What Motivates You To Care About Your Personal Finances?

by Reader Contributors

What Motivates You To Care About Your Personal Finances photo

If you need some motivation to take control of your finances and better your financial situation, learn from these people who have found their financial motivation.

What is it about you that makes you aware and willing to take control of your finances when so many others won’t take the time or effort?

We asked our readers what motivated them to take steps toward financial freedom, and their answers will hopefully help us to help you find your financial motivation.

Caring Comes Innately

Even as a small child, I always knew how much money I had. If I had to save up, I did. It is automatic for me to be this way. My sister, my husband, and one of my sons do not have this automatic ability. They actually do not know or remember how much they have at any one time. I, too, find it hard to understand, but that is the simple truth.

There Are So Many Positives

Caring about my finances makes me feel secure, safe, empowered, smart and free. I also try to educate and to let people know that they work too hard for their money not to have anything to show for it or to fall back on.

Want the Best Value Out of Life

I care about managing my money because I want to be a good steward of what God has put in my care. Also, I want to be as generous to others as I can, and I want to eat and live as healthily as possible, getting the best value from my budget.

It Takes Discipline

I am very fortunate to have a job that pays into a state retirement fund for all employees. I have personal savings as well. I think some people believe they just don’t have any money to save at all. If I didn’t discipline myself first, I would be lost in the sea of poverty, too. The “live for now” attitude is keeping people from facing reality.

The Power of Compounding

I have several reasons to care, including parental influence and lack of money early in my work life. Also, I learned about the power of compound interest. It is worth saving and investing!

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It Is Time to Start

I care because I don’t want to wander around aimlessly, spending money I don’t have. If I do not have enough money to get through the week, I’m not going to have enough later in life. The time to start is now. Hopefully, there will be enough to invest or save. If not, you need to look into what you can do about your circumstances to make your future brighter.

Don’t Want Choices Taken Away

My reasoning for taking care of my financial life is pretty simple. I don’t want my choices taken away. My independence is something I prize above most other things. If I lose that due to circumstances beyond my control, so be it. But, to voluntarily give up my ability to live life the way I choose to, no way!

When at the Bottom, I Looked Up!

When I was younger, I had to drop out of my dream college because I had no money to pay the tuition. It totally depressed me to have to drop out. I then proceeded to work three jobs to attend a community college and state school. Before finishing college, I became pregnant and had to rummage through garbage cans to get money to buy diapers. I promised myself, with God as my witness, that I would never go hungry again. After a lifetime of working extremely hard, living frugally and knowing what was important to me, I can honestly say I am happy to be able to stand on my own two feet and have a good life. As my friend and I have said, “We have arrived.”

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Surrounded by Trustworthy Financial Counselors

I am fortunate to have financial counselors to advise me who are willing to teach me about my investments.

I think many people are reluctant to try to learn more about their finances because they were never taught how to manage money and investments and they don’t know how to find someone to teach them who they feel they can trust. There are a lot of unscrupulous “counselors” who prey on people’s ignorance to feather their own nests.

Living as Proud Tightwads

I am a tightwad and married one. We raised five kids by frugal methods, such as shopping for next winter’s coats in January when the sales started, buying groceries in bulk when on sale, picking up part-time jobs where we could, and training our children to do likewise. They have thrown newspapers and cleaned highway rest areas, among other strange jobs.

All five turned into decent adults who contribute to society in various ways. My husband is gone now, and I sit in a paid-for home with a decent monthly income. We are blessed, and that is how we did it.

Harsh Reality Hit Me

My wakeup call came at 28 years of age. I lost my husband and didn’t have money for a funeral. Seventeen years later, I retired at 45.

I Want Options!

My motivation to keep aware of my finances is daily awareness and honesty with myself. Certain people learn this young. I follow steps each day to keep organized because I don’t want to work at a job for 45+ years of my life.

