By: Lyndsey Ducharme, MFF Fellow & Mom of Twins
When I think about money I always feel anxious, uncomfortable and like I am never ever, ever going to get ahead. In order to tackle a fear or obstacle, figuring out where the fear comes from, at least for me, is important. So where did my fear of money come from? It has taken me a long time to get to the answer. My fears and discomfort comes from not being comfortable talking about it with anyone, including my family.
I grew up in a family of real estate professionals. My mom works at a real estate title company and my dad is an appraiser. My dad flipped a couple of houses and went through some hard times. We didn’t talk about the money side of why things went wrong. When I got a little older, I was working selling windows at a home show when I was approached by a Realtor who wondered if I had an interest in becoming a Realtor myself. The quick answer was NO! But making my own hours and being in control of a business I could call my own was luring, so I became a Realtor. I loved looking at beautiful houses and helping people make their dreams come true. I wasn’t sure if I would be good at sales, but I knew I could talk to people, so I pressed forward.
Being a real estate agent is being a business owner. You work under the umbrella of a real estate brokerage, but how much you earn is entirely up to you. An agent gets paid when a sale is made, and of course you can’t forget the taxes and fees that come out of a commission. In the early days when (if) I did the math, it was pennies on the hour. But I knew working hard was how to build my business. I had a lot of help and guidance on the real estate and selling side of my business, but what I didn’t have a lot of was support or knowledge on the money side. That is when my long lasting fear and discomfort around the topic of money started. I was living in a one bedroom apartment with my husband and we weren’t making a lot of money. In the 3 years I was a realtor, I doubled my business through word of mouth and Facebook. I made a lot of contact and made myself pretty well known. I didn’t ask for enough help with my money though. I made lots of mistakes. It felt like I had nothing to show for all my hard work.
We decided to move to another state when my husband got a job opportunity. That is when I let my real estate license lapse. Life moved on and we got pregnant with twins. That is when we decided to move back to NH to be closer to family. Funny how easy it is to make those kinds of choices. Twins… we need help. Money… shhhh.
Having the twins 9 weeks early with my own complications lead to more financial stress after a 3 week stay in the NICU. When we all got out of the hospital, I was so grateful for our health that I didn’t pay attention to everything we had been through. Our experiences can bring out our anxieties. Those anxieties come from the messiest parts of ourselves, the parts we try to hide. Money, stress, mental illness, all topics that people don’t like to talk about. Being bipolar, I struggle with spending money. Under stress my outlet is spending money like it is growing on trees. The lifestyle we lived when we first moved back didn’t fit our long-term goals. We wanted to own real estate. I wanted to be one of the people I used to help reach their home ownership dreams. So I spent a lot of time fixing our credit and my mental health. Once again, I made money an uncomfortable situation for myself.
To move forward towards our family goals, we purchased a two-family apartment using the second apartment’s rental income while I stayed home with the new twins. We still didn’t talk a lot about money or how to move forward. Through a family member, I heard about the Morgan Franklin Fellowship program. I figured it couldn’t hurt, so I decided to take their financial literacy course. The course helped me learn the basics about money and helped me start talking to others about my money goals. The team at MFF were open and helpful when I reached out asking questions. Then I started writing about money. This has helped me focus my thoughts, and it has been therapeutic (you should see my first three drafts.) As a graduated Morgan Franklin Fellowship “Financial Fellow,” I have access to many people who are willing to chat with me about my money goals and how to get there.
Now it is time to change the words I use to describe my relationship with money and to allow others to help. Through the MFF program, I was able to get a money mentor. Peter Morgan, MFF’s Founder, is my mentor. He told me the words you choose decide your feelings and drive the outcome of your goals. If I keep choosing to use negative words about financial choices, I will never see how I can grow from them or the good that came from my choices, even if I viewed those choices as failures. Like my real estate career. I remember the struggle, the guilt I had for not making enough money and all the mistakes. When in reality, I DOUBLED my business every year! That’s amazing for a small business on a small budget. I may have messed up our credit, but I also succeeded in turning it around. I have opened up about our bills and don’t pretend to have it all together anymore. There is a lot more teamwork on the financial side of my family relationship now because I am learning how to talk about money, how to base my decisions on my personal risk tolerance and how to move forward toward our financial goals. Through talking with my mentor, Peter, my husband and I are now working towards buying our second two-family apartment, while keeping our current two-family apartment for cash flow. This is such a different approach from our initial idea of selling one to buy the other. Moving from a “flipper” mentality to an “investment” mentality. Developing a cash flow and increasing our net worth. Net worth, who would have thought my husband and I could talk about our family’s net worth!
Here’s to the future! I continue my studies with MFF and am reaching out to others talking about money and finances. My next MFF class is called the Fundamentals of Investing. Wanna know a secret I haven’t told many people yet? I signed up to get my real estate licence again.