Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Actin' Like a Goat

Craig and I started Dave Ramsey about a week ago. I started readingThe Total Money Makeover about 3 weeks ago and then we got our hands on a copy of the dvd’s and have started those. Just finished disk 4 of 13 last night. There’s SO much I could say and trying to sort it all out in my head is a bit overwhelming. I wish I’d learned all this 10 years ago, but at the same time I know I need to be grateful that I’m learning it at 28 and not 68.
It is pretty astonishing how nearly everything Dave teaches is in contradiction with what I was taught and paid to do in banking.  You know how in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge goes on a journey and he sees how what he did impacted other people? Yeah, well I feel like I’m living in A Banker’s Carol. Seriously. Sometimes I think about it at night when I’m going to sleep and I feel really badly. I remember faces of people that I gave $350k home equity loans to and the bank didn’t even do an appraisal. It was like I was making them a latte, not enabling them to have a HUGE amount of debt. I remember 18 year olds getting their first bank account and me selling them a credit card….like they needed it to “build credit”. Undoubtedly many of the home equity loans I sold are now in short sale or foreclosure and I wonder how many of those students that got credit cards now have debt and no end in sight. If only I’d known! Obviously this wasn’t my entire fault and I wouldn't have had a job if didn't sell those products. I didn’t cause the demise of the housing/financial world as we know it. But yet I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me and that I don’t feel bad.  For the bigger picture on what I’m talking about, I highly recommend you watch Dave’s session called “Dumping Debt”. You might be able to find it on YouTube and you can for sure buy it online on his website or EBay.

When talking about getting out of debt, Dave gives this example: when he was a kid they had a farm. As part of rodeo competitions the boys would rope calves and the girls would rope goats. His sister got a goat for roping. One summer she roped that thing 20 times a day. She’d rope the goat, it’d start running for its dear life and when the slack on the rope ran out it’d get yanked back hard and she’d tie it up. Eventually the goat stopped running. It knew what was going to happen and realized there was no reason to try and run away. The slack would always run out and it would always get tied up. Sad, huh? I’m a bit of an animal lover/animal right’s person so I don’t like that story for that reason, too, but the analogy is that this happens to us. Eventually life teaches us that we can never be out of debt. We can never live with financial freedom, so we just give up. We stop trying. Being debt free is not our goal anymore. We are beaten down. Life is hard. There’s no point in even trying.

The methods Dave teaches aren’t rocket science. In fact a lot of the stuff seems a little TOO obvious. It’s a lot of DUH moments. But “duh” in the sense of, “why didn’t I think of that!!!?” His methods are polar opposite of what we learn in our country. It’s opposite of what the banks want you to know, I can for sure tell you that!
Watching Dave Ramsey stuff from the outside, I sort of thought it was a weird, unrealistic approach to finances and a bit cult like. THOSE people haven’t had real problems. THOSE people haven’t had to pay for major medical bills, no health insurance, job losses, legal fees, infertility, etc. So I guess I had the goat’s mentality. “I’m a victim. Life is gonna keep happening to me. It’s not my fault.” Going through the workbook with Craig we’re learning how to TAKE RESPONSBILITY. I know, you might have to re-read that. It’s not a popular idea in America. Yes, we’ve had our fair share of the poop storm of life, no doubt about that. At all. BUT, have we made choices to live like victims and not pursue financial freedom the best we could? Absolutely.

I’m learning that Dave Ramsey isn’t teaching a cult, he’s teaching how to handle your finances in a way that honors God and protects your family. It’s revolutionary. The Bible actually talks quite a bit about money, debt, tithe, etc. It appears we all just skim over that part and highlight the “For God so loved the world part.” I’m being a tad sarcastic. Obviously John 3:16 is an important verse. But so are the rest, right?

Have you ever written a note for your kid? Maybe left it on the counter or fridge? Did they read it? If not, it’s rather annoying right? You wanna say, “You know why you didn’t know to take this form or money or bag or whatever, is because you DIDN’T READ THE NOTE!” Well, God is our loving father; He wrote us an awesome and pretty darn detailed note.  You think it grieves Him when we don’t read it? He loves us and wants us to experience freedom and the joy of allowing Him to be in control. This applies to our finances as well. I’m not a PHD in all things Dave Ramsey, but I am learning a lot, humbled, and wanting to do things differently moving forward.
Maybe this is all something you will consider doing.

Here’s an interesting quiz. For each question, answer your first gut response of either “LIKE to talk about it” or “HATE to talk about it”:
1   Someone asks, “How are you doing financially?”
2. Your spouse wants to discuss this month’s budget.
3. Your tax accountant calls and says, “Let’s meet.”
4. Your pastor wants to have lunch with you (and you know he wants to discuss the possibility of your making a specific contribution).
5. Your child asks you to co-sign a loan (or credit card application).
6. The money manager in your family says, “I have some concerns about a few credit-card charges.”
7. A friend says, “What do you invest your money in?”
8. A supplier or vendor asks, “Do you want this automatically deducted from your bank account each month?”
9. A loan officer says, “Tell me about your financial situation.”
1.0 A parent asks, “Did you ever pay off that debt you had.”

