she did that for her own little pocket money, as a lot of women did. She never drove. She never had a license. So her Avon was a way that she would go out to the people in the town, she was in this social life – that’s where I get it from. And grandpa was the most successful entrepreneur in our family, he had a lumber mill and a lumber yard, and he also owned a lot of land in town and he built the two-storey, two-family brick home. I don’t know if you ever remember seeing; you were there, but you were very young. They were one of the wealthiest families, they had the first phone, the first indoor plumbing, the first TV, whatever.

Paulette: Really? Grandma’s family, in which you’ve grown up?

Mom: Yeah. They didn’t live like flashy rich but they were able to afford things that other families could not. When grandpa was I am guessing 30-40, there was at the lumber yard and a man was killed, and grandpa lost everything at that point. So he lost the lumber yard. It shut down. It disappeared. And any money that came from that, he was sued, went to that family where the man was killed. There was no such thing as insurance. Grandpa Altman refused to ever buy insurance for car, for anything, nothing ever had insurance in his life. Believe me, I got a story about that one. So he paid that off, whatever they sued him for, which would be like in today’s world maybe $800,000. He paid that off. He sold the lumber, whatever, and he paid that family off. Then, I am guessing on some of this, I think he had built the home when the lumber yard – so he didn’t lose his home, he kept the home. And at the bottom of his house, you could fit like eight cars in the garage downstairs and he had a gas station, he had two gas pumps, and a place where you could change the oil. This was in the basement of his house, yes. It was like a walk, like a drive-in basement.

Paulette: Was that common?

Mom: It was sort of like he built the garage with a house on top. He built like a gas station garage with two houses on top. He had his office down there and he had his workshop and there were always men hanging around and stuff like that. He then started taking – I don’t know if he bought or just would haul away old cars. Then up in the field near his home became the junkyard, we called it the junkyard. There were all these old cars and then people would come and they would pull a piece off of a car that they needed for their car and they would pay him for it. He also fixed cars there. He did like mechanical fixing and changed the oil and pumped the gas and that kind of thing. I was a very young girl when all that was going on, and the fire had already taken place. He was an alcoholic as well.

Then grandpa started reopening the coal mines and he had an income from that. And then when I was like a young married woman, 1976, the government came in and they wanted to mine his mines. So he leased them the mines and he had a percentage of the coal out. He was making hand over fist. He bought a brand new Cadillac, he was going to buy a helicopter, things…

Paulette: What?!

Mom: Yeah. He never did that. They were like out of his mind. But he was the kind of guy who really saw the glass half full. He was kind of like dad. In fact, he was like the dreamer, and he got a lot of done.

Paulette: And what was his life like during the Depression?

Mom: Grandpa? They went through it.

Paulette: Yeah, but what was he doing then? He had the mill?

Mom: Since mom didn’t have 25 cents, I don’t know what he was doing then; probably, the lumber yard I would think. And then he probably had to lay men off because it wasn’t money. If nobody is buying the lumber, you can’t have the men cutting it. So, the lumber yard, basically would take down the trees, haul the lumber in and then they would mill it. They would take the big machines and mill it into planks. And if construction stopped, then the lumber yard would slow way down, he’d have to lay people off and all that. So he had a lot of land and then the coal mines and then the house. These were all like three miles away from each other, all of those things.

Paulette: And so what do you think grandma learned from her family about money?

Mom: I think she learned the most from the Depression, because of the fact that she was so – there was no new clothing, there was no rides to town. That’s when they turned the ketchup bottle upside down which you saw grandma do, to catch the last drop. That’s when she learned that. You never threw anything away. I think she became an accumulator stuff because of the Depression. I think that was a reaction that happened to her. And I think because, she could afford it, she would buy it, because she could afford it now. And that’s all the jewelry, all the clothing, all the knickknacks.

Paulette: There’s been a lot of ups and downs in our family.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: How can we make ourselves be frugal? Why don’t we care about that? Where did that connection get lost from your parents and how, I am sure, they wanted you to be with money and how we turned out with money?

Mom: Well, let me think. When I married your father – I need to keep blaming daddy – I had $2000 in the bank, a brand new car and I was putting savings away every – I had some kind of IRA or something, where money was going out of my checking account to be saved. Now, after my first year of work, I had $1500 saved in this whatever. I cashed it in to go to Europe for the summer and I was fine with that. I looked at that as a savings account more than a future thing. When I met your father, I again had $2000, so that was like our honeymoon money, but he came to the table with zero. He went to Vegas before we got married and he missed his plane and he called me and he said, can I borrow $600 and I was like I don’t have $600. I said, it’s in an IRA, I couldn’t get it. And the next day, he had to get home for work or whatever, so he went to somebody else and borrowed it. But he never really had to struggle through college; where I was sent off to college, no car and mom would send me $5 a week, the gals in the dorm would get pizza and it was like a $1 a slice if you wanted in on the pizza and I couldn’t do it, because I had to use my $5 for shampoo or detergent or whatever else I was doing. So I started making leather belts and sewing them.

Paulette: In college?

Mom: Mm-hmm. Because it was hippie time, so I would braid these leather shoelaces like men’s work shoelaces, braid them and then tie them off and then the leather hung down, the shoelaces hung down. And I did all those for eight bucks or something. So I did that to make some extra money. And then my sophomore year, I wanted to go to Florida at Easter with my friends who were driving down and my mother said no way, and that’s when I got a job. And by that time I had talked them into giving me my car, and I was living off campus. So I had a car and I could drive myself and I worked at Dan Burgers. And I was at the mall and I would work five to nine, and I saved up enough money so that I could go to Florida with my friends.

And the same thing happened in high school. I wanted a suede jacket and my parents said they didn’t have enough money for it. So I went and got a job at like a Walgreens and saved that money up and bought a leather jacket. So we had love and we had everything we needed. There was just never a feeling of opulence.

Paulette: What’s the richest you ever felt?

Mom: When we sold the – dad left Vegas and came back and there wasn’t a job available for him at the play station anymore, and so he worked at the bar and then for $3000 he bought a van and some machines. Pacman was big then, but he bought some pinball machines that came with – we had like 10 pinball machines. And this was a big trend because, remember, no computers. So, kids would go after school and they played these pinball machines for a quarter or 50 cents whatever they put in. And so, we then borrowed money, we bought a Pacman, it was like a $10,000 machine, maybe we put a $1000 down on it, but we were pulling in $450 a week from these machines, which was sweet money in 1980. And when we sold that business, we sold it for $60,000 cash. And the guy worked at the bank and we spread that money out and we took pictures of ourselves, $60,000. That was the cat’s meow.

This is incredible, your father was so smart, he would put those pinball machines in the basement if they stopped working and he would fix them without any internet, without any directions, without any guidance whatsoever. He figured out how to make it work again. I was always amazed by that. In today’s world, we just Google it. And he would get it working again. So the Pacman machines were the ones that really were – people were nuts. We got a new Pacman machine and he couldn’t deliver it to the store till Monday or something, we had a party, and we just put it on free play. Our friends came and they were going crazy over it. One guy told us, he was an executive at some J&J or something, and he said, every lunch time he goes and plays Pacman, the entire lunch time, and doesn’t even eat.

Paulette: What was then the poorest you ever felt?

Mom: Oh my god, probably in the house on the water at the end when we knew we couldn’t hold onto it, I guess, maybe the day I walked out and the van was gone and I thought somebody stole my car and daddy had to tell me that he had made a payment a couple of months, so it got repo’ed.

Paulette: What are your hopes for your grandchildren as far as money goes?

Mom: And my children.

Paulette: And your children.

Mom: I have a lot of hopes and I have a lot of fears. My hopes are that you, although you struggle and you kind of are pretty tough on yourself about money, you probably are the most knowledgeable of all three in terms of what do you want, what’s going to get you there, what do you have to give up to get there. And I know it’s not an easy journey. It’s a lot of weight on you I think. So, for you, I hope that your book will be successful and you can get to a place where you can breathe easy. That’s my hope for you. But I think you will look back at this journey now with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Paulette: I want to respect my place in the world and not ask for more than I deserve. There’s this line in a song that I really like and it says, take only what you need, and I hate that; even with all that I have, I keep grabbing for more than I’ve earned. It’s like why can’t I learn to live within my means when my means are already more than 95% of the people on this earth have…

Mom: Maybe part of the reason is because you love to travel, and you love to eat and you love to have a good time, and you put all that together, and those are all very expensive things.

Paulette: I love you.

Mom: Okay. Bye-bye.

Paulette: Bye.

Recovery Assignment: Make Your Own Financial Money Tree

Where did your money story come from?

Your attitudes, habits, and beliefs about money didn’t just pop into your head magically. They’re heavily influenced by the events your family experienced both in your lifetime and before. For example, my grandma, who couldn’t drive to town during the Depression because no one had a quarter for gas, was always telling me to just use a dime-sized dollop of shampoo.

Amanda suggests drawing what’s called a Financial Genogram. This is a visual representation of your family history with money. You’ll be listing out your family members, showing their relationships, and writing about anything that happened to them regarding money to better understand where you come from.

When you have the family structure in place, write a few words about their attitudes and experiences with money in the space provided. You might include details on how they earned a living, their lifestyles, and any significant events (e.g., job loss, inheritance, medical issue) that had a major impact on their financial life.

