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Dalene Higgins, Money Coach

by Team Sammy

Introducing Dalene Higgins, Money Coach

Backstory in her own words

I am married to an amazing husband of 29 years. We have one child, a daughter who is 25 years old.

I recently retired from the government sector after 32 years. I worked in many capacities such as Records Clerk, Detective Secretary, Warrants Accounting, and Finance Manager. I am a lover of numbers and my last role as Finance Manager, they fondly referred to me as their numbers nerd.

I am an avid reader of all things fiction, except for Sci-Fi. I do read non-fiction, but it serves a purpose for what I am focusing on in life for the moment.

Team Sammy: Tell us about what it was like growing up - your family and community?

Dalene: I grew up in a family of seven (7). My placement was the later, being 6 of 7. My father worked in the government sector as well, as an electrician for our city. My mom worked hard and managed the household.

Since I was at the tail end of the family and there was a large gap of years, it really was just myself and my little sister at the house. I vaguely remember some of the older kids being in the home. Those who were closer in age and lived at home just a little longer.

Team Sammy: What were one or some of your first money memories?

Dalene: We lived just one street from a major road and could easily walk to a convenience store. My fond memory of that store was the penny candy. True penny candy!!!

They later started putting them in “grab bags” and you would get a surprise selection of candy for only 25 cents. There was also a video store for renting VCRs and videos that we would occasionally get the treat to go choose a video and lug the VCR with it home to watch for the evening. These were some of my first money memories with brick and mortar stores.

I also remember setting up a table out in front of our house to sell knick knacks from our bedroom. Let's just say it was not fruitful.

Team Sammy: What, if anything do you remember about your parents talking to you about money as a child?

Dalene: Both parents were very open with talking about money. If we asked they would teach us, but they also shared little tidbits or complimented us with the handling of our money.

I definitely recall when I was in high school, I wanted the “name brand” popular shirt at that time and instead of my mom saying we couldn’t afford it, I don’t think that was in her vocabulary, she said let’s go find you one that looks very similar and is cheaper.

My mom handled all of the paying of bills. I would often sit by her and ask what she was doing. She had a box and a book, along with her checkbook and the bills and envelopes. She explained she kept track of all the bills and their amount in that book. She would also check off items as she made the payment. She said she could refer to the prior month to see if she had paid all of the bills. She said this was her way of double checking all bills made it to her in the mail. This bill book had several months, if not several years of history in it.

Team Sammy: Did you save in a piggy bank, savings jar, use envelopes or another mechanism? Share a little about it with us. What about your children?

Dalene: I remember making a ceramic piggy bank and keeping all my pennies in there before I was old enough to have a “job”. My mom paid us for extra chores around the house to earn money. Then when I was about 12 years old, I got my first paying job (other than babysitting). I was hired by an older lady who was very arthritic and unable to care for her home herself. She was bound to a motorized wheelchair. Her husband was a massage therapist and so she needed the house to look nice every day. I would show up right after school and vacuum her front room, hall, and sometimes kitchen. She paid me $1 a day.

I then graduated from the piggy bank and got an account with the city credit union. My parents were members and so I was able to join. The credit union was located in a portion of one of the city buildings. I saved with that credit union from the age of 16 on until they were bought out by another larger credit union.

I also joined another smaller credit union. I was qualified to be a member of the credit union as I was an employee of the police department. I still have an account with them. I have always called them my little credit union. They are in a small office space, located downtown. There are two employees and they are only open from 9am to 1pm. They are not online and can only accept check payments. Even though they are so small, I will not trade my relationship with them. They still have that personal touch. I can call and say I need money for a vehicle at which time I show up, sign the loan application, and receive the check. I love saving money here because it has a lot of barriers already in place that make it kind of difficult to access money. The restricted hours, receiving a check that I then have to take to a different bank or credit union. While it does have these barriers, it has helped me put off a lot of potential impulse purchases. Everyone needs a credit union like this. It is kind of like I’m hiding money, but really only from myself.

Team Sammy: Who was your primary or one your main money mentors as a child or teen?

Dalene: My parents have always been my role model for how I wanted to handle my money. My dad was one who believed 100% in maintaining his purchases. After they passed just a few years ago, and while I was in the process of selling their home, we were asked the age of their furnace and air conditioner. I called their HVAC guy who determined from serial plates that they were both over 30 years old. He then clarified the reason they were still running was because my dad had him do regular yearly maintenance, so any potential failures he was able to catch and prevent failure.

Team Sammy: At what age and how did you come to realize money had a value?

Dalene: I have been a saver by nature for the most part. My little sister and I were so close in age and earning a decent amount of money (to us) at the same time. I literally held on to my money (cash) and she would spend it as fast as she could. I don’t recall what, but probably the convenience store. She would often get upset telling my mom that I had all this money.

Team Sammy: Did you work as a teen and/or in college?

Dalene: My first job was Records Clerk with the local police department. I was part time and made $5/hr. I only had this position for six months and was able to get on full-time making $5.25 an hour with benefits. I also worked 8-5 which was very rare in law enforcement. I was very lucky!

I continued my employment with them for 17 years. During these 17 years, I put myself through college completing my B.S. in Accounting and began course work for my MBA. After 17 years, I was able to find employment with the local Sheriff’s Office using my degree.

I have had many people ask me what college life was like. Well, it included working 8-5 and fitting in classes when I could. Sometimes I would attend a 7am class, head to work at 8:00 and then attend another class during lunch hour. Those were great schedules because I got to go home and have free evenings.

My most typical schedule was three classes, one each night, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 6pm to 10pm. Upon beginning my final coursework, I had Friday night and Saturday morning classes. Even though this was quite the schedule, I was able to leave school with no debt. I did have some debt during the time I attended school, but paid it off before I was done. This debt was my first experience with a signature loan at 15%. I don’t highly recommend it, but it was my only option.

Team Sammy: Have you had an "AHA" money moments?

Dalene: At the age of 35, I had an "AHA" money moment realizing I could retire as early as 48. I had this option due to a Pension. However, just because I had the option didn’t mean I would be able to. I see a lot of people still working beyond their qualifying years because they can’t manage their money and take that immediate 40% reduction in pay.

So after this "AHA" money moment, I really started dialing down on my personal finances. I would choose an area I need to learn more and do better at, then just binge that subject. I would apply what I could and move on.

One topic I chose was retirement accounts at I could have access to if I needed to upon retirement.That got me really intentional with my saving and spending. It was really fun to make my personal savings rate percentage I set for myself keep increasing. It was a fun game to play! My dad had also retired from government and at one point my mom said she couldn’t spend her money fast enough. I figured if I lived modestly like they did and planned and prepared for all the things I would be okay.

Team Sammy: If you could only teach a child one money habit, what would it be and why?

Dalene: One money habit I would teach my child is how and why to save money. I think the key with this habit is helping them realize that there should be a purpose to saving money. Help them identify what the next “big” thing is and start saving for it. If they have an understanding that with a goal and purpose for saving there will be a reward in the end. Now that this has been explained to them, the how of saving can come more naturally. Start with explaining to them if they want it in this much time that it will take this much money.

Team Sammy: Is it important to teach kids about money? Why? At what age should parents start?

Dalene: Teaching kids about money should start as early as possible. Helping them to be curious about money will help them to ask more questions which leads to more knowledge. I remember driving up to the ATM for my weekly cash and my six year old daughter asked if she could see the money. I don’t think she had ever seen money bills up to this point. It allowed for a discussion on money. Taking these moments, just as I did and as my parents did with money discussions makes them more natural and not as forced.

To discover more about Dalene, visit her website Elevate Finances here.

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