My husband and I began taking steps to financial freedom in 2007 after we suffered a tremendous financial disaster of our own making. But before I tell you how we found hope in the midst of our situation, let me go back and tell you where we started.
I grew up in a middle class family that came from modest beginnings. My father was the 3rd of 6 children and was primarily raised by my grandma who was mostly a single mother. They were poor. I saw that first hand as a little girl going to my grandma’s house in Del Paso Heights, a suburb of Sacramento. My mother’s father, a purple heart World War II veteran, always worked and my grandmother stayed at home. Though my grandpa worked his whole life and I saw him retire, they lived very modestly in a small two bedroom house in Rio Linda, also a suburb of Sacramento. When he died, what was left was a home that was paid for. But my grandpa was cheap! And I say that with a smile. He shopped at dented can grocery stores and his idea of going out for dinner was Kentucky Fried Chicken. He saved the little Styrofoam containers from the Colonel and made them into make-shift piggy banks and saved his pennies. For years and years he had stacks of these containers filled with pennies. When I graduated from high school, my grandpa proudly handed me an envelope and in it was a crisp $100.00 bill. He had literally “pinched” his pennies and saved so he could give me this gift. My Grandpa rarely spoke in more than two-word sentences and I don’t remember if he said anything when he gave me that envelope but I do remember the smile on his face and how proud it made him to be able to give me such a gift. There are many lessons that can be learned from my Grandpa’s generation!
Mom and dad married when mom was 16 and dad was 20, I soon followed. I was born towards the end of the Vietnam war and grew up to see my dad graduate college on the GI Bill. My dad became the first person in his family to obtain a college education and growing up, I saw him work hard, as did my mom, to provide for my sister and I. But I also saw them struggle, living paycheck to paycheck. It was not uncommon to ask for something and be told that we could not afford it. That is not to say that my parents did not have enough to provide for us. We were always provided for and my parents did what they could to buy us the things we asked for. I am embarrassed to say that sometimes they were met with selfish responses from a ungrateful teenager. What I lacked then was an appreciation of the value of money. Not unlike most teenagers today, I lacked an understanding of what it means to live within ones means, live on a budget, how debt works and the importance of savings. My husband lacked that understanding as well. His father was absent for most of his childhood and his parents divorced when he was about 10, leaving his mother to raise three children by herself. The priority was making ends meet.
Without that knowledge and a solid foundation in all areas financial, I began working, went to college, met my husband, became a mom, went to law school, became a mom again and all along the way we acquired more and more debt in the form of student loans, car loans, and credit card debt. By the time I graduated from law school we were in an enormous amount of debt. Then 9/11 happened and the economy hit a major downturn and I found myself a law school graduate and unemployed for the first time since I was 16 years old. Making ends meet on one income and two little ones to feed was more than a challenge. Not knowing how to get out of our circumstances, we saw bankruptcy as our only option. We filed a Chapter 7 no asset bankruptcy and received our discharge. We saw it as a fresh start…a fresh start to rebuild our credit and we did. We bought our first home and things appeared to be great on the surface. Sadly, we made all the same mistakes. We had learned nothing. We acquired more debt, still had no savings, and were still living paycheck to paycheck. My husband had acquired his Masters in Education and was teaching, I was working as a lawyer in a government position and we made more than decent living, more than many, and had nothing to show for it…except our house. We saw our home appreciate. So we did the first refinance and put in a pool. As the house continued to appreciate, we did another refinance and paid off some of our debt, vowing to not get any further into debt…a promise we did not keep. By now we were bitten by the “real estate” bug and we saw others making money flipping houses, so we decided to take out the remaining equity in our home and buy a fixer-upper and flip it for a quick profit. What we didn’t know , and we are the only ones who can be blamed for our ignorance, is that we were on the cusp of the real estate bubble bursting. We finished the house and put it on the market. We received three offers, any of which would have gotten us out of the mess we created; however, each offer fell through and then it happened…the market burst. We found ourselves with a house we couldn’t sell, our own homed mortgaged to the max and a mountain of debt at our feet. We had spent our way into almost $900,000.00 of debt. We cried mercy!!!! We found mercy at our church when they offered a course developed by Dave Ramsey called Financial Peace. We took the first step in our journey to financial freedom, a journey we are still on. Since 2007 we have reduced our debt by more than half. If you do the math, you will see we have quite a long way to go, BUT we know this is a marathon and not a sprint and we also know with every fiber, that we will be debt free as long as we follow these steps. Will you join us???
The hope of Curtis and I is to encourage you! If you believe your circumstances are hopeless – there is HOPE! You CAN work out of debt. You CAN be debt free. You CAN save money. You CAN be financially free and live your fullest life when it comes to money.