After completing my army training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, I was sent to my first duty station, serving as a Military Policeman. This was my first opportunity to handle money — my money! I spent plenty, saved what was left, and basically just did what most of my buddies were doing at the time. I was winging it, lacking any kind of plan or direction.
One day a supervisor told me I should consider investing my money. I agreed and off we went to a “free” dinner. She introduced me to a sharp looking fella, and he said he would “help” me. Within no time, I was an investor. Then, I was ushered over to another gentleman who looked just as impressive. This insurance agent quickly signed me up to a whole life policy. I was now an investor in stocks and insurance. I was going to be rich!
By the spring of 1986, my paycheck had gotten bigger, and that meant it was time to buy a better car (that is the American way, right?). As I stepped onto the new car lot, the salesman flew over to greet me. He asked me what I could afford to fork over on a monthly basis. Soon after, I was the new owner of a brand new car. I was living the American Dream!
The Army decided to send me to Germany in 1989. What does a young man do when he has free time on his hands? I could have spent my time at the local bars chasing the pretty girls and enjoying the German beer, but I chose a different option. I chose to read. Before long I was finishing off two books a week after my workday was finished (if you are ever going to become financially literate you will have to do it on your own time).
One day, one of my buddies stopped me and asked if I was investing in the stock market. I stuck my chest out and said, “YES”. He asked if he could come over some evening to learn how to do this investing “stuff.” I agreed to his request. The evening came, and my friend was full of questions. Sadly, I had no answers. After all of these years, I was still financially dumb.