My wife and I were normal Americans. Translation we were struggling, living paycheck to paycheck, serving every master as a slave without any real freedom. We were married in 1996 and had gone deeply into debt trying to finance a lifestyle that my teaching job did not support. In 1999 we began construction on a house, with the pay as you go plan (when I say construction I mean we were doing the building ourselves with our own hands.) Of course, for us, pay as you go meant thousands of dollars on credit cards (like I said, normal American.)
By early 2001 I had changed schools and found myself working tremendously long hours mentoring students in science fair. I’ve had (and continue to have) a passion for education and learning. I was being a “good man” and simply keeping how big of a debt hole we were digging from Carrie. I now know that she knew what was up, but at the time I thought I was protecting her. The long hours and financial stress began to prey on my mind and soul and I found myself dwelling more and more on how we would make it.
By 2003, with the birth of our son, I found myself getting increasingly depressed. We had nearly $60,000 in debt and I didn’t make that much in a year. To get to our new house I had to drive down a very curvy road that began to increasingly look like an easy way out. By 2006, I began contemplating driving off a particularly nasty drop off in the hopes that it would look like I fell asleep during the drive home (I was coming home around 1:00 am from school during the winter months.) I knew life insurance would cover our debt and give Carrie around $20,000 to start over.
Then a funny thing happened on my way to planning suicide, the radio station that I listened to coming home (talk radio) changed lineups. Instead of playing Bill O’Riely they began to rebroadcast a show by Dave Ramsey. I was literally too lazy and tired to change the station, so I listened to it during the drive home. For the first time in two weeks I didn’t think about driving off the cliff, to be honest not because I found the show enlightening, but because I was too busy yelling at the radio and arguing with Dave Ramsey about how stupid he was. He put forward that you could live without debt, and everyone knows that this is ridiculous. The second night (I know, I know why didn’t I change the channel, see above about lazy and tired) I heard Dave quote the following verse Proverbs 6:1-6:
My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
He went on to explain that this was about getting out of debt and finding your way to freedom. He went on to testify a bit about his own personal story of bankruptcy and recovery. This trip I found myself not arguing as much. I began to realize that people calling in started both from places better than we were at, as well as from places much worse. The third and fourth night I began to really listen and learn. After a week or two I got the guts to do what he suggested to others in similar situations and sit down with my wife and discuss where we were at, where I thought we could go, and, most importantly, WHY we should totally change our lives.
I went to Carrie and said, hey I’ve been listening to this guy on the radio talk about getting out of debt, she took one look at me and said “you mean Dave Ramsey?”. Turns out she was listening to the show live during the day. The next day we ordered a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (affiliate link The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness). Before we had read this book, I would routinely come home having bought a half dozen movies without thinking about where the money would come from to pay for them. My wife had finally said “If you spend $200, make sure the account has $400 cause I’m going out and spend $200 tomorrow.” After reading the book together we figured out that although I was the nerd who loved knowing the details, I was also the spender. My wife was a saver and a free spirit. We agreed, after reading the book, that we would begin working together, living like no one else so that later we could live like no one else.
Starting in February of 2006 we began a journey towards freedom. We discovered along the way that there would be many hurdles. In the two years eleven months towards freedom we went through a job loss, career changes, and a major medical situation when I had the same lung collapse twice within three weeks. This was in the middle of the time when I was searching for a new career after leaving teaching, in large part due to health issues. Since one collapse was in December and one was in January we had the pleasure of paying deductibles twice in close succession. This ended up adding almost $20,000 more to our journey out of debt. Shortly after that I began a new career in assessment development. I continue to work in that industry and have achieved worked hard and moved up in the company. What we discovered is at what should have been a “low point” we really experienced a new beginning, because we had a plan and surrounded ourselves with strong coaches, teachers, cheerleaders, and guides.
On January 9th 2009 we were the third caller to the Dave Ramsey show where we called in to scream “WE ARE DEBT FREE!!!!!” Since then we’ve continued to tick off goals and work further and further towards having freedom in all aspects of our lives. My wife now works only when she wants to since that was a goal of hers. I am now in middle management in my company, and I continue to succeed there, by finding ways to be a servant leader and entreleader (affiliate link) within the company where I work. We’ve attended counselor training with Dave Ramsey’s organization and EntreLeadership one day.We’ve been working as coaches for others over the last year or so; walking with them to help them find ways of seeking and achieving freedom from debt, freedom in their lives, and freedom in their careers. We’ve worked as coaches (I like the term coach since it is forward looking, and emphasizes that the player has to be an active part in the process) of several people, some friends, some family, some clients. Jon White (@JWFinCoaching) interviewed me about our story for his Debt Free Living Podcast series, listen here.
We look forward to spending time learning how we can help you find freedom in your own life.
Contact us for a free 30 minute session so we can find a way we can help you.
Scott and Carrie