Colorado residents Bill and Patti seemed to have a great life. Married 35 years, the couple did well thanks to Bill’s career as an FBI special agent. They assumed that because the bills were getting paid, their finances were great, too. In fact, as an elder in their church, Bill says he remembers feeling sad for families in the church who would seek help when their finances fell apart. Bill and Patti were nowhere near experiencing anything like that.
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Everything changed, though, when a church member came to the board of elders asking if the church would send him and his wife to Nashville, Tennessee, for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Coach Master Training. The church member, Chris, said he wanted to become a financial coach. The church agreed and sent them. When Chris and his wife returned, they began coaching people in their church. That led to the church offering its first Financial Peace University class. Bill and Patti attended, and they woke up to their financial reality.
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"At the class, we discovered some things that were disconcerting—and we certainly saw the need for FPU in our own situation as we approached retirement," Bill says. "We weren’t doing as well as we thought we were."
As the numbers person, Patti knew how much was coming in and going out. She had a "budget," she says, but it was in her head only. And Bill only knew what he could spend based on Patti’s determination if it was in the budget or not.
"He didn’t understand how he was making really good money but he never had any money," Patti says.
They had no plans for retirement, either. After FPU, they realized they needed a real budget—and a plan for their future.
"I found that the budgeting process was actually liberating," Bill says. "We have such starkly different styles when it comes to things like money that if we don’t talk about it, we’re going in different directions. I’m the dreamer. I’m the one who looks over the horizon. Patti concentrates on the here and now. By having to sit down to do a budget, it actually allowed us to have these conversations."
Bill and Patti have turned their lives around. Bill was able to retire five years ago from the FBI and transition into part-time consulting work. Now they coordinate FPU at their church to help others change their own lives. They even paid off their home several months ago! But a retirement lying on the beach isn’t for them. They find purpose in volunteering with a local children’s home.
"Simply taking care of ourselves is okay, but it’s not fulfilling in the long term," Bill says. "It’s in service to causes larger than yourself that your life has meaning. It’s where the rubber meets the road. We’ve got a paid-for house. We’ve got income. We’ve got investments. This puts us in position to actually do the things we want to do: to volunteer—to try to make a difference in people’s lives rather than making money."