Do Inadequately Planned Retirements & Unemployment Feel The Same?

30 04 2010

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An “A-ha” Moment

I’ve never been retired, but I’ve been unemployed for nearly 9 months and it got me to thinking. There may be millions of retired people trying to live off of roughly the same amount I receive in unemployment benefits! It felt like a genuine epiphany, a fresh peek into how many others might be living at this very moment… and I have to admit it was very sobering.

Loudoun County Living

I’m blessed with a spouse and therefore an extra income, so my personal situation varies slightly from the point I’m trying to make. But if I were single, it’s obvious to me how tough it would be to survive financially. Especially when I consider the cost of living in my region. I live in the DC area, and more specifically in Loudoun County. Loudoun is one of the fastest growing counties in the entire country, placing in the top 5 annually for the last 7 years or so.

Even so, my jobless benefits only give about 45% of what I was making in my last job. That’s right. Less. Than. Half.

401-QUAKES & Pension Penal Systems

In the wake of this recession, where millions lost their entire 401k savings and other retirement investments, can you imagine how many people retired only to discover they couldn’t make a living off of what was in their accounts?

Most of the newly retired folks that I speak with usually point out the initial sticker shock they had when they got that very first pension check. It’s usually anywhere from a 30% to 45% DECREASE from the salary they were drawing on a monthly basis… and these are the ones that have the proper nest egg to live comfortably. (Or so they thought)

Can you imagine then, what it would be like to go into retirement with insufficient funds? “Insufficient Funds” should only be printed on an ATM receipt when you’re living check to check, it should NOT be a retirement strategy! But then again, many who are ill-prepared for retirement can’t blame it on the economy at all. Poor money management and spending habits in your adult working lifetime will very easily translate into the rest of your retired life.

So I guess at the end of the day, the 2 can seem similar but for me I suppose the silver lining is two-fold:

1 I won’t be unemployed for the rest of my life. The last job I worked is not the LAST job I’ll ever work! Once I get back to earning a decent wage, we can resume with eliminating our debt.

2 Once we’re debt-free our focus will be to truly setup a NICE nest egg in a Roth IRA, and some Growth-Stock Mutual Funds.

But for now, if you don’t mind it’s time for me to retire because I’ve been up all night writing this post. *rimshot*

Live Invincibly,


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Broke But Not Broken

16 11 2009


Gosh, we’ve been through a whole-heckuv-alot since we’ve started our journey to get out of debt. Of the $100,000+ in non-mortgage debt we started with, $65,000 has been paid off in the last 2 years and 1 month. I don’t have time to tell it all, and there are things I may NEVER get to tell about our experience cause my wife won’t let me. There have been many momentum swings up and down and many motivation shifts from good to bad, better, best and worst again. And most of what I’m talking about has absolutely nothing to do with the dollars and cents side, but the emotional side instead. But through it all, I’ve never had a week like the one I just came out of.

I just really feel the need to share a moment of transparency, honesty, and vulnerability with you in this post. Is that alright?

This week I learned there is a HUGE difference between doing something out of habit vs. doing something out of conviction.

This week I was consumed by a level of depression that left me with virtually nothing to work with. No energy, no desire – not even for things I genuinely love to do. I felt deserted by my purpose, truly afraid for maybe the first real time since we started knocking out crazy amounts of debt way back in October 2007.

THAT was a fear like I’d never known. In October of that year I was a brand new husband 3 months into a fantastic marriage (still is…) faced with a financial situation we simply couldn’t find a way out of. There I was the new head of a household, and already felt like an utter failure because I couldn’t just ‘pay the problem away’. How can you call yourself a provider for you family when you can’t even provide the simplest form of security for your wife? THAT is the kind of fear I faced before we were introduced to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace University.

Fast forward to today and as a family we are so many things we never knew we’d become. And today in numerous ways I was given reminders of that fact:

At our FPU class today, we decided to do one-on-one checkups with each family individually just to see where they are and where we can help them be better. During those checkups we were told by each family how much our time and effort and passion have meant to them. They praised us for being quality leaders and people willing to lead against the tidal wave our society is being swept into. I never knew how powerful that all was to others until I heard it today in the depths of what I was feeling.

Then, at the Wal-Mart while I was in the car waiting my wife had a full conversation with the checkout lady about the envelopes she pulled out to pay for her items. When the lady said “I could never do something like that, I can barely pay my current bills!” My wife took it as an opportunity to encourage the lady to take a fresh look at turning her finances around. My wife basically said this: “I used to say we could never do it either, but now we’re DOING never!”

Then when we got home, our neighbor upstairs – who also recently joined the Financial Peace class with his wife –  knocked on our door with the Disney movie “UP” for us to check out… Big deal you might say, but I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how far our relationship as neighbors has come in the 5 months they’ve lived above us! While he was there, we gave him their FPU kit that had been donated by a church member. They’ve come a LONG way in just the few weeks they’ve been involved. I wish I could tell the story, but one day that will be their story to tell! PRAISE GOD!

