How I Decided To Become Financially Independent
Where does one even begin to retell a series of events that led to a decision that will ultimately impact and shape their future. Reflection upon the past leading up to the fork in the road feels a mix between excitement, nausea, pride, and reluctance. Sometimes I dwell too much in the past and can get swallowed up by the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that have long gone. But here and with many other life decisions, it is important to reflect, to decide and to analyze.
I grew up in a shaky household with a not so solid foundation. There were terrible financial decisions, fights about money and poor management of funds. Not was there bad juju around money but also about what having a family means: stability and reliability felt further and further away with indiscretions with money as well as trust and faithfulness.
After years of therapy, medication, soul searching and just straight up thinking, I have come to realize that your past will shape you but you choose the ultimate design.
With every story there are two sides. The other side of this story is what I choose to take away the most from. While one half was a sinking ship, the other half was a strong keeled boat, guiding me along each new endeavor.
My grandfather was always the pillar of strength in these rocky seas. He was warm, oh so warm with eyes that would tinkle furiously before he made a dry joke. His hands bore the signs of weathering from many New England winters, enjoying the Long Island sound summers and yet had the strength of someone half his age. He was frugal yet generous, generous in all the ways that mattered. What mattered most was to raise his family (in his words) to be "morally and ethically", productive citizens in this great country in which he once served and always loved. He was fond of conversations reflecting upon his boyhood days, over a cup of Red Rose black tea as well as sharing the lessons he learned, albeit maybe to save someone else some trouble. Many of those lessons pertained to money and the power that you hold when you learn how to "use" money properly.
My grandfather always emphasized the power of saving, investing and learning about the prior two. Pride lingered heavily in the air when my grandfather was around: pride over that he made the best choices he could with the research he had done. He shared with those were willing to listen, carefully picking his topics for whoever was keeping audience: I feel extremely lucky that he chose to share his knowledge with me.
As I watched him grow old and he watched me grow up, we traded positions. He would hand off large stacks of The Wall Street Journal to me and then in a weeks time as for my opinion. I would give the analysis back to give two different perspectives and let him sit on it. The tables were turning. Now that I look back, he also wanted someone to learn from.
My grandfather grew up in an Italian immigrant family southwestern Connecticut. They knew hardship but were also lucky to own a grocery store during the Great Depression. There was always food on the table and that's all they needed. My grandfather worked hard both in school and at home teaching his father English and translating English for his mother while running errands.
There is one story, ingrained in my memory for whatever reason, that seemed to define the rest of his life financially. The neighborhood in Trumbell, CT that they lived on was primarily made of people who immigrated from Italy and Portugal, segretated away from their lighter complexioned, more well off, neighbors. There were people who would come into the neighborhood to assist such as priests, nuns, doctors and nurses for those who couldn't or wouldn't seek those people outside the confines of their community. My grandfather recited the story with a twinkle in his eye, as if a spark of happiness was dancing in front of him.
“There was always a man who came into the neighborhood about once a month”, he seemed to recite the story in the same manner every time. “And for some reason I always remembered how nice his shoes were. We didn’t really have any nice things back then so I always told myself when I get older, I want to do whatever he does so I can get the same nice pair of shoes later on”. So hence he became a dentist just like the man with the nice shoes.
He was frugal to a point where it didn’t interfere with his life, always making room in his budget for baked goods, well balanced British tea and providing assistance to his family when needed since, “If you can’t help your family then what are you?”. Anything that would break he would fix, refusing to hire someone unless it was beyond his skill level and while all that money would sit wit his financial advisor, growing quietly in the background.
As he grew older he seem to cut back even more, since his energy slowly dwindled leaving none to spare on spending money. Whenever I could I would try to help him, thankful for all the lessons he taught me over the years, the support throughout college both morally and financially. As his days grew shorter, I promised myself I would fulfill all his wishes that he had laid out since I was a child.
Get a masters degree.
Be financially independent.
Help your family.
Do everything with moral and ethical intent.
The day before he passed, I whispered in his ear while he was sleeping, “I got into a master’s program”. I am now in the beginning phases of finishing my thesis.
I am working on becoming financially independent by contributing the max to my 401K and HSA as well as saving $1000 monthly and paying double on my car loan every month.
I am trying to help my family as much as possible and by making sure to thank my parents for letting me move home to become financially independent.
And I believe everything I have done and am doing is done according to the morals and principals my grandfather instilled in me.