What Bad Financial Experiences Do To (or For) Us

A client told me: “I grew up poor. I was the first in my family to attend college. Now I have a comfortable income. But because of my background, I tend to be cautious with my money. Sometimes I wonder if I’m too cautious.”

Hearing that, I thought of an interview with Erin Botsford in Financial Advisor Magazine. (Erin, if you don’t know, is a highly successful, well-respected financial advisor and author.)

The interviewer began by pointing out that “most people have a pivotal moment in their life, around which everything else revolves” and noting how such incidents tend to shape us.

Erin Botsford told of two such life-sculpting events.

When she was 16, a young man on a motorcycle hit her car and was killed. Even though he was traveling nearly twice the speed limit and drove right into her car, Erin was charged with involuntary manslaughter. She faced the possibility of years in jail if she went to court and lost. 

Erin received her first lesson in real-life economics when an attorney told her that if she had enough money to hire him, he could get her off. But since she didn’t, she should plead guilty. 

The fact that she was not guilty was not relevant. The fact that she had no money was.

Fortunately, Erin’s family found the money (a second mortgage) and an attorney got the charges dropped. But the incident marked her for life. 

“That was the day I learned money buys you choices,” Botsford said.

The other big event in Botsford’s life? When her psychology professor father moved the family to California to pursue his dream of opening a clinic and writing a book. Instead, he went through every last cent his family had, then died at age 50—uninsured. 

Botsford recalls, “We went from middle class to broke overnight.” 

Today, Botsford’s financial advisory practice specializes in risk management and helping clients protect their assets. It isn’t hard to see why.

I admire how Botsford took the really tragic moments in her life and re-directed them towards the service of others. Others can learn from her life’s misfortunes. 

Maybe you’re like the client who confided to me, “I grew up poor.” If you were, that had to be difficult. I’m sure you wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. 

But Botsford’s story is a good reminder that your past doesn’t have to define you or limit you. You get to decide how you will respond to negative events.

Are you cautious with money? Great! You’ll be less likely to fall victim to a slick pitch that’s obviously too good to be true. 

Are you educated (like my client)? Fantastic! That means you’re capable of making smart financial choices. With a good job and steady income, you don’t have to stay trapped in the cycles that trapped your parents.

Take the best of what your past has taught you (caution), and wed that to the best of what your education and career has brought you (opportunity).

May you be only the first of many in your family to grow from, and not just groan under, life’s difficult experiences.

If you’re like most people, you probably have lots of other questions related to financial security. I’d love to help. Email me at bmoore@argentadvisors.com and I’ll send you a free PDF copy of my book “How to Put Financial Worries in Your Rear View Mirror: The Financial Freedom Road Map.” 

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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