As you may know, I am a self employed financial counselor, meaning that I help people devise a plan to reach their financial goals.
I wish that I could say that every story has a happy ending, but life is real and story book endings don’t always happen. You may remember reading The Sad Tale of Clarence and Evita, an encounter which left me some morose.
However, some do turn out well. I received a phone call the other day from a very happy young man (we will call Carl).
Carl, “Joe, I called to thank you for helping us." His voice was tingling with excitement.
“Hey Carl. What’s going on?"
“I just want you to know that, other than our house, we are debt free! The feeling is just indescribable!"
“Awesome!" I countered. “Did you just now pay off your last debt?"
“We sure did. We followed the plan that you helped us with and it worked. We are building up our emergency fund and getting positioned to invest for retirement. But the best part is this: now that we don’t have debt, Penny (not real name) is able to cut back her work schedule to two days a week. She has always wanted to stay home with the kids and that is becoming a reality. Joe, we both want to thank you for your help."
“Carl, you are welcome. But all I did was help point you in the right direction. You and Penny did all of the hard work. Congratulations. I am thrilled for you!"
This 30 year old couple, with three young children, had discovered the freedom that getting out of debt brings. When they first met with me a little over a year ago, they had over $35,000 in car debt, credit card debt and student loan debt. Admittedly, a big chunk of paying off the debt came by selling some stuff, but the point is this: they did it. Why did Carl and Penny succeed when so many don’t? I believe these four factors were huge:
They were highly motivated.
They didn’t like their lives like they were and were extremely focused on change. In fact, their first words to me were, “We don’t like where we are and are ready to do whatever it takes to change."
They worked as a team.
Carl and Penny were absolutely on the same page. Their communication was open and clear. Neither hesitated to speak up when they disagreed, and they talked things out until they did agree. Their respect for each other was always obvious.
They had a clear goal.
They had had enough of debt. Their goal was to get it out of their lives. Both understood Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is a slave to the lender."
They were ready to sacrifice.
For Carl and Penny, eating out was a big money drain. Carl would eat lunch out nearly every day and, because of Penny’s work schedule, eating out as a family was convenient (and costly). But Carl started bringing his lunch to work and they planned eating out as a family for special occasions. They also agreed to forgo their vacation in order to pay off their debt.
I wish I could say that I had a huge part in helping them, but all I did was point them in the right direction and encourage them along the way. They are a very happy family right now, and I am happy for them.
Readers: Have you worked through debt in your lives? What would you say was the greatest factor in your success?