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I’m Richard. I went all in. I bet the house.
My wife and I built that house 32 years ago, raised children there, and watched grandchildren play in the yard. I’d hoped to live out my life there.
In my family of origin, money was never mentioned. Financial education consisted of my Dad suggesting that whenever I wanted success, I should wear a new tie. My father lost everything at 48, when I was 18. I swore I’d never follow in his footsteps, but I crashed physically and ethically when I was 48 and my son was 18. I lost the law firm I had founded and built from the ground up. Not only was I no longer able to practice my profession, I had completely destroyed my reputation and my credibility.
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Even so, the house was still ours when the millennium turned, and it could have remained so if I’d changed my behavior. But I couldn’t admit I was the problem.
Then came my golden opportunity.
The bad guy was a big insurance company. Lots of money was involved. Everyone said I would win if I sued, and I believed it.
I used credit cards to cover expenses and pay lawyers.
At trial, I lost. Foolishly, I appealed. But those credit cards were all maxed out, and I needed to hold things together until the big bucks started rolling in.
Can you say equity line of credit? Sub-prime? Prepayment penalty?
There were other things I could’ve done—sell stuff, cut back, quit using credit cards, get a second job—but I hadn’t yet bathed in the river of Dave. I was a listener, but his advice was for the foolish and the ignorant, not me.
After two more arduous years of piling up debt, I lost the appeal.
Some time later, in the middle of the night, I bolted upright in bed, gripped by a panic unlike any I’d ever felt. Denial had ended. All defenses had fallen away. My heart threatened to explode. My mind raced out of control.
Questions were plentiful—answers were not. Guilt filled my heart. Shame paralyzed me. There was no way out. I’d lost it all, probably even my wife, who’d been a remarkable tower of strength through it all. More than a million dollars in debt, with few unencumbered assets to show for my life’s work, it was just a matter of time.
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I wanted to end it all. I tried, but failed. I couldn’t even do that right. So I kept hurting, growing more and more hopeless, enduring life, wishing it would end.
A bankruptcy lawyer told me I was the most insolvent person he’d ever seen. But that was only the first person my wife dragged me to see. The second was Dave Ramsey’s Lead Financial Coach. I didn’t want to go—my heel marks are probably still on the carpet outside his office. Hopelessness doesn’t lend itself to action, even when the action could lead to help. But I went.
After that, still reluctant, I went to Financial Peace University and finally began making drastic behavior changes.
We sold everything that wasn’t nailed down, and we cut up our credit cards to stop the bleeding. I took a menial job at a big box store. Success began to breed success. Small victories led to larger ones.
Fast-forward five years. My wife and I are now one credit card away from being debt-free, and it will be paid soon. We have an emergency fund. We’ve upgraded our cars, paying cash. We’re helping others, including our children, by giving money away, and we’re loving it! Most of all, we’re happy.
It really can be done. The amount doesn’t matter. Someone with the talent and skill to succeed can do it again, with the help of God and some common sense.
I was 65 when I decided life wasn’t worth living, and 66 when my wife dragged me to see Dave's senior financial counselor. As I write this, I have just turned 70.
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