This may seem to be a strange way to start off a financial blog by talking about choices. Actually, it was the realization of the choices I have available to me that got me on the path to financial enlightenment. My wife and I were struggling with a very serious debt load and were wondering how we were going to be able to pay our bills for the month. It was then that I picked up the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad and started reading.
It opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at my finances. I started to take serious looks at statements I had just taken for fact, like "your home is your greatest asset". I'll get into the specific things I re-evaluated and the conclusions that I came to in future articles. The point here is that I learned to do my homework, look around at my current situation and evaluate if I was making the right decisions or not.
Really finances are all about choices. Do I spend my $20 on a new Barenaked Ladies CD, go out for dinner, or buy the new Star Trek movie. Do I pay down my mortgage faster or contribute more to RRSPs. The choices are endless.
I think we all feel "trapped" at some point in our lives. Like the choices have been made for us and we're not happy with where we're at. I know it was that way for me at least.
I was at a point where I hated my job and my financial condition. Yet, I felt like I had no choices. Like I was trapped. I couldn't get another job because of previous choices I had made. I didn't have my degree. I didn't have experience with the main stream programming languages. I couldn't get a raise. The list goes on and on.
Then one day it just "clicked". I wasn't dead yet. Nothing was written in stone. So, if I wasn't happy with my choices, it was time to make new ones.
So, I decided I wanted to go back to school. I didn't really want to pursue programming anymore so I was looking for something more along my interests. I weighed all my options and decided to go for my CGA designation. I could do it part time so I didn't need to quit my job while my wife is finishing her nursing degree. Besides I hear they pay well when you're done ;)
Even though I still have a long way to go and I'm still working my crappy programming job, I have hope again. I'm making the choices for my future instead of letting them control me.
Then I noticed choices everywhere. Even the things I decided not to change are still my choices. After reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I scared my wife as I contemplated selling and chosing to rent. With the equity we had it would have been enough to take us straight out of debt. Instead we decided to use the equity to make our debt more managable while keeping our home.
I even contemplated the idea of moving to Ontario where the housing prices are MUCH more reasonable. While I still think that would give us a leg up financially, I can't tear myself away from this beautiful province I grew up in. But at least it gives me perspective when I think I can only afford this 2 bedroom condo. That's a choice in itself and no one is forcing me to live in this beautiful place.
The choices that everyone has are virtually endless. So it's always frustrating for me to hear someone say they have no choices and they're stuck. You won't always like the choices you have, but you'll always have choices.
Some choices are opposites and you have to choose the best one for you. For example, I want to be an accountant, but I don't want to go to school. So I had to decide which one was more important to me. Obviously I'm now enrolled. :)
Some choices just take time. Like I want a large detached home in the lower mainland of BC right now, but it's not going to happen over night. However, I am making decisions that will make that dream a possibility one day.
If you're not happy with your current choices, make new ones. You are the only one stopping yourself from being happy. Sometimes it's easier to just do nothing and blame circumstances or other people for your situation. Let me tell you what I realized though. It's not them it's you. Avoid the temptation to be lazy and let things happen. Evaluate your situation and if you aren't happy do something about it. Once you start to look you'll be overwhelmed with the choices you have available.
In future articles I'll talk more about the specific decisions. Like renting vs owning, which mutual funds to invest in, etc.