"Most thin, fit people ENJOY telling those who ask about their exercise routine, the diet plan that helped them shed the pounds, and other health matters. Thin, fit people are actually MORE likely to see a physician or read health-related articles than those who are overweight or out of shape. AND…those who are financially fit usually ENJOY talking about money matters and sharing their insights into money management. Take another look at the way you responded to the situations listed above. Overall, how do you rate your willingness to face and discuss your financial situation?" (source, Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Workbook). Maybe it’s time for a change. I’m praying this blog post has gotten you thinking. And thinking some more.

Dave Ramsey is about more than just paying off debt and living debt free, but that is definitely a cornerstone of his ministry. Another big part of his method is GIVING. For us (and for Dave Ramsey) that means tithing first before we do anything else with our money. 10% is what the Bible (and Dave) recommend. Dave tithes off of Gross Income, some people tithe off of Net Income. It’s a very back and forth issue and the answer is not clear at all. There are strong arguments on both sides. It’s something you have to pray about and settle with God for your own family. I will be very honest here. Tithing is something Craig and I have struggled with over the years.  We would start tithing and then some $3k problem would come up and it just derailed us and we’d stop tithing. I’m a problem fixer. I took it into my own hands more often than waiting to see how God would provide. At times (ok probably EVERY time) it’s also been a heart issue. We’ve been married coming up on 7 years. There have been times over those 7 years that we wondered if our giving was even worth anything. We’d be struggling to pay bills and then a pastor would talk about going to Disneyland (again) and we’d just feel frustrated. We felt like we were suffocating in our 700sq ft. home and we’d see pastors building brand new homes, texting on new IPhones, buying their 5th pair of Toms in 2 years, etc…..and we felt jipped. We felt like, why are we sacrificing so much to give when others just benefit off of our suffering? I’m going out on a limb being this honest because I think just maybe some of you might identify with this frustration.
Here’s the problem in our thinking: God doesn’t ask us to guard the money we tithe and make sure it’s not wasted or abused. He simply asks us to give HIS money back to HIM. Got it? It doesn’t so much matter (within reason) what you perceive is being done with church money. Let God take care of that! Give because He’s asked you to and He wants you to give with joy and out of love and sacrifice. Stop looking at other people’s spending habits and worry about your own. I’m preaching to myself here.  I think this all correlates with us taking the victim approach to our finances. When you allow yourself to be the victim it hurts when you see other people buy or have the things you wish you could. When you take responsibility for your own mess and work hard to change it, your whole perspective changes. When someone says, “we paid off all our debt today!” Instead of thinking, “well you probably haven’t had half the hardships we have….” you can actually be genuinely happy for them because you know you’re on your way to that, too. Is this all making sense? It’s a bit jumbled in my head as I work to process it all, so thanks for sticking with me.
In the last 3 weeks we've paid off $1944 on one credit card. That card should be paid off soon! Then just one more card and a student loan and we'll be done! We've made a Zero Based Budget for March and are now working out of envelopes and with cash. We have a plan for our money and our future!

I want a future with my husband where we can take a month long trip to Europe (sans kids) and enjoy ourselves as it will be paid for in CASH! I want Craig to be able to go hunting and have the cool rifle and brand new Bogs, and know that it was all paid for in CASH.  I want to be able to buy things for my grandkids and go out to eat and pay CASH for it all. I want to live debt free and sock as much money away into mutual funds as we can so that later on, we can be really living the way we want to! 


Available for $49 only on 2/29/12, get Dave Ramsey's Starter Special including books, dvd's, online financial software, and the envelope system HERE. You can also get the entire home edition with all 13 dvds and tons more for $159 right now HERE.



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Where I've Been

I obviously haven't blogged much the last month. Ok, at all. Things have been interesting and maybe not blog worthy. Or I just couldn't find words to fit what's been happening in life.

My mother in law, Linda, is still in a medical facility in Seattle fighting stage 4 laryngeal cancer. She is doing amazing. She gave her heart to Jesus a couple months ago and her recovery since then has been incredible. She finished 7 weeks of radiation with flying colors and we're now waiting on more testing to figure out the next step. There is still a tumor and she does still have cancer, but we believe her prognosis is much better than it was 4 months ago.

We've been caretaking for Craig's step dad, G,which consumed more of our lives than I can even explain. G is 72, wheel chair bound, a smoker and an alcoholic. Need I say more? He has 3 grown kids of his own but none of them were helping. Then all of the sudden they swoop in to town and take G, $2300 from the bank account, every last stinking thing from the storage unit, and everything but Linda's clothes from the apartment. They didn't even leave her a drinking glass. Or a TV. Or her digital camera. Or her crockpot. Or her silverware. Or her photos. You get the picture....but Linda won't since they didn't leave her any. Can you believe that? Sounds to me like they promised him cotton candy or icecream and he decided that would be a better life. Off he went and we have not heard from him since. BUT, he has been calling Linda (but she has no interest in speaking with him) and also my sister-in-law quite a bit so I think he's realizing his kids just wanted his money and he needs help...again. Too late buddy!

