I have to say, I’ve been very fortunate. And for the most part, most of us have. Sometimes we get all mixed up in what others have and forget about what we have and what’s truly important.

I grew up with a wonderful family. My parents were hardworking people who immigrated to Canada from Italy, in search for a better life for their kids. They didn’t speak the language and because of that, jobs were tough to come by at first, just as they are today. They didn’t make much money, but I don’t recall us ever struggling with money.

I guess you could say we didn’t have enough money to worry about money. But we did have plenty to put food on our plates, clothes on our backs and a modest roof over our heads. The money my parents worked so hard to bring in, was just enough to cover the necessities. We didn’t have money left over to worry about what to do with it. It made life pretty simple, looking back. It was a life revolving around family, and we had a great, happy, carefree childhood.

My financial past

My first real memories of using my money of my own to buy anything was when I was about 11, 12 years old. My friends and I would pool our pocket change together, and then scout the local corner store to see what we could all buy. We’d split it on a pack of gum, Mr. Freezies, or splurge on a pack of hockey cards (that often came with a bonus stick of gum – remember those!). Hockey cards turned into comic books, then cassette tapes as I grew older and by age 15, I joined those same friends to take up a job at the local pizza joint. My first few paycheques were saved up to buy my first stereo system. Each stereo component bought one at a time, as I earned it. It brought me great excitement waiting for the next piece.

I worked part-time and paid my way through college/university, with a little help from my parents. But was surprised during my time there, to find so many students in financial troubles — even a year in. There were those that you knew right away, mom and dad were forking the bill. You could see them a mile away with their shiny new laptops and spare time. Then there were those who went running from their last class of the day to catch the bus to make it to their part-time job. They/we were starting to get our feet wet juggling finances.

My a-ha moment

From a young age, I was pretty responsible with my money. I didn’t necessarily think to save for a rainy day, but I put money aside for things I wanted to buy. But back then, it was easy. I was living at home. I had no responsibilities – barely any financial ones. Yes, I paid for and owned my own car, I paid for my clothing, my hobbies and anything I wanted, really. But the minute I stepped out of my parents home and into my own, is the first time I think I realized and now appreciate, all the sacrifices my parents went through for us.

I described in my last post how easy it is for anyone to get caught up in the dream of a home and not realize the true costs of homeownership. It was kind of scary. To be financially independent of my parents, and financially responsible not only for my own self, but for my family, my wife, and now my own children, was a big wake-up call. No matter how responsible I thought I was, there’s always one thing that can throw you off track. But it felt like a hundred things all at once and you learn really quick, when you see a fork in the road, that it’s up to no one else, but yourself, which direction to take. I could sink, or learn to swim. It was that moment when I truly realized, that my financial future was in my hands.

I had control. And everyone does. Every day, YOU get to make that decision. You can make the choice to live frugally or frivolously or a bit of both. Just remember, when you’re spending money that is not going towards your dream, you run the risk of losing that dream, falling further and further behind from your goals, from where you want to go or where you’d like to be. What you choose to do with your money, really is up to you. It’s that simple!

If I knew then, what I knew now…

I would remind my younger self that “the only thing worse than not starting yesterday, is not starting today.” That same thought process could be applied at any stage in your life, really. In our 20s, we laugh at the mere thought of retirement planning. And in our 30s, 40s and higher, we say to ourselves, “we should’ve invested when we were in our 20s”. But the funny thing is, sometimes even then, we still don’t do it.

I wish I would’ve invested earlier, saved up for a larger down payment on my house, and I’m sure I could come up with a hundred other things. But I’m happy where I am. I have a wonderful family of my own now and and I’m excited about where we’re going together. When we’re young, we all take that stuff for granted, and we don’t often think about our financial future. But it’s really up to us. We have today, and we all have the power to change our thinking.

When I realized my financial future was in my handsAs part of the Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival that my friend Shannon @ The Heavy Purse put together, please join me, Shannon, and a host of other fellow bloggers at The Heavy Purse, as part of Financial Literacy Month. Please feel free to share their content to help spread awareness. We ALL have the power to change the way we, and others around us, think about money.

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