Yesterday’s post, Bad Debt Leads to a Bad Job and a Rough Life, hit home with quite a few people. Today, the saga continues, but in a different direction…
“Pregnant? You mean–with a baby?” Chris felt lightheaded and like his legs were made of rubber. Still, he gathered himself enough to hug Lisa and pretend that everything was just peachy. “Honey, I’m just a little concerned about the hospital bills. How are we going to cover those?” He tried to hide his anxiety.
“Oh don’t be so silly. I’m covered at work, remember? Mrs. Miles has us on a group policy through some employee benefits and payroll company. That’s why my paychecks never say ‘Miles Decorating.’” Lisa was on cloud 9.
Over the next two days, Chris did something stupid. He didn’t tell Lisa about his lack of a job. He just pretended to be going to work and drove to the park to talk to the pigeons and to read a book his Uncle Howard had given him called The Richest Man in Babylon. Uncle Howard had passed away shortly after Chris had graduated high school 5 years ago. On the first page, there was a folded piece of paper. When Chris opened it, five $100 bills fell out! The paper had a note on it that read:
If you’re reading this, chances are good that you opened the book I gave you. Read it. Follow it’s ideas. Make some sacrifices with your lifestyle, and always live on LESS than you earn…and don’t blow this money on something frivolous!
On his father’s side of the family, it was widely suspected that Uncle Howard was well off financially. The trouble was, no one knew for sure. He had never driven fancy cars. His home had been a modest one that was nicely decorated. He had taken nice vacations to be sure, but they weren’t around the world cruises or trips to go shopping just for the pleasure of buying stuff. Uncle Howard didn’t flaunt his money. His children and grandchildren had received the bulk of his estate, but they lived on the other side of the country.
As he read, Chris felt hope coming back into his life. This book had three basic tenets that instructed him to:
- Pay himself 1st by saving 10% of his income.
- Pay his debtors with 20% of his income.
- Live off the remaining 70% of his income.
The book was a collection of short stories that taught basic money and personal financial concepts such as money comes to those who save. It multiples for those who invest it properly with wise people. Money is lost when invested in things with which you are not familiar and is lost at a fast rate by pursuing get-rich-quick schemes.
That night, Chris decided to tell Lisa the truth. “Lisa, I have something I need to confess to you.”
She walked up to him, smiled, and put her hand up to his mouth. She whispered, “I already know. It’s okay. I understand….everything will be alright.”
Chris felt his eyes well up with tears. He just hugged her and shook his head at how stupid he’d been for not trusting her. “How did you know?” he asked.
“Matt called me when he saw you in the park. He had tried to call you at work to go have lunch and big Phil told him you had quit. Big Phil isn’t one of your biggest fans right now.” She laughed, “But then I don’t think you were one of his either! Why don’t you call Matt and go have lunch? You two haven’t seen each other since we got back from our honeymoon.”
Chris reluctantly walked over to the phone and dialed Matt’s number. Matt had gone to work for a bank in their Financial Securities division but Chris wasn’t sure what he was doing for them. He hadn’t kept in touch because of his embarrassment over his own financial situation.
“Matt Baker speaking. How can I help you today?” Chris was surprised he didn’t say “dude.”
“Hey Matt, this is Chris. Whatcha up to these days?”
“Chris? Dude! Where ya been?” Chris just knew “dude” was going to come out at some point.
“Oh, just calling you to get you to buy me some lunch! How about tomorrow?”
“Man, I’m booked for tomorrow but how about dinner tonight? Bring Lisa! I’d love to see you guys!” Matt was genuinely excited but Chris wasn’t.
“I dunno if she can make it.”
“Oh dude, c’mon, it’s only 4:30. I know you haven’t eaten yet or are you getting THAT old?” Matt was in rare form. “Ask her. Is she there?”
They made plans to eat at a local diner in about 90 minutes. Lisa wasn’t happy that she had to come along on such short notice. But she was a good sport and wanted to see how Matt was doing.
At the diner, Chris and Lisa really opened up to Matt. They told him of their financial mess and Chris admitted that he was “looking for work” but not having much luck.
