I'm at that stage of my life where I've plateaued and I'm looking back to see many of my life's questions/mysteries explained. Looking into the future is like peering into the void with only death as a certainty. I sometimes feel extremely lost, something I never thought I'd feel at this age. I thought by now I would have figured it all out and have done some spectacular things with my life. Instead I feel very behind.
When I was growing up I knew we were poor. From where I stood middle class look like rich, like over-whelming wealth. I looked at my peers and they had more than me and better stuff than I had. Their clothes were not hand-me-downs or homemade. Their shoes did not wear until there were holes. They did not need reduced lunches. They had the latest toys, watched the popular shows on TV, did stuff after school and on the weekends that didn't involve work. Everything they had, that they were able to buy, made me feel "less than". I was regularly taunted for just this. I was a weird kid anyway but I was also poor, unable to follow the latest fads, unable to participate much with after school activities.
When I was older and obtained my own money, I bought whatever caught my fancy. I was over-compensating for all I felt I lacked as a child. As an adult I had access to credit which stupidly made me feel like I could spend more freely on the obsession of the day. [I regret that I'm unable to get back all the money I most foolishly spent on all those needful things. I wish I could be reimbursed for all those things I bought that I no longer even own!] Nothing ever fulfilled me for very long. I would move from one obsession to another to another.
Another realization came when we moved. All that "stuff", all those things "that weren't causing me happiness (after the initial purchase) were literally weighing me down. So many little knickknacks, keepsakes, collectibles, obsessions had to be packed/unpacked for each move and it was physically wearing me down. In my mind they became not only a financial but a physical drain. It was easier to let them go. It was easier to not buy new unneeded, unnecessary thing to begin with.
My children are older now. My eldest watched us struggle and in her adult life has avoided credit cards like the plague. Her only debts are college loans and a car loan. I'm very happy for her and relieved that at least some good came from my very bad example. My youngest, who is autistic, has unfortunately grown up able to get most of what he wants. He doesn't fully understand financial planning and I know that's partially my fault. If I could talk to my past self, I'd tell her that she's creating a huge problem for her future self and , more importantly, for her son. I have a lot to work on with him so that he understands.
It was hard to change one set of habits for another. I could only have done it because I reached that plateau in life. I saw that I couldn't move any further towards my future if I was stuck in my past feeling deprived. I didn't want to feel deprived again in my old age because I destroyed my financial future due to a ton of debt.
I'm in a better place now. At least, I'm not lost financially. We're not rich. We're middle class, but that is more comfortable than where I came from. Barring any major disasters, my family should be okay into our golden years. I'm happy about this. I just wish I'd learned this lesson when I was my younger.