Learn the practical tools that Joe used to march out of debt and win with money!


Preface

"If you had one million dollars, what would you do?"

My friend Tim asked me this over lunch one afternoon. I paused mid-bite of some delicious refried beans and rice to consider his question. For the first time in my life, I really thought about the real point of this question: "What have you been put on this earth to do?"

I had little idea of the influence this question would come to have on my life.

The year was 1999, and I was having lunch with Tim, a fellow engineer, at Los Hermanos in Clemson, South Carolina. It was a typical ordinary day. Just lunch. Just friendly conversation. Just time for a break from work. Just time for a life-changing question.

"If you had one million dollars, what would you do?"

What a question! I thought about it, but I could not give Tim an answer. I did know that if I had a million dollars, I would not be doing what I was doing then, but I had no clue what I would do.

"If you had one million dollars, what would you do?"

This question messed me up! I thought about it the rest of the day. When I went home that evening, I told my wife, Jenn, about Tim's question. I told her that I really could not come up with a good answer.

"What?!!!" Jenn exclaimed! "You couldn't even think of some vacations we could take?!"

"That's not the point of the question," I replied. "The point of the question is NOT what temporary things you would do. The point is what would you do for your life's work? What have you been put on this earth to do?"

From that very day, I began a search for exactly what I have been put on this earth to do. That one thing I have been created to do. That one thing that wells up a passion in me like no other. That one thing that makes me wake up every single day and say, "Yes!!! I get to go to work!!!"

This book is about the very thing that I have been put on this earth to do.

My life's passion statement is "To help others accomplish far more than they ever thought possible."

Helping others with their personal finances is my life's work. I have not invented anything in this book. I have put together information that I believe is foundational to financial success.

Jenn and I have applied these principles and tools to our lives and achieved financial freedom. If you APPLY the principles and tools taught in this book, you too will be able to win financially!

Introduction

I met Jenn at college. It was my first weekend as a freshman at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. I was committed to keeping my education first and foremost in my life. However, after meeting Jenn the first week of school I tossed my education focus out the window.

Even without a laser-like focus on my education, I did manage to graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering, and I even did it in four years. I learned a lot about heat and mass transfer, thermodynamics, statics, and dynamics. I learned a lot about ESPN, friendships, other cultures, and living without accountability to anyone. I learned a lot about how to earn money, but I did not learn anything about what to do with that money once I got it.

Digging a financial hole...

How did I pay for college? Loans, of course. I had taken loans from my father for the first two years and for the final two years, my friend Sallie Mae took care of me with Stafford Loans. I did work during the summers and managed to pay for about one semester's tuition and all of my books with cash, but I let Sallie Mae take care of the rest.

After four years of vacation...uh, I mean, college, I was handed my engineering degree. I started my first full-time engineering job the day after I graduated.

Now, work ethic has never been a problem for me. But money management? Well, that is another story!

I was earning a great salary as a beginning engineer, but what do you think I did with the money I earned? That's right! I spent all of it - plus some more.

Jenn had decided to obtain some additional classes and this required her to attend Purdue for one additional year. We were engaged for that year and our wedding date was set for about a month after her graduation.

Now, I had been working for a year, and I knew that her car needed replacing. I took the fact that it had been sitting broken down and abandoned in a Purdue residence hall parking lot for six months as a good sign that it needed to be replaced. I thought that it would be really cool to buy her a brand new car for her graduation. So that is exactly what I did. I had no savings, so I bought her a new car with 105% financing. I even financed the sales tax! I am sure that I paid full retail price (and then some) for that car. I made that salesman's quarter! Maybe even his year!

I will say that it was really cool to see Jenn as she unwrapped her graduation present. I remember her pulling out some of the gifts from the box I had given her and getting to the bottom to find a Purdue University license plate holder. I then reached out and handed her the keys. It was a very cool moment. She was pumped! I was pumped as well, but I also knew how much debt I had just signed us up for!

A few weeks later, we were married! Off we went to Jamaica for the honeymoon, much of it financed with debt. We needed appliances for our unfurnished apartment, so we purchased all of them with 100% debt. I needed a truck, so I bought a used one from my dad with no money down.

I had purchased quite a few things on credit cards during college and this spending habit did not end after graduation. I could always make the monthly payments, but somehow the debt just managed to continue accumulating on the accounts. Advanta - my first credit card. The GM Card - another card. MBNA, Capital One, American Express, and the list goes on...

Anyway, here is a summary of all of the debt we (mostly me!) brought into our brand new marriage:

  • Credit Cards
  • New Car
  • Used Truck
  • Appliances
  • Dad's College Loans (Mine)
  • Sallie Mae Student Loans (Mine)
  • Sallie Mae Student Loans (Hers)

They say that the number one thing that married couples fight about is money, so this is just what our new marriage needed - a pile of debt to manage.

We were horrible at short-term savings! We spent everything we brought home, plus some. How did we spend more than we brought home? Debt! We piled up the debt on our credit cards.

Our money management techniques were weird! I would have $200 deducted from every single paycheck and placed into a savings account. This was a great concept, BUT I would move that $200 from the savings account into the checking account every single payday! Why? I had to have it to pay the bills!

Each time I was paid, we entered an interesting balancing act because we would have to figure out which paycheck was paying which bills. If there was an unplanned expense like a car repair, it was not good! We would scramble to pay the bills and then let the credit card companies pick up the rest. Ugh!

