Thank you for the opportunity to order these helpful books. I teach a personal finance class through the State College Area School District Community Education program. .... Your site has been very valuable to my class.
The stressors of life really had overwhelmed our finances and attitudes. With our counselor's help, we were able to save our home from foreclosure...Our finances are now in order and we can breathe once again.
-- Name Withheld
Through the help of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Atlanta, we were able to pay off our credit card debts. In February 2006, our credit allowed us to purchase a new home...Thank you CCCS for all of your help. We could not have done it without you.
-- Name Withheld
I will never forget the night I threw all my bills in the trash. I was working my night job during college - a quiet job where I could read, study, and figure out my finances. I had just added up the income from my various jobs, and then my expenses. Even if I made minimum payments on all my bills, I wouldn't make it. After three years of putting myself through school and taking every job I could get my hands on, and one long and expensive year ahead of me, I was tired in every sense of the word.
As soon as I threw the bills away, a feeling of relief washed over me. Out of sight, out of mind. I decided I would just concentrate on paying my tuition costs down, and the rest would just magically disappear.
For about three months, I was in heaven. Every bill that came in was "filed" permanently. I paid more money towards my school bills, life was good.
Then the phone calls started. At first I didn't realize what they were; the callers were sympathetic, and it took me much longer than it ought for me to figure out they actually wanted me to pay something toward my bills. I made promises that I had every intention of fulfilling, but never did. The phone calls became more frequent. Once a friend was in my room and I played my messages (this was before voicemail) - one of them from a collection agency. I was filled with shame but she grabbed my hands and said, "I get those calls, too!" For a little while, I felt calm and okay about it - maybe everyone received those calls?. The calls kept coming and coming. The callers were getting really frustrated, asking me why I hadn't sent any money, as I'd promised. My imagination was at full tilt, I couldn't sleep. I was sure that police officers would show up at my dorm and lead me away in handcuffs. I really had no idea what to do or where to turn. I started feeling frantic, and instead of continuing to pay down my tuition, my spending became erratic and out of control. I would go to the drugstore for toothpaste and walk out with tons of useless junk. One night, late, I called my older sister and confessed to her what was happening. After she told me there were no such things as debtor prisons, we talked for a long time about what I could do to dig myself out of debt. At this point, graduation was only a short distance away, and the hopes of a full-time job seemed to offer all the answers.
Before I could graduate, though, my bank closed my checking account. I had bounced too many checks and they knew I was not a good risk. I was on a cash-based system.
I graduated from college, and got a good position. I lived with my sister and another friend - both of whom had good credit, so I didn't have to fill out a credit application. Still having no idea how to recover, I took my paychecks every two weeks around the corner to a check cashing store. Then I would go home and separate the money into envelopes; "rent", "school loans", "food", "transportation", "heating" etc. If I needed to send a check somewhere, I had to pay for a cashier's check at the check cashing store or give my sister cash and have her write the check. After 2 years of this, I worked up the courage to go into my local bank. I explained my situation to a personal banker, terribly ashamed, and she couldn't have been nicer. She worked with me every step of the way, and made it possible to get a checking account again. Though I had 5 more long years after that of needing my sister to co-sign rental agreements for my apartments (thanks to my bad credit), the day I walked out of the bank was a very happy day. With a checking account, I didn't have to pay a fee to have my paychecks cashed, or fees for cashier's checks. I didn't have to rely on my sister, and she didn't have to coordinate her finances to deal with my "cash only" system. Within a year after re-establishing my checking account, I was offered a secured credit card, which I took gladly, to build up some "good" credit. With this secured credit card, I could rent a car - I felt like I was finally becoming an adult. And I will never forget the day I was apartment hunting and didn't have to add on the application, "my sister will provide any further information, since I have credit problems and need a co-signer".
It was a hard lesson to learn, but I'm glad I learned it. Today, I never put off balancing my checkbook. I save money. I talk with my banker quite frequently, and even consult a financial advisor. I understand completely that "zero" means "none". I know that if I want something and don't have the money, it's not going to kill me not to get it. I know that true friends will not drop me if I'm not always able to buy them what I would like to when I would like to; that being a good friend is really all they want (the money I spent on people to be "nice" or because I was afraid they would think I was "poor" - as if that mattered! As if spending money I didn't have made me wealthier!). I know that if I get into trouble, there is help.
No one who knows me today would ever guess that I had bad credit or problems with money, which is great, because when friends "confess" to me (you know, since I'm so good with my money) that they're in trouble, I can actually give them advice and help them, instead of passing judgment. There is such a culture of shame in our country about indebtedness. I hope that with my story, I can give someone losing sleep some hope - you can do it - there is no quick fix, but you CAN fix it. And as soon as you start, you will feel better. All it needs is your time, determination, and some good advice, kindly given.
As the daughter of a banker you would think that I would have great habits when it comes to managing my money. But I don’t. I was 26 years old before I ever balanced my checkbook. I would live month-to-month and hope and pray at the end of each month that I had enough money in my account to cover my expenses and purchases. As a result of my poor money management I would often turn to my credit card for help. Needless to say I rather quickly racked up more debt than I could handle. Add to that my college loans and I was soon in way over my head. With the helps of friends and family I was able to take a realistic look at my finances and create a budget that worked for me. It allowed me to pay all of my bills, set aside a little something for savings, and still have a social life (I will admit that I have had to cut back on my shopping!). I also highly recommend to anyone in their 20s and 30s the book “Young, Fabulous, and Broke” by Suze Orman. She has lots of good tips and explains the intricacies of finances in easy to understand terms. Putting yourself on a tight budget can be challenging and a bit annoying, but after a few months it gets easier! Stick with it!
As a twenty-one year old full time college student living on my own I was working part time to pay my bills. I wasn’t making enough money that I was able to create a large savings bank; on the contrary I was making just enough to pay off my monthly bills for rent. This meant a huge sacrifice on my part—no shopping! When I felt that my job was interfering with my school work I decided to quit so my grades would not suffer. I therefore had to make the conscious decision to move home. The last thing I wanted as a senior in college was to move back into my parent’s house, but I did it anyways. I can now see that it was the best decision I made because if I had chosen not to move home I would have inevitably gone into debt.
My husband and I are responsible, conscientious and hard working. Yet, we both like to spend money. So, if left to our own devices, would likely choose to ignore the finer details of money management and saving / delaying / optimizing for future wealth. We were saved, so to speak, from ourselves by investing in a financial advisor. Now, ours happens to be our brother-in-law, which can be good or bad, but it has served us well. Not only has Dan scolded us a few times when we’ve spent too much or tithed at less than our potential, but he’s helped us know the best performing funds in which to invest, the best way that the laws (and the changes therein) can be used – like how much can go to Roth IRAs vs. Traditional IRA, and how IRA contribution allowances are increasing each year. He’s also been invaluable in helping us set up a Will and Trust, and with decisions like how much life insurance we need. I’m glad I have an expert looking out for us. What I pay him is worth every penny for the peace of mind that it brings me to know that my finances are on track to “give back” to us and our children when the time comes.