I was ashamed. I was supposed to be a financial expert but I had failed miserably with our family’s personal finances. Money fights and arguments were the norm in our marriage and pulling us apart. Given my background and experience, my wife had entrusted me as the person to handle our finances. However, my self-rationalization and limiting beliefs about money had guided us into making a series of bad decisions that had led us astray. Something had to change.
I went to school to be able to become an accounting and finance professional. It was always something that I excelled at and was a passion of mine. I thought I knew more than most and could apply corporate finance principles to personal finance. I failed to recognize that personal finance is primarily behavior and emotionally driven.
I had to first bring my wife onboard with our family finances. I had finally realized that personal finance in a marriage had to include both spouses. Then we both had to get to the truth about our limiting beliefs about money and what success looks like for us.
We had our “oh shit” meeting and laid everything out on the table. We had checked off nearly every stupid box you can with what not to do with money. We still had $37,000 in student loan debt even though we were both 10 years removed from college. We had $20,000 in a car loan for that car “we had to get because we had a baby on the way”. We had $84,000 in a home equity loan for the renovations that “we had to get done to be able to live in our house”. We had $20,000 in debt for a failed business venture that “was for sure going to succeed”. We had $125,000 in a partnership loan for me to buy ownership into the company I was working for. We had $18,000 in credit card debt because we failed to sit down and go over a monthly budget together and “we make great money so we don’t need a budget”. All in total we had $304,000 excluding our mortgage that we owed other people. We were anything but financially independent.
Our eyes were finally opened. This was not what success looked like to either one of us. We had to change. We had to first fix our marriage and then tackle this mess together. We had our NO MORE moment. There is nothing better to bring a marriage together than to work on a common goal together. We now had that goal.
The next 3 years after that meeting was anything but easy. The plan and goal were simple, but simple does not mean it is easy. We had to constantly remind ourselves of our why and of the goal. We had months that we took a step back. We had months that we took giant leaps forward. For 3 years my alarm was set at 2:00 am, 7 days a week, to get up and get to work to bring in more money to tackle our debts. Refried bean wraps were my lunch nearly every day. I still hate refried bean wraps to this day.
The one thing that helped us stay the course and we continue to do was having weekly spouse meetings and an annual 2-3 day spouse goal-setting retreat where we go somewhere just the two of us and plan out our year, dreams and goals.
Over the course of those 3 years, our marriage strengthened and we came together stronger than ever. At the end of 3 years, we had paid off the debt, saved enough money to cover 12 months of expenses, and grew in our relationship together. WE DID IT! We finally achieved financial independence. The chains were broken and we were free to do what we wanted. We were finally free to go after what success looks like to us. The journey was anything but pleasant and easy. BUT it was worth every agonizing step!
So what does success look like to us? Well, that is easy, it is helping other people. We believe the purpose of life is to help others. My wonderful wife, Michele, helps people achieve fitness and running goals they didn’t think were possible with her business, Rugged Running. And now that we have financial independence, I am free to be able to launch my own business helping others achieve the same financial independence we longed for.
Life rarely goes how you plan it up in your head, but when you look back you see the reasons why things happened the way they did. If you choose to learn from your mistakes, take responsibility for everything that has and will happen to you, and use them to propel you forward you will get to where you are supposed to go.