Okay, with a title like that you might have surmised this is a heavy post and you are exactly correct. This is not a post I planned or even want to write. It’s probably the hardest post I’ve written yet. However, I’ve been convicted of something and the only way for me to lie my head on my pillow night and sleep is to come clean. I’ve come clean to Mr. Ramsey and now I must with Y’all.
Blogging and Getting Naked
In addition to sharing my finances here, I bear my heart and soul. I share my past journey in overcoming addiction and then digging my way out of debt. It’s somehow easier to share the things I’ve come through after the fact because, well, I’ve already come through them. I’m the stronger for it and I’ve had time to reflect and understand.
Today I’m revealing something I lied about but the conviction is recent. I’ve really only had one week to process it and so I’m getting naked with you in midst of the problem, my imperfection, and the solution. This seems to be a bit harder than sharing how I’ve overcome my past hardships.
Alas, and alack, I have a desire to have a clean heart before God and that means I must accept conviction and do something about it.
When I signed up to blog, I wanted accountability in my financial life but I’m getting so much more than that. Additionally, I live a life of recovery and I’m a Christian. For me both of these things mean:
- I take a daily inventory of myself & my actions
- Identify where I was wrong
- I look at what’s in my heart – good or bad
- Make amends
- Turn away from the things making me stumble
If something is heavy on my heart and it’s appropriate to share, I do. I don’t want to only share the good stuff because who the heck only has good stuff?? You can go on Facebook to see the highlight reels of people’s lives. I want this blog to be real. And after all, it is a redemptive study in achieving financial independence. The word redemption implies being saved from error, sin or evil and yep that’s me!
Here’s a little secret, I haven’t arrived at anything. I’m still a work in progress. So here goes…
The Dave Ramsey Method
- Save $1,000 to start an emergency fund
- Pay off all debt using the debt snowball method
- Save 3 to 6 months of expenses for emergencies
- Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement accounts
- Save for your children’s college fund
- Pay off your home early
- Build wealth and give
Dave Ramsey was really the first person who told me (through the airways) that I didn’t just have to keep my debt around for 30 years. He told me I could get intense and knock this stuff out of my life for good. At the time I heard it, I was 6 figures in debt and it felt like it was an albatross around my neck. His advice was revolutionary to me and exactly what I needed to hear. I actually started to believe I could find financial freedom.
What I Followed and Where I Strayed
I followed steps 1 and 2 exactly. Additionally, I was on a zero-based budget and used cash for everything. Dave talks about how it’s more painful to pay for things with cash. I followed this part as dogmatically as Dave prescribes. It worked for me and taught me some serious discipline with my money. I gained freedom.
If you’ve heard or read my story before you know my house was foreclosed upon in the midst of me paying down my debt. I had to pause my snowball and hire an attorney. He advised me that my credit was going to take a big hit and that when it was said and done, I’d need to focus on building it back up. I had an older car (still do – $195k miles and going strong!) at the time and he advised me to buy a new car with a loan before the house foreclosed. I didn’t do that but I did keep two credit cards open to use in building my credit back up.
Everyone who knows Dave knows he is vehemently opposed to credit cards. I get it as he tends to help people who are horrible with credit cards.
Dave also advises that when one is in the debt pay off phase they cease from contributing to any retirement accounts temporarily. The reasoning is to be laser-focused on your goal. I also get this but I didn’t follow it.
In the process of paying off my debt, my boss opened up Vanguard Simple IRAs for our team and contributed 2% to everyone’s accounts. I mistakenly thought it was a match and decided I did not want to lose out on free money so I opted in. Recently I learned that he just gives us 2% regardless of whether we contribute or not. Either way, I started contributing to my retirement prior to getting out of debt.
As you can see by the baby steps above you only start with a $1,000 emergency fund. When my house foreclosed, I knew two things: 1.) my car was old and I’d never get approved for a loan and 2.) I might have to pay taxes on the waived deficiency. I again paused my debt snowball and started saving a ton of cash to cover both of these events. Once I confirmed with my tax accountant that I did not have to pay the taxes on the waived deficiency I still kept that money parked in my savings account. So I technically did step 3 before 2.
The Lie I Told Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey has a radio show and podcast. I listened to it every day for motivation during my debt pay off journey. He allows people who’ve paid off their debt to do a debt-free scream (either live in the studio or by calling in). Either way, you must apply and be approved. Additionally, there is approximately a 6-month wait. I wanted to meet Dave and thank him so I applied to do a debt-free scream about 3 months prior to getting out of debt.
It’s a fairly lengthy application process and there was one question which held me up:
“Did you use a credit card while paying off debt, or do you still have one?”
I was fairly certain if I said yes, I’d be disqualified from doing a debt-free scream. As I mentioned above I kept two credit cards open for building my credit back up. While I was paying off my debt I rarely used them and when I did I paid my balance off in full. Because of that, I justified answering no to that question. I lied.
Several months after applying I got the call about doing my debt-free scream. I experienced some inner turmoil as to whether or not I should go. Ultimately, I decided to go and on June 4th, 2018 I stood in Dave Ramsey’s studio and was able to share my testimony live with millions of listeners.
I haven’t really thought about that lie on my application until this past week when my first blog post from ChooseFI re-surfaced. I re-read my first post and all the lovely comments. At the time that article first went live, I believed I was probably disqualified from doing a debt-free scream. However, when I got the call that I was accepted, I got swept up and overlooked my lie.
It’s been heavy on my heart and I’ve been sleepless several nights. Finally, I came to the place of admission. I lied plain and simple and the only way to right it is to confess and apologize. While I regret nothing about the process I outlined above, I do regret that I lied on my application. It was not up to me to decide if that would disqualify me or not. It was my job, to be honest.
So I got down on my knees and repented. I slept that night.
The next day I wrote a letter to Dave Ramsey & his team with my confession and amends. If you so desire you can read that letter here.
Now, I felt I needed to confess this to the readers of Ms. Fiology. I don’t want anything built on a lie so I apologize to you too.
I’m a fan of getting to the root of things and so I’ve been reflecting and praying this past week on why I did this. I know I crave fatherly approval and affirmation. This is something I got very little of growing up. However, I’ve identified this in my past and my father & I have even reconciled our relationship so why am I still going to any lengths to get it?? That is a great question and one that I’ll have to continue to examine prayerfully.
I believe when there is a lack of something in our formative years, it creates a yearning. Additionally, a father’s blessing is something we all need and want. Think of the story of Jacob and Esau in the bible. Esau was the firstborn son and entitled to his father’s blessing. Jacob went to great lengths to steal that blessing from his brother and was able to trick their father and achieve it. Apparently, a father’s blessing is a big deal.
I’m disappointed in my lie. Although, I welcome some more chiseling in my life which continues to make me into a better woman.
This life is short and I want to live the best life possible. I take full responsibility for my actions and try to clean up my side of the street.
Just to reiterate, the path I took to get out of debt is exactly what worked for me. Mr. Ramsey helped me to overcome some limiting beliefs and I followed a lot of his advice. However, I ignored other things he advocates. I don’t regret that. If I could do it all over again, I do it exactly the same except for one little thing. I’d tell the truth on my application and let the Ramsey team decide if I was qualified to share my story on his show or not.
Finally, I’ve decided the best litmus test for choosing the morally right thing to do is whether or not I can lie my head on my pillow at night and sleep.
Okay, so I’m open to any thoughts, questions and/or comments you may have.