I will never forget when I received my first paycheck from my very first job back in 2004. That mere piece of paper seemed to represent all my years of childhood fading fast into adulthood. I wanted to frame it. I wanted to spend it. I wanted to save it. I wanted to savor it.
Alas, before I could keep this very first paycheck in my pocket, it had to leave my pocket to others first.
The first was to my family. In my family, there is an unspoken tradition that you treat your family in some way with your very first paycheck.
According to my father who was separated from all his siblings and parents, pinched for pennies, and made ends meet all on his own in the U.S.A., “Most of the money went to your grandmother—my mother. She was in need of it more than me. I lived my life on Wonder bread and peanut butter as my meals.”
According to my stepmother who also made it on her own in good old U.S.A., “My money went to my parents in Taiwan. I treated them to a meal. There is nothing like making and especially earning your first paycheck. Knowing that you worked for it to reap the rewards and that you do not have to go to your parents anymore as a bank, but they cannot be a bank forever as their funds deplete as parents get older. It is hard to make and earn your own money, but it is worth it. Nothing easy without effort is really worth it.”
With my very first paycheck, I treated my father and stepmother to dinner. I was giddy with a gap-toothed grin when I said to the waiter, “Check please. You can give it to me!”
There was nothing more satisfying and joyous to me to see my parents basking in a delicious meal that I had worked for to treat them in a very minuscule way and in comparison to all my Dad and Stepmother had done for and still do for me. It was the first time that I understood that parents will do anything for their children and will always see their children as children to take care of them, but there comes a time parents grow old and children grow up for adult children to take care of elderly parents. I think parents want their children to be healthy, happy, and independent to manage and take on whatever bumps are faced and bridges are crossed in life. I think one of the greatest forms of love is to let go to see that person fly and soar on their own rather than stuck and unmoving dependent on others.
My aunt once said to me: “Life is measured in 50. First 50 years of a parents’ life is to take care of children. Last 50 years of life is for adult children to take care of old parents. Parents wish for their children to be independent and strong to stand on their own two feet and walk forward rather than crawl on the ground. 50 and 50 makes for 100 years of live and living.”
After my first paycheck, I quickly learned that most of my money that I earned went more so to others than to myself—mainly bills and more bills. Bills for my very own apartment. Bills for my health. Personal bills for my enjoyment and entertainment—did I really NEED this as opposed to WANT this?
Budgeting and responsibilities came on sudden with my father at the forefront teaching me that money is meant to be saved for the long-term, and spent and enjoyed as we want to and given to others in need from how hard we worked and earned. Over 10 years of working taught me that it takes much longer and is much harder to make money than to spend money and it is easy to spend money (if you have it) than it is to ever get that money back. Long-term of saving money grows with time and is not measured in the moment as compared to the short-term of enjoyment where money goes fast. Whenever I griped or complained about work, my father reminded me to be thankful that I can work and said: “Remember ‘The Golden Rule.’ The person who makes the gold makes the rules—hence your employment making rules over you and hence you in charge of your own money that you must take responsibility and ownership of.”
If I were to ask my father for money now, he would give it to me. However, my pride would never allow me to even ask. I suppose I inherited this from my father, as I have never been one to be a charity case and I do not like anyone paying my way as I always feel indebted to them. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I went to Papa Wu Bank, and I like to think he likes not being a human ATM machine and is proud of me being the ruler of my gold that includes me spending my gold on those I love and care about in the smallest ways that mean the most that cannot be fully measured money-wise.
Indeed, here is the “Golden Rule” that the person who makes the gold will make the rules. Just as the person who can feed you from their hand can also withdraw their hand just as fast as they fed you from that hand. Gold is about power and control, but it is, ultimately, about independence. We have had Golden Rulers throughout our lives starting from our parents who cared for us and gave us allowance that we had to work for through chores or employment/employers that made the rules for us to follow to receive yet another paycheck to save and spend as we desire. The greatest Golden Ruler is I or You. As much as it sounds nice to have someone pay your way, it is very nice on the surface and in the short-term. Though it is beyond challenging to make, save, and spend money, it is YOURS and FREELY YOURS without anyone making the rules of your own gold.
Were you given an allowance as a child and how did you have to work for it? When did you start to budget? Were you actively taught budgeting or did you learn as you go? D you remember your first paycheck? What did you do with it? re you the ruler of your own gold with saving or spending or, hopefully, a balance of both?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,