Stacy’s Story: The Stress of Debt and Steps to Financial Freedom
Can you imagine what it would feel like to never owe anyone a single dollar?
Honestly, can you even imagine NEVER being in debt for a single day of your life? Sadly, I am finding the answer to this question for most people is a resounding “No!” And I have to admit that growing up the thought never even occurred to me. I remember my parents paying for things with credit cards, financing vehicles and talking about the expense of paying the mortgage. I also remember the palpable feeling of stress that it seemed to bring on my parents.
Memories of debt
I have a vivid and specific memory of a time when my parents purchased a new vehicle. I was probably only about 8 years old but I remember seeing my mom crying and talking about the fact that it was too expensive and she didn’t know how they were going to make the payments. That was when I really started to understand how debt can truly be a destructive force in our lives. However, I still thought it was just the way it had to be!
When I was 17, I saw this beautiful Red Honda Prelude on a used car lot and I wanted it desperately. I had a job and saved some money, but couldn’t afford to buy it with cash. That is the first time my desire or “want” for something won over my rational brain and I decided to take out a loan from the local credit union to purchase that beautiful car. And so started a pattern. Before I graduated from college, I had taken on student loan debt, financed a second vehicle and even started to rack up some credit card debt. I graduated with a degree in accounting and started my career as a CPA and financial statement auditor with a Big 5 accounting firm. I thought I had it made! Until I started to feel the enormous pressure of monthly payments. I had a great salary, but always felt broke because the money was out the door to make debt payments the second I deposited my paycheck.
I continued that lifestyle for much of my 20’s and into my early 30’s. Buying new cars, going on nice vacations, building new houses…hey, so long as I could afford the monthly payment I could afford it, right? All of my peers were doing these things and I likely earned as much as them so this was just the way of life, right? Wrong.
The stress of debt
The feeling never sat well with me. The stress continued to build and whenever I looked to my future, all I could see was working until the day I died to pay off my debts. I had no financial freedom whatsoever. So in my mid 30’s I decided to make a drastic change and go without things that I “wanted” in order to gain something that I desperately “needed”. The understanding that one day I would no longer be in debt and be truly free from the financial burdens that were dragging me down every day. Thankfully my husband was on board and we started taking the steps to pay off debt and set a “debt free date” in our future. We have one remaining debt, our mortgage, that we are continuing to chip away at but for the first time in my life, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will be debt free one day soon. It’s a very liberating feeling!
More is caught than taught
So now I am on a mission to help others understand that they too can have financial freedom! In April, I begin teaching a Dave Ramsey course called Financial Peace University at my church and as I prepare for this journey of helping others, I am again reminded at how desperately it is needed. As I talk with others, I am astounded at how often marriages and families are being put in jeopardy because of financial pressures. It’s time to take back control of our lives and not buy what we cannot afford to pay cash for! Crazy concept right?
Imagine if we could teach our children that from day one and they never had a dollar in debt in their lifetime. That is my dream for my children…I cannot guarantee they will follow my lead but I know that “more is caught than taught” so I am not only going to teach them the principals that I have learned but I am also going to model the behavior.