What My Parents Taught Me

I care about my finances because my parents taught me the importance of saving for the future and not counting on other people to take care of me. They also taught me to work hard and to refrain from spending all of my money, even though I make a good salary.

The Fear of Being Homeless

I work in a commission-based job where my income is never assured. Therefore, I have always saved for the rainy day. Fear of being homeless has always weighed heavily on my mind, so I always put money away when I can. The only debt I have is my mortgage.

I Got Mad!

I care because I got caught when I was younger in a position where I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. Interest rates on my cards were high, so I was trying to get a consolidation loan so that I could be in a better position. The bank told me that they wouldn’t give me one as I owed too much. I explained that I was making the payments currently (barely) and the consolidation loan would help me, and they didn’t care! I decided then and there that the only person that cares about my finances is me, and I worked my butt off to get out of credit card debt completely. I also keep track daily of what I am spending, so I don’t go over. I haven’t paid interest on anything except for a car loan (at 1.9%) or my mortgage in over eight years. I guess the bottom line is I got mad at the “system” and decided to make it work for me.

Learned the Language of Investing

My parents introduced my sisters and me to investing when we were young. I learned about the language of investing and how much it can grow compared to regular savings accounts. I’ve worked for companies with employer-matched 401k plans. To me, this was a no-brainer (free money). I started investing at the age of 25, which was when I was first made this offer of matching dollar for dollar. I don’t think of my investments as a savings account that I can access in a pinch. Instead, I just let it roll over and watch it grow with my quarterly reports. It also gives me a sense of security. My advice is to invest in any opportunity where money can grow more than in a typical savings account or CD. If it’s taken directly out of your check, you won’t even miss it. Contribute as much as you can and still pay your bills.
Terri H. in NC

Why I Continue to Fight

My response isn’t so much as “why I care” but more of what I’ve had to fight through and continue to fight in order to understand the terminology of the financial industry. The financial statements I receive are usually several pages long and written so only a financial expert can understand them. I can usually muddle my way through the document to some rudimentary understanding but a summary page in common English would go a long way for me to make better financial decisions. I do care enough to muddle through because I’ve been brought up to care about my future.

Sense of Obligation and Accountability at the Heart of It

You asked about what causes me to want to take control of our finances. Part of it is consequences. I didn’t grow up with a net. When I finished high school, I was told to get a job and contribute to the household. My mom sent me to live with an elderly family friend so I could “grow up” away from home. After a couple of years of working and saving, I was able to attend college through savings, a $2,000 gift from my grandparents, scholarships, grants, odd jobs, and the required 20 hours of work-study. I didn’t take out loans.

When I graduated and couldn’t find work for some months in my field, I called home to see if my folks could help. Mom said flat out, “No.” I was unaware of food stamps or other government programs, so I muddled along until getting paid work. It was a scary time. That set the tone.

After marrying, we’ve been through hard times as well. We are currently going through another rough spot. We’ve been very careful with our finances, have some savings, and work at what is available to us, as my husband looks for full-time employment. Our church family has been awesome, for which we’re grateful. It’s been good to see how it works from this side as well. There have been some easier times when we could help others (which is more fun, actually). Because of our peculiar situation now, most government programs don’t apply, so those are not a “safety net” for us. As Christians, there is a sense of obligation to give a final account of how we use what we’ve been given, so we try to be faithful.

From what I’ve observed, there seems to be a sense of obligation to work hard and not do harm to others, and final accountability is at the heart of it.

Learned From My Past

I don’t understand the deliberate ignorance/avoidance of finances either, but my husband is the same way. I’m thinking it is part of their personality makeup because he’s also a procrastinator who lives very much in the present and can only focus on one major problem at a time. These traits are what make him successful in his professional life. Hopefully, my traits will help make us successful in our finances.

Why do I care about my finances? I grew up poor and had to support myself and pay for room and board from the time I was 14. I realized very young that if I didn’t, I would do without,  with no options, no welfare, and no outside help. I knew from a very young age to remember yesterday, get through today, and save/plan for tomorrow. I’m 62 now and that has never left me.