The following questions are provided courtesy of Amanda Clayman:

Journal Questions

Questions about People:

For each person in the financial genogram answer:

  • What was happening in the world around him/her?
  • When and where did s/he live?
  • What type of work did s/he do?
  • What was his/her lifestyle like?
  • What do you remember him/her saying about money?
  • What significant financial events happened to him/her?
  • What was his/her attitude about earning, spending, managing, saving, and investing money?
  • What were his/her goals? Did s/he attain them?

Questions about Relationships:

For each family grouping answer:

  • How did money play a part in showing love or approval between family members? How was it used to punish or exclude?
  • Who was in agreement about money? Who argued or fought?

Questions about Family Culture:

  • What was your family’s attitude about money?
  • What kinds of financial behavior were admired?
  • What were you not supposed to do or talk about in terms of money?
  • What was seen as more valuable than money (e.g., education, art, passion)?
  • Is there a particular story about the family’s financial history?

Questions about You:

  • What’s your earliest memory of money?
  • When did you have your first job?
  • What were you expected to do with your income? Did you do that?
  • What were you taught about money?
  • Did you understand and agree with how your parents approached money?
  • Did you feel frustrated with your parents for their financial circumstances or choices?
  • Were you and your siblings treated equally and taught the same things about money?

 

Here are some things I found out about me and my family:

What was your family’s attitude about money?

It was a facilitator of fun. There would always be more where that came from, and we were doing well. Until we weren’t.

What kinds of financial behavior were admired?

“Doing it up,” buying big shiny things, earning good money.

What were you not supposed to do or talk about in terms of money?

We didn’t talk about the fact that we were going bankrupt in the year of it happening. That made it all the more frightening.

What was seen as more valuable than money (e.g., education, art, passion)?

The love we had as a family. I never doubted that I was loved. My mom used to always say, “We rich in love, right honey?”

Is there a particular story about the family’s financial history?

We were living high until the sandcastle came tumbling down, and it took us almost a decade to dig ourselves out of the mess.

What’s your earliest memory of money?

My dad letting me keep the change at restaurants. Ooh, or passing the tithing basket in church. The pile of cash and checks held by my tiny hands for just a moment.

When did you have your first job?

I started working at an ice cream store with a few of my best friends when I was still 14. We made minimum wage and our creepy old boss complained that he would pay us less if he were legally able to. Maybe he was right, considering how much ice cream I helped myself to.

What were you expected to do with your income? Did you do that?

By the time I was making any money, I was so desperate to just have some spending money of my own. No one talked to me about saving it. I lived paycheck to paycheck, because I was a teenager.

What were you taught about money?

Once we went bankrupt, my mom would call me over to see the outrageous interest rates on the credit card offers we were sent.

Did you understand and agree with how your parents approached money?

We all realize we weren’t living right.

Did you feel frustrated with your parents for their financial circumstances or choices?

I did at the time, but I’ve fully forgiven my parents for the mistakes they made. My mom has since done a lot of work to get to a better place.

Were you and your siblings treated equally and taught the same things about money?

I think my dad was a wee sexist and favored my brother a bit. But also, I was a daddy’s girl, and in high school, I could pry a twenty from his wallet with just a smile.

 

“What if you agreed to never lend me money again?”

Paulette: What the fuck is wrong with me, with money?

Sis: Consumerism plays a part, lack of discipline.

Mom: Advertising.

Sis: Predatory marketing.

Mom: Peer pressure.

Paulette: I am here with my mother and sister if you couldn’t tell.

Mom: But also what happened to you when you were a young girl and that is in third grade, father lost his job, and we went from living on the water with waverunner and pool and Cadillac and custom van and all that to we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it; and that was difficult for you to be in that environment.

Paulette: That was a sweet van.

Mom: That was. We had a little TV in there.

Paulette: And Nintendo.

Mom: So that really messed up I think a lot of perspective because you were no longer able to do what we had always done. And I think it was frustrating for everybody and challenging.

Paulette: I feel like the number one problem is like I just spend whatever money I have.

Mom: I think that’s a problem with a lot of people instead of planning ahead when you get your money whether it’s the beginning of the week, every two weeks, every week, if you don’t plan ahead for your budget, your bill is coming up, and you have $500 in your checking account, it feels like that’s your discretionary money when it’s really not.

Sis: We have to tell our money where to go.

Mom: Right.

Paulette: I am like, literally, the other day, I put in an $1,800 invoice and then it was like I had – my brain was like, you have $1,800. And then I was just going along like normal, spending, spending, just going to the grocery store, going here, going there, and then after I went to an exercise class really early in the morning, and then I started to run to the grocery for like $13 worth of things, and I went to check out, and I could not, my card got declined; and when I saw how much I had, I had like $89 in one account and then negative $80 in the other. If I had done the transfer, it still wouldn’t have added up to $13.

Sis: Wow.

Paulette: So I had to be like I am sorry, I can’t buy these. I had to walk away and the guy was like, “that’s okay,” I am sure it happens.

Mom: Happens all the time, yeah.

Paulette: But it was like – and I just kind of waited for the shame bomb to explode because I know we had to leave groceries as a family when we were little.

Sis: I think proactively looking at that, for me, mobile access, right on my phone, to up-to-date information on my account is something I am trying to be disciplined on checking every day, so you know where you are at. So we are not walking through a minefield with a blindfold and going, well, I hope nothing goes off. I hope everything is okay. I mean, we shouldn’t be approaching cash registers not knowing…

Mom: Not sure, yeah.

Paulette: Yeah, I just kind of have this like general idea and I remember at one time my best friend’s husband, it was like, we were all just hanging out, and in the morning I saw him looking at his bank statement. I was like, “Oh, what are you doing?” He was like, “oh I just check my bank balance every day.” I was like, wow, what else are other people doing!

Sis: Yeah, well, that’s a way to live.

Paulette: I know. You know how much is in there? It’s weird. Where’s the excitement in your life?

Sis: It’s like we have on-off switches, have money, don’t have money.

Mom: Yes.

Sis: We need to find a great way of being better informed and I think telling our money where to go is important. I just think like for me I feel like I need to be more proactive on budgeting and putting my money where I want it to go versus, oh, look what happened.

Mom: Yes.

Paulette: It’s like the cognitive dissidence between the person who makes the plan and the person who goes through the world, it’s like, I just can’t connect the two.

Mom: I have to quote Suze Orman, one time I was watching her when I was going through a particularly tough time and she said you control your money, your money doesn’t control you. And do you know that was like shocking news to me? I thought my money was controlling me, that I was constantly in debt and all. I felt like my life was being controlled by money.

Sis: Well, and I have kind of an awakening of sorts when I hear Dave Ramsey talk about never having a car payment. I was 30 something years old before I ever heard that. I thought, well, you just always have a car payment. It’s like, again, it’s, oh, look at this way to live, this is new and different and you pay zero interest. The first time I bought a car or vehicle, cash, it was extremely empowering and at least four people along the way automatically assumed I was financing and it was a wonderful thing to be able to say, not paying cash, I am not financing. One guy was like, oh, you are not financing. I said, no, I am just going to pay cash.

Mom: Yeah. And all of my friends buy a new car every year, every two years, three years, whatever.

Sis: Same.

Mom: And they all say to me – because my car is now, whatever, 10 years old, they all say to me, aren’t you getting a new car? And my answer to them is no, I like my car, I like my car. That’s what I say. And I finally said to one of my friends one day, I don’t want to have a car payment, this is paid off.

Sis: Yes, exactly.

Mom: And that she got. Then she didn’t ask me again after that. It was like, oh, that makes sense.

Sis: And I just had a good friend who wants to take a different job in a different arena that she’d be much happier in but would make much less money. We were discussing the financial aspects of that and she said something along the lines of, well, of course, I will always have a car payment and I wanted to say to her…

Mom: No, you don’t have to, yeah.

Sis: No, you don’t always have to have a car payment. There’s different options where that’s concerned. So, I think it’s really just – a lot of it is financial education.

Mom: I agree. As Americans, we see way too much advertising and what we look at as a deal, like 20% off, sale on clothing, cars, whatever, you know, trade in your car for $3,000 rebate. So people are thinking, oh, I can put $3,000 in my checking account if I trade my car in, but they are not looking at how much interest they are going to pay on that $3000.

Sis: Who was just saying something about 26% interest?

Mom: Yeah, that was me.

Sis: My nephew is 14 years old and we are trying to teach him about money.

Mom: So the way I got the credit card with 26% interest was they offered zero interest for a year. And I took it because I had $8,000 debt that I had to pay off for roof. And I was paying that down, I figured in a year I would get that paid off. And I have the credit card, it’s over the year, I am still spending like I am getting 3% back and zero interest. And I just casually mentioned, oh, by the way, what is that interest. I know it would be high, 18% or something like that. She said, 26. I almost fell off my chair.

Sis: Well, that’s like when I went through a difficult period between jobs and right before Christmas, the month of December, I received – it must have been seven pieces of mail from these – nothing short of predatory lending, with interest rates of 40 – one was 80 I think…

Paulette: What?!

Sis: Yes. And the laws must have changed and I need to better educate myself on that. Somebody posted something on a Dave Ramsey page and it was like 246% or something. It was 200 and something percent interest. In my opinion, that should not be legal.

Mom: No, not ever.

Sis: And everything I got was showing a catalogue image of a young child opening their Christmas present, so they literally say something about happiness and Christmas, this season, it’s so manipulative. And I was like, you know what, I have a Christmas budget for my 14-year-old and he’s well aware, we manage expectations this year, we’ve talked about that. And that’s probably fine, but just in doing that and not falling for any of that makes me feel more empowered. Like, oh, I recognize this as what it is, and shredded them all and that was the end of it.

