Two less things to worry about each month

Yesterday I put my tax refund to good use and paid off two outstanding debts that have been a continuous source of stress around the 24th of each month. Both of these bills were due at the same time each month, and they amounted to about 1/4 of my available money, after I was done paying my mortgage and utilities, putting food on the table and gas in the car, and meeting other obligations. Not only were they expensive, but they also stressed me out at the end of each month, because I had to remember them and make the payments at a specific time, or I would incur further costs and headaches — and one of the creditors was threatening to take my house.

The one who had threatened to take my house (which they actually couldn’t because I have a homestead declaration on my home), also hauled me into court several times over the past few years, over stupid little things like changing the spellings of names on the paperwork. Just intimidation tactics, to show me who was boss. It was pretty tiresome. And pretty stressful.

Now that is behind me, and I have finally paid off all the debts I had racked up over the years. Four years ago, when I started the debt settlement process, I owed as much as I take home in a year’s time. So, paying it off has not been easy. I contracted with a debt settlement firm that seemed like a good option and really helped me. People all warned me away from using them, but I had no other option. My life was a story of one harassing call after another, and never being able to get ahead. I was literally paying out more than I was taking in, and all I could do was hope that something would break… but it never did, so I had to bite the bullet, kiss my credit rating good-bye, and just do the impossible. The firm I used was recently put out of business by lawsuits and going broke, but this was after they helped me pay off everything for 50 cents on the dollar. So, it worked out for me in a very big way.

And as hard as it was, I don’t regret doing it. I would probably do it again.

But now I don’t have to. And I never have to go back to that place, because I (and more importantly my spouse) know the dangers of getting way in over your head, and not having a way out. When things are going great, it’s fun to charge things on your credit card and live free and easy. But when things go bad — as they will do — well, that’s another story.

My spouse especially has grown up a lot, in the past four years. They no longer reach for the credit card immediately, because, well, we don’t have all those cards to pull from. And whenever they show me another card to apply for, I just ignore it. Personally, I can’t believe they would even think of getting more credit cards. It just makes no sense to me.

So, I will have to stay vigilant and hold the line. And focus on doing good work and making some good money.  Just stick with the basics, and leave it at that.

Speaking of sticking with the basics, it’s time I got to work…




How I figured out something was REALLY wrong

Yes, I picture’s worth a thousand words… Here’s a graph of what happened to my financial situation, after my fall down the stairs (I hit the back of my head on the top 3-4 stairs) in 2004:

The interesting thing about this is that I never fully realized that there was something really really wrong with me, till I looked at my finances in 2007. Prior to that, I had thought that the problems I was having with my moods, my temper, my attention, my sleeping patterns, my pain… welll, everything… were due to things outside myself.

I literally thought that it was other people who had the problem. Or, it was just job stress. Or it was an unhappy childhood. Or I didn’t realize there was something wrong at all.

But then, in 2007, I looked at my finances and I realized that something was very, very wrong. I, who had been in the financial services industry for a decade or so, who was studying to become a financial advisor, who had been all about money for years and years and years… who knew about all sorts of common sense investment and savings vehicles… I had literally forgotten to keep track of my finances. And I had forgotten to stash a large lump sum I’d received in a secure interest-bearing savings account.

People, that’s just common sense. It’s the bare minimum you do with a lump sum of money, let alone all the other things you can do with it.

But I hadn’t. Even knowing what I knew, even having the positive orientation that I had to money, even having all this domain experience in savings and investments… something had broken down. And it forced me to take a long, hard look at all the other factors that had been plaguing me in my life.

Suddenly, a pattern emerged. And I started to remember things i hadn’t thought about in years…