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Fortunate, Lucky, or Smart?

June 3rd, 2016 at 12:55 pm

We were with some friends and we were talking about finances. One friend happened to mention that we were fortunate to be "comfortable." I didn't say anything really to respond, but it sort of made me wonder, is it all about luck or did I perhaps have a little bit to do with it?

I am not going to say I don't spend money. I do. But, I try to bargain hunt. I grew up relatively poor. Not dirt poor, but there wasn't very little for extras and most of the stuff I had was bought used. I saw my parents age and even though they worked hard their whole lives, they never really got "comfortable." My dad was always trying to figure out a way to make more money. He worked a full time job as well as doing jobs on the side. My mom helped run a used furniture store they had for awhile and then did garage sales and quilted. I knew once I had a full time job, I needed to figure out something for retirement because I didn't want to work until I dropped if I didn't have to.

I listened to a couple of people I worked with. Before I got hired as a teacher, I worked full time and picked up extra work when I could. I started a small IRA. They said the idea was to start saving young so the money had a chance to build.

When I was hired as a teacher, I went to church with a financial adviser and so I asked to meet with him. He was starting out like I was. I told him someone had said something about a retirement account where you pay low taxes when you retire. He explained it was a 403b and how it worked. It took out pretax dollars and then when you retire and drew it out, you paid less taxes because you should supposedly make less. Let me tell you, making what little I made at the time, taking out $50 a pay period was hard.

Fortunately I did not have school loans because I had some scholarships and worked throughout college and paid everything off before I graduated. Someone asked me how I did that and I explained that my college time, although a good time in my life, was not one where I spent a lot of money. I didn't go out partying on the weekends. I rarely ate out because if you lived on campus, you were required to pay board which was a food service plan. Spring break was spent at home. My folks helped out with buying clothes and shoes (mostly from garage sales), and snacks from Aldi. I ate more peanut butter and saltines for snacks and when I ran out of peanut butter, just saltines. I didn't have a fridge so I drank water in a glass from the fountain. Usually it was cool and I really lived it up when I got some iced tea mix. During the winter I had a little "hot pot" which was a small electric kettle and I had hot tea and hot chocolate. Am I sorry for not living it up -- not really.

Anyway, as DH and I got money ahead, the financial adviser (same wonderful guy!) directed us to other retirement options like a Roth IRA. I still have that small IRA I started years ago and it is still kind of small because the Roth is a far better vehicle for us now.

As I said, I spend money. But, I try to plan my purchases. I shop sales. Heck, I shop thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales! We save for things. We recently put on a new roof. Actually we paid to have it put on. No home equity loan here...we have been saving for the past couple of years. DH went and got the money out of the credit union account and put it in our checking account and we paid for it when it was finished. We save for Christmas and we save for vacations.

Am I fortunate? Yes, I believe I have been blessed. I guess when he implied I had been "lucky" I kind of bristled at this...I worked hard and as an educator, realized I would make more salary if I had more education so I earned a master's as well as hours beyond my master's. This increased my pay. But, I didn't inherit tons of money. I worked and saved and DH worked and saved. So yes we are fortunate, but I also think we used our brains to help ourselves. Do you think I was wrong to bristle at this friend's implication?

11 Responses to “Fortunate, Lucky, or Smart?”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    While I can see some aspects of luck to it, I think you worked for your savings thus that is not luck. I think people say that because they can't understand how to do it themselves, or even if they know they may not be doing it, thus it make it seem that you are lucky because you can. It somehow makes them feel better to think you just drew the lucky card. Of course, living in the US or any other first world country did kind of come about by luck...we didn't get to choose where we were born.

  2. crazyliblady Says:

    Yes, I think you have been fortunate to have friends and a financial advisor who gave you good advice when you needed it. However, you were also smart enough to get into debt as a college student with student loans and credit cards. You spend money in smart ways where it will benefit you later and not willy nilly on stuff you don't need, right? That's not lucky, that's smart, and something I am also trying to live up to. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Jenn Says:

    I think most people know what to do, but don't do what they know. It requires discipline and that part's tough. It's also tough to admit that we're mostly accountable for our resulting level of 'comfort'. It's humbling to see someone who had disadvantages that I didn't but made better choices and got the results.

    You were smart! You made the most of what you had and didn't take it for granted.

  4. PatientSaver Says:

    Well, just based on what you told us, I'm not sure I would read into his comment that you were "fortunate" to somehow mean "lucky." It's really not the same thing.

  5. Kaycee Fisher Says:




    Believe it or not, MOST people do know that luck had nothing to do with it. It is just a figure of speech that should not be taken literally.


  6. Kiki Says:

    I think you were lucky to meet the finance advice people at the right time! But hard work is what got you here today.

  7. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    You were smart enough and disciplined enough to provide the needs of your future self. You were "lucky" enough to find, make, or fall into situations where your striving could actually pay off. You've done good... Think I will blog relatedly today.

  8. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    You were smart enough to make use of smart people around you and their advice. You made your own "good luck."

  9. Thrifty Ray Says:

    I understand why you bristled. Fortunate means receiving something not by your own effort or skill. You are financially where you are at BECAUSE of your efforts and decisions. I am not sure your friend meant anything other than you are in an enviable financial position compared to his/hers. What really matters is that you ARE in the position you are in- and that you can be proud that it is from your own doing!

  10. rob62521 Says:

    Thanks for your comments!

  11. LivingAlmostLarge Says:

    You are lucky because you were smart. And fortunate nothing ever happened. But at the same time you worked harder because you were smart!

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