Hey older kids,
I just need to get something off my chest, and I’m writing it in a letter so that you can ponder it in private. I don’t want this to become a family conversation, but I want you to be aware, think about how you feel about it, and then prayerfully decide what you can do in your own life to prepare for your future and your family’s future.
As an extended family, we adults are in the middle of a very difficult dilemma with Grandma and Grandpa. They are struggling to make ends meet, especially now that their medications have gone up in price. Ever since their business went from $3000/mo down to about $800/mo, they have needed to ask for help from Aunt T and Uncle K, somewhat regularly, which they have been receiving. They haven’t been asking Uncle S or your Dad (since our setbacks from a few years ago) because they know that it’s already tight for the both of us. However, it IS becoming a burden on the others, so that’s what the family meetings have been about – how we can all share in the burden more.
Everyone is agreeable and willing to help however they can. But there’s a bigger problem at the root, which is not going to go away, but instead get bigger and bigger in the years to come. Our recent pow-wows have been to address the immediate need, but there is no real good plan in place for their long term needs.
There is a real difficulty in the way they think about their finances, and we’re all pretty sure that they’re so set in their ways that it will never change. Emotional attachments are preventing them from seeing resources they already have as opportunities to take better care of themselves. Grandma refuses to pay for her critical diabetes medicine that just tripled in cost, but she’ll keep paying to keep their storage units. In other words, she would rather die than let go of her stuff.
My reason for telling you this is not to make you worry about them or us. We’ve recently started saving 10% every month – a new habit that we finally put in place earlier this year, and so far, so good. I agonize that this was not a habit from the beginning. We always felt two steps behind and could never seem to get in front of it enough to save anything, until the last few years. We didn’t have anyone teaching us how to prepare for the future. There was no Dave Ramsey in our life when you were babies – we’ve always just done the best we knew how, but it wasn’t how it should have been. Our hope is that we’re not too late to get it right. We’re working hard to fix our mistakes, because we don’t want to be a burden on our children. At least with setting aside 10% every month, I feel like we’re doing something right.
Here’s what I want you to know. It’s what I wished I would have known to teach you from the time you were little. You may not feel the concern for your future right now, because you’re young and have a long time before it will bear meaningful fruit, but it’s my hope and prayer that you’ll hear me now and take it to heart.
Uncle E has always been focused on earning as much money as he can – not waiting for the best opportunities, but always staying in motion, earning, saving, working hard, and living as cheaply as he could. He was blessed with a dad who provided him with a good example that way. His dad (Grandpa J) did just that – and saved and worked and focused on building a strong nest egg, so that now he has (I believe) at least a million in the bank, off of which they live only on the interest it earns. So in other words, they are now retired with a never ending flow of money that doesn’t get smaller when they spend it.
On the other hand, your dad’s parents have no savings. They still have to pay rent every month, which can go up, on a luxury apartment plus their storage units. Their cars are falling apart. They can’t afford their medications. Their social security checks are being garnished by the IRS because they went for years without filing their taxes. I think that’s about $50,000 they owe there. They made good money in their business for the last few years, but again didn’t file their taxes for the last four years or so, so the IRS is going to eventually come after them again. Plus, that was self-employment income, so no withholdings, there are going to be hefty self-employment taxes to catch up on.
This kind of thing has been a source of tremendous stress for me over the years, realizing that your Dad and I have to totally do things that we’ve never seen in action, and which he was never taught to do. My mom had the desire to live by the financial principles that Dave Ramsey teaches, but my Dad wasn’t on board and spent the money too freely. So while I got from my mom good ideas, and good self-esteem and a belief that I could accomplish anything, I didn’t get much tactical training on how to handle or manage money either.
Dad has never been inclined to work as hard and as fast as he could for the purpose of accumulating money. His sights were never set on getting ahead – because deep down I think he struggled to believe that he was even capable of doing more than just getting by. You’ll achieve what you believe. I want each of you to believe that you can DO WELL. He has gotten good at trusting God to get us through each week. It’s been a constant exercise of faith, and we have learned how to trust God – because he does come through, but I also believe that God would have us ALL learn to be better stewards, and more profitable producers. We can do better. Our relationship gets strained though, when I try to get us to aim higher. It discourages him instead of motivating him. So I’ve had to stop. I’ve had to find peace with our pace. Saving 10% is the one thing I cling to now, to keep me from getting discouraged at our pace and so instead I choose to be grateful that we’re doing better in that regard than we ever have.
Here’s my plea:
1) Please listen regularly to Dave Ramsey’s shows / podcasts – http://www.daveramsey.com/show/home
At least once a week, if not every day. Pleeeeeeaaaaase. Give your mother some peace of mind, knowing that you’re at least getting the right education that she couldn’t give you. Don’t worry – his shows are funny, motivating, and enlightening, as some of you already know. They will help you think like Uncle E and his dad. My brother has also done well, not as a businessman but as an executive, and I can see now how he got where he is with the same mentality. I don’t know where he got it though – because it didn’t come from my parents.
2) Please save 10% of everything you get. Even if it’s just twenty cents on two dollars. Make it a habit now. When you have something like $300 saved, you can open a savings account with no monthly fees. It feels like a really hard thing, but I promise you it only gets harder the older you get, if it is not viewed as sacred and as untouchable as tithing. What to save for? That was always my question. I never could figure what it was for. Was it for a better car, but then back to zero when it’s spent? Or was it for emergencies? What constituted an emergency, running out of money before the end of the month? That’s why we never saved, because every month had an emergency. Listening to Dave would have helped me figure that piece out. Now we are saving for a very specific purpose, following his baby steps.
