Learning the hard way
I was reading an article by FruGal entitled Is it better to learn about money the hard way? which I recommend reading as she raises an excellent point. This article really got me thinking, for two reasons. Reason #1 is that I know some wealthy people who have done an impeccable job preparing their children with all the knowledge they need to be financially successful. Reason #2 is that I did, in fact, learn the hard way.
My parents separated when I was a baby. At the age of 23, my mum was put in the lovely position of finding a place for the two of us to live. The day we moved in to our council house, she had something like £1.50 in her pocket which she used to buy 2 light bulbs and some bleach to clean the place. She was trapped in the sense that she was unemployed without any marketable skills, having to postpone her nurse training due to my birth. Any job within her reach wouldn’t have really provided her with a greatly improved quality of life as the extra money she earnt would have been spent on childcare. Life didn’t get much easier for her over the following 10 years until which time she got herself back into the workforce and met my step-dad. However, during those earlier years, there were often times when we literally couldn’t afford food or clothing. So to anyone who claims it’s easy to raise a child on ‘benefits’ without actually having done it, you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Although times were hard, I had a happy childhood and my mum was always a loving parent despite the very obvious stress she was under. We lived in a rough area, and so many of the kids I went to school with have spent time on hard drugs or in prison for serious offences including murder. My mum knew I was aware of the realities of my environment but she refused to let me believe that this would be my future.
My mum has always been proud of me but with her health seriously failing now due to cancer, my only regret is that I haven’t been successful enough up until now to provide the kind of care that she deserves. Watching her dreams slowly wither while I’m unable to make them come true hasn’t been easy, but that’s life. My upbringing has had a massive impact on the way I deal with education and money. Learning from both my family and my environment about what to do and what not to do has set me up for success because, simply, I refuse to go back to that life.
So my answer to the original question? I don’t think it’s necessarily better to learn the hard way, but it certainly works. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have preferred a wealthier upbringing, but I feel that I have an advantage over the girl in FruGal’s article. My childhood experiences can only be ‘bought’ with a lack of money. While I wouldn’t wish that life on anyone, I can only wonder if this girl will ever really appreciate the meaning of the word ‘determination’.