Happy Thanksgiving, all! This month I’ve participated in a thankfulness challenge with my friend Andrea from Saving Joyfully. The idea was to stay focused on gratitude and inspire others to do the same. In light of that challenge and the holiday at hand, I’m writing a tribute to the money mentors throughout my life.
Past & Present Money Mentors
I need to start with my folks, who were always good stewards of our family’s resources. They lived on less than they made, saved & invested, and paid cash for their cars. I was a rebellious kid for many reasons and did not learn from their wise money ways until I was much older. However, once I gained some financial literacy I recognized my parents had always been doing the right things with their money.
People who’ve walked with me in recovery
Upon getting sober from drug addiction, I obtained a sponsor, Amber, who is this amazing woman of God. She walked with me through the hard stuff and to this day keeps me accountable.
Amber knew early on I was struggling financially so she made some suggestions on how I could reduce my expenses. She also encouraged me to keep my focus on my recovery first and foremost.
As I progressed in recovery and became more mature, Amber & her husband, Roy, would talk to me about potential plans in tackling my finances. They mentioned that Dave Ramsey has a plan I might consider. Roy also suggested that I start tracking my expenses to the penny every month.
Sister in faith
After about 1 year of being sober, I joined Cuyahoga Valley Church and got plugged into a community with amazing people. It was in a women’s bible study where I met my next money mentor, Patricia. Patricia offered to meet with me one-on-one and help me get on a budget. For the first time in 41 years, I learned the benefits to budgeting.
Patricia had formerly taught Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) and explained the steps to me. I left her house with this new excitement that financial freedom was possible!
I remember telling my colleague, Carson, that I was doing Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and he was 100% supportive. In fact, he told me he applied a lot of his principles when he got out of debt years prior. He also had a copy of the FPU DVDs. We’d watch them over our lunch hour and I got more and more motivated.
I remember the first time I heard Dave talking about student loans. You see, I had a mix of debt:
- Credit cards
- A car note
- Medical bills
- Student loans (the bulk of it)
Anyway, Dave said something that no one had ever told me.
He basically said I didn’t have to keep my student loans around for the next 30 years like a mortgage. I could attack them with a vengeance and get free.
For whatever reason, hearing that statement gave me permission to look at my mountain of debt differently.
Somewhere in the process of my debt payoff journey, my boss opened up a Vanguard Simple IRA for us to invest in. He put in 2% for all employees but I mistakenly thought it was a match so I also put in 2%. I didn’t want to lose out on what I believed was free money. At this point, I had nothing saved for retirement so it gave me peace of mind to be doing something here.
Even when one is paying off debt, I think it is wise to take advantage of any employer match on retirement accounts. It is free money and once you automate it, you don’t miss it. It creates a good habit.
Near the end of my debt pay off journey as I started to study our Vanguard investment options more. I learned that the 2% my boss put in was regardless of what we chose to put in. Haha, one of my better mistakes!
My boss is one of my money mentors as he has been one of the biggest cheerleaders in me paying off my debt. Furthermore, he has given me opportunities to teach our whole team about the Vanguard investment options we have access to.
More people of faith
I fully employed the debt snowball and knocked my debts out one-by-one. I was getting some serious momentum.
However, as I was just starting to work on the final one (student loans) I came to a crossroads with my house. I had owned a house since I first got married (1998) and divorced (2000). The particular town I lived in was hit hard by the crash of the market and it was not bouncing back. In fact, my neighborhood was full of abandoned and foreclosed houses and theft was high.
My furnace broke in the middle of winter and I thought about taking on more debt to pour into this sinking asset.
However, I temporarily moved into a ministry house with the pastors of Living Stones Communities. They were kind and supportive to me in my journey. Additionally, I was introduced to a realtor who helped me proceed with short selling my house.
The move into the ministry house became more permanent and I sold or gave away most of my stuff from the house.
My realtor & attorney
After about 1 year of filing the necessary paperwork and working with my realtor, my short sale was declined and my house went into foreclosure. My realtor even went to court with me when I got the scary letter. She never earned a penny from helping me. Although, I did end up sending her gift cards to show my gratitude.
With the foreclosure, I was devastated and distraught. However, I had to proceed so I paused my debt snowball and hired an attorney.
In the end, the bank bought the house back and waived the deficiency. My attorney was the champion in this ending well.
At this point, I remember feeling exasperated. My credit took a huge hit, I lost my house, and I wasn’t sure where to go. In the process, my attorney had said to me that at some point the bottom levels out and it will be time to build myself back up. Wise words.
I knew it was time.
More accountability partners
I met with a woman, Tracie, who was keeping me financially accountable. She helped me slash more items from my budget. Additionally, I mentioned that I was thinking about asking my parents to move in with them. We did some calculations and came up with two years being the amount of time I’d need to pay off the remainder of my debt ($36,000 at this point) and save enough money to potentially pay taxes for the waived deficiency.
Things sometimes come full circle. My parents opened their home to me and I moved in with them in October of 2016 and now I was ready to learn from their wise ways.
Initially, I paid the minimum payment on my debt and saved enough to potentially pay the taxes of the waived deficiency of the foreclosed house.
In the spring of 2017, I hired a CPA for my taxes and learned that I did not have to pay the waived deficiency and so I kept that money parked in my online money market account for emergencies.
Then I went full steam ahead towards debt pay off.
The same colleague, Carson, who encouraged me with my debt snowball, turned me onto this little podcast in the Spring of 2017 called ChooseFI.
It took a couple of episodes before I fully understood the concept of financial independence but I remember saying to Carson, what the heck? Who are these people?
In true Deanna fashion, I dove in headfirst and became very active in the community. It was the motivation I needed to finish my debt payoff journey. Moreover, it got me thinking about investing and a strategy for the next leg of my journey.
Later when I brought my friend, Shari, into the ChooseFI community, I also gifted her The Simple Path to Wealth. In my opinion, it’s the best place to start for investing 101.
Finally, I wouldn’t be who I am today without my faith. God has never given up on me. When I admitted defeat to my addiction, the first thing I did was get down on my knees. I knew I needed help spiritually and naturally. This was really the first step and then all these amazing mentors came into my life.
Sometimes surrender is the most beautiful door to walk through.
My faith is a huge part of my story and gives my life meaning. I know there are bigger things at play here and my life is just one small piece of the puzzle.
I made my final debt payment on December 29, 2017 (9 months sooner than planned), and began my journey towards financial independence at the start of 2018. I was able to meet and thank Dave Ramsey in June of 2018.
So many people have freely helped me along my way and now I get to pass it on and help other women gain control of their financial lives.
I am full of gratitude for my money mentors this Thanksgiving. Transformation is 100% possible. You just gotta believe, get a trusted team, and implement a plan.
If you are starting out financial journey, please let me know if there is any way I can help you…