“Guys, I’ve got some ideas that I think will help you. But first, understand that I AM a financial planner. I just finished up all my certifications this past month and I’m eager to help you two. But right now, you don’t need investments. You need hope and you need to get out from under this crushing debt load. And Chris, you need a decent job that will fulfill you and use your talents and education.” Matt was already formulating a plan. “I have a client that owns a bunch of media outlets, you know, TV stations, some newspapers, a couple of radio stations. I’ll make a call to him to see if he has any openings. Now, while that’s in progress, lets meet this weekend to lay out a financial strategy for your lives. You both have a lot going on, but you’re my friends and I’m going to be right there with you.”
Two days later, Matt had arranged an interview for Chris in the sales and marketing department of one of the local radio stations. Chris wasn’t sure he wanted to get back into sales, but selling advertising on this station was actually giving people something. Maybe this would work. He put his best foot forward and was offered the job that day. He was to start the following Monday. The same salary as his fast food management job, but with a very hefty commission ON TOP of that! Plus, there was a 401(k) with 50% match up to 7% of what he deposited AND health insurance. The company even gave him a small $500 signing bonus to help him get things up and running.
Matt came over that Saturday and he, Lisa, and Chris laid out a budget. They allocated money toward paying off debt, building an emergency fund, entertainment, and life in general. They took another step that was painful. They cut up that credit card. “Don’t close the account,” warned Matt, “You may need that credit history to help you buy a home in the future.”
Chris reached into his back pocket and fanned out the $500 from the book from Uncle Howard. “I want this to go into a college fund for our little bundle of joy that’s coming.”
“Where did you get that?” Lisa asked.
“From the richest man in Babylon.” Chris replied. Lisa and Matt just looked at each other, puzzled.
The next few years saw Matt and Chris become very close friends as Chris and Lisa clawed their way from under the debt that was crushing their lives. Matt helped them get get interest rate reductions and waive some of the late fees on their credit accounts.
Chris excelled in his job as an advertising salesman for the radio station and was promoted three years later to sales manager. He was promoted five years later to general station manager and then enrolled in an executive MBA program. upon graduating after three years, he was put in charge of all the radio stations owned by Matt’s client. Chris’ financial situation improved drastically because of his hard work and the budget that he and Lisa developed with Matt’s help. Years later, when Chris began making well over 6 figures in annual compensation, he and Lisa still wrote out a budget together.
Lisa gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and then decided to work from home, starting her own interior decorating business. With the tax advantages she and Chris enjoy, her business makes as much as Chris does!
Matt became one of the top financial advisers for his company because of his dedication to helping people get out from under their debt load. When people saw how much he was interested in their financial well being (not just in making another sale), they flocked to him and brought friends! he married shortly after helping Chris and Lisa get on track and he, along with his wife and children, usually vacation with Chris, Lisa, and their children.
Not everything was perfect, though. Chris was diagnosed with skin cancer and had to take an extended leave of absence, but his disability policy that he purchased with Matt’s help carried him through that rough spot.
Lisa was in a severe car accident, breaking both legs, her collar bone, and her back. She recovered very slowly and required home health care and physical therapy for 7 months. But planning for these events allowed Chris and Lisa to focus on recovery, rather than paying the household expenses.
Today, they’re comfortably retired grandparents and Chris has bought a book for his nephew who’s about to graduate from high school…
He frequently wears a T-shirt that just says “Richest DUDE in Babylon.”
So, how did things turn around? What did Chris and Lisa do RIGHT?
- Chris read the book!
- Chris told Lisa the truth about their situation.
- Chris decided to go ahead and contact an old friend, later using this opportunity to network and find a better job.
- He and Lisa opened up to a trusted, well informed adviser.
- They stopped digging the hole of debt.
- Together, they established a working budget and stuck to it.
- They asked for interest rate reductions on their credit accounts.
- They made plans for things that couldgo wrong by having emergency funds and proper insurance.
- They stayed true to their friend and helped him succeed.
You can turn things around. You can make your life into how you want it to be. You can change right now, right where you are, by making a decision to become the person you want to be.
Resolve today to change your financial life for your own sake and for the sake of your family. You can be someone’s rich uncle or aunt that helps set them on the right path, but you have to start by changing yourself.