I walked into this week’s class in full possession of the habit required to teach them how to get out of debt, build wealth and give… but I had lost the conviction. I had come to a place where my wins were coming only on a vicarious basis. I was motivated seeing them win, but no longer seeing those same types of wins in our personal journey.

So much has changed in the last 2 years… and it’s changed even more in light of the fact that I’ve been unemployed since the beginning of August.

But again, I just praise God that even though we’ve been Broke ($) we’ve never been Broken! Not even with the things we faced this week. We’ve still got another $45,000 left of debt to erase, and countless hearts to teach this stuff to.

I’m recharged and ready to try once again to…

Live Invincibly,


Fear Free Finances: Halloween Edition

29 10 2009


“Fear is the greatest diminishing return.” – Adrian Wright

THE MYTH – Mo Money, Mo Problems

I do NOT support Halloween or what it represents, but many do and I feel the need to use this as a teachable moment. See, too many of us are treating our money as something to be FEARED because many of us deal with our money from a place of fear.

“Where am I going to get the money to pay for that?”

“That’s not in the budget, what am I gonna do?!”

“What’s going to happen to my credit score now?!”

THE FEAR – I’m trapped, how do I get out of this?

Too many of us deal with our finances from a reactionary stance.

“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom.” – Marilyn Ferguson

Well, today I say it’s high time you come out of that place. I’ve been out of it myself for over 2 years. The stress and tension is completely GONE in regards to matters of money in my life.

I’ll admit, our society is not designed to let you think you can make it to the place where your money no longer pulls on your emotions, but I now know that is no longer a myth. I’m THERE! Where are you?

THE PEACE – Financial Peace…

Because of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, I’ve discovered the tools to help me get over my fear of money and the stress that comes with either not having enough to pay the bills or managing it well enough that it works for you, instead of you for it!

For more information on HOW I made it to this place please go to Dave Ramsey’s site.

Live Invincibly,


Photo courtesy of thetempo

Financial Peace University Week 1: Super Savers

29 09 2009


Financial Peace University Week 1: Super Savers

Today we officially kicked off our Financial Peace University class in Sterling VA! This is literally a dream come true for my wife and I. And we are completely ecstatic about the group we’ll be leading through this class.

It’s absolutely amazing how blessed we have been to be a part of this particular group of FPU participants. I’m already expecting GREAT things for each family involved now that I’ve seen how the group will interact.

The thing I love most is that nobody had to be ‘sold’ to be here, each person/family WANTS this for their family. And that is precisely what is going to be required to win.

Like Dave Ramsey said during this first session, “Starting is the easiest part, but also the hardest part”. I know it may not be easy deciding between vegging-out, watching NFL games, falling asleep mid-way through the pre-game show, waking up at half-time only to find out your team is trailing by 16 points… doh, sorry I got side-tracked lol. But the point I was trying to make is that as far as they are concerned, they’ve made the decision that nothing is more important than getting their families to a truly safe financial place again.

Now that they’ve made the decision to get out, very little is going to stop them.

Anytime YOU are ready, I invite you to heavily consider making the same decision for your family and your future.

If you don’t already have it, you NEED financial peace. And we’ll be here to show you how… whenever you’re ready.

Live Invinicibly,


@Risk Remix: A Look Back

1 06 2009

Photo courtesy of ZaksterNT

*This is the second time I’ve turned to this image for a post, the first was “Full Circle: How our TMM Began…“. I encourage you to read it as well. This picture represents perfectly how our financial situation felt before (Barren) and how it feels now in comparison (Overflowing)

Today I found myself looking back over a few posts from nearly a year ago, just to see how far we’ve come in that amount of time. I really must say that I’m pretty amazed by what I saw. The post in question is “1/3 way home” And it was about how excited we were to reach a minor milestone in our journey.

At the time we had just finished paying off the 10th bill out of the 30 that we started with, so we had just passed the 1/3 mark on our debt snowball list.

Fastforward to today and we are WELL into paying off the 32nd bill out of the 41 we now have on that same list. That means we are 3/4 of the way done with the ‘list’!

At the same time we have officially passed the Half-way mark on our debt total as well. We’ve paid off $52,730.06 and have $$51,506 left to pay before we are DEBT FREE!

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES!! So I guess in our case you could say that “Hindsight is 50/50!” We’re halfway there!!! I can’t wait to see where we are this time next year! We should be heading into the Home Strecth at that point!

It’s never too late to start, if you have not already! We’re here for you, so let’s GO!


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Suze Orman: Your Loss is Her Gain…

9 03 2009

Photo courtesy of Glennia

“I’m proud that I make money, that I work hard, that I’ve created what I’ve created. But I can tell you this: I haven’t hurt one person getting here.” – Suze Orman

Oh really Suze?

I usually don’t do this. I usually don’t ‘go after’ someone in the public eye. But Suze Orman has pressed my final button, so I just have to get this off my chest.

Orman is considered to be the most recognizable personal-finance expert in the world. And quite possibly the most polarizing as well.

