The financial distractions of the fabulously broke
Once upon a time like many in LGBTQ people, we were more concerned about surviving and living for today than preparing for tomorrow. These financial distractions are why we struggle to be debt free and why we feel insecure about retirement. It kept us from our hopes and dreams. Can you relate?
My mind wanders to amazing places, both real and imaginary like a techno lit dance floor with shirtless muscle men clouded in fumes of dry ice. I was using the elliptical machine at our gym recently. The TV in front of me was playing music videos, kinda like MTV when MTV played music videos and not Jerry Springer auditions. There were two videos in a row that reminded me of the early 2000s and took me back to our clubbing days, nights of financial distractions when we danced until morning.
Neither David nor I were “club kids”, per se. We were slightly too old to qualify. We didn’t dress in raver clothes. We, also, didn’t go clubbing every weekend, as required by the club kid mafia but did go most weekends and some school nights. We went frequently enough that it was rare that we had to pay to get into the clubs.
The mid-90s to mid-2000s were the golden years of Denver’s gay club-scene. There were dozens of gay clubs, bars and restaurants to let your unicorn fly. There was anything from techno to leather, from bear to piano and gym boyz to drag queens. I moved to Denver from Philly and was used to and hoped for a decent gay scene. I was relieved to learn that my passion for snowboarding didn’t bring my disco days to a glittering halt.
Caught in a bad romance
David and I met on a gay disco dance floor when we were in our late-20s to mid-30s and just entering the peak years of our social lives. We were finally liberated, as were many gay men in those days. The U.S. has quickly evolved to accepting the LGBT community, but our high school days weren’t far behind us. Being gay in high school in our day was bad. Always.
Because of that, LGBT people didn’t have the dating and social experiences at the same time as our straight friends. While we may have pretended, even convinced ourselves, that we wanted straight relationships, those never ended well. Dating during high school, while awkward for all, was uniquely awkward for us. We didn’t mature socially at the same speed. We were five to ten years behind our straight peers.
While our friends had their first high school flings, we watched. When our friends were settling down, we had our first relationships. Marriage only recently became an option. Consequently, same-sex relationships are often calculated in dog years. This is ironic, as David and I have several straight friends who have met, got married and divorced in the time we’ve been together.
Social studies suggest that gay men especially strive to have the perfect home, perfect car, perfect career and perfect body to make up for years of feeling less than perfect. This desire combined with our delayed social maturation timed just as our careers took off created a perfect storm of financial distractions for David and me. We had and spent a lot of money to see and be seen and to look good when we were seen.
We bought new cars with six+ year terms and down payments on credit cards. Every square foot of our home was covered in Pottery Barn purchased with plastic, though not covered in it. We had the newest clothes and phones. We spent more time at the gym than we ever spent on a budget. These were all financial distractions.
We often wonder where we’d be today if we avoided debt or paid our debt off sooner. We were fortunate enough to eventually have our disco ball moment than to never have it at all. This moment was when we realized the situation in which we put ourselves and what we needed to do to get out of it.
We had $51,000 in credit card debt and were living in a basement apartment with two beat-up cars, while our straight peers were buying their first homes.
The financial distractions fix
Now, the same questions came up over and over again:
- What is it we most want out of life?
- What’s blocking us from what we most want in life?
- What are we willing to do to make them happen?
These three questions changed our lives.
These let us focus on our authentic selves and not our superficial selves. We thought about the long-term and not the temporary. The club scene and all that came with it was not what we wanted. They were financial distractions.
We paid off our debt in two and a half years. So, if you can relate to us at our low point, you can relate to us at our high point. Just know that if you’re buried in debt, you too can become debt free. But you have to start somewhere. So, start right here.