I think most people who don’t take their finances (or anything else) seriously have not had to before. There’s not been a heavy enough consequence before. The sad thing for them is most won’t have to until it’s too late to change much. The sad thing for those of us who do take our finances seriously and plan for tomorrow is we will pay a price for their slack. That I find very aggravating.

All Goes Back to One’s Childhood

I care about my finances and my retirement, probably because it was instilled in me early on in my childhood. I know it was my parents’ childhoods that made them frugal and non-wasteful.

My parents grew up during World War II when they were genuinely poor. My dad was fighting in the army, and my mom had nine siblings. They grew up in China and Taiwan, respectively. When we came to the US in the late 60s, only my dad worked. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. I believe my dad made about $23K back in the 70s, and my mom was always clipping coupons and shopping sales. They were not rich by any means.

They taught us to save and refrain from wasting money. To this day, they still live like they are poor, even though they have quite a bit in savings. My mom has taken couponing to an expert level, and they have not bought new clothes in decades. They take very good care of the items they have, and therefore, nothing ever needs replacing. They have both long retired, but my brother and I have both grown up knowing that it is important to save money. We have not been as frugal as they have been since we grew up in the United States, and we both have very good jobs, but we have never had debt. Because we have money, we might be a little wasteful, but we always have money saved, pay off our credit cards every month, and always buy our cars with cash.

I am married now with a husband and one son, and it is hard trying to teach my son about saving money and not wasting it by buying dumb/useless things. It’s hard because of peer pressure. Every kid has a cell phone and/or tablet. Kids throw their phones on the ground as a game knowing their parents will just buy them new ones. I was so horrified hearing about that game!

My husband never grew up poor, so he is less frugal and often quite wasteful regarding food/groceries. It is hard to change what you’ve grown up with. I think people do not want to make the effort because that would mean sacrifice. Also, it is hard to sacrifice if you have grown up without doing that. Parents who give their kids everything end up with kids who become adults who want everything, and we all know that spending and buying new things only make people happy in the short term.

Sorry for the long anecdote, but I think it all goes back to one’s childhood and how one is raised to value or view money, finances, debt, and savings.

How I View Money

I personally was born into poverty 60 years ago in a small town in Sicily, so money, of course, has been very important to me. I now believe that money exists to fulfill basic needs and fund some wants. People err when they go from one extreme to another, by allowing money to either corrupt or believing that money will spare from all the harsh realities of life (that sort of happens when you are desperate for money).

One of the thoughts that came to mind was an extract from the poem titled If by Rudyard Kipling, which is as follows.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss

You have to wonder why some people recover from a huge financial loss while others do not. Why do some people declare bankruptcy at the drop of a hat, while others are haunted forever by their decision? I believe it has a lot to do which what is called your “Emotional Quotient (EQ)” (that was on a website and was not coined by me), which determines how emotionally strong and resilient you are.

It’s Time to Step It Up a Notch

Well, I’m not sure how helpful it will be in motivating others, but I think I started caring four years ago when I began volunteering at the local Senior Center with an elder’s guardianship program. I highly recommend volunteering in this way because you get a first-hand look at the shocking results of a lifetime of financial inattention to the future.

People think there are a ton of safety-net programs that will cover their failure to plan. I think this is one of the roots of the problem, because we’re all raised seeing so many taking advantage of these programs all around us. While there are many such programs, they are almost always already over capacity.

You’ve said it time and again in your columns, but absolutely Social Security will not cover your needs after retirement. If you think people are “making bank” on food stamps and similar programs, you would be very wrong about that, too.

Sure, like all social programs, some people abuse the privilege, but the minimum amount they can give you in food stamps where I live is something like $35/month. That is not going to cover all that much; they’re meant as a supplement, not your sole source of food funding. Yet so many people use them that way, even now when they’re young and healthy enough to do something about earning more. You won’t have that luxury in retirement.

