For me, and probably most people, in order to make a huge change in my life I need convincing information, an event that completely rocks my world, and/or a slow gradual feeling of disgust with yourself that blows up over time. These reasons can be so powerful that they motivate you to stay the course with whatever change took place even though others around you may not understand it. I call this the “why”. It’s the emotional-motivational fuel that pushes you toward completing a goal and never going back to the previous state. I want to share how my “why” came into existence…
Life was good. I was living with my best friend and having a blast not being under my parents’ roof. I had my first real job in Atlanta making 45K a year PLUS a 10% bonus. Twenty-five years on this planet and I had arrived (or so I thought). I had found Dave Ramsey at that time and paid off 3K in credit card debt from some stupid college decisions I’d made. The car was next! I had plans of how much I was going to invest to be well on my way to becoming a millionaire. Like I said, life was good.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I had just completed my first project as an IT Consultant. By that time I was on the job for almost a year. It was a small Human Resource Management System company based in Spain looking to get into the US. We were on the client’s site and had almost about finished up the work day when my manager called me outside. I was excited because it was nearing time for the other half of that 10% bonus. Instead, I was told that my services were no longer needed, that I would be getting a one month severance, and to leave my laptop. There I was, at a client’s site where I had just finished my first project, being laid off. I was stunned. I got in my car, dazed as if I just got out of a fight with Mike Tyson. On the way home I called my girlfriend (now wife) and told her the bad news. A few days later I was at the Department of Labor signing up for unemployment. Unemployment checks couldn’t pay my rent and my car payment so I had to make a tough decision. After a year of being on my own, I moved back in with my parents. In an instant, my dignity and independence had been stripped from me, and I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.
I spent the next year looking for a job while on unemployment. Honestly, I don’t know which one was worse – the year of unemployment or being laid off. I did do the work of applying for as many jobs as I could, but with each rejection, my self-esteem dropped. There were months when I wanted to give up on life. Then one day after a year of searching and multiple interviews I was finally going to get an offer from a company that developed and supported movie theater software. When I opened the email with the offer my jaw dropped. They were offering a 20 hour per week part-time job with no benefits that paid $11.50 per hour. I remember considering not taking the job because I was so ashamed. A year ago I was making $24 per hour, was full-time, and had benefits. I still remember the conversation I had with my dad. He basically said, “You’ve been sitting around the house for a year, which I understand. Here you have an opportunity to get more experience in your field. Take it”. On his advice, I took the job.
These events took place in 2008/2009. I’m happy to say that I’m doing much better today on the income side, but I haven’t forgotten the lessons of those events. I swore to myself while unemployed that I nor my family would ever be in a financial position where a layoff would steal my independence and dignity. I also realized that having debt aided in me having to give up my independence. The words in this article cannot express how intense these feelings are embedded in my being. These feelings are the nuclear core of my “why”. My “why” is the fuel that pushes me to meet the goal of financial independence in spite of what others may think.
Today we have no debt except our house, which is on a 15-year mortgage, with plans to pay it off early. We have an emergency fund. We’re investing for retirement and also saving for our 2-year-old’s college fund. We’ve decided to take complete control of our finances because of my “why”. And yes, we’re still following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.
Kim’s thoughts: I remember when Omar was laid off. It definitely wasn’t a good time for him. I tried to be as encouraging and supportive as I could. My “why” is somewhat like Omar’s “why”. To read my story, check out this post.