I feel awful for people who wake up one day to realize that they're in a big mess and don't know how to get out of it. I feel very fortunate that random things in my life lead me to sites like this when it so easily could have gone the other way.
I feel this way too. I came from what the authors of the Millionaire Next Door call a UAW household (under-accumulators of wealth). Both my parents made very high incomes (six figures EACH between 1985-2005) yet had the typical mindset that more money meant they could buy more stuff. So they moved from the modest $250,000 house (in a nice part of DC) to the $1.5 million house literally
two blocks away. Always had a nice new car every couple years, my father was a big collector of everything- toy soliders, stamps, books, baseball memorabilia, etc., my Mom went to Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue every weekend, we took a 2 week vacation to Cape Cod every summer, etc.
Then life happened several years ago- my sister went through a nasty divorce with the lawyer paid for by my parents (they needlessly spent over $200,000 on him and 3 years later, there were no "winners"), my sister's been out of work for three years now while my mother supports her and her two kids, my father went through a slew of health problems and can't work anymore and requires a home health aide, and yet they haven't reduced their lifestyle all that much- they still drive a Mercedes, my father gets three or four new books from Barnes and Noble each week, they eat out for every meal, etc. And over these past few years, my mother has continually asked me for money (at least a dozen times now), including $10k right after a Christmas where she likely spent $1000 on gifts for myself, my wife, my sister and her two children. She believes that once she sells the house, they will be in good shape, but I've tried unsuccessfully to convince her that it's merely a temporary solution and that her cash output needs to seriously drop and they need to begin to live a more simple lifestyle to fix the underlying problem of too much spending.
All this is to say I'm very lucky that I didn't turn into this. My parents are wonderful people who have passed down a lot of good qualities to me, but financial sense was not one of them. I'm lucky that I met a woman several years ago who came from a family who lived a lot simpler in a small town in New York. And I'm lucky that I found this blog because even on our fairly average lifestyle (our expenses were about $2000 per month after rent last year, $3500 total), we've still found ways to cut (we cancelled cable and got an antenna so we only watch our favorite shows a couple times a week, I switched my iPhone to an MVNO, we're selling our car that we don't use since we live in the city). I wish I knew all this stuff sooner (I'm 27 now), but it's a lot better than finding out in 20 years when it would be too late.