I’ve been seeing some thoughts pop up on Twitter over the last few months that have sparked an idea in my brain. Obviously, everyone’s journey to Financial Independence will look different. But what are some of the ways our paths differ? Our journeys are different because we’re all facing different financial headwinds. Let’s look at some of the financial headwinds I’ve faced on my journey so far.
Wayyyy back in the olden days (ok fine the late 2000’s), ya girl was in high school. I had the basics taken care of for me courtesy of my parents like food, shelter, some clothes, and lunch money. Everything else I wanted was on my own. A major financial headwind for me in high school was providing the money for my own cell phone plan — and a pay-as-you-go plan at that. $60 a month doesn’t seem like all that much now, but it was a major drag for me to scrap up that kind of dough each month. Things got slightly better when I got my first job at Toys R Us, but my headwinds increased right along with the increase in cash flow. Suddenly I needed to have money to pay my car payment ($150/mo for 18 months), insurance, and gas.
My classmates didn’t understand what I was going through as they were facing either no headwinds at all or even a significant tailwind, helping them to succeed. I once had a conversation with a classmate who was complaining her little sister got a nicer car for her 16th birthday than she currently had. I don’t remember what car her little sister got but I distinctly remember her complaining about driving a 2 year old Jeep. I offered to trade her cars. When she heard I drove an older POS Dodge Neon that came with the aforementioned car payment, her nose wrinkled up and I got an “ew no way” in response. Her tone was on par with Alexis Rose in Schitt’s Creek. To this day, I doubt that particular classmate has any more empathy for those in different financial situations.
Overshadowing the other financial headwinds in high school was, of course, the looming mountain of how to pay for college.
I was incredibly fortunate to have all my efforts in high school pay off in the form of a full-ride academic scholarship for college. With my military stipends coming in each month, the degree to which I felt the headwinds lessened dramatically. Headwinds were still there, but much more manageable than before.
I was nowhere near struggling in college like some of my friends. They had to pay for their own housing, food, school, books, car, phone.…. everything. Those are some hurricane-level headwinds to overcome. Because of my experiences in high school, I was in a better spot to understand the differences between me and my friends. I made sure to pay for activities I suggested like going to see a movie with a friend or covering their drinks for a night out.
It’s at this time in my life that I started to truly understand how my privileges in life led to fewer headwinds for me. Even though I had fewer privileges than some people I had grown up with, I still had a lot going for me. I had gotten a glimpse of it in college, but this stage of life really drove home the differences.
I didn’t have student loans. I didn’t have family that needed supporting each month. I didn’t have a child to take care of. I didn’t have expensive health issues that impeded my ability to work and earn money. My car was all paid off and rarely had mechanical problems.
The lack of major headwinds at this stage in life really helped me get ahead in life.
Now, my headwinds are more like tiny breezes on a nice summer day. I have to pay $300 a year for glasses or contacts to be able to see. I pay $50 a month in medications to help manage my ADHD. I am a woman, so a lot of products I buy charge a pink tax or are just straight up something men don’t have to worry about like feminine products or bras. (Men, you do not know how good you have it!!!)
On paper, two people who earn $100k should be able to save exactly the same with the same amount of income, right?
A great example was provided by my friend Matt Lane on Twitter recently. He earns what most people would consider to be a high salary. However, he also has a lot of financial headwinds against him at the moment. He lives in Washington, DC, a high cost of living area. More like super high if you ask someone who lived there for a year (psst that’s me. DC is super expensive!). Childcare for 2 children is $4,600 a month. $2,000 a month goes straight to student loan repayments. Add in $2,300 a month for a decent apartment and that’s $106,800 before you add in other necessities of life like food, clothes, diapers, transportation, internet, phone, and other basics. So yeah, he might earn a ton of money, but he’s also experiencing severe financial headwinds against that high income.
So before we read a Money Diary on Refinery29 that makes us tsk our tongues and raise our eyebrows, remember income is just one part of the puzzle and someone might be facing significant headwinds that you aren’t. Or, what is the equivalent of a light breeze for you might be the equivalent of the Weather Channel reporters standing on the shore before a hurricane makes landfall. I’ve been fortunate in life to face favorable winds and I only hope the same for everyone around me!
As always, thanks for reading! Are you facing any significant financial headwinds? Sound off in the comments below!