My Financial Epiphany – The storm of my life

By glblguy

Storm

A Gather Little by Little reader, Gina, wrote a guest post earlier this week sharing her financial epiphany. Our email conversation started out with an idea she had of me sharing mine and then asking my readers to do the same. Instead, I asked her to share hers. She did so, and asked other readers and myself to share ours. Since Gina was kind enough to uphold her end of the bargain, this article will fulfill mine.

The coming of the storm

I grew up in a typical middle class family. My parents weren’t incredibly frugal, nor did they spend money excessively or un-wisely. We didn’t talk much about the family finances, but I knew enough to know that we weren’t rich but we weren’t poor either. I was provided everything I needed, and many of the things I wanted.

As I grew into a teenager, my father (my parents had divorced by this time – I was living with my Dad) began to slowly turn over financial responsibility to me. I got a part-time job working in a local pet store selling fish, aquariums, and supplies. I paid for my gas, some of my clothes, and any entertainment I chose to do. My first car was given to me, and as a result I didn’t take care of it. My next two cars where purchased by my Dad, but I had to pay him back in monthly payments, which I did. Funny how when you pay for something you value it far more.

Around this time, I applied for and received a credit card in order to establish some credit. I purchased a new set of badly needed tires for one of my cars as my first credit card purchase. Unfortunately what should have been a tool for building my credit began the downhill path towards mis-use of credit cards. The dark clouds began to move in. As I continued to buy things on credit, they became darker and darker. I could see the storm coming, smell the rain ready to fall, hear the thunder, feel the cool wind and see the lighting, but kept telling myself it would pass. It didn’t.

The storm hits

In November of 2006, the storm hit…hard. It wasn’t just a storm, it was a life changing hurricane, the storm of my life. It was a major life crisis it hit us and one we never saw coming. I didn’t get paid for 3 months and was faced with the possibility of not having a job. As a result, we also faced with the possibility of not having a home or even food on the table. My family and I were left looking at our life much like a hurricane victim looking at their utterly destroyed home. We were in shock, not knowing what to do, where to turn, or how to pay for things. We had credit card debt, a mortgage, 2 car payments, a camper payment, 6 children to cloth and feed and no savings. Needless to say it was overwhelming. We visited a pawn shop and sold many of our valued items in order to pay our mortgage and buy food. It was not a good time.

The aftermath

Fortunately things worked out. I returned to work, was paid for the 3 months I was out and as a result got caught on our bills. But let me tell you, I didn’t look at our finances the same way. That 3 months made me realize that at any point in your life, things can immediately change. Not only can bad things happen, but bad things can happen that can polarize your financial situation. Like Scarlett at Tara, I vowed to “never go hungry again“. My wife and I decided to turn our financial lives around, and not be “slaves to the lender” or anyone else for that matter.

I began reading every personal finance book I could get my hands on, searching the web, and reading my Bible daily. This resulted in me finding five significant things that helped me find the path I am on today:

  1. The Simple Dollar – Trent Hamm’s personal finance blog. Trent seems to have gone through a similar life changing event, and through his writing I could relate and see hope.
  2. Get Rich Slowly – J.d. was writing about his quest to be debt free and providing simple and straight forward information about finance basics. J.d. is now debt free.
  3. Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover – Dave made me realize the devastating control that credit card companies have on those of us in debt. His writing and baby steps made me realize that there was hope and a proven plan to get myself out the mess I was in. Even better, his approach was biblical and drew me to scripture and to the Bible in search for more answers. His book was truely a God send for me at the time.
  4. The book of Proverbs – I had read the book of Proverbs before, but never with the financial focus I had when I discovered in once again in June of 2007. Religious or not, this book is full of wonderful financial wisdom.
  5. Gather Little by Little – After reading The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly, I was inspired by their writing. I decided I wanted to share my story, and my learnings with those who might be in similar situation. I wanted to try to reach people living a similar life to the one I lead in hopes I could keep them from having to learn the hard way as I did. Writing articles and sharing my journey with readers has been a true blessing in my life. Writing gives me hope, keeps me on track, and makes me accountable. With every financial decision I make I ask myself 3 questions: 1) What would God want me to do? 2) How would my wife feel? 3) What would my readers think?

I still have a long way to go, and struggle daily with maintaining our finances, not slipping back into old habits, and aggressively paying on our debt. Even though it’s still raining and the dark clouds are still above us, I see the sun on the horizon and I know we can do this. While the last year and 3 months have been the worst 15 months of our lives, I am honestly not sure I would change anything. We have learned so much while in the valley. I feel strongly the things we’ve learned will have a positive influence on our life going forward. Had November 2006 not occurred, I wouldn’t be writing this article, wouldn’t have paid off more than $20,000 in debt, wouldn’t have any savings outside of my 401k, wouldn’t have my m-network friends…well I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture.

Thanks to everyone that has shared their Epiphany stories so far, and I really look forward to reading more of them. Special thanks to Gina once again for coming up with such a great idea. My sincere hope is that our stories will become someone else’s Financial Epiphany.


