Monday, May 14, 2012

The Second, In a Series...

...of posts by my lovely husband.

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder until it was a battle cry……
(Regina Spektor – “The Call”)

I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And that reason is You
I’ve found a reason to show a side of me you didn’t know
A reason for all that I do
And the reason is you
(Hoobastank – “The Reason”

So far, Mary and I have been on this journey towards financial peace for 1.5 years at the end of June.  But to get this far, to make so much progress, and to have the energy and direction to keep going, many times we have to remember why we’re here, how we got here and what’s the point.  For us, I can blame it on Mary.  She’s the reason for my newly found interest in all things Dave Ramsey and personal finance. 

It goes back to late November of 2010.  We were about 3 months into expecting our first child, married 5 moths, and Mary started talked about wanting to be a full-time stay at home mom eventually and she wanted me to look into it.  At that time, I wasn’t into finance at all.  I barely looked at our bank account and the word budget sounded icky and gross and I wanted no parts of.  But, in that womanly way, she reminded me many times over the next month until I finally decided to figure it out in December.  So I exported our bank statements in an Excel spreadsheet from the past month and crunched some numbers to see what our current finances looked like.  It was not pretty.  At that point, we never went grocery shopping together.  We were a nightly, “What do you want me to pick up for dinner?”, type of couple.  I went out for lunch at work every day.  I had a great mental image of the restaurants in the Troy/Madison Heights area.  You would think that Mary had stock in Target given the amount of times she frequented there and bought things.  We had a top notch phone plan, top notch cable, and our debt payments were well over $1,000 per month.  Which was way more than our $700 mortgage payment.  But we weren’t big credit card users so we were slightly able to out earn our stupidity.  But by barely.  So seeing this, there was no way we could afford for Mary to cut out her entire salary and stay at home.  Unfortunately, I had to deliver the news.  I remember saying to Mary, “I have some bad news.  We’re not going to be able to have you be a stay at home mom.”  Suffice it to say, she wasn’t pleased.  Not at all.  After that, I knew something had to change.  That’s when I first started really looking into Dave Ramsey and started learning more and more and taking control of our finances.  A month or two later, Mary got the idea to switch her hours so that she could work less and take a pay cut but not completely.  So with that, our challenge was to figure out how to make it work.  We made our first budget in January 2011 and started the process that would get us to start trimming our budget so that we could have Mary be a part time stay at home mom and be debt free in 3 years.  Eventually, we decided that if the part time stay at home mom was to become a full time stay at home mom, we had to made larger cuts in our budge t in order to move up our debt freeness so that Mary could become a full time stay at home mom at some point.

Also, I had other reasons as well.  At first, it was a way to make sure that our family was well suited for future success.  That years down the line, we didn’t have to worry about “what ifs”.  My children won’t have to see me worry about money or see Mary and I trying to stressing about potential emergencies.  Worries that I’ve had since leaving the nest and going to college.  We would have protection in case something happened.  I don’t think until now, I’ve ever had a period where I was ok with my financial situation.  But eventually, it changed for me.  One day, Mary had an idea to create a bucket list.  Everyone’s heard of this.  A list of things you’d like to do/see/experience before you “hit the bucket” (also known as dying).  We started writing things down and mostly everything was around traveling.  I had mentioned starting my own charitable foundation known as the “Wilkerson Foundation” so I wrote that down and started expanding on the ideas of what we could do with that.  So this bucket list provided me a quick glance at our future of traveling a lot and tons of generous giving.  I liked it.  A lot.  At the end of it, I thought to myself, “why can’t we do this, what’s stopping us?”.

I think that we’re all capable of greatness.  But it has to start somewhere.  Some of us have that natural spark within us and we can do things just because.  But many others, myself included, need a reason to change our behaviors.  It’s easy to have a goal of becoming debt free, but what’s the reason behind it?  Why do you want to become debt free?  What’s the reason behind it?  In order to get to starting the “how” of financial peace, you need to know the “why”.  And it’s important, trust me.  If you’re married, you’re going to fight about money in order to get to where you need to be.  But that “why”, that reason, is the thing that keeps you working towards your goal.  Without it, you’ll just give up and go back towards your old habits.  I can admit that Mary and I have on numerous occasions have had heated discussions about finances and at the end there’s some frustration.  But luckily, I remember the reasons of why we’re doing this.  This is for our family’s future and stability.  It’s for you Aaron II.  It’s for you Joseph.  It’s for you Malia (doesn’t exist….yet).  If you’re going to go all in on getting out of debt, first, figure out why you’re doing it.  But it can be as simple as, “I want to pay off my house” or “I want to save up for retirement or “I want to save up for my kid’s retirement”.  You need to become a dreamer.  You need to have a dream that is almost too far away to reach.  Something that you can’t accomplish immediately.  It will take a lot of time and a lot of effort.  The Wilkerson Foundation is one of my many dreams.  I talk to Mary about it about once a month regarding new ideas I have for it.  To get to the full dream I have for the foundation we’ll need about $50,000 a year in retirement to go towards it.  Trust me, there’s more but I’ll save that for a later blog post.  Also, you have to really believe in that dream and it has to be something you really want.  Or else, you’ll just tell yourself, “nevermind, it’s not that important”.  “It’s not worth it”.  One of the things that I love is that Mary really wanted to be a full time stay at home mom.  It was a dream that she passionately believed in and wouldn’t back down from it.  And as a result, we’re going at our debt like a freight train.  There’s some bumps in the road of course, but we still have the goal in sight.  We know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.  But most importantly, we know why we’re even trying.  So come up with your own version of our Wilkerson Foundation.  Take some time and dream. 

Thanks Mary for getting us to the “why”


  1. This is so us right now. We have student loans up to our eyeballs, and we decided that I should stay home. I love it at home, but it's a huge sacrifice. Thanks for the honest look :)

  2. Don't like you ramseyfied wilkerson. Just kidding, I do, a lot. You make me want to try really hard not for the atta girls but for the power to prove shawn wrong.

  3. Don't like you ramseyfied wilkerson. Just kidding, I do, a lot. You make me want to try really hard not for the atta girls but for the power to prove shawn wrong.

  4. Don't like you ramseyfied wilkerson. Just kidding, I do, a lot. You make me want to try really hard not for the atta girls but for the power to prove shawn wrong.