The following is the introduction from my book, “Money is Emotional: Prevent Your Heart From Hijacking Your Wallet.” Available at Amazon.com on March 21, 2017.
When I hit financial rock-bottom, four years after graduating from college, I owed money to three different payday lenders. I was behind on my car payment and had past due utility bills and credit cards. Ironically, I was the Accounting Manager for my family’s multi-million dollar business, and yet I was bouncing checks at home. Talk about feeling like a hypocrite. How does a smart girl who made the National Honor Society make such stupid mistakes with money? It’s because I was making emotional decisions with my personal finances, not logical ones. I let my heart hijack my wallet.
From the time I was nineteen, I dated and then eventually became engaged to a guy; we’ll call him “Jeff,”* who was irresponsible with his money. Unfortunately, many of his bad money habits rubbed off on me. He was in and out of jobs, and in and out of jail. I bailed Jeff out both literally and financially on numerous occasions. Needless to say, the relationship had an unhealthy, co-dependent dynamic. But people do foolish things with money for the sake of love, and I was no exception. It took me seven years to figure out that things were never going to change, so I broke off the engagement and gave the ring back to Jeff (since his mother had cosigned for it).
I clearly remember the breakup. Jeff and I were sitting on a bench facing the pond in our apartment complex, our dog playing nearby. Staring at the pond, I finally gave voice to the truth. “Jeff, I feel like I am swimming across that pond, and you are holding onto my leg. I’m tired of pulling your weight. If I don’t kick you off, I am going to drown. Whether you sink or swim, it’s up to you now.”
Because I had no money and horrible credit due to my bad financial choices, I couldn’t get an apartment on my own. Fortunately, my Dad and my stepmom, Francine, were gracious enough to let me live with them rent-free for three months so I could leave the toxic relationship and back on my feet.
My Dad was truly my financial lifeguard. He helped me create a budget and a plan to pay off my debt. I was so stressed out and emotional about my financial mess that I needed an objective person to help me sort out the details. I looked at the department store credit card bill and saw the charge on there for a gift my ex-fiancé had “bought” me. When I realized I was now going to have to pay for it, I was livid. I was mad at him but also angry with myself for allowing him to use the card.
Fortunately, my Dad didn’t judge me for my mess; instead, he assisted me in formulating a road map to my preferred financial future. He reminded me of the basics of sound financial money management–saving money is good, too much debt is bad, and live within your means. He also taught me the importance of giving to those less fortunate than me. I guess I was feeling a little sorry for myself because after four years of being out on my own in the real world, I had fallen flat on my face. My Dad reminded me that I had food, clothing, shelter and a family who loved me, which made me very fortunate indeed.
I think it’s important to add here what my Dad didn’t do for me. He didn’t shield me from the consequences of my mistakes. My Dad and stepmom did not pay off any of my bills, nor did they lend me money to catch them up. You might think it was mean, but it was honestly the best gift they could have given me – a sense of personal responsibility. I needed to feel the pain of my mistakes so I could fix them and learn to avoid going down that road again. My Dad has said to me more than once, “The mistakes you learn the most from are ones that cost you the most.”
About a year later, I was driving to work and an amazing thought struck me: “I can’t remember the last time I worried about money!” It was such a shock to me because I was that person who would lie in bed, balancing my checkbook in my head, trying to figure out if I would have enough money to pay all of the bills. I still had some debt, but I was working my plan and things were steadily improving. That’s when I realized there had to be other people out there who were just like I was, living under a heavy burden of money stress and worry. I decided then and there I would find a way to help them get on the road to financial health, too.
I understand that money is emotional, and this book is going to show you how to prevent to your heart from hijacking your wallet. And if your heart has already cleaned out your bank account, I’ll show you how to take back control and reverse the financial damage.