The Beginning: From Slave to Lender

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” 

This famous proverb was introduced to me at age 20 years old and it instantly brought me to my knees.

Was I in fact starting my adult life off in a dark, destructive, invisible prison?

During that time, I was working part-time and taking courses at a local college. I had explored many different career opportunities, but I could never seem to figure out what I wanted to do in my life. Everything seemed pleasant from the outside, but what no one was able to see was the hidden fear and pressure that I felt from within by carrying a heavy financial burden at such a young age, with no real job.

I made some pretty bold decisions being a teenager. I desired more than anything to escape mediocrity and leave my small, conservative, southern town in Arkansas as fast as humanly possible. I took drastic measures in order to plan my escape route, without a care in the world of what it would actually cost me.

I had less than $1,000 dollars to my name, but I decided to risk it all.

I made a detailed plan and got the approval from my high school to double up and finish my last two years in one, something that very few people had done until that point. I worked incessantly during my last year of high school, with double the load of all of my classmates. I used every spare moment to apply for universities, obtain information on receiving financial aid, and work by saving every penny I could as a babysitter.

I ruined so many relationships during that time and was labeled, “rebellious,” by my family and friends, but I was desperate for change.

With an incredible amount of work and determination, I turned what seemed impossible to the impossible. I was accepted into my dream university in Florida, received eligibility for student grants and loans, and achieved my goal of graduating one year ahead of my high school class. Within three months of my graduation, I was on the road to West Palm Beach Florida, the tropical location in which I was accepted into the university.
I used every penny to my name in order to move and make the first initial steps in order to bring to life the dream that I had tucked away in my heart to attend university at Palm Beach Atlantic University and start a whole new life.

Like most big dreamers that chase after the desires in their hearts, I too had absolutely NO idea what I was doing or how I was going to make everything come together, especially financially.

I was a 17 years old teenager, living in a part of the world in which I had no family or friends. I just assumed that the “real world” would be a bit easier than what I experienced, but it was not.
It was expensive. 
VERY expensive. 
I had absolutely no experience with finances. No one had ever taught me, not even in school, about budgeting, credit cards, debt, or anything related to money. For that reason, I went blindly into the financial aid office at the university and signed my fine print on the lines of all the documents that they put before me, with the mindset of,
O
dd…
“Everyone has debt, so it must be OK.
Besides, I have my whole life to pay it off, so no big deal!” 
This experience in the university in 2007 was only the beginning of my journey towards financial disaster as a young teenager. 

Fast Forward 3 Years….

 

Did I not learn enough hard financial lessons at the age of 17 years old? 

As if drowning myself in thousands and thousands of dollars in student loans, with over 11% interest rate was not enough?

Four years later, at the age of 21 years old, I was presented with my second major financial decision. Again, I went as blind as a bat into the whole situation. I replayed back the moment in 2007, when I carelessly signed my signature to a 20-page fine printed document, not knowing a single meaning of anything I was actually filling out.

The same situation was happening again before my very eyes.

The car salesman looked at me, smiled, and gave me a stack of paper and told me where to sign. Again, I glanced at each fine print, feeling as if I were reading a document in Mandarin Chinese and put my name. Within seconds, he handed me the keys to my new car and I was happily on my way.

I was billed one month later and discovered that I blindly entered into a major scam, which cheated me out of thousands and thousands of dollars. I added the car and student loans together and my debt total was alarming.

I did not even have a real job or degree.

I was working as a nanny for a successful family and attending college part-time. I was paying minimum payments on my loans and totally turning a blind eye to how destructive they were to my future.

My financial situation lingered in the quietness of my heart, but I still had not learned my lesson—It was an addiction.

I was a materialistic consumer and the debt was so easy to accumulate that I just kept on doing it. Somehow in my young, twisted mind, I convinced myself of the idea of selling the car that I had been scammed on and buying a brand new one from a “reputable dealer.”  A new model came out that I fell in love with and I thought,

“I am already highly in debt, so a little bit more couldn’t hurt. NO big deal.”