Think of it this way. If you are around 40 now, you have 25 years until retirement. Look at what prices were 25 years ago. The same thing is true with Social Security. Twenty-five years ago, someone expecting $750-$1,000/month in retirement income from SSA would have probably said it was enough. It was at earlier prices.

In my area, facilities begin at the $5,000/month range for the ones you’d actually want to live in.

Just planning on letting Medicaid take care of you? While I am glad we have that program, you may want to consider whether that will be particularly viable, many years hence. How long can “free money” support a burgeoning elderly population? And many of the current seniors had pensions. Those are all but a thing of the past for most of today’s workers.

If you don’t look out for yourself, you are going to be unpleasantly surprised. Some things you can do, in no particular order:

    1. Do without the extra coffees and dinners out wherever you can. Wear what you wore last year at this time, if at all possible.
    2. That said, if you can lose weight, do it. Getting to a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for yourself, long-term, to avoid higher costs for medical care down the road.
    3. Use that paid-off car as long as you can.
    4. Get that house paid off in record time.
    5. Sock away as much as you can in a savings fund and 401k fund (even if not matching).
    6. When you’re 60, get long-term care insurance. Find a couples policy if you can (it pays for whichever of you needs LTC first and is cheaper than both of you being insured). It’s a good option, because odds are excellent that one of you will need it.
    7. Statistics say that, in general, men will die first, and women will need to go into a healthcare facility eventually, possibly with guardianship/conservatorship, if they haven’t got family to step in and haven’t planned ahead. Plan your future with that in mind, because this is a huge expense.
    8. How can you avoid that expense? Get your estate in order. Name a Healthcare Representative. Fill out your Advance Directive. Execute a will that will be viable decades hence, in case you never prepare another one again. Possibly even contract with an organization to serve as Power Of Attorney for you in the event that you need one down the road. These things will help you avoid the huge expense of having a court legally appoint someone to make decisions for you when you no longer can. (See End-of-Life Planning Everyone Needs to Do.)

You are racing the clock, no matter what your age. If you want to take care of the deserving elderly person you are going to be some day and enjoy your golden years without financial stress or disaster, you absolutely need to step it up a notch now.

It’s Our Responsibility to Care

My husband and I both care about managing our money because our parents taught us that it is our responsibility to earn a living and to care for ourselves. We were both taught that no one else would do it for us. It is a personal responsibility and a personal decision. How you live when you are young may affect how you live when you are old. We were both also taught that you don’t always get everything you want. There is a lot you can live without and still be happy. We have tried to understand what truly makes us happy and to give that high priority. We know that life throws many curve balls and sometimes things don’t go as planned. However, when you get thrown those curve balls, you adjust your swing. You don’t give up. We’ve made many adjustments, but we’ve never given up on saving money to help our family be as secure as possible in this ever changing world.

I remember when we were first married and we set up our IRA accounts. It seemed like saving for retirement was so many years away. Those years have flown by. We are so thankful that we have been able to save the money that we have so far. Whenever we receive a “chunk” of money (tax refund, an extra good earning year, etc.), we force ourselves to put that money to work for us. Sometimes we give ourselves 10% of the chunk to enjoy as we wish and save the other 90%. Mostly we just put it all away. Yes, sometimes we would have liked to spend that money on something fun or exciting instead of saving. But, we’ve also found it exciting to see that we’ve been able to save some money and to see it grow. We have raised four children on one income. We have a joyful and fairly stress-free life as we have somehow always managed to live well and live within our means. We’ve never had the fanciest house, vehicles, or clothes. We have always had a fine house, vehicles for transportation, and nice clothes to wear.

We are thankful for the values we were taught. We feel like we have found a happy middle ground that has allowed us to enjoy the good in life and to enjoy being money savers and dollar stretchers.

Reviewed December 2023

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