There are days when I think back to my childhood. I reflect on myself as a youth and how I was raised – to be genuine, helpful and true to what made me happy – and how I was both a help to my little sister and a nuisance. How both of those were enveloped in love. I helped because she couldn’t do it herself. I was nuisance because… well, because that’s what big brothers do to their little sisters every now and again (like every other hour… and again) but the time in between, we played well together and made each other laugh. To this day, we’re still very close.

Then there are the days when I reflect back to my high school days – little fish in a big pond – and recall being a friend to many, but never one to be in any clique or group. I was so much of an outsider I didn’t even fit in with the outsiders. So much a slacker I couldn’t fit in with the slackers. You get my point, I’m sure there are others out there who can honestly say they never really “fit in” anywhere in high school. At least I made friends there and we still keep in contact.

As I grew older, got into the working world, started paying taxes and began to understand responsibilities, I recall being overwhelmed and undervalued. Not that I thought the kid sweeping floors or scrubbing pots and pans should be making $500,000 a year, but one could dream, right? Perhaps because my family was more “blue-collar” and didn’t “come from money” – two expressions I barely understood then and increasingly find misconnected today – I was naturally humble.  I was proud enough to go about my work and do it with efficiency and class, whether I was plunging a toilet or counting your money.

Being born in 1980 was like being born in a time when money was no object – the gold standard was abolished in America nearly a decade before – and when time was practically a myth, I mean who really had a Grandfather Clock or a Pocket Watch anymore, right?  At least those items held historical value and still told you what time it was. Of course, this is more a reference to the days when companies offered their employees “Holiday Bonuses” and pensions (admittedly, I received a few “Holiday Bonuses” in my time) but I never worked for one company long enough to earn that majestic term that future generations will refer to as “ancient lifelong benefits” or something – you know… pensions. Besides, I was never wise enough to treat my “Holiday Bonuses” as anything more than a gift for myself. Probably bought something I didn’t need and didn’t use enough to gain anything more. Sound familiar?

I’ll admit I was quite a free-spender in college. Problem was, it was all my money. It wasn’t from government grants or scholarship money, it wasn’t my parents money or any inheritance. All the money I spent was mine. Earned in paychecks and borrowed on my credit cards (which proved to be the near death of me – financially speaking). But I learned the lesson that debt sucks. Debt can deprive you of practically everything you truly need. Like your sanity, especially when you struggle to map out a plan to even begin to figure out how to get out of debt.

Now I’m no master debt resolver, but I’ve assured myself that in the year ahead, I will not buy anything unless I have the equity in cash on hand to pay for it. Obviously, I’m not going to go Holiday shopping while carrying a ton of cash with me. So, I do use credit cards and debit cards when shopping. One thing that I’ve done to better my finances was to live a little – a lot, really – more frugally so that I would ensure myself some freedom. Financial Freedom.

Thomas Jefferson says "Hello"

The system I have is a daily system. I realized when I was 26 (far too late in life in my opinion) that sometimes is not enough; rather, its best to monitor checking account balances daily. Savings accounts are practically automatic, if you let them be. But where most consumers pay more fees annually is in credit cards and they wouldn’t be charging those fees (or interest for that matter) if they were paid off monthly. What I am about to propose is no secret. Its a mixture of how your grandparents lived  after The Great Depression: Only spend a portion of the money you have. Never spend it all and never ever spend more than you have – and – how the rich tend to manage their finances by increasing their credit score, lowering their interest rates and increasing their available credit: Save enough to equal every credit limit before using the card, and pay the card off every single month.

Now, I know those two concepts may be foreign to some folks who are reading this and could be equally puzzling to those who allow others to handle their finances, but I hold out hope. I hold hope that we can all someday have the power to use credit wisely to increase our wealth (not just our possessions). I’m not a financial advisor, by any means. But I’ve learned some incredible lessons due to making a ton of stupendous mistakes. In these hard times, I’d like you to think about your credit cards, think of the one with the highest credit limit. Ask yourself one question: Do I have enough in the bank right now to equal the credit limit on this card? If you don’t, perhaps its time to start saving more frequently and using credit whole lot less. The new year is a great way to start, but you can start today.

In summation, this blog post has been, in part, a life story… at least my life story (abbreviated) up until current times. Maybe you’ll understand me a little more, maybe you’ll just think I’m crazy. I have an answer to that presumption.

I’m laid back, not lazy;
Creative, not crazy;
German, Irish,
Sometimes drunk and
Somewhat hazy.

You Ask…
I’ll Answer.

-Billy Wichterman-
circa 1999.

Now that I’ve shared the greatest quote I’ve ever written or spoken, I’m sure you can understand me a bit better. ; )

Thank you for reading.