3) Follow Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps. Doing this will keep you focused, and remove all the confusion we’ve always lived with. Listen to his podcast to stay motivated and on track. His teachings are from a Christian perspective, and I’ve seen the good that God can do with a person who lives them.
4) Choose a spouse who is willing to live by these principles. On the first date, ask them, “Are you a Dave Ramsey fan?” No, just kidding. But don’t leave the money question to chance. More divorces happen because of money disagreements than almost any other issue. Your dad and I had zero conversations about money, except: “Let’s not go into debt,” and “Let’s have mom stay home from work.” We agree ~ yay! Success. That was the extent of our money discussion before marriage. Not good enough.
5) If you don’t have enough money to do what you need to do, go make some money. Don’t overthink it, just get busy. Believe that there is someone somewhere who will hire you, no matter what your situation is. Don’t waste time. Don’t wait until you need it before you make it. Make more than you need. Save, save, save. If you aren’t making money for a period of time, and that’s part of a master plan, then make that decision on purpose and just understand that it comes with an opportunity cost. Don’t let it just be a default. Let working hard be your default. Learn to enjoy the feeling of earning money just because you can. Do your work well, even if it’s unpleasant work. Don’t avoid unpleasant work. Enjoy being a producer. At the same time, don’t make it an obsession. Just be steady and wise. Save 10% of your money whether it is a little or a lot. If you put the habit in place and follow it religiously, then the Lord will trust you to stick to it and I believe he will open other doors to you in time.
6) Never stop learning. Read books, and learn from mentors who can help you learn how to be successful at whatever you want to be. Feed your mind. Don’t waste time. In the next twenty to thirty years, there is going to be a WIDE CHASM between your peers who did this, and those who did not. Choose now which side of the chasm you want to be on. Choose now whether you want to be in a predicament like ours or like Grandma/pa’s, or if you want to be free to serve and influence, and enjoy your senior years like Grandma/pa J. We have a whole library of books here at the house. I think I own all of Dave Ramsey’s books, and more. Most of the books on our shelves were recommended to us over the years by people who think like Grandpa J, so even though we can’t teach you by example, we’ve spent a fortune on our success library, so please use it.
To sum up, Aunt T and Uncle E have paid off their house and have no debt. He plans to be retired in the next 5 years, living off of interest from his investments. He will be 50 years old. Your dad and I no longer even own a house. We have no debt, but we have a long way to go before we will have a house paid off. In many ways, we’re totally starting over. Twenty-five years late. Aunt T and Uncle E will be more likely available to serve as mission presidents, etc. God didn’t just bless them with money, he honored their work ethic. We’ve worked crazy hard our whole marriage, but without the foundational habits in place; and without the goals and guidance that Dave Ramsey could have given us, we have hardly anything to show for it. It’s depressing. But it is what it is, and because of the atonement, I believe that as we live what we understand now, God can bless us. We are doing the best we know how. We trust him. If there are assignments that he has in mind for us in the future, I’m confident that he will provide a way for us to be prepared for them, even though we’ve been uninformed for so long. We have a good 20-30 years left to work, so it’s not too late for us (according to Dave), but it won’t be as easy as it would have been, had we started at your age.
I just feel like I would be amiss if I didn’t try now to give you the training that you should have received before. I don’t feel like I can talk about it much in person, because it’s a touchy subject and I don’t want anyone feeling like I am disappointed in them for any reason. I just feel such an urgency to give the warning. What you do with it is up to you. I don’t plan on talking about it further. I know that each one of you is already busy trying to figure out what you should be doing. I honor that. I appreciate you! I’m so proud of each of you and what you have accomplished already – you’re so much farther along than your parents were at your age.
Please believe me, I don’t send this to be pushy. It’s only my own conscience that I’m trying to appease. If I at least say it, and send it, then I can rest. Even if you don’t change a thing about what you’re doing, I can rest having sent this. I KNOW that the Lord’s hand is in your life. I see it. I hope you feel it. You’re already on the right track. I just didn’t want to bring this up later when it could be perceived as an attempt to course-correct you. I’m not trying to do that now. This is on my mind today only because of what we’re going through with the extended family, and some conversations I had with them about it today.
I have no plans to follow up and find out if you decide to accept my advice. Whether you do or not won’t affect me, as much as it will affect you and your future family. So at the very least, just please ponder it.
With love and appreciation for who you are, and the tremendous blessing you have been (and are) in my life,
PS. A couple other points I forgot to mention:
I believe Uncle K and your other Aunt T are close to paying off their house. Uncle K took DaveRamsey’s course before he got married, and Aunt T was raised with the right mentality. She started a home based business, and he works full time for the benefits and steady income, plus he has his side business. They are focused and working hard while their kids are little, with a very specific plan in place.
Everything I’ve learned, taught, and worked into my books and business are the true principles that help with the BELIEF piece. They are all about learning how to set and achieve goals, and building your confidence if you’re not sure you can achieve your goals. This belief piece is critical, because the right mindset directly and literally opens doors. It’s having that “kind of faith, rare indeed” that CAUSES things to happen, when what you need to happen is beyond your direct control. (Boyd K. Packer) I hope that you’ll also take advantage of the materials I’ve created over the years if and when you get discouraged. I have 3 books, a 12-week ecourse, a 3-day bootcamp, and a 12-week home study course. I also have a blog with over 200 articles. If I die, hear me from the dust through these materials 🙂
Dave Ramsey’s materials help you know what goals to set, and what to DO with your money as you earn it. It’s not a contradiction to what I teach; it pairs perfectly and I wish I had had that extra guidance as we were learning and applying the principles we learned from Bob Proctor.
That is all. Love you ~ enjoy conference!