When I was in primary school, I was just a normal kid who receives pocket money from parents. There's no entrepreneurial streak in me, as you would typically see in the childhood of people who are great business people. They would have started trading cards or doing some basic buying/selling right from the start. That's not who I am. I did receive a weekly pocket money though. I know some of my friends are getting money from their parents as and when they need to buy stuff. Some received money daily from their parents, but somehow mine is done on a weekly basis. On hindsight, this taught me a lot of knowledge regarding budgeting, that would have been completely missed out by folks by received their pocket money daily or on a needs-basis.
Verdict: I'm not financially acute then. Quite clueless regarding money.
Secondary school to JC:
The weekly pocket money upgraded to a monthly one. And that covered everything single thing - from bus stamps to food to entertainment and books. It wasn't a lot, though I can't remember how much. But thankfully, there isn't a lot of distractions anyway. The monthly pocket money that covers every single thing, means that I have to be a lot tighter in my personal accounting. I've to make sure my money last the entire month. Again, there's no desire for me to work for more money and I did zero vacation work in my entire secondary to JC life.
Verdict: I'm still not interested in money, though the lessons in budgeting due to the monthly pocket money is actually quite a good start to teach about how to maximize your output given constraints in your resources.
That was the time I stopped taking pocket money from my parents, but instead gave them half of my allowance as a pocket money to them. The money back then wasn't a lot. It's about $360 towards the end of my 2.5 yrs, which means it's substantially lesser in the earlier part of my NS days. I spent very little amount in the canteen. I doubt I can afford it, so I always visited the cookhouse for the free food, no matter how sucky it is. If I can do extra duty to earn money, I guess I would at that stage. But my camp do not practise that sort of thing, so my NS allowance is all that I have to survive. Again, not much spending because I don't think I could afford it, though I remember I bought my first CD player from Sony from my hard earned IPPT and marksman award.
Towards the end of the whole army, I saved about 5k from the lot. It's the most amount of money that I have in my entire life, at that point in time.
Verdict: With more exposure to consumerist lifestyle, I realise more and more the importance of having money. I was constantly reminded of the lack of money. I couldn't spend all that I want and expect my parents to bail me out of my debts. The responsibilities of giving money to parents taught me how important it is to pay your salary to something important first, before you proceed to spend it. Again, monetary constraints is the most important lesson to teach regarding budgeting. In army, I learnt how to set aside money for something important. In this case, it's giving money back to my parents.
With more exposure to more social life and a introduction to a young adult socio-sphere, the need to spend more money on clothing and entertainment increases. And hence for the first time in my life, I had to work during the vacation. It was cheap, uninspiring kind of work. I remember that I had to complete 30 mins of work in 1 full working day, dragging longer than necessary because otherwise I had nothing else to do. It was just unbearably painful earning that miserable $5-$6 per hour for 1 month. I also had my first handphone, which I paid out of my own savings. The monthly plan is also paid for by me, using the monthly pocket money given. Thus, I can only afford those free $0 handset that comes with the plan. I remembered at that time, I wish I can start work sooner so that I can start earning my own keep.
Dating is also incredibly expensive. An average restaurant meal will mean I have sacrificed about 1 week of school canteen's meal money. That means I couldn't afford it. That applies to my then girlfriend (and now, wife) too.
Verdict: While I can work my life within monetary constraints in the past, it's getting harder and harder because you need money to have a normal kind of social life. I also realised how expensive dating can be - that need to impress and show generosity. Income needs to be raised because there's only so much things you can limit yourself from buying.
For the first 2-3 years, suddenly I have this huge income coming in that I never had in my life. I proceeded to spend it, perhaps partly to compensate for the 'sufferings' I had in the earlier part of my life. I don't recall that I have much savings, if at all. But at least, I didn't bust my budget at all. Even with credit cards, the training from the earlier part of my life kicks in. I paid my bills on time, took advantage of the rewards granted by the usage of the card, and never exceeded more than what I earned.
But I wasn't going anywhere.
During the bull market phase, someone asked me to open a brokerage account together so that we can learn about the stock market. We heard that we can earn a lot of money from there. From there on, it was a roller coaster ride in the stock market. I wrote my journey all over the blog so I won't repeat it here. But after losing and winning money, it makes me want to find out more about it, so I read and read and read. I started reading 52 books a year to cram in all the information available so that I can make more. Those books are initially almost all personal finance, accountings, market analytics based.
It was during that period in time that I started my blog also, which is one of the smartest thing to happen in my life. It gave me a chance to meet like minded people and form an environment in which financial success can take place. You can't expect to fly if you keep mixing around with chickens, so they say. It's this immersion in an environment where I'm constantly reading financial news that makes me want to keep on reading and learning all that is about the money game. You start to form models of people whom you can emulate, and you realise that hey, it's possible to reach a certain level of financial enlightenment. Others can do it, so can I. That belief is very very powerful - that others can do it and so can you.
That's the pull factor. There's also a push factor towards learning more about personal finance, and that leans towards the darker side of motivation.
Sometime during that period, I felt that I was sold a big fat whole life plan that it constantly eating at me. I felt there's something wrong about it but I couldn't figure it out. I was that clueless in financial matters. That feeling eventually accumulated until I was so fed up, I need to research and read more about insurance. That started the whole ball rolling with regards to personal finance. There's a lot of incentives for me to find out what the hell is wrong with my feelings with regards to that big fat whole life plan I was sold to. On hindsight, I took personal responsibility and didn't blame the agent. Though it's a painful experience, it literally KICK start my ass to learn more to cover up my lack of knowledge in this area.
Also due to the nature of my job, I have to be my own HR manager and accountant. I have to keep track of where my income is coming from to see how much money I'm making per month. I didn't keep track of my expenses though because I thought it'll be too troublesome. I don't want to be fixated on money. Panzergrenadier, a blogger, introduced me to this book called "Your money or your life" by Joseph R. Dominguez that literally changed my life. In the book, the author talked about tracking your expenses. I wanted to start tracking for 1 month, but it gradually became 6 months, then 1 yr. I've been doing it since 2008, always taking care to update my spreadsheet and improve my tracking. Basically I'm hooked on improving my own personal productivity, and that includes productivity in terms of spending money.
On-going verdict: It started from greed in wanting to get more money, then the winnings/losses make me want to find out more about money. I would say that the fact that my skin is involved in the money game makes me want to find out more about the rules and how the money game is played. If there's no skin involved, we're just armchair critics. Of course, my childhood training in working tightly within budgets makes it one full package. Immersion into the conducive environment is extremely important too. If you want to be financially acute, join such a group in facebook or blogs. It's like learning a language, the more you read and hear, the better you'll be.
We have to learn how to unwind our money journey we had in our childhood. For mine, it's about learning how to relax and spend more. For others, it might be the complete opposite. I'm still learning how to relax a little and spend on things I should spend on, instead of living in a survival mode that I had been in the earlier part of my life.