I used to be a hot money mess: a journey

Photo by Anastasiya Vragova on Pexels.com

The audio version of this post can be found here.

Mr. Fortuna and I started our money journey back in 2013. At that time, we had: 

  • Two cars
  • An $800 car payment (“but it was only 2% interest!”) 
  • A $1000 mortgage on a crappy, upside-down out-of-state rental property whose rent “almost” covered the mortgage – if it was occupied  
  • 1.75 jobs 
  • No budget
  • Separate finances (not on purpose, just by default)
  • No real communication around money

We were winging it, and things were fine, until they weren’t. Mr. Fortuna was really stressed about our money. He had the full-time job (active duty military), and because we weren’t talking about money, he was also shouldering the full-time bills and all the responsibilities of paying and organizing them. Meanwhile, I had a couple of part-time jobs that covered my retail therapy urges – and the occasional shortfall on the crappy rental property – and no idea that some months were really tight. In short, I was a hot money mess, and I had no idea.

Seemingly out of nowhere, things would boil over into an argument about how we weren’t saving enough and were spending too much. (Mr. Fortuna is a lifelong saver; I am a cheerful spender who trusts blindly in the forces of providence and my own resourcefulness.) 

Then, Mr. Fortuna deployed to Afghanistan for six months. While he was there, his parents told him that they’d started following this Dave Ramsey guy. Mr. Fortuna wanted to make sure his parents hadn’t gotten sucked into some Ponzi scheme, so he started listening to Dave Ramsey, too. He got really into it – in Ramsey parlance, he’s the “nerd” in the family. And one day, he liquidated about $20,000 in stocks and paid off our car loan in full, without mentioning it to me. 

(He has since acknowledged that this would have been good to discuss first.)

I was a little shocked that he’d taken $20K of what I thought of as our “savings” and doused our debt. After a healthy debate, I begrudgingly started listening to Dave Ramsey, too. (Mostly to make sure my husband hadn’t lost his mind.) Although it took some doing to get me, the “free spirit,” fully on board with making a budget, we eventually joined Mint and started figuring out how to handle our money together. 

Thanks to Dave Ramsey’s straightforward rules (and my weakness for call-in advice shows), we got really into this stuff. We finally had a common framework for making money decisions, which ended the money fights. I don’t agree with Dave on a lot of things, but his Baby Steps work. We nuked all of our debts and sold the rental property at a loss before our first kid arrived. We put 50% down on a new house and paid off our 15-year fixed-rate mortgage in four years. Now, we save enthusiastically, give generously, and spend without stress on things that bring us joy.

I became a Master Financial Coach because I want you to have what I have: financial empowerment and the freedom to make choices aligned with your values instead of your billing cycles. I know your situation doesn’t look exactly – or anything – like ours. But I’m here to meet you where you are, today, with the guidance and support that can get you to a life of financial freedom, power, and dignity. You deserve it. And it starts with the basics.  

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