Mom: And I think that’s the key. Back to this credit card just for a second, interestingly enough, I lost a credit card from this bank and then it showed up in a jeans pocket later on down the way. You cannot cut those credit cards in half literally, they will not be cut. So, when I handed it into the bank for security reasons, I said, by the way, you can’t cut this in half. He goes, I know. So, in some ways, they are forcing you to keep your card or let them shred it so you don’t have that – and I’ve heard of people like putting their cards in a freezer with ice in a bag, I can’t use it, and…

Paulette: Well, I remember, that’s one of my first memories like after our family went bankrupt is you saying like Paulette come here, look at these, look at the percentage rates here, look if I am late on a payment, and I remember knowing that our credit score is bad.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: And that’s such an interesting, like life score, it’s literally called your score and if you, even as a kid, I am like we have a bad score as a label.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: But now I have bad credit because I don’t have any credit cards.

Mom: That’s another trap and that’s how they get a lot of college kids, because you need to establish their credit.

Paulette: Establish your credit.

Sis: That’s what they tell them.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: Turns into, when I went to live with you in Hawaii, how many Duke’s lava flows did I have, several. But I was like, I will pay this. It was $200 and the card had a wave on it. So, I would say, this is my Hawaii card, and then charged it up.

Sis: I’ve warned Peter. When you go to college you will be inundated with offers and I want him to be educated on predatory lending and how it actually works, and what you will be personally accountable for on the backend of this. It sounds great now because you don’t have to have the money and you can go shopping, but here’s what’s going to happen later. You are going to have to work much harder to get that same amount of money.

Mom: And banks, of course, they do their marketing, they do their research, so what do they offer you? Five different beautiful photographs to choose from for your card so that every time you pull your card out, you see your favorite picture of those five.

Sis: It’s something emotional.

Mom: There’s no komodo dragon going… you know like…

Sis: They have cards now where you can get whatever picture you want on it. We need to get – even on a debit card, it should be a komodo dragon, like you are sure about this, I am kind of, just this animal.

Paulette: I want to put a picture of me crying on the phone to Mom.

Mom: Or just the word, “no” with an exclamation point.

Sis: Something that makes you think twice.

Mom: Yeah.

Sis: And that goes to the ease of how easy it is to spend money now. With Amazon, I mean, and everything, all the online, and like you were talking about the ads before, I get so many emails even after I am unsubscribing, I am still getting a plethora of emails from anywhere you order online and things like that. So I am trying to be better about unsubscribing from anything that’s tempting me to shop, because, yes, when you tell me that you have half off a clearance, that is something that I want to look at, but I don’t need any more Eddie Bauer hiking pants.

Paulette: Yeah, I just went through last night and unsubscribed from a million different places to start the New Year.

Sis: Good for you.

Mom: Good for you.

Paulette: We are related.

Sis: It’s in stereo now.

Paulette: I feel like I’ve done so many little systems and tips and tricks and stuff, but it’s like so hard to – I don’t know, to keep it, like Jeri and I were talking about, it’s like you hold the key to your own jail cell. I am like, well, I want to. But I know I shouldn’t but like I am in charge, so ultimately let’s do it.

Mom: Another tip that I did, two things I did after we went through bankruptcy; one was, if I had $125 for the week to spend, I got it in singles, and I would put it in an envelope in my software or nothing original there. But that way, I knew how much I had for the week, so if I was buying some groceries or giving you guys lunch money or whatever, I could see my money literally disappearing and how much I had to hold on to in order to have gas to get to work that very last day before the paycheck. So, when you are desperate, you have to go to desperate measures. So, Paulette, in order to make budget and be the artist and writer that she is, lives in 175…

Sis: 150.

Mom: 150 square foot – I can’t even get that through my head.

Paulette: Well, I haven’t made it as an artist yet.

Mom: Well, you are making it as artist because you don’t have a full time job.

Paulette: But I can’t do what I did last year. I didn’t make more money than I spent as an artist. That’s my goal.

Mom: I know, but you will.

Sis: That is the goal.

Mom: You will get there.

Sis: But you survived last year.

Mom: You survived it.

Sis: And you are not in an office environment that you don’t want to be in. It didn’t come to that is what I am saying.

Mom: And you didn’t go in that because you did get a small inheritance. So, that’s what allowed you to do that.

Paulette: It was that, I didn’t think that I was trading my fuckoff fund to go to South America, but it was the not planning ahead for how long that was really going to cost me to come back to Seattle and get a new apartment and the furniture, as small as it is, I needed very specialty to figure that space out. And I also wanted it to be like a home, but then I just ended up nipping away my fuckoff fund. I am the fuckoff fund girl with no fuckoff fund, which is some bullshit.

Mom: Yeah.

Sis: But you recognize that and you are working to fix that, which is something you should be proud of. We can’t forget to kind of stop and look around every once in a while and say okay, these are the positive steps I’ve taken instead of always beating ourselves up.

Mom: Right. And knowing that the next time that check comes in, you will allocate and you will also take some of it and put it toward the fuckoff fund so that you start rebuilding – instead of overspending, you are going to start rebuilding. Even if it’s $3 a week, you are going to put something positive which will help you to feel good about the way you are handling money.

Paulette: The thing that got me was when I started using your credit card again, and under the euphuism of like do you want to use my card to pay my insurance, like, with the understanding that I paid back but it was funny how it was like that euphemism that was like, oh, I am not going into debt, using my mom’s card to get through this month or whatever, but I was never – it’s always that when I have money, I go up to this level of living that seems normal to me, where I am like, I am going to go swing by the coffee shop, and I don’t do that every day, like I mostly drink maté in the morning, because it’s so cheap but I purposely didn’t get WiFi in my house so that I would spend a little time out. So that I could go to the coffee shop and be around people. I just decided to make that choice. So, the cheapest thing they have is a $3 mint tea. A latte can be as much as $5 or $6 with tip because – actually almond milk which is actually more expensive.

Mom: I know.

Paulette: And then when I am working out like on a Saturday, I can spend like $35 if I sit all day and I am just like, I am going to get, like a muffin and a coffee, and then three more hours go by and I am like, I should get a salad, and then I’m thirsty again. It’s like you feel like you have to pay for your place there. And then, I am like, oh I have $400. And then my cell phone bill comes through – I need to cancel all my automatic payments, because it’s like…

Mom: That’s surprising for me, what you say.

Paulette: Oh yeah. I did that for a while when I was a reporter in St. Augustine. I just had all the due dates in excel spreadsheet and I got my paycheck, and I looked at the next two weeks, and I went and I looked and I went to the website that I had linked in the excel spreadsheet and I just paid my bills. And then I just knew that nothing was going to come through my bank account for the next two weeks.

Mom: Which is a relief absolutely.

Sis: So I have a lot of different kinds of expenses going on. I have barebones minimum what I need to pay. My rent is $795, which includes utilities, which is…

Mom: A steal for Capitol Hill

Sis: As cheap for Seattle, absolutely.

Paulette: For Seattle that is crazy cheap. I am one block from basically what I consider my community center which is a timing center, I take classes at and work with and it’s just the place I most often want to be, and super close to Elliott Bay bookstore, which I love. So that was just my – that’s what I choose to do. I could have $500 rent, 40 minutes away, but even with the utilities then it’s like cheap.

Mom: Also, your transportation and commuting, you need to get.

Paulette: I have a 20-year-old car and my car insurance, that’s paid off, my car insurance is $78, so that’s even not like a minimum, minimum. I could get rid of that but I super do not want to.

Mom: No, you can’t really.

Paulette: I mean, I could.

Sis: She lives in the city.

Paulette: I like right in the city. I live a block from…

Mom: You could get rid of your car, yeah, you could get rid of your car.

Paulette: Yeah, I will not drive uninsured.

Mom: The weight of the car insurance.

Paulette: A lot of my friends don’t have health insurance.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: And what else? I don’t know. And so then there’s like, oh, and like Spotify is 10 bucks a month. So that’s discretionary but it’s not like impulsive.

Mom: Right, there is a difference.

Paulette: And it’s so crazy how you can just be like oh should we go out real fast and then it’s like a $50 difference.

Mom: Yeah, eating and drinking out, so I have a friend who’s going to retire soon, and we were talking about what she could do, she’s going to bring in the same amount of money, and of course every year the expenses are going to go up, her house insurance, car insurance and all that. And I said, one of the things you might want to consider when you retire is to think of all the things you can do for free, picnics in the park, going to the beach, walking, going to the library, all those things that are quality things, like you could work at the library and bring a bottle of water with you for free.

Paulette: I love going to concerts. I mean, there are some unforgettable experiences…

Mom: Yeah.

Sis: Obviously, we are very traveling family.

Mom: We are. Well, one of the thought is to have two accounts and one – if somebody has a regular paycheck, and they put half or two-thirds in the account that is the automatic pay, because that’s what their expenses are, and then they take the one-third or whatever is left over for their discretionary money, to have two different accounts, one has a credit card attached to it or debit or not, just checking your savings and the other one, they just don’t touch, they only put the money in and it becomes auto-pay; if they want like an automated easy way to live their life without ever having a late payment.

Paulette: I will do stuff like that and then I will just use all the money in the first account and then pop some over from another account. It’s just out of control. I feel like it comes down to that moment of saying yes or no to something when it just – everything flies out the window.

