Thursday, October 9, 2014

Do not assume to know...

One thing I have learned over the past few years of financial enlightenment, is not to assume you know about someone else's financial status. You do not know if they are in debt to their eyeballs. You do not know if they are millionaires.

I was waiting tables at a Don Pablo's when I first moved to Texas. There was this guy that came in every Saturday. He wore torn jeans, a threadbare western shirt and ratty old gym shoes. He would sit at the same table, drink a few beers, eat some chips and talk with all the waitstaff.

One day I was told to take his table. I had never served him before, so I was kind of nervous. He had his normal beer, chips, conversation. When he left, he did so with a $100 tip on a $20 bill. I was flabbergasted. There was a note on it that said, "Keep smiling, keep living, keep giving."

As I walked back into the kitchen in shock, one of the senior waitstaff pulled me over. He said that I was welcomed into the "John Walter's" club. It turned out that he was a millionaire. He was retired from being an air traffic controller and loved spreading "love" in the form of unexpected money. It was shocking to know that someone so forgettable would turn out to be so memorable.

When you see someone who drives the fancy car, lives in a big house and flaunts his Platinum credit cards; you think that the person must be drowning in cash, when in reality they are just good at balancing various credit cards and other creditors. Nothing they have is theirs. It could vanish at any moment. You might assume they have money to throw away, when they only have $10 in the bank until next payday.

Another thing we must remember is our parents. We may go through life, never wanting for anything. We might think that they are made of money, because they gave us a great life. That may very well be true, but the point I am making is that we do not know. We cannot expect our parents to bail us out of every situation. We cannot expect them to "chip in" when an emergency happens.

A parent who made a lot of money at a high paying job, might not have a whole lot of money when forced into retirement at the age of 55.  Even with decent insurance, medical bills can pile up. We need to be mindful that we do not know every detail of someone's life. It is not our right to, either.

What we are responsible for is our own lives. We are responsible for making our own good financial decisions. We cannot rely on a handout, a bailout, inheritance or a "gift". What we can do is work hard, save our pennies, live with integrity and within our means. Save as much as we can, while we can. If you do not know how to manage your finances, learn. It is never too late, but the earlier you do the better.

I must add that yes, I have gotten help from family and friends. I wish them to know how grateful I am to have had that help. But one thing I have learned is that when you have a parachute that is given to you, you tend to live life taking risks you shouldn't. I had to learn that I am responsible for myself and my kids. I must make my own parachute. I must live my life and respect other's for living their's.

I hope that this post puts things in perspective a little. You never know what someone else's story is, just make sure you make your's the best one you can.