Congrats to our latest Debt Scholarship winner, Joshua Brown. And much thanks to CareOne Services, Inc. for sponsoring the Debt Scholarship!
“Tell me a story, Dad,” my six-year old son, William begs as I tuck him in for bed.
“What would you like to hear about tonight?” I ask. “A story about dragons or superheroes? A story about battles or ghosts?”
“No,” he whispers. “Tell me a true story. Tell me a story about you. What were you like when you were six?”
“Well . . .” I laugh, “In some ways, I was a lot like you. I liked to run and play and imagine all kinds of things.
But my family was very different than ours. Even as a six-year old, I had to help take care of my little brothers. Your Uncle Eric was four then and your Uncle James was 2. Uncle Bob was in Grandma’s belly and she was always busy working to take care of us.”
“My parents never really got along well. It was tough because my mom and dad would fight a lot. They also worried about money. My dad had to work at night and then would sleep during the day when it was his turn to take care of us.
When I was 13, they got a divorce and moved to separate houses. My brothers and I lived with my mom. My dad gave her some money, but she had to work two jobs in order to have enough. She also took classes to get a better job. She was very busy, but I saw that she was working so hard because she loved us.”
“I know Grandma loves you,” William interjects with a grin. “But you know, she says that now I’m her favorite!”
“That’s probably true.” I laugh. “I’ve learned a lot from her. I especially learned how to work hard. I also learned how to sacrifice for my family. I never asked for new basketball shoes or a tuxedo for prom because I knew my mom wouldn’t say no, but couldn’t really afford it.”
“I also started working to earn my own money as soon as I was 14. I worked a lot of hours making pizza. It was fun to have my own money. Usually I would spend it all right away. As a teenager, I didn’t learn how to save.”
“I also didn’t realize how debt could hurt a person. I was the first person in my family to go to college right after high school. I decided to go to Simpson College, a private school and graduated with 65,000 dollars that I had to pay back.”
“Wow! That’s a lot of money!” William exclaimed.
“I know. Your mom and I have been working really hard lately to pay back all of the money we owe to our different debts. Ever since we got married, we knew we wanted to make smart choices with our money. At first, we just did what we felt was right, but sometimes we made wrong choices like buying brand new cars and a big house.
Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to help our family make smarter choices with our money. I began listening to podcasts by financial experts like Dave Ramsey. I read lots of books and blogs about how to make good choices with money. Mommy and I went to Financial Peace University classes and we got you the Financial Peace Junior kit.”
“Yep.” William replied. “I have lots of money in MY ‘save’ envelope!”
“You sure do! I’m really proud of you! I’m still trying to learn new things though. This year I joined a program called the ‘debt movement.’ It was a group of people who were trying to work together to pay off 10 million dollars in debt in 90 days.”
“Wow!” William responded.
“The challenge inspired me to try to help as much as I could. Our family paid off $48,836.97 during 2013 so far.
The debt movement also got me connected with a tool called ‘ReadyForZero.’ I used the program to make a chart for how long it will take our family to pay off the rest of our house mortgage. The graph is connected to our accounts and I can see our progress as the bar moves when we make payments. It helps me see how far we’ve come and how close we’re getting to our goal of having zero debt. I can’t wait until the day when you and me and mommy get to scream, ‘We’re debt free!’ That will feel really good!”
“Dad?” William asked seriously. “Why do you think it’s so important for us to get out of debt?”
“I’ve learned a lot in the last few years. I used to think that debt was just a way of life. I thought that I should be able to get the things I wanted whenever I wanted them and I didn’t worry about borrowing money if I didn’t have enough to pay for things. I didn’t realize that I was being tricked.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, when you borrow money, you have to pay back the amount that you borrow plus some extra. That extra money is called interest. As time goes by, you end up paying a lot more money than you would have paid if you saved up for something before buying it. I realized that I would rather have that money and use it for fun or to help people than give it to the bank. I think that debt really gets in the way of people reaching their dreams and being able to do nice things for themselves and others.”
“So, how do you think we can get out of debt faster?”
“Mommy and I are working really hard to earn extra money. We’re also making some sacrifices by not buying things that are too expensive. Sometimes we have to say no to ourselves when we think we want something new. We also like to look for good deals at the store and use coupons. We buy a lot of our clothes and your toys from garage sales where we can find really good things for really good prices.”
“I know. Remember when I got that Imaginext dinosaur at a garage sale for $3! At the store I would have had to save $30 to buy it.”
“Yes! I think even after we are debt free we will still have fun hunting for good deals. We’ve really changed our way of life. Most importantly, we’re looking forward to a time when we can have extra money to give to people in need. Right now we’re living happily and paying a lot of money for our house.
Once we are debt free, we will be able to use all of the money we currently pay to the bank to go on special vacations, get special things, and give to special causes. Instead of giving money to the bank, we can give to people who need help. That will be way more special!
We’re looking forward to sharing good things with you so that you can have a bright future. I really want to change my family tree by giving you more opportunities than I had.”
“Thanks, Dad,” my sleepy son whispers as he cuddles up and closes his eyes. I know that my hard work will be worth it so I can help make his dreams come true.