Being in Debt Does NOT Make You a Dumb*ss. Staying in Debt DOES!

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My ability to attain a relatively successful career meant that I probably wasn’t a flat out dumbass, regardless of what my wife might lead you to believe. My inability to manage personal finances, however, meant that I was undoubtedly ignorant in regards to the subject.

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I was the first male in my family to graduate from high school. Truth be told, I had a half-uncle who graduated high school about 6 years before me, but I’m choosing to ignore that to make for a better story.

Side Note: Yes I said my uncle graduated high school six years before me. My grandfather re-married very late in life and had a child with his new bride. Don’t ask, folks… it’s Smalltown, USA.

So like I said, I was the first male in my family to earn my high school diploma. My dad dropped out either his Sophomore or Junior year, and I’d be surprised if my grandpa made it much past the 8th grade. They were taught that school was for chumps, and the moment you had identified a career, schooling had served its purpose.

Yet both my father and his dad were incredibly bright. My dad still has an amazing knack for Marketing, even though I doubt he’d know that is what it’s actually called. He knows he’s good at “selling people stuff,” but could give two sh*ts about the terminology or psychology behind it. Both he and my grandfather started highly successful businesses, despite their lack of formal education, and both took chances that I to this day don’t have the courage to take.

So I didn’t have a lot to live up to in terms of expectations. If I had dropped out of high school early, I’m sure my parents would have been slightly disappointed, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

While my older sister blazed through both high school and college earning a 4.0 degree at both along the way (along with things like Class Valedictorian, President’s lists, scholarships, and the like) I maintained a rock solid 2.5 GPA, mostly due to sports and… well… not really caring about school.

Again… I didn’t have much to live up to.

I did manage to graduate high school, and then attended one year at university, dropped out thanks to a job offer from my father, and later in life returned to get a degree and several certificates. In all, I’ve probably completed around 6-7 years of post-high school schooling of some kind, and now have a successful career in videogames.

Take that, weirdly-young half uncle!

By this point in life, I felt like I was pretty hot sh*t. Not only had I “escaped” my small town, but I had absolutely destroyed family expectations in terms of education and career success.

And then I found out that I was broke.

I thought I was SO smart, but if that truly was the case, then how had I allowed myself to get so far in debt and put my family in such a financial mess? How could I have degrees and certificates and all of those other stupid piece of paper, and yet apparently not know how to balance a checkbook?

I felt like a moron, and a phony, and a failure. I really was just a dumb hayseed from Smalltown, USA.

So I spent the first couple of months wallowing in self-pity, convinced that I should just find a nice quiet corner to drool on my shoes and stay out of the way of the really smart people.

It was a couple of months into my financial crisis however, when I learned about a term that I hadn’t heard before. The term was “financial literacy.” See, it turns out that all of my education was still  relevant to my chosen career, but it’s just that none of it had focused on the proper management of my own personal finances.

This makes sense, given that I went to school for computer animation and art, and it’s very rare that investing in stocks or putting money into a 401k comes up in a class where you learn how to properly animate a human eye or learn techniques for rendering realistic fur. If the professor teaching me the art of animating a human walk had suddenly walked into class one day and said, “Today we talk ROTH IRAs!” I would have probably assumed I was day drinking again and headed out to my car to sleep it off.

So I wandered through life blissfully unaware of the proper way to manage money, until the reality of my ignorance punched me square in the face! I did say –ignorance- by the way, and don’t be afraid to call yourself ignorant. After all, ignorance does not mean stupid. Ignorance is simply a noun that means, “lack of knowledge or information.”

For example: I am IGNORANT when it comes to how to properly operate on a human brain. I can sleep soundly tonight with that complete and total acknowledgement of my shortcomings.

My ability to attain a relatively successful career meant that I probably wasn’t a flat out dumbass, regardless of what my wife might lead you to believe. My inability to manage personal finances, however, meant that I was undoubtedly ignorant in regards to the subject.

So I did the right thing: I went out and dramatically increased my financial literacy. I read books, I read papers, I joined forums, I listened to podcasts, and I found a family member who is a well-established Financial Advisor to help me out.

If I had sat back and done nothing about my situation, I don’t think I would ultimately fault anyone who called me a dumbass for doing so. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know, but if you officially know that you don’t know something and you willfully do nothing about it even though you know it is negatively affecting your life, that’s almost as dumb as this hyper-long sentence I’ve written.

So don’t be bummed if you’ve put yourself in a situation like mine. Financial literacy is ABSOLUTELY a muscle you can develop and build. It just takes work and determination. I’m certainly not out of the woods, but even our Financial Advisor says the difference between talking to me when we first came to him and talking to me today about finances is night and day.

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that you’re stupid because you’re in a bad financial situation. Instead prove to yourself just how smart you are by educating yourself and ultimately establishing your financial independence!

Thanks for stopping by!

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I love hearing from you folks! Leave me a comment about either one of my uncles, or just about this blog post in general. I respond to pretty much everything, so show me what you got!

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