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Finances - my 'Scarlett O'Hara' moment



I have only been totally financially dependent on someone else twice in my life. The first was during my childhood and the second, and last time, was during my first marriage. My husband at that time was in the Defence Force and as we moved every two years, and had two small children, my opportunities for employment were on the slim side.

 

It was 1985, I was 22, had a three-year-old and a two-year-old when I did something to displease my then husband, and he threw us out. On a Sunday morning. (In those days nothing was open on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday, so I could not go buy food or nappies, even if I had possessed more than the 57 cents in my wallet). Frankly my dear, he didn't give a damn.

 

Luckily, I had a friend who opened her home to us and lent me money for a bond on a flat, and us stay with her until we could move into it. (Gotta love the sisterhood).

 

But finances were tough, I had to pay back the bond, pay rent, pay bills, and feed my children on a single parent’s pension. I could not get a job because I couldn’t afford babysitters. I couldn’t always afford to eat, but I made sure my kids did.

 

I had just put the kids to bed one night and was munching on the leftovers of my kids’ dinner, (my dinner), when it hit me that this was not the way I wanted to live. This was not the way I wanted my children to grow up. I made my own ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ vow then and there, that I would ‘never go hungry again’.

 

Even though my future ex-husband and I did reunite after a while, I decided that I would never allow myself and my children to be in that position again. Financial independence became my goal, my security and my freedom. It gave me the ability to make my own choices without being tethered to someone else’s wallet. And trust me, there’s nothing more empowering than knowing you can splurge on something without having to justify it to anyone.

 

I went to the local library and learned as much as I could about personal financial planning. I got a job as soon as I could, and became fiercely independent, both personally and financially.

 

Security is a biggie for me. As we age, we become more acutely aware of life’s unpredictabilities. Health issues can crop up, and we might face the loss of a partner or need to help out a family member. Having a financial cushion means you’re prepared for these curveballs. It’s not about expecting the worst but being ready for it just in case.

 

Of course, getting to this point isn’t always easy. It takes planning, discipline, and a bit of bravery. It's never too late to plan for your financial future.

 

Track Your Spending: Understanding where your money goes is the first step. Use apps or a simple spreadsheet to keep tabs on your expenses. It’s amazing how those little purchases add up!

 

Set Clear Goals: Whether it’s paying off debt, saving for retirement, or building an emergency fund, having clear financial goals gives you something to aim for. Break these goals into smaller, manageable steps.

 

Automate Your Savings: Set up automatic transfers to your savings or investment accounts, even if it is only a small amount (think one take-away coffee a day - it adds up). This way, you’re consistently putting money aside without having to think about it.

 

Invest in Your Future: Don’t be afraid to dip your toes into the investment pool. Start small and watch your money grow over time. Educate yourself and seek advice if needed.

 

Review and Adjust: Life changes, and so should your financial plan. Regularly review your finances and make adjustments as needed. Stay flexible and open to change.

 

If you stumble along the way? Well, as Scarlett would say, "tomorrow is another day". Dust yourself off and keep going. Financial independence, especially in midlife and beyond is about reclaiming your power. It’s about having the means to live life on your own terms and face the future with confidence.

 

Jody Webster.

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