As an adult I have become someone who always looks ahead. It’s very rare I ever make a decision thinking about the here and now. This is especially true when it comes to decisions involving money. Even something as cheap as buying an MP3 download for a dollar is something I find myself mulling over. Often for a day or two. I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily, it’s just that, as a child, you never imagine yourself ending up like this.
Curtailing the urge to spend money was not a skill I easily acquired. My parents, to their own fiscal detriment, buried me under a pile of video games. I’m not complaining, I did and still do enjoy video games to this day, but when you get used to being able to have anything you want at any moment it makes restraint a rather difficult concept to grasp. I think a lot of young people grew up the way I did. They had parents who gave them whatever they wanted, and so they never had to learn fiscal responsibility. I mean until I was an adult, my greatest fiscal accomplishment was saving up my allowance to buy Street Fighter II on the Super Nintendo– which ended up costing more than I thought it would and my folks had to cover that for me.
My parents had some money problems over the years, but they did a good job of keeping that from me, not wanting me to know what was going on. I had a difficult enough time in school as it was and I think they did not want me fretting over anything more than I already did. It’s fair to say I was a borderline basket case. My folks, as much as they cared for me, probably did me a disservice there, but who’s to say how the old me would have handled it? Probably not particularly well knowing how I was at that age. I still think it’s a conversation that should have happened though.
So what was it that ultimately taught me the importance of finance management? Was it the public school system? No. It was barely ever mentioned in the entirety of my K-12 experience. As a rough guesstimate, I’d say less than 5 hours of school time was devoted to this topic. I find it humorous, in a rather twisted way, that an institution that is centered around careful budgeting could not find time to impart wisdom on the subject to the young minds it’s supposed to serve. No, what ultimately taught me about the importance of budgeting was ESPN, or more specifically, sports news in general.
Sports in the modern-day is as much about money as it is the actual competition on the field. If you follow sports as closely as I do then you already know what I’m talking about. Players make millions, but other money topics are always making headlines, stuff like, merchandising, collective bargaining, salary caps, gambling, and I’m sure there are at least a few others that I’m forgetting. The point is finances are a constant topic of discussion when it comes to sports. So while I was never a jock, sports got me interested in the idea of financial management. The large amounts of money being commanded by the leagues and players was fascinating to me, but what I especially took note of was the seemingly endless struggle of players who were making millions of dollars to stay out of bankruptcy following their playing careers.
A quick google search will link you to thousands of tales of woe. More than anything these cautionary tales are what taught me the importance of fiscal restraint. If someone with millions, or even hundreds of millions can end up penniless and living on the street, what’s to stop someone like me, with far more limited resources, from ending up the same way? These guys never learned the value of a dollar until it was too late, but through their struggles they did teach me, and for that I’m forever grateful.