A Penny Saved is Agency Earned [Guest Post]

This week on the Weekly Wisdom blog, Randall Oldenburg teaches us about the benefits of financial planning (including budgeting, saving, and investing) for disabled people. Randall Oldenburg is a freelance writer and aspiring disability rights activist living in Minnesota. His current preoccupation is exploring the many relationships between personal finance and the disability experience. In doing so, he hopes to assist and inspire other disabled people in their own financial and existential pursuits individually and collectively.

A Penny Saved Is Agency Earned: How Basic Financial Education Is Helping One Man With Cerebral Palsy Stay Sane

For many people, doing a budget is a task reserved for the number crunchers among us. Doing a budget happily — that’s the perverted behavior of a masochist.

What follows is not an argumentative piece. This is merely the story of how I became such a masochist — not just a person who budgets, but also a person who plans, saves, and invests in themselves and their own future.

This is the story of how I received the gifts financial education has given me.

A Sense of Control

Cerebral Palsy (like other disabilities) has a tendency to take control from those whom exist with it as a feature of their lives. I am one such person.

I can’t control when my legs fail me and when they don’t. I can’t stop my hands from aching even as I write this, and I can’t stem the need to take frequent breaks to save my eyes undue strain. No matter how actively or rigorously I scorn these needs, they are still needs: I am routinely and viscerally reminded that I am not in control.

But in the world of personal finance, I rediscovered some of that lost control.

“Maybe I can’t drive to get groceries, but if I budget well, I can help buy them.”

“Maybe I can’t pay all of my medical debts in one swoop, but if I learn how debt works, I can make a plan; I can win the long game.”

“Maybe I can’t work 40 hours a week, but I can learn about business: I can learn to set up systems so that somehow, someday, I will be more than just a cripple who takes and doesn’t produce.”

“I can’t sleep at night because of the guilt. But someday — if I keep learning slow and steady — I will repay my loved ones. People to whom I owe everything, and who graciously insist no debts exist.”

These are the thoughts which echo, not always so coherently, off the walls of my mind — the thoughts that are kept in check by one thought alone: I am learning.

A Much-Needed Preoccupation

To those with Cerebral Palsy, chronic fatigue is sometimes a nagging aspect of life.

I will say, regarding the particulars of this topic, only that there are more days during which I feel useless, than days during which I feel useful.

In this context, learning about financial matters is not merely a means to an end — a reliable pathway to fast cars, fast lovers, or fancy watches. The quest to become financially literate is a much-needed oasis; a kind of “in between” state, wherein even a person such as I often am, a person with few spoons at any given time, might enter into the realm of the productive. By my lights, to learn is to produce.

Connection In Abundance

If you have read to this point, you may have had the following thoughts, among others: “Why is this guy so concerned with ‘producing’, and what’s so special about personal finance? Couldn’t you get these benefits from any other hobby?”

I will spend less time addressing these questions, which I am merely assuming in the first place, on account of the fact that my own experience has been the evidence for this piece thus far.

In my experience, the personal finance and business community is unique in many different ways.

Never have I been insulted by a member of the personal finance community, nor have I ever been told I shouldn’t or couldn’t participate merely because of my physical condition.

My questions are happily answered, my personal experience seems valued, and a small army is ready and willing whenever I have concerns about access to some resource.

In particular, the following YouTube channel’s have been great sources of connection: Roberto Blake, The Financial Education Channel, The Wild Wong, and The Financial Diet.

Most other areas of interest cannot boast such a general culture of helpfulness and respect, not just for disability, but for me as a disabled person.

It is for the above reasons that personal finance (in my experience) has not only been a source of control and preoccupation, but also a source of abundant and healthy connecting to my fellow humans.

With that, my other fellow humans, thank you so much for reading and letting me share my disability wisdom.

Follow Randall on Twitter: @TheRealRandallO

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