Like Rachel Cruze, I have never personally gone broke. Why? Because I watched devastation happen right in front of my eyes. I don't remember as much about my parents divorce as my older siblings do. I do remember not wanting for anything and then, what seemed so sudden, having to find my own income for everything. I remember living in a house I loved, then being told "we lost the house" and helping move my mother and myself to an apartment that was one-half of one story of our previous home. I remember getting almost everything I asked for and then taking a summer job pulling tobacco in a field of at friend's family farm. Poor pitiful me, right?! WRONG!!
I was blessed to learn about money in my teenage years. I hated dipping that tobacco, but boy I loved that money. I hated going to high school full-time and then working full-time, but I loved being able to go and do things with my friends. Not only did I love buying things for myself, I loved seeing the stress it took off of my mother. She worked so hard to provide for me and I loved being able to help take some of the burden off of her shoulders. What some would see as poor pitiful me, I see as the seeds that made me who I am.
Like Rachel I grew up in a home of money-learning. I learned from the mistakes of my parents. I learned that credit is not your best friend. You cannot depend on him, he will stab you in the gut the first time he gets a chance and then he'll laugh at your failure and charge you insane fees for thinking about laughing at him. I learned that anything you truly want you will earn. I learned that jealously truly is counting other people's blessings rather than counting your own. I learned a lot from those mistakes and I am thankful every day that my parents went through them and I learned from them.
In their book, Rachel talks about families coming and screaming "We're Debt FREE" for the Dave Ramsey show. We have been debt free except for our house for a long time, since we were 23 actually. Now I want to get completely debt free and take our girls there to Dave's studio and scream into that microphone and plant that seed in their heads and hearts. I want to plant a seed that will help not only them, but our generations after them. We have already planted some very valuable seeds in our girls, but we want to plant more. Luckily many ideas that we have instilled into them have simply come from being a military family.
We were married at 22 and we decided then we would always budget on one income only. Why is that? Well it's called PCS and TDY. That's Permanent Change of Station and Temporary Duty. You never know where the military will send you and your spouse has NO guarantees of a transferable job or license. I have a college degree, that was the kiss of death in 2001. When I tried to get jobs around Ft Campbell, I was "overqualified" or "over-educated" for every job. But what that really meant was we don't want to pay you more than we have to since you are an Army wife and you might move. So we budgeted on Chaz's E4 income only. And let me tell you, it wasn't a lot, but it was enough.
I finally got a job working at a Sonic where I would quickly rise up and become the General Manager. We took all of my paycheck and saved it and paid bills with Chaz's. At that time we had rent, utilities, car payment, student loans and credit cards. But we took my check and saved up enough to put a down payment on a home. We saved a bit there because the house was cheaper than our rent. And in the same weekend we closed on the house, we discovered God was blessing us with cutie #1. Then God laughed and I was fired from my job for missing an audit that September. Guess where I was.....yes, in labor with cutie #1.Where was Chaz? Yup, he was in Korea. It was not a happy time for us. It was actually a dark and stressful time, but we look back now and we can show you how God worked it all out for us.
After a lot of tears and frustration I made a plan. What did I do? I had a delightful chat with the Department of Labor. My employer and I settled out of court (Thank you FMLA) for enough to pay off all of our bills except for the house. Then I took at job at H&R Block to earn some fun money for us and we needed it. I remember specifically working for 2 weeks to afford a plane ticket to bring Chaz home for a visit from Korea. Oh yes back in the day the Army did not pay for R&R, even if they were in a hazardous duty zone on an unaccompanied tour. Oh yes, I remember it well!
Even though Chaz was an E4, we still qualified for WIC and Food Stamps. And you'd be shocked to learn not much has changed since 2001. A large amount of our service members still qualify for public assistance because yes, their income is still that low. Here's the WIC link and here's the Army Pay Scale so you can compare. Chaz and I refused to take public assistance. We felt I could and should work and we should leave that assistance to the other families who couldn't work.
Then after 7 years at Block, I decided to work from home and start my own tax preparation company. Cutie #1 had started school and Cutie #2 was big enough for pre-school. Chaz had already deployed once and was gone every time we turned around. We wanted one of us there for everything Cutie #1 and #2 needed.
In 2008, we took $1,500 from our fun money account. (It's known as the S&G fund here, S&G for Sh!ts & Giggles. Please remember we are military, curse words are adjectives to us in our acronyms.) We invested that $1,500 very wisely and do you know I made back our investment in week one of tax season?! I am pleased to report that last year I served 125 clients through my little business that was started on $1,500 cash with no debt years ago.
Over the course of our marriage, after we saved up our emergency fund, we did add a new bill to our lives....our Roth IRAs. We treat our retirement savings like a bill. That bill has to be paid. No one is going to fine us, but we will be fining ourselves by not funding our IRAs every year. Chaz and I are not getting any younger or cuter and we really want to enjoy the later years of our lives together. How do we get there? We plan for the future in the past! We feel the best gift we can give the girls is us taking care of ourselves. We do not want them to have to support us so we have made plans to avoid that.
What are we doing today? I still run my tax prep company, but I was blessed in 2012 to be offered at job at the Yellow Ribbon Fund as the Director of the Family Caregiver Program helping families just like ours. Chaz medically retired in 2013 and now I am the primary wage earner. Our roles have been somewhat reversed, but we are all loving how faith has worked things out for us.
What are we doing as retirees now versus active duty then? Well everything is budgeted on my income only instead of his. Yes we took our military life style philosophy and flipped it to my side. Or as Chaz's refers to it...."The Sugar Momma Plan has been activated."
Over the past few years we have learned the government offers a lot for our veterans, but sometimes those offers come with so much red tape you cannot see the offer. And so many times you have to pay for it and wait for reimbursement, then denial, then more red tape and then silence. And if you notice the benefits of our veterans and their families are always on the chopping block for Congress. So we will remain an one income budget home for the foreseeable future. We feel it just has to be that way. We feel we cannot depend on the government to live up to it promises to take care of our severely wounded. Yes we feel we must take care of ourselves. Our S&G fund has become the "oh crap what now" fund. And yes this fund is separate from the emergency fund.
Our current adventure is trying to build an adaptive house for Chaz. Right now we are on the beans and rice diet-and you aren't getting it unless you need it-savings plan. Like the Ramsey's and their "Sharon's Kitchen has the best food in town," I am blessed the Allen's think Jessica's kitchen is the best.
Do we involve the girls in financial talks about the home? We absolutely
do! We have walked them through the needs and wants of this new home.
We have a lists for both. The girls are on our team here. Team Allen
requires all four families members' participation to be successful. How
did we develop this team? Well I'll save that for another post! ;)