When you think of retirement, are you smiling or do you have worry lines on your forehead? I'm not sure anyone these days is super confident about their retirement years. Our generation has become accustomed to comfort, immediate gratification and living with debt.
Today's main article is a true story about someone I know personally. I want to thank her for sharing her journey and hope it inspires others to re-think their spending habits now for a better future.
Will You Still Have to Work at 75?
by Lisa Kneller
This is not a silly question. Many people are asking this question at least in their minds.
Midlife is THE time to be asking and answering this question. While retirement generally has been pushed back from age 65 to 70, some people don't even see how they can ever stop working. Whether we stop working depends entirely on whether or not we are able. Having theoption would be nice though, don't you think?
This was the question my friend Ann (not her real name) asked herself at age 50 when finding herself in debt too big to manage. Her husband's business was failing as the economy tanked. He ended up shutting down his business and got a good paying job with another company. And Ann had a good job with a good salary. The problem was that as they were trying to pay down their business debt, they continued to live beyond their means. The credit card debt started to pile up.
Ann is a person who never borrowed money other than for cars and houses. Pride was the one thing that stopped her from ever asking for help. She is the type of person that would have two jobs to pay her way. Four years ago however, she came to the conclusion that she needed help. She did not want to file bankruptcy but wanted desperately to pay off her debt and save for the future. While visiting an attorney to explore bankruptcy as an option, he recommended a debt management firm instead.
Ironically, when we spend more than we make, we become a enslaved to a life of keeping up, dreading the next bill, robbing Peter to pay Paul. It becomes a nightmare – one which will not go away. Freedom comes when we align with reality and good sense…living beneath our means. Learning to live beneath your means can be difficult – especially when the government allows debt discharge in a chapter 7 bankruptcy every 8 years.
My friend Ann made the decision to get help. She made up her mind that she would no longer be a slave to her bills. At 50, she found herself giving up financial control to a stranger – a debt counselor she hired to help get her and her husband back on track. At 54, Ann and her husband are now completely free from credit card debt. They now have extra money to invest and put away for a rainy day.
As I write this, she is celebrating the phone call she had worked hard to receive. Her last payment was made to one of the credit card companies to which she was enslaved. No longer does she worry about her bills as the only ones she has are the monthly utility, insurance, house payment and other things that she can easily afford. She is excited that there is money left over to save and invest. This is cause for celebration and to respect the one who chose this path.
Before I tell you how they accomplished this goal, I should mention that Ann's husband initially fought her on this path. He didn't want to give up his lifestyle or answer to some stranger about their money. However, he wasn't the one stressing out about their situation. Ann was the one paying the bills, worrying about their finances, losing sleep and having stress take over her life. She convinced him that if he cared about retiring and having a better future, he should get on board. This was Ann's biggest hurdle, but her hubby agreed to work together. Today he is very happy he pitched in.
How did they do it? Ann's first step was to aquiece. She had made up her mind that it was the best path for her own self-respect. She gave almost full control to the debt assistance company. I say almost because in reality, she did have some control; however, she allowed them to take most of her money and pay her bills for her. She was left with very little money to spend. Therefore, Ann and her husband learned how to live on less and with less.
She began changing brands of clothes and makeup. As a major clothes hound, Ann was shopping regularly at high end department stores. A friend invited her to go to Goodwill . Once she realized she could create a lovely wardrobe on so much less, she got hooked and started making weekly trips to Goodwill.
Ann cut back on everything except her expensive hair spray, which she vowed never to buy without a coupon and taking advantage of sales. The first year was difficult to say the least. She and her husband didn't take a vacation for three years. They quit some of their weekly entertainment which include heading to the casino on occasion. In addition, they sold a lot of stuff through garage sales and ebay. Making a list of where they could find money was key to their surviving.
Her husband started packing his lunch Mondays through Thursdays but allowed himself a nice out of office lunch on Fridays. They changed brands of dog food. While they once paid $60 for a 40 lb bag; they now pay $30 for a different brand that is still as nutritious and good for their doggies. Ann's husband became good at clipping and using coupons. They lived on cash only – debit card only. They had to give up their credit cards – all of them!
In addition, one of them opted to stop contributing to one of their 401K plans to free up some of their income to pay off their bills. The question that they were asked was, "How can you plan for your future if you can't survive in the present?" This happened to be an option that helped them. Now, they are investing back into that 401K.
If you are in this kind of financial situation and think you can't accomplish this, consider that in Ann and her husband's case, credit cards and an IRS bill equaled half of their annual income. The main ingredient for success is the self-respect and determination to be free from owing others – a concept that is often lost in our culture today. Yes, it's hard work; yes, it takes discipline, but it is totally worth it. Just ask Ann.
I love that question which I will repeat…
How can you plan for your future if you can't survive in the present?
If you are strugging financially and you know you need help, remember Ann and her husband as a shining example of how you can be free from worry, stress and sleepless nights by making the decision to get help. Pride is the mother of all sins. It stops us dead in our tracks when what we need to do is live honestly and give up the notion that we need to appear to be perfect.
For information on how to live debt free, there are several resources. You might want to investigate a debt management company.
Maybe you would like to learn more about personal finance. Here's a site by Ramit Sethi – a personal finance guru, sure to get you thinking differently about your money and life: http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/home/ and Dave Ramsey has helped thousands improve their finances: http://www.daveramsey.com/home/
Or… you can start googling now! Don't wait to be debt free!
To your remarkable life,