I was checking my Facebook timeline from January 2010. It was eight years ago that I posted this status update on Facebook:
Not one of my Facebook friends had any idea what I was alluding to at the time but behind that statement, a transformation was taking place. I had finally hit rock bottom financially. I was sick and tired of being in my early thirties with two degrees and a whole lot of debt. No real savings and a closet full of shoes. No hope or direction for my future.
Let me take you back to that time and place where my financial journey begins.
In January 2010, my grandfather had to have some minor surgery on his knee. It was a couple of hours at the surgery center and then a few days of healing before he could drive again. I decided to travel to Florida to help out since my grandmother was no longer driving a car. And who doesn’t want to get out of Minnesota during the winter?
I remember my grandfather coming out of anesthesia grumpy, gruff, and bossy like he always does when he is put under. I remember helping him use the walker to steady himself as he walked along. I remember looking at the funny stitch marks that looked a smiley face on his knee.
But I also remember at one point during the trip when my grandfather was taking a nap and I was sitting with my grandmother at her kitchen table. She was pouring over her checkbook trying to reconcile her bank account down to the penny. Always so meticulous with her money. She would search endlessly through her check register if her reconciliation was off a penny.
As I watched her review her financials, it brought back memories of all the struggles she and my grandfather had gone through to reach their financial goals. Their idyllic life in Cuba was cut short in 1962 when they decided to flee their homeland for the US. They came to the US in their late 30s with two small children (my mom and her sister) with what they were wearing and about $100. Nothing else. Everything including their wedding rings were left behind – it was all considered property of the state.
My grandparents had to start at the bottom of the labor ladder all over again, taking entry level jobs in factories. My grandmother had been a school teacher in Cuba but couldn’t teach because she didn’t have the certification or a command of the English language. My grandfather had been the general manager at an oil refinery back in Cuba and was now taking a laborer position at a sugar cane mill.
Over the years my grandparents poured their blood, sweat, and tears into making a better life for themselves and their family. They worked their way up in their new career fields. My grandmother even left her job at 67 and started working out of her home for another 10 years (there’s a whole other life story out of that sentence I will share in a separate post). It was in those entrepreneurial years that my grandparents were able to pay $55,000 towards their mortgage. They were able to travel and enjoy their retirement because of the sacrifices they had made when they had to start all over from zero in their late 30s.
As I was thinking through all of these images, it occurred to me that I had been pretty wasteful about my money in my 20s. Moving to an East Coast city, trying to live a lifestyle – and shoe collection – way beyond my means, and taking out debt for a brand-new car and an MBA degree only because that was what was normal. It’s like my early 30s were the financial hangover of the financial decisions I had made in my 20s. It hit me that I was not living a life that honored the sacrifices my grandparents had made to afford me the opportunities I had been given.
Once I got back home, I realized that everything had to change if I wanted to reach my financial goals. I started researching how to attack my debt and how to put a plan in place. It was a conversation with my best friend that led me to the Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace University (FPU) with Dave Ramsey. She talked about how enjoyable FPU made personal finance and that she was really enjoying the classes. She will also be the first person to admit that personal finance is not her passion. If someone who was not into personal finance was enjoying the classes – and finding success – then surely it was worth a shot.
The classes were exactly what I needed to get moving. In fact, I bought the book the Total Money Makeover and started attacking my debt before I started taking the classes. I was on fire to become debt free and start reaching some of my life goals that being debt free would allow. And while my journey wasn’t without setbacks and detours, it was completely worth taking the first tough steps in the right direction.
I am so excited to share with you the things I have learned in my successes and failures with money. My hope is that you are able to take the information from Every Single Dollar to make impactful changes to your finances so that you can go out and live the life you were meant to pursue.
So – have you hit your financial rock bottom? Are you ready to take control of your finances instead of having your finances take control of you?
Are you ready to change your life?