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“How old will you be when your youngest child turns 18 years old? “
I saw this question meme floating on Facebook several months ago and it has never left my mind because of a couple of reasons. 1. It reminded me that my husband and I are not getting any younger and 2. I felt that we may not have enough time left to build a stable financial foundation for the kids before we leave this earth for good.
Although my husband and I are doing our best in helping our kids develop healthy financial habits as early as now, I know that many moms can relate with me if I say that no matter how hard we try, we are still left anxious about the future of our children.
According to World Health Organization, the life expectancy of females in the Philippines is 72 years old and as a mom who is nearing her 40’s, I can definitely feel the urgency and the need to secure my family’s future ASAP.
Who knew that a Facebook meme could evoke so many fears from a mother’s heart! Had we known in the past, we could have avoided the many mistakes that my husband and I made when we were younger.
Youth is wasted on the young. – George Bernard Shaw
When my husband and I were younger, we were full of energy and hope. We were so sure that one day, we would live the dream life. Unfortunately, like many young couples, we failed to grab the opportunities to secure such life that came our way. We turned our backs on opportunity after opportunity thinking that we will have enough time in the future. Well, the future is here and we have two kids who rely on us and it is only now that we are realizing that we traded financial stability for fruitless pursuits. Mistakes that could have been avoided had we known what we know now.
So today, I am listing down what I think were our 3 biggest financial mistakes hoping that somewhere out there, young couples like we once were, will stumble upon this and hopefully, help them avoid making the same mistakes.
No Life Map
This I believe, was our biggest mistake. We had dreams, big dreams but what we didn’t think about was how exactly we were going to achieve those dreams. Had we welcomed the opportunities to talk to financial advisors in the past, I think we would be living a very different life than what we are living now.
With very little knowledge on how money works in the real world, we thought that a job in the corporate world alone will propel us into achieving financial freedom. 10 years later, here we are, still living from paycheck to paycheck, with a sad realization that pushing ourselves to win in the rat race will never free us from the bondage that is living paycheck to paycheck.
It’s a vicious cycle that can be very hard to break without a solid plan.
Several years ago, we were presented with a sound opportunity to purchase a low-cost, rent-to-own house through Pag-ibig. Although we had planned on settling here in Cebu, a long but financially uninformed discussion with my husband led us to say no to the opportunity because we thought that it would cramp our lifestyle and we hoped that we would find something more affordable in the next few years once our salaries have increased.
Well, guess what? Yes, our salaries have increased but so did everything else including the real estate value and in many times over compared to the increase that we got on our salaries over the years. We are definitely feeling the financial consequence of that uninformed decision we made years ago today.
Although we have found a realtor who’s willing to work with our finances and was able to find us a property that’s within our long-term budget, we still have to make a huge sacrifice in our daily living because aside from the equity that we are paying on a monthly basis, we still have the house rent to think about because the property that we got is still in pre-selling phase. Had we spent the time to explore our options back then instead of prioritizing our lifestyle, we could have avoided spending more money like what we are doing now.
Unsecured Debts for Lifestyle Reasons
According to financial experts, not all debts are bad debts. A general rule which I wish I knew in the past is that if a debt does nothing to increase your net worth or has no future value, then forget acquiring it. Our mistake in the past was that we took out loans so we could finance family trips, a new appliance or simply because it was available to acquire.
The problem with debts like these is that they do not have any return. As a matter of fact, appliances bought in the past have very little or no value today. So not only are you spending borrowed money, you are also spending on something that depreciates and will be of no help should you need cash in the future.
All these mistakes have hurt my family in so many ways. From having no emergency money when we needed it the most, to constricting our ability to further our dreams.
We were left with two choices.
We could either just blame it all on youth and ignorance and just accept life as it is or we could take them as lessons and to move forward, taking with us all the knowledge gained.
My husband and I chose to do the latter.
What We Are Doing Now
We are slowly working on the first thing on our life map; becoming debt free. We have realized that before we can really work on building those dreams, we need to be free from the baggage that is weighing us down.
We are also on our way to having that dream house. It’s not big, but it will be ours soon. Although a loan is helping us secure this dream, we know that it is an investment, especially that real estate price rises almost every quarterly.
Taking calculated risks is also part of our plan this year. We now understand that the only way we can increase our net worth is to stop relying on our salaries and start making sound investments. With around 0.10 to 1.25 percent interest rates on peso-savings accounts, we know that keeping money in the bank will not be enough. What we plan to do is that as soon as we have enough savings, we will use the money on making an investment.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
We may have made mistakes in the past but it doesn’t mean we have given up. On the contrary, we take them as a challenge for us to do better. With fervor and determination this time, simply because we have two small people who motivate us to do better.
Disclaimer: This is an official entry to the SINAG Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Award.