Friday, December 25, 2009

Yet Another Goal...

Time to switch gears for a post or two. If you checked in today looking for an inspirational blog about running or the trails, you may be disappointed. Instead, this is going to be more about big-picture stuff...like moola, aka: money. I wanted to name this post "pathetico" but it turns out the Dictionary.com says it's not a word so I held back. That's how I would define myself in this category, though. Truly pathetic. Let me explain...

In a marriage, there is normally one person who takes care of the bills...that would be me for the past 17 years. I also have a MBA...a masters degree in business administration. For you non-business degree types, that degree involves lots of numbers, economics, case studies, etc. No real way to avoid it. If you hate math, that's not the degree for you. I also used to work for the largest insurer in the United States as a financial advisor and was working towards becoming a CFP, a Certified Financial Planner...typically a main goal of developing financial advisors. It's sort of the equivalent of a CPA that accountants have. I had my Series 7 license which was not easy to get and would allow me to trade stocks and do a lot of the cool stuff. I often sat down with clients and looked at their whole financial picture and advised them on investments, DEBT REDUCTION, life insurance, college savings, etc. It came easy to me, the principles were second nature to me, and I "got it"...I believed in it. By the way, sales are easy when you believe in something. I found that out when I sold Honda vehicles for nearly 3 years a few years back. (dang, I miss that job...dang, I DO NOT miss the commission-based income!) Anyway, you'd think with my education, my past profession, and just a knack for finances, money, and truly understanding economics and how the whole big machine works, I'd have my own house in order. I feel truly "pathetico" for having my wife to provide this wake-up call, along with a good friend I haven't seen in years.

FPU, or Financial Peace University, is a program by Dave Ramsey about getting out of debt. Let's be honest for a second: every stinkin' time I'd be flippin' through the channels on the tube and I saw him on Fox Business or on any other channel, I'd quickly fly right by him. Why? I knew exactly what he was going to say! AND, I didn't want to hear it because I knew he was right and I'd feel like he talking right at me. The principles are simple but for who knows what reason, I never put them into effect in my own life. Pathetic. Anyway, my good buddy Chuck (see my blog roll on the right...I've got him linked) from Virginia who I really miss has gone through the program and can proclaim "I am debt free!" due to sticking to the principles. He just recently started blogging the baby steps this past week and we're on-board! NONE of what FPU teaches is new to me...I told these principles to clients!!! ARGH!!! Basic stuff like having the emergency fund setup, paying off the lowest debt first regardless of interest rate, stopping 401K contributions, upping exemptions on the W-4...I've heard it all. Through Marjie reading Chuck's blog, she got a little burr stuck in her side and before I knew it, she had the notebook out and our income/expenses charted out. "So, do you want to sit down and do this?" she asked. Hmmmm.....

Writing it all down and seeing the numbers like how much really comes in every month and how much goes out and WHERE it goes is humbling, perhaps upsetting, too. "We went out to eat THAT many times?" "I went to Starbucks that many times?" So WE sat down and planned out the next month of income/expenses and where every stinkin' dime would go. One big, big switch is going to cash-only and paying ourselves an allowance. We have grocery money which comes out of the ATM on payday, "entertainment" money for us to go out to eat on or to see a movie, and allowance. All in cash. If I want Starbucks, cash only. If I want to go out for lunch at work...cash only. If I'm standing in Vertical Runner on Christmas Eve with a bag of Crazy Monkey granola in my hand and I realize that it comes out my wallet in the form of cash....well, that's where the rubber meets the road. It is TOTALLY different to pay in cash for something instead of using the check-card. The check-card draws from our checking account so it's the same thing, right? No way. The visual pulling out of cash from my wallet (aka: allowance) is totally different than swiping my card. (Marjie is still laughing about this, by the way...she thinks it's hilarious how fast it affected my buying behavior)

Anyway, I am just an infant in this journey that WE just embarked on. The "we" is critical here, too. I can very easily see how grabbing debt by the horns could provoke major arguments in a marriage and the irresistible urge to throw in the towel. You are forced to work together. I am assuming, of course, that you jointly own everything, which we do. We have always been opposed to individual accounts and will remain so indefinitely. For example, we were considering a visit to the movies two nights ago to see "Invictus" or a visit to Applebee's where they have their "2 for 20" special. We had already taken the girls to see the new Chipmunks movie and realized that if we went, we were done until next payday because this would zap our "entertainment fund." We had to verbally make a joint decision and to hold each other accountable to the commitment we made a few days earlier when we sat down and decided to travel this path. We went to Applebee's, had a great time, paid cash, and we're done until next payday in the "going out to eat" category (which we LOVE to do, by the way).

So why blog about it? Why publicize something so personal? Well, you won't see any specific numbers or account info here...ever. Like running, my blog helps keep me accountable and telling YOU, the reader, I feel sorta accountable to you since now you know the commitment I've made...to be debt free. Pretty dang similar to signing up for a 100-miler next May....now I HAVE to do it...and train for it! If you have some time, check out Chuck's blog.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. I didn't buy the granola...but I did get 2 bags from Santa. :-)

4 comments:

Carol Z said...

Watching the cash disappear from your wallet has always been a great visual aid. Didn't realize I had been using financial planning guru techniques all these years.

Hopeinator said...

I've listened and followed Dave Ramsey for years. His practices are hard at first, but eventually become second nature. The envelope system is fabulous....it is budgeting 101, but it works! Have fun with this journey. Your post reminded me I need to buckle down a little harder again. Thank you!

Hope

Chuck said...

Nick - You guys are gonna totally win at this! Getting your financial house in order takes the same discipline that you have shown in both weight loss and running.

The hardest part is behind you: having unity with your spouse on this.

God bless!!

C

ultrarunner (Brian Philpot) said...

It's never easy. I have child support on top of everything!