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INTRODUCTION

From our Founding Fathers to Ward Cleaver, fathers are universally seen as sources of wisdom. We seek guidance and advice from our fathers, hoping to tap into their life experience and knowledge.

My father died when I was 13 years old. Since then, I’ve often wished I had a father or father figure to turn to for advice. I’ve sought mentors to take my father’s place, but, unfortunately, good mentors—willing mentors—are hard to find.

I’ve had to come up with my own rules which isn't the easiest way to learn. I wish someone had just taught me the rules, but fate had other plans for me.

As part of my quest for knowledge, I have read many “self-help” books. Some were useful, others not. A common attribute of many “self-help” books is they are too long. These books could easily be half as long and twice as effective and interesting. With this in mind, I have tried to keep this book short and to-the-point.

If you never seem to have enough money, if you’re drowning in debt, if it seems like you’ll never get ahead financially, or if you’re forced to work at a job you dislike just to pay the bills, this book has something for you.

The lessons in this book have been learned through hard experience—my hard experience. I will often illustrate a point with an example from my life. We all learn best through experience. However, it’s easier, quicker, and less painful to learn from someone else’s experience than to muddle through on our own.

This book describes a new way of thinking. It can change your life.

HOW TO CHOOSE A TEACHER

I have learned that before you take anyone's advice, you should evaluate them by the following criteria:

1) Have they done what they are teaching?

If you wanted to learn how to play basketball, who would you rather ask: Michael Jordan or your grandmother? Even if your grandmother played basketball in her youth, I think you’d rather ask Michael for his advice.

If you want to learn something, learn from someone who has done what they are teaching.

2) Do they have your best interests at heart?

If someone is teaching you about insurance so they can sell you a policy, you would be wise to question what they are telling you. They may be thinking about their commission and not what’s best for you.

So How Do I Rate?

I believe you should apply these same criteria to me.

1) Have I done what I am teaching?

I received my first “pre-approved” credit card when I was a senior in high school. I was ecstatic. A credit card—I was grown-up now! I signed the application, mailed it back, and when I received the card three weeks later, I was off to the store. I spent $200 on Calvin Klein polo shirts and Nike shoes.

That was the beginning of a long, painful ride.

After graduating from high school, I received a four-year academic scholarship to the University of Washington.

Although I didn’t have much money at the time, I resolved not to miss out on any of the fun during college. I worked part-time, which provided some income, but not enough.

I used credit cards to make up the difference. They were easy to get and I got a bunch. I figured that with the “huge” salary I’d earn after graduation, I would easily pay off my college credit card debt.

I used credit cards to buy CDs, a racing bike, skis, stereo equipment, clothes, dinner for my dates, concert tickets, airplane tickets, and ski trips. You name it, I bought it.

I didn't keep track of the amount of debt, because I planned to pay it off quickly once I graduated and started making the "big bucks."

Well, it didn't exactly work out that way.

After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I started my first "real job." I was making $28,500 per year and thought it would be difficult to spend it all. I quickly forgot my pledge to use my new-found wealth to pay off my college debt. I moved into a house with some friends and bought a more expensive car. I lived the high life—ski trips to Canada and Oregon, road trips, concerts, movies, and expensive dinners to impress the girls.

Suddenly, my paychecks weren't lasting as long as they used to. I started to run out of money halfway between checks. I couldn't make more than the minimum payments on my credit cards. Whenever I had some money left over, I would receive an unexpected or forgotten bill, which would quickly wipe out the surplus.

I stopped having fun. I couldn't wait until the next payday.

I was in trouble.

I finally gathered the courage to do something I had been avoiding for months. I sat down with a stack of credit card statements, bank statements, and bills and added up my debt.

I owed:

  • $10,000 on 10 credit cards
  • $13,000 on a car loan
  • $2,500 in student loans
  • $535 on a medical bill
  • $1,500 on a loan for an electronic keyboard

On top of that, my monthly bills included $300 in rent and $100 in car insurance. Then there were utilities, gas, food, and other expenses.

Needless to say, I didn't have much money left over for fun.

I was 24 years old and felt like I was trapped in a dark box that was shrinking around me. I often woke up in the middle of the night in a panic, worried about my future. My enjoyment of life diminished.

Personal debt can cause so much anxiety that it actually affects your physical health. I developed an ulcer and heart palpitations.

