Annie, Entrepreneur, co-Founder, My First Nest Egg
We are pleased to have Annie Shoen share with us one of her “First” childhood money memories.
Welcome and thank you Annie!
About Annie Shoen
Annie is a mother of four, an entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of My First Nest Egg and a former State Prosecutor!
She is passionate about giving kids the tools they need to help them become good financial decision makers as they grow-up.
Discover more about Annie at: MyFirstNestEgg.com.
The $500 Mistake
One of six kids, I grew up in a small logging town in Eastern Washington. My dad was a teacher and my mom an occasional substitute. Money was always tight, but we lived by the woods, there was a local swimming pool, and there were always kids riding bikes or shooting hoops on the block.
Looking back, I suspect everyone in that depressed timber town had a similar story, but at the time we seemed like the most cash-strapped family I knew.
Fortunately, my parents had been hippies in the 60’s; they knew how to barter and build relationships to keep us afloat. I got my hair cut at the local salon in exchange for my mom making lunches for the owner.
One day a pony showed up tied to a tree in our yard. Apparently my parents had traded him to a local electrician ten years prior, and the electrician decided to give him back. So then we had a pony.
Like a lot of kids who grow-up in small, depressed towns, I had serious, albeit vague, goals in life: get out, make something of myself, and never go back.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a happy childhood, but I saw my parents struggle and I knew we didn’t have things other kids had (but we did have a pony).
In furtherance of these lofty goals, I became a serious contender at the game of Life. The boardgame. Not the real deal. I learned most of my financial lessons spinning that wheel. I was absolutely positive that I just needed to be a lawyer and put some pink and blue pegs in my car and I’d be fine. I liked to argue with my parents, watch Perry Mason reruns and babysit other people’s kids. I was a shoe-in for law, parenthood and Millionaire Estates.
Ironically, the one crucial lesson that really would have helped me early on in the real game of life, utterly escaped me: don’t get a “promissory note” – or, in the real world, a high interest credit card.
But something magical happens when you start college – especially if you have a job. All of the sudden companies want to give you money. For free. Embedded in little plastic cards which are so easy to swipe, a child could do it.
And so, eschewing the vital lesson from my favorite childhood game, I found myself with my very first credit card. I knew exactly what to do with that card – take it for a test drive at the local mall. I got lucky – my limit was only $1000, but I spent every last cent, mostly on clothes I absolutely did not need, including a svelte black high neck sweater.
That $1000 debt was psychologically crushing to my young mind. Every time I wore something I purchased with the credit card it felt heavy, like the weight of ill gotten goods I hadn’t earned. The sweater was particularly difficult to wear – the guilt combined with the high, wooly neck joined forces to ensure it itched every time I put it on.
Every month I paid the minimum on the credit card and the balance refused to budge. It was a depressing cycle I didn’t know how to fix.
My biggest goal was to get out of dodge, and yet here I was making the mistake that catapults so many unsuspecting victims right back to their parents’ small town basements.
Eventually I paid off that card and my itchy sweater the most painful way possible – minimum payment by minimum payment.
By the time the saga was over, that $50 Gap purchase probably cost closer to $500. To add insult to injury, it had even gone out of style before I paid it off. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but strong medicine to help prevent more significant mistakes once I did become a lawyer and the card offers got bigger, and the sweaters more expensive.
Sometimes an expensive mistake and an itchy sweater can teach important lessons in the game of Life.
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