A little over 6 months ago a sweet friend from grad school and a long time blog reader reached out to me with an offer. Her husband had started a financial advising business, and would I be interested in sitting through several (e)sessions with him to go over our particular financial situation?
Was I ever.
I knew that Deb and Ben had made the radical decision after college to become long haul truck drivers (both of them!) while they were newlyweds, and that by criss crossing the nation they’d paid down the considerable student debt that is generally awarded along with a Steubenville diploma. How could I not be curious to take financial counsel from a guy like that?
The truth is, while we’ve been dabbling in Dave Ramsey for the bulk of our married life, and while we’ve steadfastly avoided adding debt of any kind (ahem, well, except for that little mortgage…thing…we picked up last month) we haven’t managed to completely extricate ourselves from the student loan companies. Yet. And add to that a quick 4 babies in 5 years, an international move, and more than 6 years of renting in an increasingly hot (read: expensive) market, and I was feeling like we were just treading water financially.
I feel an immense debt (<— see what I did there) of gratitude to the internet, for all its faults and foibles, because by its power, I am able to work from home, and I do so utilizing fringe hours and nap times that translate to minimal childcare costs. So we’re in better shape than we could be, all things considered.
But we still needed some guidance at moving beyond the route formula Dave Ramsey espouses (however effective it may be) and making some actual, real-life changes.
For example: was it wise to continue contributing nothing to our 401k match programs? Dave Ramsey says not to, not until the debt is gone. But meanwhile, we’d let nearly 7 years of full time employment for both of us come and go, contributing not a dime of our own to our employer’s match. I think this was a case of following the letter rather than the spirit of the law, at least in our case, but it was a situation that needed to change. Talking the bigger financial picture through with Ben helped us to see that while in an ideal world, to blast through debt and achieve total freedom in 18 months would be fantastic, we have a relatively large family, live in one of the more expensive cities in the country, and our kids are in private school. And we both work for the Church. So, in a nod to reality, we decided to start contributing even though we’re still paying off my last student loan.
We also made the decision to add some (much needed) long term disability insurance to our arsenal of risk management.
Ben reiterated what we already knew, that a man in his middle working years is 4 times more likely to become sick or disabled than to die prematurely. And while many people have life insurance (and everyone should!), far too few people have long term disability coverage. Our family would be devastated by the loss of Dave’s income if he were to become unable to work, plus, people who become disabled generally experience a significant increase in the cost of living coupled with the decline in earning potential. Not a great combo for a family of 6 to be looking at.
Ben also gently nudged us to consider paying attention to our actual budget – the one we determine “on paper on purpose” at the beginning of every month, and then actually living by it rather than logging into the online banking app and noting “oh, we’re totally fine, IKEA is definitely a good idea right now” and then continuing to wonder why we were blowing our bottom line every month. “Don’t look at the account balance. That doesn’t matter.” (I mean, provided it’s not in the red) What mattered, though, is what we’d decided to spend in each particular category, and then sticking with that decision. Even when some event/purchase/fun thing seemed like a good idea. Unless it was an actual emergency, it didn’t deserve to utterly annihilate our bottom line. (It should be noted that one of us – okay fine, it’s me – is still working on this particular concept.)
Our sessions with Ben took place over google hangout-style video conferencing sessions (some more technically difficult than others – probably thanks to our kid’s Netflix streaming) and it was actually more convenient than in person sessions when you figure in the hassle of travel + schedule synching + childcare. Ben was able to virtually meet with us at 7 or 8 in the evening, once the minions were (allegedly) in bed.
If I had to do it over, I would have liked to have spent more time gleaning his wisdom on specific investment questions and understanding retirement options, and probably would have spent less time weeping about the cost of housing in Denver and asking WHAT DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD DO (last summer was a little personally challenging) about our real estate woes. But Ben was so great. He was confident, personable, really sensitive to our particular situation and just a lot of fun to work with.
His business, Bona Fide Finance, is founded on the principle that all people deserve access to quality financial advising, no matter their earning potential. Schoolteachers and church workers and electricians and dental hygienists still all have money to manage, and they have questions about retirement and investing, too. Ben believes that financial soundness isn’t a concept only accessible to the wealthy, and indeed that people of more modest means perhaps have an even greater need for solid financial advising.
He has generously offered to give to one of my lucky readers … a Bona Fide Basic plan (a $1750 value!) to one rafflecopter winner, and he wanted to extend a 15% discount off of all services to any readers who schedule an Introductory Meeting (Click here to schedule. Under “Your note” when providing your contact information, type the code “MamaNeeds15%”.)
So enter the rafflecopter giveaway below, cross your fingers, fill in that monthly budgeting spreadsheet you’ve been meaning to update since July, and may the odds be ever in your favor.