The final chapter began on the First Day of Summer, 2008. I specifically chose the Summer Solstice to pay off my debt, IN FULL, for the second time in my adult life. Considering where I started in this journey (read on for details…) I’m pretty darned proud of myself. What I realize is that with this 2nd round of debt-freedom there was far more thought, intention and effort involved than the first time around and that makes this undertaking far more meaningful to me. Such that I wanted to mark the occasion on a memorable day. I believe each Solstice is a significant event, since it marks the end of one season and lead us forward to the next.
The first time I paid off my debt, it was done using money inherited from my grandmother. One lump sum, bank transfer, whoosh, debt-free! For sure there was a thought process involved, but in terms of the practical effort, there was no real hard work, nor behavioural change, nor addressing my values or the limiting beliefs that were separating me from my financial success. Indeed, because there was minimal effort on my part, I don’t think I valued the my debt-free status then at all the way I do now. Ultimately I believe that lack of connection to the process was what led me to end up in debt AGAIN, in less than two years after I paid it off the first time.
When I started this journey, I was $23K+ in debt, no savings of any kind, no way to pay for unexpected events or emergencies, no RRSP contributions, some investments but watching them decline as I used them to pay off debt, virtually no financial knowledge, and the belief that I was genetically incapable of having or managing money.
So where am I now?
Completely Debt-Free – no Visa, no Line of Credit, owe nothing to anyone!
Just shy of two months’ salary in savings and still growing bi-weekly
Able to make regular contributions to my RRSPs
Member of a monthly Investment Club
Have been able to pay cash for two school courses and two holidays so far in 2008 (all while still paying off debt!)
In the long journey to my financial freedom, most particularly these last five years, I have done a number of things. There was no one momentus event that made me debt-free. It was a series of small steps, one built on the next, that cumulatively gave me my much-sought-after result.
I wanted to share some of the strategies I’ve used to help you in your journey, and to allow you to see that a real human being successfully negotiated this process:
1. Connected with Nancy Zimmerman of Your Money by Design and took her 6 month program called Smart With Money. With the variety of options available from individual coaching to group sessions to email programs (very economical choice) there’s flexibility to meet a variety of needs. Many of the good habits & learning I developed came from Nancy’s teaching. I am still involved with her and her business on a professional level and will at some point in future be facilitating the Smart with Money program.
2. Tracked my expenses for 6 months using a spreadsheet provided by Nancy as part of the Smart with Money program. ESSENTIAL! Changed my world! Sounds potentially horrible but really wasn’t and ultimately was one of the most informative experiences I’ve ever had. I cannot overstate this enough. To give you an indication of how much I dreaded this, I would rather have faced a year of weekly oven cleaning than 6 months of expense tracking. I got waaaay more out of the expense tracking than I would’ve gotten with that sparkling oven though!
3. Attended a Millionaire Mind Intensive Weekend. Got free tickets through an intro talk given 2 years ago & decided to invest my weekend to see what I would get out of it. While T. Harv Ecker’s philosophy isn’t necessarily my thing, together with what I learned from Nancy, it did a remarkable job of helping me shift my limiting beliefs around money. This shift was ESSENTIAL to my success with money. I formerly believed I didn’t have the skills to manage money, that since my parents were poor money managers I would be too, and also had very negative associations with money (power/corruption). Once I worked through those issues it made huge change possible for me. I also read a copy of the Ecker’s book The Millionaire Mind, “took what I liked and left the rest”.
4. Posted a small card on my bathroom mirror that said, “I am worthy of and actively creating financial security in my life”. I did this to begin cultivating a healthy relationship with money and my beliefs about it. Still have this card up & look at it daily!
5. Got the book “Your Money or Your Life” as recommended by a coworker. Good read!
6. Spent time with people I knew who had/grew/managed money well. Asked them what they know, how they got/kept/managed their money in strategic ways, asked for knowledge they could offer/teach/pass on to me.
7. As a result of my connection with Nancy, became involved with a group of like-minded people and joined an Investment Club. While I still have a financial advisor who invests for me, I wanted to take more hands-on control of my money. The better connected I am to it, the better I handle it. So, I meet monthly with a group of 12 intelligent women who have varying degrees of knowledge where money is concerned, primarily novice with a couple of intermediates at best. The whole purpose is to learn about investing in a safe, comfortable, social environment. We’re having fun & learning at the same time!
8. Checked out and used tools from www.chickslayingnesteggs.com an online Investment Club for Women. Our club uses their guidelines & info for much of what we do. You can join them or find a local group too.
Like any system for success, you will need to find out what tools work for you. Likely this will be a system of trial and error for you, much as it was for me. By staying connected to people who were committed to money management and surrounding myself with them, I never strayed far my vision. I got encouragement when the chips were down, I had my progress regularly reflected back to me and always stopped to check-in with myself about how far I’d come and what was true for me. Best of all, I shifted to the belief that I AM WORTHY OF and ACTIVELY CREATING FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR MYSELF.
I hope this is also true for you and that the list above gives you a few things to get started on. At the risk of sounding trite, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Remember, the brilliant words of Carl Bard: “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending”.
These two phrases have carried me along this journey and led me to a whole new world. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be brilliant. You DO need to be willing to examine yourself, your habits, your beliefs and your actions. Then, little by little, one small step at a time, you too can find your way to financial freedom.
May it be an informative and insightful journey for you!
High virtual five, Kat!
1. Any questions for Kat?
2. Anyone else debt-free recently? What’s your story?
3. If you’d like a copy of the excel cash-flow tracking Kat used, e-mail me at nancy at yourmoneybydesign dot com.
I am not offering the Smart with Money series this fall (the job at the bank is taking most of my focus for right now) but I plan to offer it again in Jan 2009 for people in the lower mainland. Keep in touch if that’s of interest.