The poor kid in the rich neighborhood

I was born in Fountain Valley, CA on December 4, 1974. My parents divorced when I was around 9 years old. We were living in a typical condominium complex. Definitely not upscale but not really in the poorer neighborhoods either. We never really had a lot of money while my parents were together but both parents had even less after they split up. I was with my dad most of the time and he moved around a lot. I went to several elementary schools in my district in Orange County, a new one almost every year, until after I finished my first year in middle school (7th grade), when we moved to Bend, OR.

I spent the back half of my elementary school experience up the street from some of the wealthiest communities in Southern California, surrounded by friends who’s Ivy League parents were attorneys, investment bankers, doctors, all living in some of the most affluent neighborhoods in Newport Beach, Balboa, Crystal Cove, East Bluff, etc. Their driveways were packed with Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs, Porsches and pretty much any rich person’s car you could imagine back then.

I remember attending sleepovers at their houses and I felt like I was in Disneyland….like “people actually live daily lives like this???” Their houses were huge, many had live-in maids and housekeepers, their backyards complete with giant swimming pools, trampolines, well-manicured half-acre yards. Their homes today would probably sell for about $3M each at least.

I also remember going home after some of those sleepovers either to my mom’s tiny apartment in Costa Mesa, or back to my dad’s house all sad and bummed out. He usually had us living in a place that, while a decent middle class home in the late 80’s, 9 times out of 10 he was so cash broke from mis-managing his finances that our car was more often than not a beat up old car or van, barely running, cars that you’d normally see driven by folks in much more extreme poverty, living in their vehicles. I learned down the road that he was constantly in debt to his own father, and refused to get a job working for someone else just out of pride. More on that later.

As a kid this juxtaposition of environments between how my divorced parents were living paycheck to paycheck, in and out of dysfunctional post-divorce relationships, and how my friends parents were living, little did I know how my internalization of these lifestyle comparisons would impact my brother and I much later in life in a very negative way. The tension and stress in my home environments, heavily vocalized in my dad’s house in particular, was very clearly tied to a lack of money vs. the “happiness, fun and peace” I was perceiving at all my wealthy friends houses…this really set the tone for what I would later on in life have anxiety about, on an almost constant basis.

As a young adult, I lacked the education, the resources, the mentality and the self-esteem to be responsible with money. I had no idea how to set educational and financial goals for myself. The unstable home environment left me developmentally stunted, rendering me unable to deal with the hard life stuff that lie in the road ahead, having zero courage to face my adversity head on.

It was the perfect storm of childhood stress, jealousy, envy, lack of self-worth and hopelessness that my naturally optimistic and happy self would eventually succumb to in my adult financial life.


0 thoughts on “The poor kid in the rich neighborhood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *