The phone rang at 3:47 PM. On the other end was a woman sobbing. She told me she was going to kill herself. She wanted to die. She had lost everything she owned; she lost her husband to another woman, she was losing her house to the IRS, she was losing her health, and she had no job. As I listened to her cry for help, I couldn’t but help feel some of this woman’s pain. She was in trouble and felt she had nothing to live for. The sad thing, she was only 47 years old, and she was at the end of her rope.
How many times have we come to our wits end, and had no clue what to do? We stood and looked at our situation and thought, “What am I going to do?” You may have just received a bill in the mail that was much higher then you thought it would be. You have to decide to pay the rent, or pay the bill. Your car breaks down and you don’t have enough to get it repaired. You get a call that you are needed back home to take care of an aging parent. These are just a few examples of what some of us are going through. So, what do you do? Do you stare into the headlights and let your problem run rough shod over you, or do you take the problem by the horn and deal with it?
I was working at UPS part-time while putting myself through college. I was on the early shift, 3:30 AM, unloading 40 foot trailers. The job was backbreaking work. The trailers were in the 100’s during summer months and severely cold during the winter months. After work I would race home, eat, shower, and head to the University of Wisconsin for my classes. The drive was an hour away. I would barley make it to class on good days, and was often late during bad weather drives.
My old truck was having some problems and at times had a mind of its own. I needed a new vehicle that was dependable and not waiting to break down. I knew that I couldn’t afford very much. I was in a bad position financially as a college student. I went to look at a new Jeep CJ-7 at a local car dealership. The price was great, and the trade-in for my fickle truck was very generous. I listened to the car salesman as he was making the deal of a lifetime. I was told his boss never allowed any deal such as this to happen. Then the salesman asked, “Do you want this Jeep?” I looked at the vehicle parked outside the large picture window, then at the salesman. The brown Jeep with the white hardtop seemed to be calling me. The salesman said, “This baby will not break down. Its built to last! Chrysler has a great warranty program, and it will not be on the lot very long.” I was squirming all over the place. “Can I afford this?” I asked myself in silence. Yet, in my human voice I asked the salesman, “Is this the best you can do?” He said, “Wait a minute, I’ll check.” and left. He came back with a new deal. It was even lower than the last offer he proposed. I had to make my decision now. I didn’t want to lose this deal. So, I looked out the picture window at my Jeep.
“OK,” I said hesitantly, “its a deal.” and we shook hands. He said, “I’ll get the paper work started and you can take your Jeep home today.” I slowly sat down and thought to myself, “I need this Jeep for getting to work, and especially driving to school. It will get me through bad storms and blizzards. Its a good hunting vehicle, and it’s safe. It has 4-wheel drive; just think of the major snow storms I can drive through without worrying it will break down!” I had lots of reasons to get a new Jeep. Then the guilt started to get in the way. My joy for owning a new jeep turned to real concerns, like the payments, insurance, and where the extra money would come from.
We have all been there, right? We can talk ourselves into what we really really want, as opposed to focusing on the real hard facts of what we need. Could I have bought a used Jeep? Absolutely! Without question. Did I do the homework of looking in the newspaper to see if anything was available in a price range that I could afford? No, I didn’t. This is where we get into trouble with our finances. We put ourselves into all kinds of troubles because we don’t have a game plan, we don’t do our homework. We don’t ask for help from others who are in a position to help us. If you get a call that your aging parents need help, then talk to someone who can help you. Do the research and follow through with getting enough information to make a sound decision about your parents. We make life so complicated at times, and we don’t have to.
So, here are some tips to help you make some wise and solid decisions to keep you out of trouble.
1. Before you buy, is your purchase out of a desire or a need? Look at your checking account and see if you can afford it. If not, walk away. You don’t want to go into debt and ruin your credit just because you want something you cannot afford. Talk to your banker, he will give you the real hard facts. Talk to a financial planner. He can help you figure out how to save up for your purchase. Get opinions from professionals and not your friends. Friends will usually talk you into buying something you cannot afford.
2. If you are overwhelmed by circumstances like relationships, then you need to figure out what in the relationship is causing your problems. Are you in bad relationship that needs to end because you don’t feel like you can connect, or that there is too much stress? Then talk to someone who can help you look at all the pros and cons about staying in the relationship. If you have someone who has no connections to the person you have a relationship with, then they can give you non-biased advice.
3. If you just don’t know what to do with your life, and you want to make some major changes, but need help in putting your thoughts on paper and talking about them, find someone who can help you look at all the options in a clear and concise way.