By Kathy Will
When I heard that Financial Peace University was going to be offered at Grace, I told Erika and Barb Klugh to please let me tell my story. I am an alumni and I want you to know how this has made a difference in my life.
In 2005, I was a single mom with two children in college and the third in High School. I had heard of Dave Ramsey, and had listened to his broadcast several times on the radio. What he said made sense, but I was still struggling along from paycheck to paycheck and using my credit cards to pay for whatever the kids and I needed. I had even completed a remodeling project on my house and used those convenient checks the credit card companies sent to pay some of the remodeling expenses. But I was missing payments often, and beginning to receive creditors’ letters and phone calls.
Then in December of that year, I was in a serious auto accident: I totaled my car, and was anticipating surgery to repair a broken foot. The weekend before my surgery I had a collection agency calling to threaten me with a lawsuit – they had no sympathy for my situation and just told me I had better find the money somehow. I can remember sitting on my bed in tears – in physical pain, but also very low emotionally. Luckily, I had some wonderful friends in my church that connected me with one of Dave Ramsey’s financial coaches. He sat down with me to go over my finances and waived his $400 fee, with the stipulation that I attend the Financial Peace University sessions being offered soon at my church.
At that time I was approximately $50,000 in debt and working as an administrator at a charter school earning $50,000 a year. I had been single over 10 years and while I did receive some child support, it was never enough to truly take care of everything the kids needed. My debt seemed staggering, but the coach said many people with much greater incomes have much greater debt – second homes, expensive toys, etc. He and I worked out a plan to start working with the credit card companies and get a handle on what I was spending.
Then came the nine-week class. A friend from my church taught it and each of us in the group helped to hold each other accountable. The videos were entertaining, and Dave Ramsey speaks from personal experience. There are no short cuts, but rather a different way of looking at what you do. Because of the class, I was able to pay off $7000 in the first two months, and I cut up all my credit cards – even the JC Penney card I had carried for 15 years. I learned to pay cash for purchases, and to turn down those offers of store credit you run into everywhere. The class discussed life insurance and investments. The support materials were terrific – budget worksheets, envelopes, and Dave’s on-line blog. And our monthly budgets started with setting aside our tithe for the church before paying any other bills.
Fast forward 8 years. Brad and I married, and we each brought debt into the marriage and have experienced several financial bumps along the way. Brad is not totally on board with the process, and I have not followed it consistently – and we will try to take a refresher course in the future. But I have retained some of what I learned: we do not purchase on credit, and I do try to keep our emergency fund intact. And this past summer I paid off the last of the credit cards. All $50,000 worth! While we are not quite debt-free, we are ever so much closer. Financial Peace gave me the tools and the goal, and has certainly changed how I live my life.