Sis: And there’s also the brain chemicals that are firing up as you are getting ready to purchase something and I just read something that said the average high from purchasing an item that you get lasts 7 seconds, 7 seconds! So by the time you even walk out of the store, it’s done, but that good feeling that you get excited about or whatever, it just makes you want to go shop, whether you are suppressing other emotions or just wanting to do something nice for yourself. We also have to consider how much we tell ourselves – well, I deserve it; well, I am working hard, I deserve this; I deserve a great retirement, so that needs to be my priority.

Paulette: You guys remember that woman I interviewed who was out of money at 72?

Mom: I remember you mentioning her.

Paulette: It scared me so much, she was like the ghost of retirement future because she had been a dancer in Paris and she lived in the Caribbean, she was like, I lived in the Caribbean when birth control got legalized, talk about a party.

Sis: She sounds great.

Paulette: She kept joking about going to Tahiti and we were like sitting in her empty condo where she’d sold everything off and then she put all her money in her condo and it was Florida in 2007, 2008, and she lost everything, and it scared the shit out of me. So I think it’s crazy that I’ve done pretty well staying out of debt besides this little blip with borrowing money and borrowing the magical number that I just put on the internet. But suddenly I owe my mom money, but I can’t like amass anything that is touchable. I just touch it and couldn’t spend it.

Mom: And I don’t know if the answer to that is just an automatic withdrawal. The other thing is too you are doing work, you don’t have a regular paycheck.

Paulette: That’s true. That’s very difficult.

Sis: With contracting, as I know well, when you get a lot of money after working hard for a little bit, and then you might go a month or two without working, trying to stabilize that from a budget perspective has been really challenging for me. But, I want to rebuild my retirement and also we have to be prepared for things…

Paulette: Such as fuck off fund type situations.

Sis: Exactly.

Mom: And not just that, but also if somebody gets a cold or you get a cut and you really have to have stitches, those kinds of things are expensive.

Paulette: And oh fuck fund. I wonder also if the feeling of chaos, that was the financial situation growing up makes me feel like anything I get I am just going to lose anyway, so I should just like spend it. There’s like a manic nature to my spending. So yesterday, after you gave me that Christmas money, and I was going to use it to go to that writer’s conference, it was just like I just had so much fun like buying the flight, like, just immediately it was like turned into not money – the magical alchemy of returning money into not money, I’m very good at it. And even when you were giving, like during our little Christmas celebration, it was so fun.

Sis: It was fun. And I think we are allowed to enjoy a great Christmas when mom does that, however, we just have to recognize our limits, that’s part of the problem. We have money, we want to do whatever the fuck we want to do, and we have to realize there are consequences to that. So we have to decide as adults…

Paulette: As human adults.

Sis: As human adults what actions we are going to take to get the outcome we want, and work – that’s what we are struggling with right now is putting a plan in place that works.

Paulette: What if you agreed to never lend me money again?

Mom: I can agree to that. You have to agree not to cry on the phone.

Paulette: Oh my god, remember that one time I had like $400 in NSF charges over three months, and I didn’t want to add it up, they just kept happening and happening and happening…

Sis: And last thing you want to do is look at it again.

Paulette: Yeah. And I finally added that, I was like $400, that’s when I was a reporter making 26.

Mom: Did you hear how you just described that? They just kept happening.

Paulette: They just kept happening. It was like a magical – I don’t know what, like, I don’t know, some kind of horrible miracle. And this year too, I started working for an international client and because of how difficult it was, there was like, oh my god, it’s so complicated, they had to do a wire transfer, down under, and it took – I finally got paid five months after I put the invoice in. it was like a few thousand dollars, which means so much, and then that was like the beginning of the end. And then I could have that like kind of victim mentality, like my invoice isn’t coming in. So Bippity Boppity. It really is more like take care of myself. I really just want to take care of myself, just want to learn to take care of myself. I need to figure out what my block is. Any thoughts?

Mom: I am going to blame it on our society, shopping malls being seconds away, stores with their – they know what colors to put out, they know how to entice us. I was at a store recently and it was like a home goods type of store, and there was so much there that I would have loved to have brought home, And I did buy one small thing, brought it home and put it on my crowded counter and said, oh, it wasn’t that I liked that item that much, it was I liked the way it was surrounded, and so beautiful and clean and designer type look. That’s what I was buying. I wasn’t really buying that small article.

Sis: Yes, but I also have to say, we can’t just say, well, we are targeted as consumers, because that absolves people of any personal responsibility.

Mom: No, absolutely.

Sis: And the bottom line is it is our responsibility to function well within our means.

Mom: Absolutely.

Sis: And that’s something we have to work on figuring out.

Paulette: It’s like we have to arm ourselves and yeah society is tougher than ever. We are also really bad at it as a family, because I was telling Jeri we just like to have fun. She’s like, you guys are fun. And it’s like we like to have fun. I was like, I am possessed by the fun beast. I am a funaholic and she’s like – because I don’t think I am a shopaholic but it’s like I have a really hard time with the yellow shit. Just being like, well, it’s my one chance to do this, so I got to do it.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: And I understand that.

Sis: I feel like so many of our happy childhood memories involve money, like dad getting the boat…

Paulette: The boat for sure.

Mom: New puppies cost money, everything.

Sis: I think that is part of the issue that you and I have as far as, oh there’s money, great, look at everything I have to have fun with. But we are not really looking at, hey, how much of this – what percentage of this should I save, what percentage of this needs to go into my retirement? This is for utility or barebones items, this is to fund discretionary, like maybe we just need to decide on a percentage. Any money we get, 20%, we can do whatever we want with, that’s kind of high, let’s maybe do 15 with that.

Paulette: Strippers and coke!

Sis: Didn’t I say, don’t shame our family?

Paulette: Oh, it’s late, too late. Now, there is one episode of intervention where I am like I am never trying coke, because this guy lived in a condo building, he’d been like an ad exec I think or some nice job, and then he lived on the roof of his old condo secretly, and all he had left was a bike. I was like, I cannot afford to a coke habit, I am never going to try coke.

Sis: Good for you.

Paulette: I know. I never tried it.

Mom: Thankfully. So I think, some of the things we need to do is start teaching children young to give them, even if it’s a dollar when they are three and it’s four quarters and they put two in their piggybank and then the other two they get to keep, a non-breakable piggybank or something like made out of ceramic, so it has to actually be broken in order to get back into.

Sis: Two they can spend.

Mom: Right, two they can spend. So you teach them that, and then when they are in first grade, second grade, you give them, you go to a bank and you start a little bank account where they have a savings account. And I think those are important steps to take. You guys did that.

Paulette: I still remember Pam, you had like a big glass bottle and you had taped the tub, so how are you going to get in there and then we are like digging in there.

Sis: I do not recall this.

Paulette: Oh my god. On my trip to Italy last year, I am like, I got my tweezers in this old money bottle that I was like, let’s never have nothing again fund. I took all the money out of it literally.

Sis: Again, travel is your coke. And I understand that, I am taking a trip, it was a big trip that we had planned that I cannot readily afford but the girls were like, we need to buy our tickets, I will just put yours on my credit card. Okay. Because we are planning this huge trip and it was my idea a year ago when I was making good money…

Mom: A lot of money.

Sis: And so I am doing it and I know better, but I also – it’s that thing, it’s a big birthday year for us, we do it every year, I started this tradition a few years ago, they are finally willing to go to an international location again. So, the bottom line is I want to do it, and I am going to do it.

Paulette: Oh my god, it’s true.

Sis: And we probably just need to do more work to be able to afford it. When we do things like that…

Paulette: Yeah. I know, because I also, in theory, I am like, I wouldn’t trade being an artist for all that fancy stuff, but then now I am just an artist and I am trying to have that fancy stuff too. And Amanda Clayman, the financial therapist said to me, she was like, well, maybe you are just someone who needs to make more money. And I was like, all right, but, I have had so many ups and downs in my life that I think it’s – I don’t know, I want to say, I will spend all the money I have, no matter how much it is. But when I did work at the tech company, I did pay off $20,000 in debt.

Sis: Which is awesome. You should be really proud of that. I mean, I know just even listening to Dave Ramsey’s show sometimes, you will hear people say that they have a combined household income of $280,000 a year, and they don’t know what to do with this money and they are going broke and they are struggling. I mean, I think besides poverty levels, if you are making a wide variety of levels of income, everybody struggles – if you are not educated on money, regardless of what money you have, you are going to struggle with what to do with it. We need a better plan and more education.

Mom: I think too that no matter how much money you have, when you get the bigger home and the nicer neighborhood, now you are around neighbors who are going to go to more expensive restaurants. And Paulette, you love living in Seattle, so that’s something that’s important to you, to live in a city. Therefore, everything is a little bit more expansive than suburban…

Paulette: Yeah, I remember in college going to New York City, and having a shot of tequila for $7, that seems so expensive. I was just like, oh my god. And now, the $12 cocktail is like not even a blink. So delicious!

Sis: But also, we have to choose our priorities and what’s important to us. I would love to live in Manhattan. That’s something that I would love to do, I would love to live in New York, but you also have to look at what you can afford. So, until my son graduates high school, I will live in the suburbs, but after that, we will see – I would love to live in the city, I am not suited for suburbia.

Paulette: I mean, New York – I feel like New York is where I draw the line, it would be so good as a writer to be there. But I am just like – seriously I am just like, I don’t want to work that hard just to live, because some people – my friend is in a band, and he like came home and we were like, oh, how’s New York. And he’s like, oh, you know, hand to mouth. I was just like, hand to mouth, why?

Sis: But have you looked at the cost of living for New York versus Seattle? They are not that far apart.

Paulette: Seattle is creeping for sure.

