I have been broke for a decade now. I use the word broke and not the word poor because there has always been enough food and a warm bed. Broke has meant that I haven’t been able to do a lot of the things that I want and that I can’t buy something if I would like it or if it would make my life easier. Broke has meant that when something breaks it stays broken or the repair ends up adding to my debt.
Broke feels like being tied down and stuck.
A decade ago I decided to end my marriage and strike out on my own with 2 children and a take home pay cheque of $450 per week. I have been broke ever since.
I was pretty broke when I was married too. I never had money to travel or replace the roof or buy nice things but I always had someone to blame for that because he always had money for everything he wanted. Now I have been broke for a decade with no one to blame but myself.
I have been broke for a decade with no one to rely on but myself.
Lots of things that are the basics of life, like gas and groceries and extra curricular school fees, ended up on the credit cards and eventually got rolled in to the ever growing HELOC. I just didn’t make enough to pay my bills. Lots of big things ended up on the line of credit too. Windows and a furnace and household repairs and glasses and vet bills and, helping with tuition and a car all ended up on the HELOC.
The highest the HELOC got was $26,000.
By the time it got to $26,000 I had finished upgrading my work skills (all of the courses ended up on the HELOC) and I qualified for a higher paying health care job. Instead of bringing home $450 per week with no pensions and no benefits I now bring home $625 per week and benefits. I could be bringing home $665 per week but I pay $40 in to the company pension plan to take advantage of the pension match they offer.
The increase in wage has meant that I have been able to start paying the debt down and that I have been able to save a little. I will end the year with about $11,000 in HELOC debt and car payments of $250 each month for 4 years. I started 2013 with just over $20,000 in HELOC debt so there has been progress.
When I finally finish with the HELOC debt in the first half of 2014 I am hoping I won’t feel so broke all the time. I will still have the car payments but they are not oppressive and I will just pay them and not worry.
When the debt is gone I won’t be blowing all my money on wild stuff but I won’t feel broke because I will be paying myself. Stocks, ETFs and maybe some super-safe GICs will be my reward for working hard.
Debt is such a weight around my neck. I have been dragging it around for years and it has affected everything I have done for the last decade. Even though the end is in sight that feeling of being broke is still so heavy that many days I am convinced that I will never be done with it. Staying focused seems impossibly hard some days and I spend when I shouldn’t but I am still moving toward the goal.
2013 is the end of the decade of being broke.
2014 is the beginning of the decade of building wealth.