When I was in my early teens, I had a paper route. I got up excruciatingly early to prepare and deliver the Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Tribune around my neighborhood. Thursdays and Sundays were particularly brutal because those were the days we needed to insert the weekly ads. It not only took extra time, which translated to less sleep, but they were much heavier, which meant I couldn’t carry as many. Thus, it took longer to complete my route. Then, add in the days it rained or snowed, which meant more time placing the papers in plastic bags so that they didn’t get ruined. I did all this for close to nothing, but it gave me something – which as we know, especially as a kid, is better than nothing. I kept that paper route for a few years, before becoming a caddie for a private country club, and then eventually getting my first “real job” on my sixteenth birthday. I was taught at an early age that you always did your best at whatever job you were doing. If it was a job worth doing, it was a job worth doing well. I learned that motto at a young age and it has stuck with me over the years.

Unfortunately, when I was growing up I didn’t have the first clue on how to handle money – and nobody taught me. I don’t think I have a dime left from all that money I worked so hard to earn in my teen years. Money merely provided me the opportunity to have “things” that I thought I couldn’t live without.

Over the years there have been different moments that helped turn my thinking around. Living paycheck to paycheck when I first married was a humbling experience, but at that point in my life I wasn’t aware of my financial ignorance. Then, a friend came into my life who was financially astute. He took the time to sit down with my wife and me and gave us some tough love, and mentored us over the years. I also read quite a few books and attended numerous seminars over the years, including several Good Sense and Financial Peace University sessions. Soon it began to make sense and many key principles on personal finance became common knowledge.

I would like to say that I have gained a complete understanding of all aspects of personal finance, but the truth is that it is a never-ending journey. I still don’t make the wisest financial decisions from time to time, but I am still learning and will continue to learn. God has even blessed me with opportunities to pass along to others what I have learned about personal finance over the years and share my own story.

The truth is, I would be nowhere close to where I am today financially if it were not for my past. My past is what I have learned from. Without it, I might still be wandering in the desert, complaining to God for more, even though he has provided me with all I need. Forgetting or ignoring the past only weakens us and slows are progress. Our past gives us benchmarks to show there has been progress in our journey; maybe not to the point we would like, but progress indeed. Did I wish I would have opened my eyes to the truth much earlier? Absolutely! If I could go back, I would have started by saving much of that hard-earned money I made delivering newspapers; but that wasn’t my journey – as much as I wish like heck that it was.

Do I have more to learn? Without a doubt. We are always growing or receding. We are never status quo. My aim is to have constant growth in my journey, as that is all I have control over. I pray your journey is one of never-ending growth.

Mark Etting

Author Mark Etting

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