By Tracy Ng, Director of Membership and Operations
Back when I started at NAPAWF I remember speaking to someone that was interested in providing financial workshops for our members. I took her information, but in my mind, I was thinking that this wasn’t the right kind of programming for the folks we work with. I believed that like me, our members were more concerned with changing the world than managing their finances. Recently, I’ve started to become really aware of how important having a financial plan is for my future. Though economic justice is one of our platform areas, I can’t wait around until the day that everyone is paid a fair wage and no one has to stress about how they will provide for their families.
I was never given any tools in terms of financial management. I remember learning how to write a check, but not how to balance a checkbook. My parents gave us money randomly and we could spend it as we pleased. They didn’t tell us about how they spent money or budgeted. When it came to money, my parents always told us, “don’t worry about it.” It was nice being able to focus on my life, but it didn’t prepare me for a time when I would have to worry about it. Though I was indoctrinated into frugality thanks to my father’s obsession with keeping the house at a cool 64 degrees and my mother’s need to buy everything on sale, I never saw a bigger picture when it came to money.
The jobs that I have taken have been more for the content than for the pay–a fact made more dangerous by my lack of financial intelligence. I had a savings account, but with my salary, it was at about the same level as when I first opened it back in the third grade. Things were made worse when I moved from Ohio to the DC area and didn’t take into account the cost of living increase in my shopping and eating habits. I didn’t feel I was living an exorbitant lifestyle, yet at the end of the month, I had nothing to show for myself. It was easier to push reality aside than to face up to the fact that I was unprepared for the future. If anything happened to me and I was unable to work, I would have no way to support myself.
Working at a non-profit in a major metropolitan area, I have to be vigilant with my spending. With graduate school looming in my future, I forced myself to sit down and catalogue where my money was going. The major areas were food and visiting my family and friends. I also spent a fair amount of money on clothes and health expenses. I’ve cut back on my eating out, traveled less and not purchased clothes in the last couple of months. These actions have allowed me to begin saving again. After receiving advice during a free financial consultation, I opened a high interest savings account online, allowing me to grow what little savings I have.
I know there is more that I could be doing in terms of my finances, but I lack the time and resources to figure out where to start. Until we have economic justice, I think we need to work more with each other to be sure that each and everyone of us is financially stable and able to have the future they desire. It seems like people who have a lot of money, talk more about it and people who don’t have a lot of money, seem to hide this fact. If we talk about it, we can work together to figure out ways to maximize what we have, benefiting not only ourselves, but also future generations. Perhaps now is the time to take advantage of those workshops we were offered.