I began to despair because I saw no chance of paying off my debt before I was 40. I thought about filing for bankruptcy, but who wants to be bankrupt at the age of 24?

I had to come up with a plan.

The first thing I did was admit that it was my fault I had a paralyzing amount of debt. I had created this situation for myself. I realized debt was ruining my life and decided to pay it off as quickly as possible.

After some trial and error, I created and implemented a debt-elimination plan. I designed a way to plan my finances, made some tough sacrifices, worked a lot of overtime, and paid off most of my debt (except the car loan) in a little over a year.

After that hellish year, I resolved never to put myself in that situation again. I decided to live within my means. That painful year forced me to create a philosophy about money that has since served me well.

Since then, I have experienced two periods of career and financial hardship, but I survived them both—thanks to my philosophy about money.

So, yes, I have done what I am teaching.

Besides, I’m writing the first draft of this book during a six-week hiatus from work—without pay. I’m able to take the time off because I have been successful at managing my money and planning my finances.

2) Do I have your best interests at heart?

When I decided to get out of debt and improve my relationship with money, I realized I'd need some advice. Since my father wasn’t around, I looked for a book that could help me. I wanted a short, easy-to-read book that would give me a straightforward and practical method for getting rid of my debt. I found some books, but they were too long. I don’t have an aversion to long books, but I wanted to get started right away. I didn't want to waste time reading a 300-page book. Besides, it seemed many of those 300 pages were spent trying to sell the author’s other books and products.

After I eliminated my debt and gained control of my finances, I wanted to help other people do the same, so I decided to write the book I wish had been available to me.

I am not selling anything beyond this book. The only things you need to implement my money philosophy are the desire to change, this book, and a few inexpensive tools you can buy at any local drugstore.

I have two main goals for this book:

  • To change the way you think about money.

    All the techniques and methods in the world won’t help if you don’t change the way you think about money.

  • To give you concrete methods to control your finances.

    I want to help you eliminate debt and live a happy, prosperous financial life—and to get you started as soon as possible. I want you to have a healthy relationship with money and gain control of your finances and your life. I want you to benefit from my experience, so you can avoid the pain I experienced as I dealt with my paralyzing debt.

But most of all, I want you to pass these lessons on to your children, so they won’t ever have to say, “I wish my parents had taught me that.”

MONEY

Why did I choose to write a book about money? Aren’t we taught that money really isn’t that important and “the love of money is the root of all evil?” Isn’t it shallow to think too much about money? Why didn’t I instead write a book about peace, love, and understanding?

Like it or not, we need money to live in our society. We use money to provide the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, and shelter. Money also provides us with luxuries and comforts. It influences almost every aspect of our lives.

Money determines:
  • How we spend our time.
  • What neighborhood we live in.
  • What kind of house we own or whether we even own a house.
  • What kind of car we drive.
  • Where we go on vacation.
  • Who we hang out with.
  • Whether we can retire.
  • Which schools we or our children can attend.
  • How much free time we have.
  • What hobbies we have.
  • How much we can help others in need.
  • Our peace of mind.

I’ve had people tell me “Money just isn’t important to me.” Yet those same people spend eight or more hours a day going to jobs they hate. From Monday to Friday, one-third of their lives is spent earning money, and yet they say “money just isn’t that important to me.” If money isn’t so important, why do they spend the best hours of the day earning money?

What they do speaks so loudly I can hardly hear what they say.

How much money we have determines a large part of the daily reality of our lives and yet, most of us were never taught even basic lessons about money.

I hope to remedy that with this book. I want to change your relationship with money. I want to change the way you think about money. I want you to use money to gain more freedom and happiness in your life.

Times Have Changed

Our economy has evolved from being local to global. People are being laid off as their jobs either become obsolete or are sent to another country. The evolution of technology and the Internet has made it possible to send customer service, factory, computer programming, and engineering jobs overseas where foreign workers can be hired for pennies on the dollar.

American workers used to work their entire career at one company and retire comfortably with company-provided pensions. Companies provided free health insurance and other benefits for their employees.

That time is past. We can no longer count on our employers to provide for our financial security. We also can no longer rely on government programs such as Social Security to provide us with retirement income.

More than ever, we need to gain control of our own financial futures.



Noah's Castle - John Rowe Townsend


Debt is Slavery by Michael Mihalik