What Worked for Me

Dear Dr. Per Cap:

You offer a lot of financial tips and wisdom.  What’s a secret to getting ahead that you haven’t already shared?


Keep It Real

Dear Keep It Real

Your question is like a breath of fresh air.  I love it when readers ask me to dig deep, get personal, and as you say “keep it real”.

I always tell people that there’s more than one way to manage money well.  What works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.  Personal finance is about creating a solid plan that aligns with your values and priorities.  As opposed to trying to pigeon hole yourself into a one size fits all approach.

I’m going to describe some moves that have worked well for me and will hopefully resonate with a few readers.  Spoiler alert – what I’m about to share is not glamorous or easy.  Because at the heart of most challenges, financial and others, are choices.  Here are three choices I’ve made that laid the foundation for my success which can best be described as a balance of health, wealth, and happiness.

#1 I drive modest vehicles.

I’ve owned more vehicles than I can count – cars, trucks, foreign, domestic, hot rods, economy cars, pretty much everything on four wheels.  However, only one of those vehicles was purchased brand new.  My best cars were all single owner vehicles purchased used from someone I knew, like a friend or relative, who took good care of them.  Most were about ten years old.  I’ve also owned plenty of good used cars that cost less than a $1,000.  Driving older cars didn’t make me the coolest person on the road.  However, cheap wheels have probably saved me more money in the long run than any other choice I’ve made.  Auto trade school in my early twenties was another good choice that has enabled me to keep my old rides rolling.

#2 I stayed single for a really long time – really long!

I didn’t meet my spouse until I was in my early forties.  I didn’t plan it that way.  Just didn’t get stung by the happily ever after love bug until there wasn’t enough room to fit all the candles on my birthday cake.  A few years later I became a parent.  I know, what was I thinking?  Forty-six was way too young to start a family!  But I made good use of those bachelor years.  I lived frugally and invested my money.

#3 I avoided credit.

This wasn’t originally a choice.  I made some mistakes in my twenties that made it all but impossible to get a credit card or loan until I was thirty.  It was a major drag at first but I adjusted and learned to live on cash.  Later when my credit improved, I was able to borrow on good terms and with the exception of my house, today I’m debt free.  If I can do it, anyone can.

I know not everyone is up for an old war pony with 200,000 miles as a daily driver.  I know many people aspire to meet the love of their life sooner rather than later.  And I know others aren’t down with being eligible for social security before their kids will graduate high school.  But these choices are what worked for me.

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email askdrpercap@firstnations.org.