I mentioned in previous blog postings that a few years ago I was making a nice living at my job. I made six figures. My wife also had a job and we stepped up our lifestyle and our house. I took some investment risks and we spent money as if I was going to continue to earn the money for a long time. When the Lehman Bros and banking crisis hit, I lost my job.
For a few years I made a lot less money. We did cut back on our expenses but I think that we were in denial to some degree. We still had a large mortgage payment and some debt. We were able to pay it each month but then we had little left over. I was earning a pretty good salary but not the six figure salary and we felt very poor after the bills were paid each month.
We almost had to make a hard decision– Very hard. We seriously considered selling our house and downsize the mortgage payment. It was emotional. It brought failure into my mind. It was embarrassing. Yet we knew it was something we really needed to consider.
It was a low part in my personal and professional life. I really got upset and mad at myself. I sometimes think about what would have happened to me if I hadn’t finally become disgusted with myself. I look back at the discussion to sell the house, pay off debts and free up monthly cashflow. We made changes in our lifestyle and bit the bullet trying to pay off things. It was painful and took a long time.
If we had not gone through those tough times, discussions, and decisions, it’s highly likely we would be still struggling month to month, not able to buy an ‘extras’ in life, not being able to spend money on simple things like landscaping, new shoes, fun stuff for the kids, etc. My credit report was also in need of repair and the poor credit actually kept me from getting a few jobs. It is true, when I needed a new job the most to repair my credit, I was unable to get the job due to my credit. I had a few offers for a new job but the credit was a problem. It was a vicious cycle.
If we didn’t decide to ‘hit the reset button’ I may be still working a job I didn’t like, struggling to pay my bills and making futile attempts – knowing I’d live out my life as a habitual underachiever.
The difference for me was the simple realization that if I didn’t change myself and our situation, our life wouldn’t change – not then or ever. Essentially my wife and I were making promises to ourselves and our kids that we never truly meant or were able to keep, unless we changed. But I was tired of doing that.
I read an article weeks ago by author Michael Masterson and here is an excerpt below from his blog that is very similar to my situation above.
He says “Thinking back, I can see that there were several factors that allowed me to change in a serious and committed way:
– First, I had bottomed out emotionally. I had finally reached a point where I truly detested myself for not achieving what I felt was my potential.
– Second, I made a decision to change completely
– Third, I recognized that I would have to change not just my work habits but the way I thought about myself. I would have to “become” the person I wanted to be.
– And last, but not least, I took action immediately. I didn’t wait.
I’m here to say that luck had nothing to do with the change in my life. And it needn’t have anything to do with whatever changes you would like to make in yours. Had I waited for luck to come to me, I might be waiting still. My life changed when I got fed up and started planning my success.
You, too, can change your life if you are: (a) dissatisfied with the lack of success you’ve had so far; (b) willing to make a big change – and not just a minor adjustment; (c) prepared to start working differently and thinking about yourself as a different kind of person; and (d) willing to start now by preparing yourself to succeed.”
The above quote was posted one earlytorise.com the week of June 11, 2012.
I’m here to bare the hard truth; almost putting our home up for sale to downgrade spending was tough and not something we wanted to do. As I said, it was embarrassing.
But, I knew that if it had happened (it didn’t) our real friends still were friends. Our kids wouldn’t mind much after the initial shock. Life wouldn’t end. People still would talk to us. We actually realized how little the house and other possessions meant. We realized that being together and being happy was the most important thing. Whether we lived in a smaller house suddenly seemed OK. It was an emotional, bad thing to go through. We almost had to sell and it affected us for a while. But looking back, we learned a lot – a lot about what really mattered in life.
I am here to tell you that after some change, some discipline, some faith and hard work, some real effort and cooperation, we were able to set aside money to retirement, savings, college. We were able to have spending money for fun things like the little stuff -ice cream and dinners out – and big stuff – weekend vacations and trips. My wife and I were able to upgrade our tired clothes that had become several years old. More than anything, it was a state of mind – we felt relieved, we felt that we had breathing room – we felt that we finally had some reserves and protection in case that incident we all have in our lives comes up – the appliance that needs replaced, a car accident, an unexpected expense.
I had to accept the situation, focus on good stuff, set goals, create a vision, and have faith. I had to be happy with what I had, where I was, and the present. I struggled. It worked.
I look back at that discussion and turmoil as a time when my wife and I realized that we didn’t really care about the big house and the materialistic things – we really cared about each other and our daughters – and the ability to be with close friends.
Is there something that you’re ignoring or denying? Is there a step that you can take – even if it is a hard one – that can improve your life a little – or a lot?