Well, nine months after we were married, we transferred from central Indiana to Anderson, South Carolina. We were now living in a place where we literally knew no one. I highly recommend that couples do this at least once in their life! It was a great time of learning who each other was and strengthening our commitment to our marriage. But in keeping with our tradition, it was also time to acquire more debt. So we purchased our first home.

By some miracle, we managed to scrape together a 5% down payment for a conventional mortgage to buy our first house. So now our debt listing had a new member. This one was different than the others - it had SIX figures! Yikes!

We chose not to change our spending behavior so the debt continued to build. The checking and savings account balances continued to hover right at $4.13! The chart shows our bank account balances at the end of each month. SCARY!

Then the unbelievably awesome tremendous news came that a baby was on the way! Wow! We were so excited! I also knew that this news was going to impact the family's finances because Jenn and I were committed to her becoming a stay-at-home mom. Now, I had been complaining that teachers were not paid enough (I still hold this view!), but when Jenn announced that she was expecting our first child, I began to hold the view that teachers were paid huge amounts of money! Why? Because that income was now going to disappear!

Our beautiful daughter showed up on a wonderful South Carolina November morning. It is a day that I will never forget! I cried like a baby. I was so proud! I was so moved by God's creation. I was so moved by His faithfulness to Jenn and me. I truly understood for the first time what "my Father's love" really means. It is unbreakable. It is unshakable. It is forever.

Well, Jenny came home with the baby and began telling others that she was "retired". Very funny! We began to operate on just my income. We did adjust our spending some, but we continued to utilize the credit cards to make up for any gaps.

After three years in Anderson, I accepted a job transfer to a facility near Columbia, South Carolina. We sold our house in Anderson and used a good portion of the equity to help pay off some of our credit cards.

It was a tough move. Jenn and I had made a lot of great friendships in Anderson and had assisted with starting up a new church that was awesome and growing. Our hearts stayed in Anderson while we lived two hours away in Columbia.

After living in Columbia for a year, we decided to move back to our home state of Indiana to live closer to our family. This required a job change so I embarked on a job search. I found a great job in northern Indiana, accepted the position, and moved back on December 1, 2002.

Time to change spending behavior...

It was eight degrees outside with eight inches of snow on the ground, and Jenn and I were living in a hotel room. Snow was nothing new to us, but we had been living in South Carolina for the past four-and-a-half years. It was a shock to experience this weather again!

We had known that we were going to be changing employers for about six months. We had known that we were going to be moving a long distance away. Do you think we prepared for it financially? No way!

We had no clue when I was going to be paid by my new employer, so we began loading up the credit cards again. You see, Christmas was in December that year. We believed that we had to purchase stuff for our child and each other, so out came the plastic. We paid for our groceries on the credit card. We paid for regular living expenses on the credit card. It was not good! This was the THIRD time that we were loading up the credit cards! We had taken multiple years worth of great tax refunds and paid credit card debt off, and here we were, loading them up again. Just writing about it makes my blood pressure go up and my face flush red! I was VERY unhappy about it!

Thoughts were going through my head. Thoughts like:

"How is this possible?" and "Why is this happening again?" and "This should not be happening!" and "This is embarrassing!" and "This has GOT to change!" and "How do I make this stop?" and "Who can I talk to that can help me with this?" and "I am a three-time loser with credit cards!"

Ever had those thoughts?

Well, Jenn and I came up with a plan. We chopped up the credit cards. We refused to sign up for any more debt - with the one exception of a home mortgage. We began to plan our spending every single month - some might call it budgeting - I would call it "telling your money what to do instead of having your money tell you what to do."

In 14 short months, we became debt-free except for our house. We have paid cash for every purchase since that time with the exception of our house. We have refused to do debt! We have built a savings account that we never even dreamed was possible!

We no longer have stress related to our finances. We have financial freedom. Our marriage is better than ever! We are committed to work together on our plans for spending our money. We are able to dream because we are not stuck in the proverbial hamster wheel spinning away and getting nowhere.

I have been able to leave corporate America and pursue my life's passion of "helping others accomplish far more than they ever thought possible!" I was able to negotiate myself a massive pay cut and smile about it because our money is under control.

We are teaching our daughter how to manage money well. There is money in her college fund. She is saving money for her first car - and she started when she was only 4 years old!

We have money saved for a nice used car when our car finally breaks. With two ten-year-old vehicles, Jenn is starting to root for a major failure!

We have been able to give more money away than we ever dreamed we would be able to give! We are able to tithe more than the full 10% to our church. We are able to give money to Purdue University. We are able to support missionaries. We are able to support causes that we deeply believe in.

We have money available in case of an emergency! Anytime something breaks like an appliance or car, we just have an appliance or car problem. We don't have an appliance problem AND a money problem. We don't have a car problem AND a money problem.

Our retirement savings account is growing nicely. We will be able to retire some day without relying on Social Security. That is so cool!

This book will share the details of how Jenn and I got there. If I could, I would jump out from this book and encourage you by saying, "Stick with this book. Read it. Apply this stuff. You can do this!"

YOU CAN DO THIS!

I believe that every single person who reads this book can apply this stuff and take their finances to the next level. It might take a little longer for some, but I believe you can become debt-free including the house and give more than you have ever given, save more than you have ever saved, and spend more than you have ever spent!

You can accomplish far more than you ever thought possible! When you do, I hope that you will pay it forward by helping someone else achieve financial freedom!

By the way, in case you missed it, I believe in you!