If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know a bit about my career and my commitment to helping my clients meet their goals and live purpose-driven lives. But it is impossible to fully appreciate the seriousness with which I approach the work I do—the degree to which I hold myself accountable for helping my clients succeed—without first understanding how I grew up.
Everyone starts somewhere, and I certainly wasn’t born knowing how to navigate the financial landscape. Quite the opposite, in fact.
My parents were just teenagers when I was born. There were four of us by the time my mother was twenty-three. And, as you might imagine, that put a lot of strain on my parents’ relationship. Most of my memories from growing up are of my parents fighting—always about money, because they had none.
When my dad left my mom for another woman, it was up to us to help pay the bills. My mom signed my older brother Bruce and I up for paper routes, since we were too young to get them on our own. I was five and he was six. Then, she signed us up for second routes. For years, the money we made delivering the paper was our family’s sole income, bolstered by the other odd jobs I did for my customers—like taking their trash cans to the curb and shoveling their snowy sidewalks.
My money lessons began back then, when I was five and responsible for covering the cost of the newspapers if my customers didn’t pay. I’d leave them handwritten notes when they didn’t answer the door, and after three notes, I’d cut them off. While they’d complain about me to the newspaper office, I had already learned that I couldn’t afford to give them something for nothing.
Eventually my mother applied for food stamps, but she was too embarrassed to use them herself, so she sent me in her stead. Bruce and I were the family cooks, and we’d put together a grocery list. I’d then have to take the bus to the store, pick out the groceries, calculate how much I’d be spending (all I had was food stamps; so I definitely couldn’t go over that amount), and check out in the time it took for the bus to complete it’s route and circle back to the grocery store.
In my childhood mind, “if we only had money,” became a common refrain. Back then, I dreamed of a different reality—and I certainly wouldn’t wish what I experienced on anyone—but it also made me who I am today: resolute, driven, entrepreneurial.
My early experiences continue to fuel my life’s work. I don’t want anyone who reaches retirement to wonder what could have been if only they had money. I do everything I can to keep my clients from knowing the struggles I did, and encourage proper estate planning so that they can protect those they love too. For more information, visit debrabrede.com.