The Joy of Pivot Tables

Ah, January. When I have all the previous year’s personal finance data and can spend untold hours allowing my OCD nature to run wild through endless spreadsheets, pivot tables, pie charts and other instruments of analytical torture.

For someone with an income as modest as mine, and as many children as I have, I’m actually pretty proud of the job I do managing money. I spent more than planned in a few categories, but less than planned in others, so that my balance of cash on hand is slightly higher than it was a year ago.

Expenses are going to go up this year because of car insurance with a teen driver (and even more in future years with multiple teen drivers at various times), buying a second car (pre-owned, of course), and paying for a month-long study abroad language immersion program in Spain for one of the girls. No one will need braces this year though, and with a house built in 2011, hopefully I’m still a few years away from a new roof and re-stuccoing.

One of my friends was recently bemoaning the fact that most of us in our generation are financially worse off than our parents were at our age. Her parents were richer than mine. I am better off than my own parents, but have nowhere near the net worth my friend’s mother does – or that my friend herself does. The difference is that she doesn’t feel as though she has enough. Like so many of us, she has a scarcity mentality about money and will never feel financially secure, no matter her net worth.

Not everyone feels this way. Buddhist monks. Some pious Christians I’ve known who say, “The Lord will provide” when what they have (or don’t have) in the bank would have me climbing the walls with anxiety. My dad, who lives modestly and happily on a small pension from his blue collar union job, Social Security, and an occasional supplement from the poker table.

I’m somewhere in the middle between my friend and my dad. I spend hours crunching the numbers from time to time, but most of the time don’t feel resentful that the American “doing better than our parents” trend ended with my generation. I hate the idea of working until I’m in my 70s, which I’ll probably have to do, but it’s the result of my own short-sighted decisions.

Hopefully, as my daughters choose their college majors over the next few years, they can learn from my decisions and make better ones, or at least better informed ones. I have hopes for them, but I won’t try to pressure them. I had my life and made my choices. Now they have theirs.

This was supposed to be a quick, light-hearted post about end-of-year number crunching. The best laid plans…

Comments 2

  1. Beverly Matda wrote:

    My kids think we are poor. LOL While we may have less in the bank than my in-laws did, we certainly have more than I ever grew up with. I’m sure that from the outside looking in, we look like we have less than others. And we do have less: less car payments, less credit card payments, less phone bills. Steve and I do not have car payments or credit cards. Our cars are bought used for cash, we have prepaid cell phone plans, and buy those phones with cash. We rarely eat out. Our kids have plenty of clothes, our cabinets are running over with food, and I never worry about the utilities being paid. My hope is that one day my kids will understand why we lived this way, and realize that while they may not have every *thing*, they have everything that counts.

    Posted 07 Jan 2017 at 12:39 pm
  2. Christina wrote:

    This makes me think about the concept of “enough” which is not an amount or a number but a state of mind. When I moved out at 18 I was making $5/hr at a temp job and eating tons of mac n cheese with my roommates and sitting on lawn furniture in the living room. Because that’s what everyone did and it never occurred to me to feel poor because I had what I needed. Later, after my second divorce and the financial hardship that comes along with it, I was in a constant state of stress and want, never quite making enough to cover everything. Somehow I convinced myself (through some magical meditation or possibly self-hypnosis) that I would always have ENOUGH. I don’t know how much enough is, but I will have it and so will you!

    Posted 17 Jun 2017 at 10:26 am

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