Sis: Seattle is pretty much there. I mean, they have what, like the third or fourth most expensive rental market in the country?

Paulette: I mean, I live in a shoebox with a small kitchen, so yeah.

Mom: With nice amenities.

Paulette: I like it. It’s got nice amenities, I have a Jeff Goldblum shower curtain.

Sis: Yeah, your apartment is fantastic, and you did get an amazing deal on it.

Paulette: I do love my apartment, I really – and it’s so funny how people are just like, I like your apartment. It surprises people, like they can’t figure out why they like it.

Sis: It’s not a hovel.

Paulette: It’s not a hovel. No, I really – I like it, it’s good. But it’s also – I think that I am struggling right now to have that next financial goal, because it is getting more and more like – well, I can’t buy a house. So like what’s next for adulthood?

Sis: I think your next financial goal is very clearly in front of you and that’s to rebuild your fuckoff fund.

Paulette: That’s true, but then what next?

Sis: Well, go one at a time.

Mom: And possibly just be able to build a travel budget.

Sis: That’s a good one – fuck off fund, travel budget, and you don’t have to buy a home. You can decide how you want to live or we move to New York and buy something, you know, whatever. There’s a lot of options.

Mom: Yeah. In the meantime, you travel and you do well…

Paulette: Not anymore.

Sis: First, we build the fuck off fund.

Mom: Yeah. But you are in Florida right now.

Paulette: That’s true, this is for family. I mean, that’s the other thing, it’s like, we say, like, well, I have to go home for Christmas, and you really don’t – there are some people who are too broke to travel for Christmas. That’s like a regular thing that we – we just wouldn’t say no to that, because I think just the way that dad died, so suddenly, and we were so young, we are just like, you never know when it’s your last chance to do something.

Sis: Yeah, and I missed the last family Christmas because I was in the Marine Corps, so that last family – the last time I saw him was at Tampa airport early December when I was flying out to another duty station.

Paulette: Yeah.

Sis: So, yeah, it is important, it’s definitely important for us to be together on holidays. And we do well with traveling as a family for the most part and going on trips together that everybody enjoys, things like that.

Mom: Right.

Paulette: And I think that it’s like if you asked us, like, what is your priority, do you think that getting Starbucks every few days or getting whatever you want on Amazon is worth missing Christmas? You would be like no, of course not.

Sis: That’s ridiculous, yeah.

Paulette: And you never say like I will take this instead of this, but you spend that money little by little all year and then when you need your flight home for Christmas, you don’t have that money, you didn’t budget it, you didn’t save it all year. So then you are like, I don’t know mom, if I can come home. And then mom says, well, what if I buy half your flight? You are like, well, okay. You just make it happen. So it’s like planning and I think a little bit of what it felt like to go through bankruptcy was that there were so many no’s for so long and it was like this rubber band stretching back and back with like the desire to just buy things, to just go to the mall, as I saw my friends doing, just fucking buy things. We’d go and then you would watch everyone do these things, you just wanted to do what you couldn’t do. And then when you finally get your hands on any money, it’s like, oh my god, you are like ravenous to spend it, to have that feeling of like just spending, just being – like to me, the freedom feels like in spending. When I am spending money, I feel free to do that. Even if I am trapping myself later…

Mom: You feel empowered I think.

Sis: No, I think free is the right word. We need to – for me personally, I need to work on that feeling, that freedom feeling that we have, we have to understand, is that really freedom, not if I am putting it on a credit card, and this is going to make me upset later.

Paulette: Well, humans have that present bias where we give more, we care more about the present moment than ourselves in the future. There was one study that said, we even – there’s like a different part of our brain with regards to our future selves and our present selves. It’s almost like we are thinking about a different person.

Sis: That makes sense.

Mom: We all know that obesity is a very bad thing. It lands you in the hospital with all kinds of complications, diabetes and all that, heart attack, and yet, we have a tremendous obesity problem in the United States. So that speaks to what you are just saying.

Paulette: I think it’s very similar, yeah.

Mom: This ice cream tastes delicious now, screw what happens later to my body.

Paulette: And there’s the level of personal responsibility for obesity versus going to the store and seeing all the food, it’s like, when you see pictures of food, the neurons in your brain, almost calculate that as food you are about to eat. So then it wants it. It’s crazy. Our brains are so fucked up, we are not – seriously humans have been hacked and we just have no idea what people know about how we work. We need to read our own manual and we just don’t. We are like, we think we are much more rational than we really are.

Sis: That’s makes a lot of sense. I mean, I remember reading a statistics that the average human has to make 200 food choices a day because that’s how many places you drive by. Even like, fast food, it’s over 200 a day – I thought it would be like, oh, I don’t know, 15-30 – over 200! I was shocked by that. So you are feeling inundated all the time, but it’s the same with spending. It’s right there.

Paulette: Every morning I walk by Oddfellows Cafe, which has delicious pastries, Pettirosso has delicious pastries and coffee and a buddy of mine owns it. And I just want to like pop in, this is very much dad. I remember you pop in, you get a coffee; you say hi – it’s really social too. I think we are such a social family. We like that social element and that often costs money.

Sis: And for me, it’s like I don’t want to feel restricted to be the front that can’t do certain things. I don’t want to always just bring water with me, and so I want to be able to have that social element and go off for a drink and be social. So, I need to create a balance with that.

Mom: I remember a time when I would go out to dinner with my friends and I would order soup, because it was the cheapest thing on the menu. And they would say, aren’t you going to eat anything? No, no, this is good. And they would say, do you want your soup before the meal or after? And I would say, no, that’s my meal. So I was spending $4.91 and they were spending 10…

Sis: 20, 30…

Mom: 50, whatever.

Paulette: And I guess looking at what everyone else is eating and then if someone is like, do you want this? I’m like: yes! Then I feel like a little…

Mom: Scavenger.

Paulette: Yeah, feel like a fucking scavenger, and I felt like a scavenger as a kid, and I don’t want it to be the shame thing, where it’s like I can’t afford that. I want it to be just very non-emotional, like, oh, I choose to be a writer and right now, this is where I am at, but there’s just all this shame wraps up in it.

Sis: I wonder if we focus more on the goals of it, and instead of inundate it every day so much with options, what if we created things around us that were more reward focused, like I see people do these debt free kind of, they make these poster boards or whatever – they do all kinds of ways, they put for every dollar they pay off, they put a paperclip in a jar in the kitchen, and they can see it every day.

Paulette: Oh and that’s like a graph.

Mom: Yeah.

Paulette: Nicole has paid off a ton of money over the last six months.

Sis: Good for her.

Paulette: And I said, I was like, oh did you make a graph? She’s like, no. I was like, oh you got to make a graph. She’s like I don’t know how. I am like, just go to Google Sheets and like it’s super easy. And we were both working on computers and all the time she’s like, oh that is extremely pleasing. I was like, I told you. Yeah, so that visual element definitely does help. But I want to learn to just live within my means. That’s it. Is it from watching Beverly Hills 90210? Did that ruin us?

Sis: Possibly.

Paulette: I was going to get a car when I was 16, in the driveway, of course, because that’s how life works. But I am very happy, I had such a great year, but I need to balance those things out.

Mom: I think you are on your way and I think you are well on your way. So, the reality checks are sometimes not fun, but you have the checks in place, you see what you need to do. I think you are going to have another good year.

Paulette: I need to go from a scavenger to a predator.

Sis: I like it. Apex predator, let’s go. Plan apex predator.

Paulette: What’s an apex?

Sis: My god!

Paulette: A cat?

Sis: You are the writer.

Paulette: I don’t know everything. I went to public school in Florida.

Sis: An apex predator would be like certain sharks. It’s the top of the predatory chain.

Paulette: All right. My goal for 2018 is to save about $10,000 in my fuck off fund. Thanks mom and sis.

What’s Your Financial Family Tree?

In our first talk, Amanda and I go through my family history with money. It wasn’t just that lost things. It was that it all felt so scary.

It wasn’t just downgrading cars, If was the fear of not knowing when the losing would stop. It was the chaos, knowing my parents were shielding me from something, but not knowing exactly what that something was. The monster in the fog is scarier than the monster out in the open.

Something was making my mom cry. Something was eating up our freedom to do things. Something was lurking, always, in the way she sent me away from the cash register. I know now it was called bankruptcy.

To do this assignment, I called my mom and my dad’s brother and one of his sisters.

A few Thanksgivings ago, my aunt told me a story about her grandmother. She had gotten on a train to the boat to America at 16, with her three other sisters. As they pulled away, she saw her mother running after the train.

“And that was the last time she saw her mother,” my aunt said.

I learned, by calling up and asking, what the opportunities of my life were built on. This mother’s pain. My great grandparents planting seeds and taking in boarders. My grandfather leaving for work, not letting the fact that he was vomiting sick get in the way.

Both sets of my grandparents lived through the Depression. Both my parents’ families struggled and sacrificed to give their kids better opportunities, so they could give their kids better opportunities. I am those kids. To squander those opportunities, because, oh, you know, lattes, is to spit on the work of generations.

I have always maintained that frugal is an ugly word. It sounds like something your old aunt’s foot cream is supposed to cure. But I know an even uglier word: wasteful. I feel wasteful of the opportunities I’ve been given. Wasteful of the gifts wrenched from the bodies of my… what… ancestors?

We don’t say that word much in American culture. Forefathers, sure, but that’s like Benjamin Franklin. We all have the same ones.

Unlike in other cultures, I don’t feel my ancestors can see me. I don’t talk to them. I don’t have traditions to honor them. In short, my life has never been set up in a way to take their perspective into account, to look at myself through their eyes.

