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Client Spotlight: Mary

Updated: Apr 30, 2022

As the first of many client spotlights I’ll be doing this year, I’ve chosen Mary's story because she is so wonderfully open about what she’s gone through, and so wonderfully NORMAL in the manner in which she has clawed her way from poverty to prosperity. Here’s her story.

When Mary first came to me in the summer of 2019, she was, frankly, more desperate and scared than most of the clients I had ever seen. And I didn’t blame her.

She was newly divorced after 13 years of marriage, with 3 kids under the age of 12, one with special needs. She had mostly been a stay-at-home mom, with a few jobs along the way, all part time after the kids came along, but nothing that made enough to live on. And she only had about $8000 to her name after the divorce. Luckily she used some of that cash to pay her rent a few months ahead, which bought some time to regroup. But other expenses involved in setting up a new household used up most of the remaining money.

As part of the divorce agreement, she had shared custody but no child support, because her ex took on all the debt from their marriage. No debt is a good thing, but having practically no income is super scary. Her expected income for the upcoming month was only $500. So I got Mary started on her first ever budget, which was craaaaazy tight, even with food stamps and some gifts from family members.

The next month she took on what looked to be a job with good potential, but it was straight commission work, and it soon became evident that the guy running the operation could not be depended on to pay her as agreed, as he was badly mismanaging his own business finances.

Another job opportunity she was well suited for also fell through, after she was strung along for some time with false promises. So we talked a good bit about other opportunities she was qualified to apply for, based on her experience, and luckily within the next 2 months she landed her current job with a digital marketing company, where she is still thriving.

That job too, though, has aspects of income based on certain performance factors which take a while to develop to the point of creating reliably increased income. So the budget didn’t go from famine to feast overnight, by any means.

And as luck would have it, she had things like major car repairs come up. That meant dipping into her fairly new “sinking fund” and sometimes also into her $1000 emergency fund, and letting her father and brother do the repairs to save money. But she never ever, not even once, considered taking out a credit card and going into debt. Once someone makes that commitment, I think Providence moves to make sure the problem gets solved without debt.

In the summer of 2020, Mary took a part-time job, on alternate weekends when she didn't have the kids, working at her favorite amusement park, Cedar Point. Not only did this help pad her budget and hasten her progress on the baby steps, it was truly a lifetime dream-come-true kind of job, even though it was only part time. Plus it allowed her to treat her kids to lots of amusement park trips, like she used to enjoy at their age.

Recently Mary treated herself to a dream trip to New York City where she saw a Broadway show and did all the touristy things one does in the Big Apple. Pretty gutsy going alone to begin with, but that’s the kind of confidence she now has, now that she has been through the wringer and come out the other side stronger, bolder and with a wellspring of hope and optimism. And, it was all paid for in cash. Natch.

There have been no financial windfalls or other large happy surprise “dollars from heaven” events to rapidly accelerate Mary’s progress through the baby steps. She has just been the classic tortoise from The Tortoise and The Hare.

Without any debt, she made building her Baby Step 3 emergency fund her top priority, worked hard to increase income, and used her budget to keep her expenses to a minimum, while meeting the needs of her kids and herself. She has health insurance, life insurance, long term disability insurance, and ID theft insurance. She has upgraded to a more reliable car, with cash.

Today Mary is on the brink of completing a fully funded emergency fund of 6 months’ worth of expenses, and she is about to start on baby step 4, putting 15% of her income into retirement. There is now absolutely no reason in the world that Mary can’t become a “baby steps millionaire” by the time she retires.

If you'd like to talk about starting your own journey to fix your financial problems and get on the path to building wealth, then let's talk. Make an appointment on my calendar using this link:

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