Now anyone who follows this blog knows that I’m a fan of Dave Ramsey’s methods for eliminating debt and managing your finances. Not because I have a ‘thing’ for Dave, but first and foremost because he uses the Bible as a foundation for the principles he teaches. There is proven truth to what he says… he doesn’t sugar-coat it, he doesn’t water it down.

Suze on the other hand seems to “play to the crowd” a bit too much for my liking. She wont tell you what you NEED to hear all the time, because it may alienate you from being endeared to her.

I just read an article about her on called “The Queen of Crisis“. I highly recommend checking it out. But I digress…

My biggest problem with Suze is that she’s not afraid of credit. She wants credit to be your friend in turning your woes into wealth.

Last week I caught the 2am replay of Oprah. (Please don’t ask…) Suze Orman was the guest of honor and she was answering every one’s “tough” questions about this economy and their money. Questions like: “We’re getting married this summer and we want to spend no more than $50,000. After our expenses each month we have about $500 leftover. How can we afford to make this happen?”

Suze told them that they couldn’t afford it, but she then went on to tell them HOW they could afford it!

Oh, and how about the couple that wanted to remodel their kitchen and bathroom by taking out a $76,000 Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)? Suze said “Go for it!”

Whaaaa? Excuse me? Have you seen property values lately?

To me this is reckless! While we’re facing the worst economic situation in the last 80 years, The world’s foremost financial expert is on a show with possibly the widest viewership into the ‘average American home’ and she refuses to be a voice of reason against the mentality of trying to afford what you cannot afford?! Really? At a time like this?!

In the quote at the start of this post, she says she hasn’t hurt one person getting to where she is… but I beg to differ. With advise like the variety she gave on Oprah, I shudder to think how many people she hurt in that hour alone. How many people did she just empower to continue to run their finances into the ground?

Ok, and one last question…

Why does she charge $80,000 per speaking engagement? Is her advice really that valuable? As I said before when it comes to the economy, our loss is apparently her gain.

Till next time,


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I’ve Seen the Promised Land…

23 10 2008

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

*Allow me to forewarn you, this post wont be entirely about debt, or money at all, but it still has very much to do with the future of my family. (Which is why we need to get out of debt … cause otherwise my family wont have much of a future…catch my drift?) Now before you click away from this site thinking that this will be a political post, let me correct you cause it’s not one of those either. What I cannot promise is that I wont be preachy no matter what I make this post about lol that’s just me…

As I said this has to do with the future of my family. Today I saw it very clearly in a number of distinct and memorable ways.

See, I am a married, Christian, 30 year-old, African-American male. According to the secular world those 5 things might as well be the new “5 deadly sins”… but I wear each of those things with tremendous pride.

Although this blog started off as a chronicle of our journey out of credit card debt, for us this entire movement has now gone FAR beyond just being about money. My life has changed during this process. Getting our money in order is now a distant second to getting ourselves in order in the things that can’t be measured by their worth in just dollars. This is now my testament, this is now my witness to the world.

Some of the things that I’m doing now wont fully be realized until my children are nearing my current age. For instance, my children will be the very first generation in either of our families to never get a call from a bill collector. Think about that. They’ll never be charged an overdraft fee due to insufficient funds in their account because of what we are doing now. WHOA. Such mundane and constant parts of my everyday reality, they will never experience themselves. How awesome of a thought is that?!

Which leads me perfectly to my next point. The sacrifices made by those that came before me, put me in the position to pursue something like this for my family.

45 years ago, in Selma, Alabama in order for a black person to vote the had to correctly guess the number of jelly beans in a jar or recite a portion of the constitution or perform any number of other outlandish tasks. Just to cast their VOTE, which had been established as their right nearly 100 year prior in the 1860’s! They faced attack-dogs and water-cannons so that they, and those that would come after them could enjoy a constitutional right. In 13 days it will be for THEM that I cast my vote. And most likely with tears in my eyes I’ll be fully aware that I am witnessing something that they NEVER could have imagined: a Black man as the President of the United States.

Today in Leesburg, Virginia (Yes, long-time-red-state-VIRGINIA!) I attended an Obama rally where the turnout was 100 times the number of jelly beans in any of those jars in the 1960’s! An estimated 30,000 people turned out to see a married, Christian, 40+ year-old, African-American man. Amazingly he’s just like me in those ways, but what’s even more is that he wants to do for this country the EXACT same thing I want to do for my family. And we both fully intend to honor the advancements and sacrifices that got us here, by further sacrifice and advancement in bold and unorthodox ways that will pave a very different for any that dare to follow in our footsteps.

In both cases, many doubt it can really be done. Many don’t realize the magnitude of what we both are separately reaching for. My children will never KNOW for themselves just what kind of sacrifices were made for them by generations past and more directly by my wife and I… and THAT all by itself makes it worth EVERYTHING to me… that they never have to know.

As for me, I promise to never forget…

Thank you for what you did for me!

Yes We Can, Yes We Will… Will YOU?


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