I often think about the aliens in The Slaughterhouse Five, how they could see all time at once. Imagine, a faded, translucent grandmother, washing clothes by hand, passing through me, a faded, translucent girl, lying on the couch, saying, “Let’s just order in, it’s raining.”

To me, that is an ugly picture.

Written Conversations: “How Did I Let That Happen to Me?”

Paulette: I’m here with Jeri Jones, mother of my two best friends since I was 10 years old. She packed my lunch for me in high school. That tells you everything.

Jeri: I did.

Paulette: You made your own bread.

Jeri: I did. It was really good too.

Paulette: Oh my god, we would not even give anyone a bite of our sandwiches in high school. They were like, can we have a bite. We were like, no. I want every bite of this sandwich. It was the best.

Jeri: That makes me feel good you know.

Paulette: I know, I am so glad. So my mom, just paid you to make my lunches…

Jeri: To make – yeah because…

Paulette: How did that come about?

Jeri: I was making your lunch and I had very little resources. At the time I had quit my high paying job as a sales rep and I had two teenage daughters and no job and MS holding me back from doing jobs that would pay me more money. So, I had to learn to live on a budget. It was hard, it was really hard. My mom and dad helped and I thank god for them. But, mostly I did it on my own. I asked if I could use my dad’s VA loan to buy this house. By the way, your mother found this house and your dad did the closing.

Paulette: What?

Jeri: Yes, he did.

Paulette: Oh my gosh.

Jeri: Yes. I needed to leave my husband and I did not have the resources. They were always used up. I was living even with my husband at the time. We were living check to check, week to week and it’s not a fun or good feeling, it made – it made me sick to my stomach at times. It made me worry and have a lot of anxiety, because I was the one paying the bills, but I had no control over what went out of the account. And I think I would have done it differently had I known that. I would have had a separate account. I didn’t do that in my first marriage. It can go away easily.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: Yeah, and then you can’t pay bills and juggling whether or not, okay, last month, I caught up on the cable bill, this month I have to catch up on the electric bill, or which credit card do I not pay this month. It wasn’t fun. I wish and hope that my children or anyone I know does not live that way. And unfortunately, I know a lot of people who do live that way, paycheck to paycheck. We were having the most fun we could.

Paulette: I know. It’s so fun to have fun though.

Jeri: I know. And you need to have fun when you are young, you really do, because you don’t know what will happen.

Paulette: So how old were we when that stuff was going on?

Jeri: You guys were 11-12, the time we lived in the Carlyle house.

Paulette: Oh my gosh. And I remember it like I had left this family of financial chaos and found like an oasis of structure and calm. I drank so much of your SunnyD. You had the best groceries. The food was amazing.

Jeri: I was making $60,000 at that time a year. So we should not have been in that position. I should have been able to afford it, but like I said, I also got into spending to keep up with everyone in my circle too. Things became important. I don’t think originally I thought that way when I was young, but I came to because it was important to my husband.

Paulette: That will be like an interesting article, like what is keeping up with the Joneses? The evolutionary drive is so strong, I am obsessed with evolutionary psychology.

Jeri: Really! I haven’t gotten into it.

Paulette: Oh it’s so interesting.

Jeri: I bet it is.

Paulette: It’s really hard to prove it, and the science, it can have trouble in the scientific community because you can’t run an experiment and evolve humans again. But we just don’t talk enough about how the hardware – we can never update our hardware. The hardware we got is the hardware we got for right now. And like we are still acting like we are in tribes of 150.

Jeri: Those roots are deep.

Paulette: It’s crazy.

Jeri: And the other thing as a 63-year-old woman, who was a nurse and lived a little bit, was out in the world – I was a working woman in the medical sales field and it all comes down to the basic male need, to spread his seed.

Paulette: That is exactly what the science says. Like read the Moral Animal, yes.

Jeri: Okay, I was going to have to do.

Paulette: There is this book called the Moral Animal that like seriously I was not okay for like a month. I felt like a robot who had read her own manual. That’s what it feels like. Explain a little bit about like who I was to your family starting from when I was 10.

Jeri: You were a bit of sunshine. You were chatty and you and the girls were always busy. You entertained each other. I just like kids.

Paulette: That makes me feel so good because in my memory I am the kid who like owes you a $5,000 grocery bill. I just went over and I was like, my god, I cannot eat imitation crab at this point as an adult because I ate so much of that at your house as a kid. I cannot stand imitation crabs and like whenever you guys had it, it was like, oh my god, it was so good.

Jeri: That’s so funny. Oh no, the food never worried me. There was always money for food and I am Italian and that comes first, I guess, feed your kids, and you were one of my kids.

Paulette: And you know what’s funny is that you guys were from the Seattle area and you introduced me to so many things and cooking, like I ate artichoke with you guys.

Jeri: Oh that’s…

Paulette: I am like, oh my god, what is this. And then that’s probably – so then I – we were in Florida at that time, and then I ended up moving to Seattle and probably I loved Seattle so much because it has so much of the stuff you guys taught me to enjoy.

Jeri: That’s interesting. Wow.

Paulette: You made me a foodie.

Jeri: Very cool. I made you a foodie, okay.

Paulette: And like how everyone cleaned together, so remember one of the first things Lou said to me, so what were the rules in your house for me. Do you remember?

Jeri: I don’t.

Paulette: He said to me, it must have been literally like the first or second time I hung up with you guys. And he goes, you want to play with my girls, you can play with my girls. When we are playing, you are playing with us. When we are cleaning, you are cleaning. And I was just like, okay, like thems the rules. And I cleaned more – I cleaned more at your guys’ house than I ever cleaned at my house, cumulatively.

Jeri: Yeah. It’s so funny.

Paulette: We would just put on music.

Jeri: Loud music.

Paulette: Loud music and clean for like two hours.

Jeri: Yeah.

Paulette: And everyone would clean.

Jeri: Right.

Paulette: And it was like fun.

Jeri: Right. And then you are done.

Paulette: And then you are done.

Jeri: Yeah.

Paulette: I think you guys taught me about teamwork and like the joy of working together.

Jeri: That’s good to know.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: Thank you for letting me remember that.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: Bringing it to my attention. It’s so easy to forget.

Paulette: So I have one more question. I probably have a few more. We are going to talk till the hour is done. So when I come over to Jeri, I had to set a timer for an hour, because she has MS and I am not allowed to wear her out. So we just gab and gab until the timer goes off.

Jeri: We do. And there’s never a dull moment.

Paulette: No.

Jeri: Yeah. So, what’s your other question?

Paulette: So, my question with me and money is what the fuck is wrong with me.

Jeri: What do you mean?

Paulette: Like, what is wrong with me – so I totally spent my fuckoff fund. So last year I made $35,000 and I spent $56,000.

Jeri: You can’t keep doing that.

Paulette: I know. I need to switch those numbers.

Jeri: Yes, you do, you do. And I understand this is a time in your life when you have the energy and the desire to go do and see things. Now, I am going to tell you at 63, I don’t feel the same way, but I did when I was your age. Anywhere new was just exciting and fun and now I really like my house. I just…

Paulette: That’s great.

Jeri: Yeah, I mean, we sit and watch history channel and science channel and you know where they take you to different countries. Aerial America has been fantastic. And I feel like I am probably getting a better view of America than if you drive through it. You drive through it, you are getting the people and the emotions and the feel but looking over it, you are getting the beauty of each individual state.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: So there’s lots of stuff where we say, okay, where are we going tonight? We went to the south seas the other night – last night with pearl diving.

Paulette: That’s so cool.

Jeri: Yeah.

Paulette: I know. So I need to like say no to those things for a while. Someone recently said to me about my dad – oh no, his brother said about my dad, your dad was just always kind of like a, yeah, sure, like, let’s do it, kind of guy. And that is totally me. And I appreciate – the reason that I can like not hate myself for is appreciating the other side of it, which is like I have to fun, I am up for anything, I am spontaneous, and that’s great. But then the downside is that I have to say yes to everything and there’s so much to say yes to that you can just very easily do that until your money is gone.

Jeri: And many people do. It takes spending to keep up with people that you think you need to impress, but the bottom line is if you need to impress them, they are not your friends. I love the Johnsons for that reason. They genuinely have money. They’ve had trips – but they like to come hang out at my house. They sleep in my spare room and when we were friends in Seattle he used to love coming to my house because he could wear blue jeans. So, I don’t know.

Paulette: They intimidated the hell out of me, they were like the first best friends, they had the two sisters that were perfectly aligned, they were just a very – they are like everything you want your family to be.

Jeri: Yes.

Paulette: And I just, I remember actually that is the first time I remember writing to please someone else because when they would go on vacation with them, I had to write the funniest letters to be the cool friend back home.

Jeri: Oh, I bet that was a lot of pressure. You had to keep up with them, and they really had the perfect life now. There was a smart man.

Paulette: Yeah, and just like morally and spiritually kind soul.

Jeri: Yes, he is, definitely.

Paulette: And I think that there is a lot of hatred of rich people that is not…

Jeri: Warranted.

Paulette: Warranted. Greedy people. There’s a difference. And there’s one of the – I think a great opening line for a story is: rich people are the only kind of assholes everyone wants to be.

Jeri: Yeah. And just as that great.

Paulette: It’s like I love Dave Ramsey but he acts like government is terrible and business is amazing, like, there should never be any…

Jeri: Free enterprise, yeah.