Craig and I have sacrificed so much the last 4 months. We felt like we were doing the right thing and did what needed to be done, but now we just feel used and taken advantage of. Linda and G will not be getting back together, which is really for the best. If we had known that 4 months ago we wouldn't have wasted 4 months of our lives trying to help him when all he wanted to do was take advantage of us and make sure he never ran out of cookies and egg nog. Seriously.

So, their apartment is gone, they both have their own bank accounts now  and I pray Linda and G never see each other again. The last thing she needs is to be back with an alcoholic.

It's just been rather crazy because having a mother fighting a serious cancer diagnosis is hard enough. Then you add in the crap that G has put us through and the last 4 months have at times felt like our own personal hell. It's been hard on our marriage, our finances, our children, our schedule, and our own health. STRESS. But, G is gone and he gets to lay in the bed he's made and pay the consequences of years of poor choice making. We did everything we possibly could to help him, but I don't think he ever really wanted help. So, now our focus can finally be on our own family and Linda, the way it should be.

In amongst all this my girls have had ear surgeries. Eliana got ear tubes last August. Evangeline got them early December. Then in January Eliana's fell out, which lead to one of the hardest months we've ever had (that would be a whole separate blog) and then she just got them back in about 2 weeks ago. THEN Evangeline got Hand Foot and Mouth Disease this past week. She caught it from a nursery and within a couple days had a fever and wouldn't nurse. Her fever got to 103.19 before finally dropping to 101.5 (where it still is now) and she developed blisters on her hands and feet. Poor baby. It's just been one thing after another really.

Do you see why I haven't blogged? I find myself going back and forth between feeling fine and feeling rather....depressed. Life has been really hard, there's just no other way to say it. We've had so much to juggle and so much big responsibility put on us and the burden has been heavy. I sort of feel like life just feels serious lately. Linda's cancer, my brother in law suddenly passing, my friend's baby suddenly passing......it's just hard to breeze through my days right now. I feel sadness about a lot of things and it'll be a process to come out of the fog.

I really appreciate my friends who send notes, message me to make sure I'm ok, go out on girl's nights, come over and hang out, etc. Sometimes it's way too tempting to just hole up in my house and not face the world at all, but I feel so much better when I am able to go out, laugh, and experience joy.

Anyway...this post could go on way too long so I'll just stop it now :)

Fudgy Peanut Butter Pie

I made this dessert for my hubby for Valentine's Day yesterday and thought I'd share it with you all. He said it tastes like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup pie :)
You start with a graham cracker crust. Feel free to make your own. I didn't :)

Next you melt some chocolate and spread it in the crust and up the sides a bit. (ps. I mixed in pb chips with my chocolate, hehe). Then put it in the freezer while we do the rest.

After this you'll mix up some PB, butter, and sugar (don't worry, the recipe is below). After mixing well you'll add some Ricotta and mix some more.

Oh Ricotta, you are a glorious and multifaceted cheese, it is true.

I took the PB/butter/sugar and Ricotta mixture out of the mixing bowl so I could use the mixer for the next step...making whipped cream. It's easier to make whipped cream with a cold bowl so after washing I put it on my porch for a minute.

Twin Brook Creamery is a local creamery that sells their stuff in real glass bottles! So neat-o. Central Market had them on a super duper sale last week so I bought some to try it out.

Uh- wow. This stuff is like butta....you have to say it like that. SO rich and thick.

After the whipped cream is done, gently fold it into the PB and Ricotta mixture from earlier.

Then, spread it into your prepared pie crust.

It shouldn't be perfect....messy is good :)

Then melt some more chocolate, I used Dove pieces, and spread it around like so.

Voila! This thing is dangerous. We topped ours with whipped cream just because we felt like it. To make whipped cream just beat heavy whipping cream or whipping cream til soft peaks form then add in some powdered sugar (mixes up lighter than granulated) til it's your desired sweetness and thickness. I don't care for vanilla in mine.

I couldn't even finish one piece of this beast. Craig might have eaten 2 slices. I can't say. You already know too much.

Ok- here's the recipe with all the details:
Ingredients


1 prepared 8" graham cracker crust

6 oz. milk chocolate chips, melted

Filling:

3 tbsp. butter, room temperature

1½ cups smooth peanut butter

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar

¾ cup Precious® Whole Milk or Part Skim Ricotta Cheese

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract


Directions
Crust:


With rubber spatula, smooth 2/3 of melted chocolate mixture over bottom of crust and up the sides about ½". Save rest for top. Put crust in freezer while making the filling.

Filling:

With electric mixer, mix butter, peanut butter and sugar for 2 minutes at medium speed until smooth. Add ricotta and mix for 1 minute on medium. In separate bowl, whip cream with sugar and vanilla until it holds a soft peak. Gently fold cream into peanut butter mixture making sure to incorporate all of the cream. Spoon filling into prepared shell and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. With fork drizzle remaining melted chocolate chips over top and serve.

Credit due: Precious Ricotta