10 years ago I took a financial course by Dave Ramsey that taught me to live as debt free as possible. It was right after my ex-husband left. I had claimed bankruptcy, and had to sell half of my possessions to be able to keep my house. I decided I wanted to learn how to live within my means, not above them.
The course taught me to live only with the debt of a mortgage, to pay down emergency debts as quickly as possible, and to pay cash for everything else. So if I couldn’t afford to pay for it outright, I didn’t buy it.
It has been hard at times, but I have been as disciplined as possible. I financed a used car in 2009 for 36 months that I paid off in half the time. Otherwise I have been debt free since.
Unfortunately that car died last week…as did a piece of my heart. I shouldn’t have been so emotionally attached to a vehicle, but I felt she was more of a trusted friend than a car. She wasn’t perfect. But she was reliable. She fired up every time I turned that key, no matter how cold it was outside. The power locks hadn’t worked in years, and had to be latched manually. The back hatch got stuck quite a bit, unless I positioned the handle just-so. The floor mats were trashed. The A/C made funny noises and the heater didn’t always fire up on the first try. But the powertrain on that car was a beast. She made it to 252,974 miles before she croaked.
She was an enormous blessing. I said goodbye and donated her to the Make a Wish foundation.
So this weekend I had to go shopping for a car. I recently received a pretty significant job promotion, so I thought I might try to buy new this time. I went in there feeling pretty darn good about myself. I found the perfect vehicle. And as I sat there with Avery, (my sales guy), I admit I was feeling pretty chuffed.
Look at how far you’ve come, Angie.
You’ve really rebuilt your life, Angie.
You’re driving out of here in a 2016 vehicle, Angie.
You’ve heard the saying “Pride cometh before the fall?”
I applied for 0% financing for 66 months through Kia Motors. They ran my credit, and it came back as a 641.
6. 4. 1.
This from a woman who has been out of debt for TEN YEARS.
Now I don’t know how much you know about credit, but you really need to have above a 720 to get any kind of sexy financing deals. A credit score of 641 only affords me about a 9% interest rate for 5 years. This would make the cost on a 2016 vehicle more than the cost of my monthly mortgage payment.
I was not only crushed, I was freaking livid.
Cory (from the financing department) proceeded to explain to me that not rebuilding my credit was a big mistake. He could plainly see on my credit report that I had no debts, but apparently having no debt is similar to having bad credit. He explained that I should have taken out at least one credit card that I charge my gas or my groceries on each month, and pay it off each month when the bill comes.
(Steam coming out of ears)
So being debt-free, and living a financially responsible existence has actually hurt my credit.
Avery and Cory worked it out so that I could take the car for the weekend. They knew I would have to take my 42 year-old heart in my hands to my parents, and ask them to co-sign with me to get the 0% financing. And that might be easier if they could actually see the car.
I brought the car home with me. I spent the evening pouting, feeling defeated and demoralized. I didn’t want to ask my parents for help. I plopped down in the chair after dinner, having decided I would return the car on Monday, and buy something used instead.
Later that evening, once I came out of my blinding cloud of rage, I realized that I was thinking like pre-Zion Angie.
I had to be honest with myself. I was only planning to return that vehicle because of pride. It all boiled down to pride.
I realized very quickly I was being an arse.
Why as adults, are we so hell-bent on being independent? We have this unspoken agenda when we turn 18 to run as fast as and as hard and as far away as we can from any type of parental supervision or input. And as hard times befall us, we try as hard as we possibly can to solve our problems on our own.
But I think my parents would tell you, as most would, that they are thankful to be in a position to be able to help.
They love being included and turned to for advice and support.
But most of the time I am just too prideful to ask.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here…it is not right to ride the gravy train, take money from your parents constantly, and spend their retirement.
But asking for help when it’s needed is okay. And even good.
It keeps us humble.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the car. I may buy it. I may return it and buy a Pinto.
But I wish I could describe to you the tone in my mom’s voice when I called and asked for her help. There was zero hesitation. There was understanding and shared frustration, with love and support and a pinch of joy.
How many parents would love to help their adult children, but are not in a position to do so? How many people are not close enough to their parents to be able to ask for their help? How many people would love to be able to ask their parents for a co-signature, but no longer have them around to do so?
So today I choose to be grateful for a car that took care of us for 6 years, and parents who are still taking care of me. 42 years and going strong.
After all, if I’m going to be silver-lining gal, I can’t just do it when it’s convenient. I guess it feels good to have your child need you, no matter what age they are.