Paulette: Yeah. But that’s too far at one side and then it’s like everyone personally wants to be a rich person but then it’s like, oh the rich, blah, blah, blah. I think there’s a level of richness that is really unhealthy for a human person that people cannot take. I think it makes you not need anyone.

Jeri: That’s a good thought. Anyone or anything.

Paulette: And then you can afford to be a total fucking asshole and there’s just something that breaks in a human being that makes you a total asshole usually.

Jeri: Right.

Paulette: Some people have the internal structure but like if you are not – if you let yourself get identified with it, that’s when it’s a problem.

Jeri: Then it’s an ego thing.

Paulette: Yeah, your ego just gets to run wild.

Jeri: Right.

Paulette: You need to have your ego smashed around a little bit every now and then.

Jeri: Yes, to remind us of who we are. I would say, in general, people aren’t as poor as they think, they just spend money impulsively and unwisely.

Paulette: I think we lose sight of where luxury starts. In America, it’s very easy to do that, and I think that’s one thing.

Jeri: It is.

Paulette: That was one of the things that Peace Corps was good for was…

Jeri: I was just going to say that. You really learned that.

Paulette: Yeah, and I didn’t even – I did not have it that hard physically in Peace Corps, I had a nice little house, I had a nice little shower, I had hot water, even though to get it hot you had to have the water pressure of three two-year-olds peeing on your head, because the more water you put out the colder it got. And the same temperature that it was outside, it was in my shower; so when it was 42 degrees in Paraguay, it would be 42 degrees in my shower. And there’s no shower curtain, it’s just an open bathroom and I would sit under that hot water, you had to wear rubber shoes because the water heater was in the showerhead. It was just little machine and would go – shhhhhh, you could hear it going. And then I would do it to the smallest amount because then it would be super freaking hot and I would try to shower and I would take too long and all the power in my house would go out.

Jeri: Oh no!

Paulette: And then I would be naked, wet in 42 degree blackness, and I would just start screaming for the next door neighbors to come flip my switch out in front of my house until they hopefully heard me. So after that, luxury tile doesn’t matter so much. You are like, oh my god, it’s warm in here, it’s warm in the shower and I can wash shampoo out of my hair without worrying that I will be pitched into darkness.

Jeri: Right. We have forgotten the basics, most Americans have, yeah, they have forgotten the basics. What you really need to live, I mean, people live like you’ve seen.

Paulette: Yeah, and that wasn’t even – to me, that felt like I was staying with what I would call the global middle class. If you averaged every single person. It was so interesting, when there was the earthquake in Haiti, the Paraguayans were donating money to Haiti. You don’t even think about those levels when you’ve never lived anywhere else.

Jeri: No, you don’t think about those. And I don’t know, are these things being taught in school.

Paulette: And the important thing to me was to love the people there. I loved my host moms so much, she is like…

Jeri: I know you did.

Paulette: I have three moms, I am so lucky. I have three women in my life who I am like, that’s my mom.

Jeri: That’s awesome. You are lucky.

Paulette: So whenever I would hear myself giving a pity party later, and it’s worn off a bit, I’ve forgotten, I would just be like, that’s so unfair to Conchena like for me to like, oh, poor me, I have to go to Ross Dress for Less instead of Nordstrom.

Jeri: Right. I know. Yeah, that would really make you think – yeah.

Paulette: And she’s doing better. The last time I went down there they had a car.

Jeri: Wow!

Paulette: But they were struggling real hard the first time I was there, because the father had just gotten sick and couldn’t work. And did I tell you about the Ross Dress for Less silverware?

Jeri: Uh-uh.

Paulette: So, in Paraguay, it’s like this big joke that they eat all this really hard meat but the silverware is so cheap, it’s like a plastic handle connected to a metal – like the part with the tines on it. And that would always bend so then everyone is always bending their fork back on the table, like it’s just like a movement, like you bend your fork back. So when I was about to leave Paraguay I came home and I came back and I brought Conchena, two sets of Ross Dress for Less silverware that were $12.99 each probably or even cheaper like $10.99. She was so excited and then she just loved them which was nice.

Jeri: What a wonderful thing.

Paulette: And then I went back like a month later and they are in the china cabinet, like in the box, unopened.

Jeri: No!

Paulette: And I am like, and not the china cabinet but they had like a thing there just with random stuff in there, things on display. They would do things like if you got a new stereo, you’d put the box on display in your living room.

Jeri: Really?

Paulette: Yeah. And any fun little trinket thing.

Jeri: Right, yeah.

Paulette: And I was like Conchena please just use those, like, they are nice. And she’s like, no, I can’t do it. I was just like, Conchena they weren’t that expensive, like, I want you to use them. No, she would not do it. It remains there to this day.

Jeri: But that was important to her.

Paulette: Yeah. And there was this other day, I was just cleaning out my house and throwing out trash and I heard my sister in the backyard, they didn’t have trash service, so you put all your trash in the backyard and you pile it up and then the chickens would scratch at it and spread it around and then you had to rake it up again, and then you burned it and it was terrible for the environment but I secretly loved it, because you know how I love fire so much. Remember, when we were little, we wouldn’t stop playing with fire?

Jeri: Fire!

Paulette: It was so fun, I just got to burn things all the time. I loved it. So I was piling things in my fire pit to burn and I hear my little host sister who was like 11, giggling back there with her friend. And like I am like, what are you girls doing. And they have all these things lined up on the outdoor sink there, they had a disposable McDonalds cup that I had gotten from the city in the capital. Somehow I had the cup in my house, and then a Victoria’s Secret bag that somehow I had like someone had sent me a gift or something, probably my mom got me like socks at Victoria’s Secret, and they had that up there. And my host sister just holds the disposable McDonalds cup, she’s like why would you throw this away? She just saw a cup and I looked at it and I saw a cup.

Jeri: Trash, yeah.

Paulette: Well, she changed the way I looked at it. Like it’s still a cup, we just say that’s a disposable cup.

Jeri: Yeah, and I have gotten that, I guess, Catholic guilt complex, I can’t throw things away, I have a really hard time doing it but I am also very practical, so I don’t want to keep anything I don’t need.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: But why wouldn’t you wash it out if you had it or keep it there so that if you had cookies or something to give to someone you can have, you know, give them a giveaway cup. We’ve lost – I think, in America, we’ve just lost our respect for things. It’s not – we only need what we need to function and everything else is a luxury. It’s like all of a sudden we need all kinds of stuff to function.

Paulette: Where do you think you got your ideas about money?

Jeri: Well, my mom and dad were always very frugal. My dad came from nothing and my mother’s family was not very wealthy either. They’d been through some hard times. I find myself now – I wash out baggies. I know. You could laugh at that. I used to laugh at that but why spend money on something that I can use again two or three times.

Paulette: So that changed.

Jeri: That changed, yeah. Now, we are in money saving mode because we are retirement age. We are not big money earners but because of MS for me, and because my husband has always been a good money manager, although he didn’t have a lot, yet, we live very well, but we don’t go out and do things. The disease worked for me in that way. It taught me, I don’t need things the newest, latest thing to be happy. I am alive. Some days I can walk. I get to enjoy laying around on my ass all day. That’s something. And I get a parking sticker that says I can park closest. There are some perks. What can I say? I have to focus on those. Life can be enjoyed without access I think. Took me a long time to learn that.

Paulette: We had a lot of access when we were…

Jeri: We did too.

Paulette: But both our families had this mix, I like boats, we lived on the water, our families were so similar in that way. And I did not know that until very recently, until 20 years later.

Jeri: Did my daughters know that?

Paulette: I have no idea.

Jeri: Oh you’ve never talked to them about it. I haven’t either. I am a very, very good enabler type person.

Paulette: I thought you guys had put 100% your shit together and I would not have eaten all of your very expensive imitation crab and individually bottled SunnyD if I had any idea. To me, that was like, you could just sneak in here and pretend to be one of your kids.

Jeri: But you were, you became one of the kids, it did you know that’s how I wanted it.

Paulette: It was a lot of unpaid child labor.

Jeri: That’s right.

Paulette: Oh god, it’s so funny.

Jeri: That is funny. I know. I had a very good way of being able to make things look like everything was okay.

Paulette: I think everyone does or I don’t know, like…

Jeri: A lot of people do.

Paulette: A lot of people do. The good on paper thing.

Jeri: Yeah. We looked good on paper. I went from living that life to being very poor, not being able to work. My job was paying for a driver so that I could continue to work because I would get somewhere and then I would not be able to get back. I started the jerking and I’d have symptoms. And so, they hired me a driver and I guess at that point realized that was an extra expense. For a while, what I did is train new people, so they would drive me. And they were putting themselves in a position to be sold and they needed to get rid of all the dead weight I guess. They were also paying for a very expensive drug that I was on. They were a self-insured company. And so I was I was kind of expensive, I was bringing in a million dollars a year for the company, but you add those things up and they needed me to go away. So, they gave me a job in Tampa that I had to drive to myself. And I was not capable of doing it.

Paulette: Do you think they did that knowing that you wouldn’t be able to do it?

Jeri: Yeah.

Paulette: Wow.

Jeri: There are downsides to big corporations. There are upsides. The money is good. The benefits are good. I think people do base a lot of their self worth on money, what they are capable of making. I think I did for a while. I don’t anymore but I learned to live differently. And part of that was because of the illness. When you can’t do things, and my husband doesn’t want to do things, we save a bunch of money that way. His favorite phrase is she can’t and I don’t want to.

