Saturday, December 1, 2007

Guest Post- The Total Money Makeover Series, Installment 2

  • Name or Alias: A.L
  • Age: 51
  • Marital Status: Single
  • # of Children: 1 son (just married)
  • Occupation: Accounting Assistant
My Journey

You’ve heard about the “Grapes of Wrath” people that came west from places like Oklahoma to find a better life? Well, those are my people. My family was some of the people that followed the California harvest, whatever it was, to make a living in the early days of the 20th century. They picked cotton, cut grapes, picked apples, peaches and apricots and whatever else they could to scratch out a living for the family. As a result we were not a rich family.
My father bettered himself with the best education he could afford. He worked in law enforcement until he retired after 30 years with a nice pension. Working for the federal government was a good job with good benefits in those days. He raised a family of six children on the salary he made and he worked to better himself grade by grade while he was on the job. So we became lower middle class…not dirt poor anymore.
Somehow I never picked up on the lessons that dad taught the boys, to find a trade (he meant an area of expertise that you like) and make something of yourself. I floundered around in mediocre jobs and spent some time in a theological school that was a great experience but didn’t offer me a career. Long story shortened….I drifted along in a job that afforded me a meager living. I was never very ambitious and therefore didn’t get paid very well.
My son was born and money got tighter. Still I kept thinking the raises would come and everything would be all right. Meanwhile, as a typical American I began to use credit cards to “extend” my income. Isn’t that a joke? It’s the same story I’m sure many people could tell…living paycheck to paycheck….a 401K growing very slowly and no savings account. With car payments, rent, expenses and a growing credit card debt, I was on a downhill spiral and didn’t really know it.
I was pushed ahead in my job by natural instincts more than a need to excel. Luckily I was clever enough to do very well at whatever I put my hand to and with hard work I made it to the top of my department…and sat there for years. I worked for a company owned by corporation after corporation with no thought for the employees. Their only concern was the bottom line profit and they “milked” the company year after year until…unbeknown to us…the company was bankrupt. My house of cards was about to crash and I didn’t know it. Then the crash came…
A new company purchased the bankrupt company for the contracts it held and my job was in jeopardy. For a few months it was touch and go, but finally they decided to go out on a limb….20 years of experience in the business and 15 of that doing billing seemed to them to be a good bet and they asked me to stay on with the new company. By this time I hadn’t much to lose so I decided it was time to play hard ball. I guess the years of neglect in a failing company had stiffened my resolve to do better. So I held out for a decent raise and started my quest to financial peace. Things improved some, but not enough.
Then one day I was introduced to the most amazing, simple, common sense way to handle money that there was nothing for me to do but jump on the band wagon. Dave Ramsey “preached” to me about the fact that “children do what feels good, adults devise a plan and follow it”. I had found my plan! With the end of the year bonus (an unexpected gift) I started my emergency fund. My bills were current but there were car payments and credit card debts and that was not good. So, I started working on my “Debt snowball”. The first time I was able to pay off a credit card I felt like shouting from the mountain tops, “It is working!” I’ve knocked off a few more since then and it still feels great every time. The snowball is shrinking and the budget is working. I can’t believe how much better I feel each month when the bills are paid and there is money left over to whittle away at that snowball. I even planned for Christmas before December this year! My son got married in September and the wedding expenses didn’t bankrupt me! I was able to continue on my budget. It feels like I got a huge raise, but the only difference is that I am managing my money and it is not managing me.
I would recommend anyone to listen to the common sense money management of Dave Ramsey and the Total Money Makeover. It changed my life…
Thanks, A.L. for the great guest post! It's great to hear the stories of others who are traveling this same journey to Financial Peace!


A.L. said...

It was pointed out to me that my snowball should not be "shrinking" but gathering snow, speed and momentum...sorry for the inept analogy, but you get my "drift". The debt is shrinking!

Andrew Dillon said...

This comment has NOTHING to do with the post, but I found it funny that your "industry" on your profile reads "construction"... Just the mental image of you in a hard hat with a sledge hammer was too funny.

Anyways.. go read PJ's blog :) I'm Famous!!