Hopeless Without Goals

Cheryl is making $14 an hour, she lives in an apartment, drives a beater car, and she feels like she's just keeping her head above water. Where does she start?

QUESTION: Cheryl in Seattle is making $14 an hour, she lives in an apartment, drives a beater car, and she feels like she's just keeping her head above water. She has $10,000 in debt and doesn't know how to begin to take care of it. Where does she start? Dave suspects part of the problem is a lack of goals.

ANSWER: I think the reason you feel overwhelmed or over your head financially is because you are. I'm going to agree with you there. I don't think you're being a drama queen. I think you're just making an honest assessment of the fact that you don't have much money coming in, and you've got quite a bit going out.

The answer to the equation is three or four things. One is you said you haven't set goals in hardly any areas of your life. That admission tells us if you want to not stay here—which you don't—you've got to change that. We've got to sit down and start looking at the different areas of your life, start setting some goals, and start taking the steps to hit those goals. It's one thing to set a goal and say I'm going to lose 10 pounds; it's another to start exercising and eating less. There's no point in exercising and eating less unless I'm aimed at losing 10 pounds. There's no point in setting a goal and saying, "I make $14 an hour. I'd really rather make $60,000 a year." The question is how we're going to get there.

Let's start with the career and income side of the equation. What does Cheryl want to be when she grows up that makes her $60,000 or more a year? That's a good question for you to answer. If you could do anything you wanted to do and education and money weren't barriers, what would you do? If you'll allow enough time, effort, and struggle, education and money aren't a barrier. You've got to go get them. You begin to break down your goals into bite- sized pieces that are achievable once you have a dream again. You've been just existing so long, you've forgotten to dream. I want you to go back to dreaming a little bit, but don't stop there. Take the dream and convert it to bite- sized goals that are accomplishable.

Long term, we need a career goal that gets your income way up. That's part of the income side of the equation. In the meantime, while you're achieving that goal, you need to get some more income coming in by working some part-time jobs—just busting it and taking a better job even if it's not the one you want. That starts to solve a lot of the other problems in your budget because your budget is not totally out of control. You've got a little debt, but you can work through that. The bad news is you don't make much money; the good news is it's not hard to double your income.

The third thing is you begin to set some financial goals, which now we start talking about Dave Ramsey stuff and getting out of debt and building up some savings. If you worked your tail off and you were completely exhausted two years from now but you had $10,000 in the bank and no debt, how would that feel? It's doable.

You get paid in our culture for two things: what you do and what you know. If you're only getting paid at a job for showing up, you're never going to make any money. We have to get about doing more and knowing more in the short -term. In the long term, we have to get your income way up. You can do that. It is a decision.

If you keep doing what you've been doing, you're going to keep getting what you've been getting.