Paulette: What should my phrase be? I am a writer. I just need to be like no emotion about it, that’s the thing, like I think from not being able to do so much after my family went bankrupt when I was 8, and all the no’s and all the can’ts and all the excuses, and like did not have – like I want to make more money and I am an entrepreneur as well as a writer…

Jeri: You really are.

Paulette: I am still a writer, like I just have to be like oh that is not within the realm of my – that is something I chose to give up when I chose to become a writer. And I can’t get there, like, out to dinner, yeah, sounds great.

Jeri: And I don’t know how to control that except put a limit on it. You would have to do it yourself.

Paulette: That’s the thing. You are holding the key to the jail cell.

Jeri: Right.

Paulette: You can just be like, no.

Jeri: Yeah. Hey, I’ve spent everything this week that I’ve allotted myself, I’ve already borrowed from next week, no.

Paulette: Never do those words come out of my mouth.

Jeri: And I am very practical and those words do come out of my mouth.

Paulette: So how do I day to day – I mean, you know me, I’ve tried everything. So wait…

Jeri: You really have.

Paulette: We need to back up, because we need to say, okay, five years ago – five years ago, I was what I hope will be the rock bottom of my financial life, for my entire life. I had like $100 in my bank account, my house was being short-sold in Florida, it was a nightmare time. I had gotten a part time job as a waitress. I was making $320 a week, and my pit bull attack money, I got a attacked by a pit bull when I was 23 and that money finally came through, it was $750 and that’s literally like how I made it through the summer. And I said to myself, the only way I made it was my pit bull attack money came through, and I was like…

Jeri: Oh man!

Paulette: I hate that that sentence describes my life. Like that’s the worst sentence to be like this is true about my life right now.

Jeri: Right. It’s just that you have to say no to other things, and it is hard. So it always comes down to self-discipline.

Paulette: I got none.

Jeri: You could work on it.

Paulette: So, what I did, remember, I was like, okay, this is enough, and I started a blog.

Jeri: Yes, you did.

Paulette: I put very a basic excel chart on a blog and I said, I am going to post how much money I have every month in each of these accounts.

Jeri: That was very brave.

Paulette: And no one else cared except Jeri. And so, partially because you are home and you are connected to experience internet.

Jeri: I am home, right, and I have to lay down a lot, I don’t walk that well. So, I wanted to follow Paulette, I followed her through the Peace Corps blogs, and this one just led right into that, and I did keep up with it. By the way, I did not know I was the only one. I never knew that until she told me years later.

Paulette: But then that was like, it was like a fake out pressure because when I would get those things, I would be like, I don’t want to disappoint Jeri. So I was like, I got to – I can’t be in the worst place, I remember the first few months, my chart, I got out of debt and then completely went almost back where I was over a five-month period. I was very upset. And that is but a blip in the history.

Jeri: I tried to cheer you on.

Paulette: You did cheer me on, it was great.

Jeri: I tried to cheer you on and give you honest feedback. There were lessons that I know you would have to learn yourself and I tried to share some of my experience with money, which by the way totally flipped for me. It just flipped for me. I think the first thing that happened was when I got married my husband said, do you have a credit card. Yes. How much do you owe? And he said, the first thing that has to happen is that needs to get paid off. And you do not put anything on the credit card unless you have the money to pay it at the end of the month. And that’s how we lived, that’s how I lived. And it was a good way to save money because if it was an impulse buy and maybe I couldn’t really afford it, I’d already spent what I was allowed to spend, I would think by the time the next week or month rolled around, I didn’t want it anymore. And so it saved me a lot of money on impulse buys because I was very much an impulse person. See something and think immediately how I could use it and how awesome it would be to have it.

Paulette: See something, buy something.

Jeri: Yes.

Paulette: Like see something, say something, but for people who can’t stop spending.

Jeri: Yeah. So I was like that. I was very impulsive.

Paulette: I don’t think I am like a shopaholic because I see those people and they had like tons of bags and hidden things. I am a funaholic.

Jeri: Funaholic, yes you are, yeah. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be a funaholic. I think you are.

Paulette: I know.

Jeri: Yeah. And you know what you are. Enjoy it. But be responsible.

Paulette: I know. How do we control the beast, the fun beast?

Jeri: The fun beast has to say no to itself sometimes.

Paulette: The fun beast doesn’t wanna.

Jeri: I know.

Paulette: Fun beast wants to have fun.

Jeri: And I don’t know how to help you with that. That’s something like quitting smoking or it’s one of those things you have to decide for yourself you are going to do.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: And you have to be strong willed about it. I know. It’s so much fun to have fun.

Paulette: It’s fun to have fun and to do it up, and you are like, we did it up. Just go all out.

Jeri: Go all out. Where does that come from?

Paulette: It’s so funny how my dad and Paula and Beth’s dad are so similar.

Jeri: Yeah, in that way.

Paulette: Those big personalities are like, one time my dad rented a limo to take us to the airport. And it’s just that kind of thing, I will never forget it. And he let me call Paula and Beth from like the first phone on a plane like when planes first had phones. He let me call Paula and Beth from the plane and god knows how much that cost.

Jeri: Right.

Paulette: I am 35 years old and I am like that was the best. That was the shit.

Jeri: He did make you kids happy. He was a good person and a fun guy to be around.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: Very genuine, but he liked to have fun, and he liked to do stuff.

Paulette: Yeah, we like to do stuff. And all of our friends are like that too, like people that Paula and Beth married, just like fun to do it guys. But it’s like, I equate spending money with fun.

Jeri: And it doesn’t have to require spending money. You can have fun going to a free park and hiking or whatever. There’s fun to be had. You have to search for it.

Paulette: All my friends are so broke though. My one friend, Ryan, he’s my yoga teacher and he’s a realtor as well. And we are in an accountability group together, where we help each other with our businesses. And we were doing something where I was telling him about feeling so guilty because I had gotten invited to Nigeria and I had to buy my visa, it was $300 and we were in a cafe talking about it. I was like, I don’t have $300. And he like slammed the table with his hands, he’s like, $300, Paulette to go to Africa? He’s like, this is why you need to make more money. We can’t live like this.

Jeri: That’s right.

Paulette: He’s like that is like nothing for this opportunity, just go. And the way that my dad died when I was 17, just in an accident…

Jeri: You were at a very vulnerable age.

Paulette: It just formed my world view.

Jeri: Yeah. I see that. I see where it would affect you that way. Plus your family is a lot of fun.

Paulette: I know.

Jeri: You know?

Paulette: Yeah. But I have to – so I am bringing in professionals; every month, I will have a different financial expert or some other psychology kind of expert to come in and to help me on a different topic. So the first one is a financial therapist, Amanda Clayman, she’s so nice and so great.

Jeri: That’s cool.

Paulette: And then my friend Erin who wrote this book called Broke Millennial who is like this boss ass bitch in New York. I have a few different, other people or 12 over the year and then I am going to basically write the money memoir that I was going to write but that book didn’t sell along with this like very prescriptive book about what they tell me about being a funaholic and spending all your money when you should save and take care of yourself.

Jeri: Yeah, if you could just do a little of both, I mean, or do…

Paulette: Balance.

Jeri: Yeah, there has to be a balance. I think you have to have a Fuck Off Fund.

Paulette: Yeah, I know and I don’t know…

Jeri: Everyone should.

Paulette: How did I let myself lose mine after I became the fucking Fuck Off Fund girl?

Jeri: I know. When I needed to leave, I had to ask my mom and dad for help.

Paulette: And how old were you?

Jeri: 38.

Paulette: Yeah. It’s interesting because people who are married, it feels like an insult to be like I am keeping this $10,000 as my Fuck Off Fund and you might be the person I need to tell to fuck off.

Jeri: But don’t call it a Fuck Off Fund. Call it a – hey, you might need a new refrigerator or a washer and dryer.

Paulette: But then the other person would – when you need a new refrigerator, would be like, you need a new refrigerator.

Jeri: Oh yeah, you would have to have your own – I do recommend that.

Paulette: Would you hide it?

Jeri: Yeah. No. I would not hide it, but I wouldn’t have their name on it, and allow them to do the very same thing.

Paulette: Because Dave Ramsey is all about when you get married you combine your finances.

Jeri: Yeah, I know, I was all about that too when I got married the first time. You have to be real careful with that, because – no, no, if you ever find yourself in this situation where someone has – your partner, your husband has taken all the money out of your bank account, that takes your power to do anything away. So, I do recommend having some money that’s just yours. I never believed that before. I thought everything should be combined. We are a married person, but not everybody is capable of following through.

Paulette: Yeah.

Jeri: How did I let that happen to me? I am a smart woman.

Paulette: I hear so many women say that. I’ve heard at least five of my closest friends say something along those exact same lines, totally – how did I let it happen to me?

Jeri: I know. But I should have known better. I was very naive, I was a Catholic schoolgirl and I was gullible, very gullible. And I wanted to believe so bad that I believed what I was being told even though the evidence did not go there.

Paulette: And how many – I just don’t want to say like how many good men have we had in our lives, so many.

Jeri: Yeah.

Paulette: I have known many wonderful men.

Jeri: I have too.

Paulette: It’s not about like every guy is an asshole, it’s not about that, but some are.

Jeri: But some are. Some don’t develop it until they are 40 or 50 years old.

Paulette: And some women too.

Jeri: And some women too.

Paulette: I mean, it’s not – men need a Fuck Off Fund too.

Jeri: Yeah. Men do too, I think everyone…

Paulette: But men are more likely to have one.

Jeri: Right.

Paulette: Well, our timer went off.

Jeri: I know.

Paulette: I have to go.

Jeri: I know.

Paulette: Love you!