Principles, beliefs, teamwork, and staying true to myself. Keeping everything in line might sound like an effort but once working, it all works like a well-oiled machine in beautiful harmony. It is a path that is straight and narrow, though, without the excuses that cause diversion away from the ultimate goal(s). Compromise, obligatory motions away from the path, and giving in to temptations that only derail the machine really aren't an option.
Many who know me will say I am principle-driven and will gladly take the punishment for speaking up and out for my beliefs and for what is right. On my desktop monitor inside of my work cave is the Naval Officer quote: "A Naval Officer will not lie, cheat, or steal nor tolerate those who do." I may only wear that uniform a few days a month but that principle is one I live by 365 days a year. I simply don't have the patience for those who contradict the essence of that statement. As a result, I've never been the "popular" guy, I've never really had a best friend (outside of Marjie, that is), I've never been a groupie, and I'm typically not the guy who gets invited out by the guys for a night on the town. A loner, I suppose, but a loner quite happy being that way.
Staying on the straight and narrow even more so lately has its benefits, no doubt. As you probably know, 2 months ago Marjie and I sat down and wrote out our first budget in 17+ years of marriage. (I'm not proud of that one, mind you) We "pinky-swore" on a new focus...that being completely debt free. We determined that together, as a unified team, we could and would do it. It involved a radical change from what we as Americans have been brainwashed into. We have all been raised and bred to believe that debt is necessary...it is part of the American way. Students on college campuses have their "starter" credit cards so they can "build their credit" so they can later buy a car...a house...and so on. Believe me, I was on that party boat for nearly my entire life. I believed it and lived it. I did those exact things and held my head high when my credit score cracked the 800 mark. "I am so good at borrowing money and paying my bills on time, anyone will loan me anything!!!!!!" So dang brainwashed, I was. We were. Why do you think that the biggest buildings in any city in America are owned by the BANKS? So which building in Cleveland is the tallest? Yes, the Key Bank building. You can't miss it! Once when I interviewed with them over the phone, the lady on the other end proudly told me about that. Getting out of debt, building wealth, saving for our future, giving away to others like never before, and becoming financially free is so foreign to us in this country. I can't imagine what those in their very late years that grew up in the first half of the 20th century think when they look at our culture today. It's so backwards from what they knew. They lived "Save! Save! Save!" We live "Gimmee now! Gimmee now! Gimmee NOW!" Honestly, I would never have wrote this post before I saw it for myself. It's like the veil has been lifted and it all appears clear as day now. "How was I so blind?" "How could I not have seen this before?" Friends of ours only about 3 miles away who are around 40 years old, just paid off their mortgage...they are 100% debt free and even bought their last 2 cars in cash. They are only FORTY!!! They don't live in a beat-down house, either. My dad built their house less than 10 years ago. It CAN be done and they have PROVEN it. They are such an inspiration to us as we have just begun the journey.
So here we are, side-by-side on the straight and narrow path...together. Just this week, Marjie's title to her Honda showed up in the mail...19 months early. We shall celebrate that big first milestone soon enough! The intangible benefits so far have been a huge reduction in "money stress"...it simply doesn't exist anymore. No worrying about bills or anything. Why? It's budgeted...on paper (or in a spreadsheet on Google Docs)...and is planned far in advance. Plus, we pay ourselves first so it "feels" like we have more $$$ than before but in reality, we have "found" a lot that is crushing the debt week after week after week. We make no more today than 2 months ago but it feels like we got a huge raise...and we're killing the debt at the same time. Believe me, I would have NEVER believed this could work unless I saw it for myself. It is simply amazing to witness and live through. Below is Marjie holding the title to her 2006 Honda. It says "Official Notice: Account Paid in Full." :-)