The reason why….

I was talking to a friend recently about dreams and hopes and plans for the future. He mentioned in that conversation that he thinks I’d make a great face for a financial management company. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d grab that opportunity without a second thought if it ever came my way. Teaching Financial Peace University classes, reading financial management books, working with people, and writing the occasional blog post on the topic are all things that I enjoy immensely.

But I pointed out to him that I lack one major thing before I can even attempt that: credibility. Credentials. A reason for people to believe me.

If you look at most of the people who do that, they have either the personal experience or the degrees/training to give that advice. While I’m building that myself, I don’t have it yet. But I do know why I’m doing what I’m doing.

See, when Courtney and I were first married, we started with nothing. Our very first home had, for furniture, an air mattress, a card table, four cheap fold-up stools from Wal-mart, four potted plants, and the back seat out of our car for a couch. Period. But we also had no debt.

It wasn’t more than two years later that I graduated, and we found ourselves buying our home, buying a brand-new car, doing thousands and thousands of dollars of upgrades to the house, and so many other things. In short, we were stupid. Wildly stupid.

I distinctly remember doing the budget one day (doing the budget back then for me was sitting down and doing a direct comparison of how much we spent against how much we made. Anything left over was money “we could spend.” Brilliant, right?). I found out from that exercise that we had roughly $300 “extra” every month that “we should spend and make good use of!” And so we did.

No savings. No security. No control.

And then Courtney got laid off, and we found ourselves facing a monthly shortage of at least $1000. I can honestly say that I have never felt more stress, more fear, and more hopelessness as I watched our meager savings dwindle and our credit card balances soar. I never told Courtney at the time, but I seriously considered bankruptcy. It seemed the only answer available to us, and that did something to me psychologically. It hurt. I wasn’t a man because I couldn’t provide, and I was even less than that because I had let my family down.

But the moment that hurt the most for me through the entire experience was one day when I took a walk with Katherine to the store. I had in my pocket, the last few dollars for that month’s groceries. I picked up what I could (the bare essentials) and turned to go when Katherine, in her innocent little 2-year-old voice sweetly asked for a balloon. It cost less than a dollar, and I honestly could not afford it, and it broke my heart.

I, the person my daughter looked up to most in the world, could not buy her a balloon. The effect of that moment literally broke me spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I became internally worthless, and I felt worthless in her eyes, the eyes of my wife, and the eyes of God.

A few days later, I wrote this poem:

Every Little Pony

Because every little girl wants a Pony
And every little girl has her dreams
And every little girl deserves Prince Charming
And so many shiny little things

But I have not the means for your Pony
I cannot fulfill all your dreams
And I have nothing for Prince Charming
Nor any shiny little things

But I will be your Pony
You can ride on my back ’round the room
And I’ll throw you so high that just maybe
You can catch a dream home with you

And though I can’t be Prince Charming
I’ll hold your hand all through the night
I’ll dance with you ’til the morning
And make all your wrongs into rights

And the shiny things I can offer
Are my smile, my eyes, my love
Though not golden, not silver, not diamond
They’re truer, more eternal… enough

Because every little girl wants a Pony
And every little girl has her dreams
And every little girl deserves Prince Charming
And so many shiny little things

While it helped assuage my guilt-ridden conscious and the worthlessness that I felt, it did nothing for our situation, and I spent countless hours silently crying in my bed, in my cubicle at work, in the bathroom… anywhere I thought I could be private.

Pitiful, isn’t it? And oh did I feel pitiful. In the back of my mind, all I could picture was that little balloon. That little wish from my daughter that I, in all my efforts, could not accomplish.

A balloon…. A miserable balloon.

And that’s why. It took us a long time to work our way back from that edge, but we did. And that is why Courtney and I choose to live as we do. That is why we are living without debt. That is why I evangelize and proselytize that message. That is why, if the opportunity came today, I would latch on to it without a second thought.

That is why, to this day, I still carry with me at least a dollar that is all my own. Because if it ever comes down to it, I will never be without the money for a balloon again.

Because every little girl wants a Pony
And every little girl has her dreams
And every little girl deserves Prince Charming
And so many shiny little things

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4 Responses to The reason why….

  1. Sarah L. says:

    Yeah, but you have more credibility because you were in that position and you got out. 🙂 I definitely identify with the balloon story. It’s so hard when you’re down to your last few dollars and you can’t afford the simplest things.

  2. Sarah B. says:

    I thought becoming a financial planner required very little education and “experience”. There are a bunch of bloggers that have quit their day jobs to pontificate on money matters.

    I agree with the other Sarah, you’ve been there and done it which makes you credible.

  3. daveloveless says:

    Well thanks to both Sarahs! (On a side note, Courtney and I have always laughed about the number of Sarahs we know and admire.)

    For your comment, Sarah B., that’s one of the reasons I actually want credentials. There are so many fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operations out there, and so few of them have any real reason or motivation for what they do. That and they don’t really know what they are doing as well.

  4. nosurfgirl says:

    Ok sarah number three weighing in…

    that is really difficult. Especially when I feel like some of my money has been spent selfishly. I have a hard time with that.

    Budgeting is so important. I think a lot of people don’t realize how far they’re getting behind in savings. I think a lot of us almost forget we’ve got about 40 years to live after retirement, with how quailty of life/health is improving. That’s, like… half your life.

    Better be saving.

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