22 Responses (including trackbacks) to “My Financial Epiphany – The storm of my life”

  1. Kristen Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s nice to hear that there are other people who struggle with their finances. I was fortunate that a family member’s life crisis was my epiphany. After watching someone close to me go through some life changing events, make some poor financial decisions and file for bankruptcy, I quickly reassessed my situation and realized I was heading for disaster, too. I got on a plan to pay my debts, quit using credit cards and am slowly chipping away at my balances.
    I also recently started a job with a non-profit credit counseling agency where I have learned so much about budgeting and debt management. That is helping me a lot, too, and I am anxiously awaiting the day where I have no unsecured debt!

  2. pete @ biblemoneymatters Says:

    Thanks for sharing! It’s nice to hear that even some of the best personal finance bloggers out there have had their struggles.

  3. shaleh8 Says:

    I appreciate the sincerity of the blogs that have been written thus far; for I am being strengthened and empowered everyday by reading an applying the stories necessary to my daily living. My prayers have been answered through this community of PF Bloggers to have the courage and motivation to fight the good fight of faith to see the end of debt in my life, to be an example to help others who are hungry to make changes for the better.

  4. Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net Says:

    Wow, I’m sorry that you had to go through such a rough time (speaking as someone who knows what it’s like to not have a steady paycheck), but I’m glad your experience helped you to realize something needed to be changed. I hope that your black cloud turns to sunshine real soon.

    And I’m glad you started blogging about finances. I find myself coming here for inspiration when I’m sick of being frugal. You always have a post to get me back on track. So thanks! :)

  5. Lee Says:

    I too am touched by your story. I’ve been curious for awhile what your crisis was a year ago…and I knew it was impolite to ask, unless you volunteered the information. God only knows the things you went through…I appreciate you sharing. I know I’m not the only one blessed by your writings daily. So as the saying goes, what the enemy has meant for bad, God has turned around for good.

  6. Credit Hawk Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Gina’s story. It helped me and I am sure it will help many others.

    Thanks,

    Credit Hawk

  7. MoneyBlogga Says:

    “Gather Little by Little” was the very first PF blog I found on the net one night. I had never heard of Dave Ramsey until last week so I’m sure it’s evident that I’ve been living under a very heavy and hard to move financial rock for a long long time. I went looking for Dave Ramsey, found him, and then (through clicking around) found the M-Network’s contributing bloggers. From living in a secret financial nightmare to waking up and attempting to take some sort of control, I found the honest advice and tales-from-the-trenches very uplifting and enlightening. I lurk daily on M-Network’s collective sites (but I always start with yours!) for my daily dose of e-Prozac.

  8. glblguy Says:

    @MoneyBlogga – Your comment is EXACTLY why I blog. I spend a great deal of time blogging, but knowing that it impacts peoples lives, like yours, in a positive way makes it worth it. Throughout my life I’ve always wanted to make a difference, and it’s great to hear that Gather Little by Little is doing that for people.

    e-Prozac…LOL…love it! Thanks for reading, and for the wonderful comment.

  9. Mrs. Micah Says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Gibble. I can’t even imagine how scary hat would be, as I don’t have kids. It’s great that you were able to take the positive route instead of giving up or falling deeper into despair. Or just forgetting it once the real danger was past.

  10. Christine Says:

    Such an inspiration! Thanks for telling your story. It is such a good feeling that we all are not alone in this crazy world. When I have financial blunders… I feel like I am the only person this happens to. Glad to know that (unfortunately) I am not the only one.

    Thanks again for sharing your story!

  11. David L. Brown Says:

    Living “Debt Free” is the best way to go thru life…it is o.k. to have “Good Debt”, and yes you can also have “Bad Debt”, ie; a car or a home, both of which are needed…

    “Good Debt” is that that you are having control over…
    “Bad Debt” listed up above is needed…

    When a person gets into “Debt” that is out of control, he or she “Caused” that are those debts…medical bills, they are not what I talking about here…Credit Cards of all sorts are what I am talking about, and also going out and getting any kind of loans…

    When a person gets into “Debt” remember this, you can not “Cure” that person’s behaviour in regards to how and why they got into that debt/amount…

    When a person gets into “Debt” that is out of “control”, you can not get that person’s debt/amount under control…

    The best advise to that person is to tell him or her is seeking a professional person or a financial counselor…In your county you can find a finacial counselor, if you really want help to get out of your “Debt” and not continue to go into further debt every month, than you set down with a counselor, after making an appoint-ment…be real with your financial behavior, be there ready and willing to learn how to manage your income and find your way out of the behavior, ie;It’s o.k. to live my life being in “Debt”!!!

    You do not have to live your life in “Debt” that life style is choice that each person makes…So remember its your money and it is also your choice of how you send it…

    When you choose to not save money for a 6 months expense allowance, in the event that you are out of work, (R.I.F.) Reduction In Force or your health makes a bad turn and causes you be away from work, you will still be getting all of those bills in your mail box, so stop and think, if you do not want to save for an event that can really push you over to the edge, in regards to your financial well being, they when you get to that area of your life…I hope that you can find some help, because I your friend will be there to listen, but no money will be exchanged from my hand to yours, you chose to not save, so suck it up and bite the bullet…

  12. Jay Says:

    6 kids? Jesus, no wonder you had money problems …. Talk about an obviously irresponsible money move :p

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