One of my goals for The Dough Roller is to get people to think about money and life in unique ways. This post is no exception. When you think of personal money management, what comes to mind? It may be saving in your 401(k), budgeting, home buying or the like. The fact is, though, that almost every decision we make has some impact on our finances. And some of the most important financial decisions we’ll make do not, at first, appear to have financial implications.
And that brings me to my best and worst financial decisions. My best financial decision was marrying a wonderful woman (we’ll call her Mrs. Dough) who has managed to stick with me for 19 (update: now 25+ years) years and counting. My worst financial decision was reliving my childhood (I’ll explain). Now, before you give up on me and this post, please hear me out.
My Best Financial Decision: Marrying A Wonderful Woman
Mrs. Dough and I were dead broke when we got married. Neither of us had finished school, and we moved to Boston for me to attend graduate school. We lived on the fifth floor of a five story brownstone. The building had no elevator, no air conditioner, no washer and dryer, and was infested with cockroaches and the occasional rat. It was all we could afford. We lived on school loans and Mrs. Dough’s modest salary as a social worker.
To top it off, I spent money like we had some. While Mrs. Dough was watching ever penny and trying to balance the check book, I was hitting the ATM like it was a slot machine. Mrs. Dough often recounts the story of getting into our car, opening the glove box and watching a couple dozen unpaid parking tickets fall out. I was the financial problem, yet she never gave up on me or us. Never.
The smartest thing she did was turn our finances over to me when I graduated. We moved to the Washington, D.C. area where I got a job. She started graduate school and put me in charge of the money. Now I was watching our pennies and balancing the check book. Money took on a whole new perspective, and I got better with money real fast. Of course, I had it a lot easier than she did. With me working and Mrs. Dough in school, she remained as frugal as ever. I’m not sure what I would have done if she’d started spending money like I did when I was in school.
Throughout our marriage, she has remained frugal, hard-working, and supportive. She even suffers through my blogging with grace. But the point is this. If I had married someone who had the same attitude about money that I did in my 20′s, my financial situation today would be a lot different (for the worse). Did I marry my wife because of money or with finances in mind? Of course not. But did the decision have a major, positive impact on our finances? Absolutely. Fifteen years ago when I finished graduate school, our net worth was (-$55,000). Today it’s in shouting distance of 7 figures, and Mrs. Dough is a major reason why.
My Worst Financial Decision: Reliving My Childhood
My father died in a car accident when I was a young child. Although I don’t have a lot of memories of him, I do recall he and I playing golf together. He’d take me to the driving range or to his country club to play golf. I recall driving the cart around the course, which was the only part of the game I took any interest in. But when he died, so did golf as far as I was concerned. Fast forward about 20 years later, and I began playing golf again.
Back in 2001, I decided to join a country club just like my father. I’ve never been into the game of golf like he was, but I think joining a country club brought back fond memories of my father. The problem is, the initiation fee to join the club was (and it pains me to type this number) $60,000. In addition to the initiation fee, the monthly dues were over $500. I quickly learned that joining a country club wouldn’t bring my father back or make me feel any closer to him. So, two years later in 2003 I resigned from the club.
Did I lose my initiation fee? Yes and no. The rules of the club provide that one-half of the initiate fee will be returned to the member upon resignation. The refund, however, would occur only after somebody else joined the club to take your place. When I resigned in 2003, I was about 38 on a waiting list of others who had resigned and were waiting for their refund. I received the check last week! So that was by far my worst financial decision.