I excitedly shared my new plan with the father of the family that I was nannying for in hopes to get his approval.  If looks could’ve killed, I would’ve died at that very moment. He knew about the university loans and the recent car dealership scam, and could clearly see that I was young, in over my head with debt, no career, degree, or set plan for my future.

Many of the truly successful people can spot a naive, immature consumer in a second.

I was nailed red-handed and he made sure I was fully aware of my ignorance.

“Sarah, I am going to over step my boundary and be honest. You are being ridiculous. You do NOT need a brand new car! In fact, you do NOT need more debt! You are not even 21 years old!”

...
I felt full of anger and frustration at that moment, but deep down, I knew he was right. I had spent years building a castle on a foundation of sand, soon to be washed away by a tidal wave.
He introduced me on that day to a book titled, “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey.  He challenged me to read, study, and reflect on this book for a period of time and to go ahead with my transaction of a brand new car if I still felt compelled to do so after reading his book.

I took on his challenge and my life was changed forever.

This book introduced me to concepts that I had never, ever heard of in my entire life. I studied every word with great detail and for the first time, I realized that it was possible to build a beautiful life, totally debt-free.

I always assumed that every successful person was drowning in debt and it was just a necessary part of building your life, but NO!

 

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

 

The father of the family came into my life in the perfect moment in time in order to introduce me to a concept that changed my entire life and future. It was one of the most beautiful synchronicities that I have ever experienced and one that pushed me into my purpose here on Earth.

Shortly after finishing the book, I made a set plan, finished my degree, and applied for nursing school. I stopped my nannying job and entered into an intense nursing program that would give me a very promising salary. I continued to study the teachings of Dave Ramsey in order to expand my knowledge by taking his 9-week course, “Financial Peace University.

All of my beliefs around money were destroyed and replaced with newer and more empowering ones every day.

My eyes started to open to a whole new world of possibilities, so far beyond the financial prison that I had created in the first years of my adult life. I was beyond excited to graduate nursing school, start applying these new concepts, and tackle the mountain of debt that I had accumulated.
In the blink of an eye, that moment came…..
I finished nursing school and found a well-paid job, even before my actual graduation. I felt repurposed, energized, and ready to take on a new adventure towards obtaining financial peace.

I had a very detailed plan on paper of how I was going to obtain financial freedom, which seemed. unrealistic and impossible on paper, but totally doable in my imagination.

 

I started to apply the Dave Ramsey’s “Snowball Method,” which instructs you to start paying your debt off from the smallest to the largest in order to keep the momentum up and going. The method has been successful for thousands of people across the world and it was a game-changer for me as well.

I could feel a release in my heart and mind every month that I made a loan payment. I began to truly dream big for the first time in my life, with absolutely no limits.

 

I turned up the volume and started to accelerate the whole process of shredding my debt. I worked any weekend, holiday, and double shift that I could get my hands on and was absolutely crushing my goals!

Let’s get real: the process towards financial freedom was very, very challenging, and exhausting. There were days that the overwhelm of how much I had to pay each month was too much for me to handle. I lived during that time on the bare minimum and had ABSOLUTELY no life.

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

 

I repeated this quote from Dave Ramsey every single day during that process.

It was the motivation that I needed to help me realize that if I worked and sacrificed hard during a set period of time, then I would eventually be debt-free and have the freedom to live my life in the way in which I desired to live it, being a slave to no one.

What seemed impossible on paper, but crystal clear in my imagination finally came to pass.

I smashed my goals and reached financial peace before the time I had planned, which was one of the most powerful and intense sensations of peace and weightlessness that I have ever felt in my entire life.

The temporary sacrifice that I made during that time has opened the doors to endless possibilities and has allowed me to live my dream of traveling extensively across the world, working and living anywhere that I desire on this Earth as my own boss and totally living life on my own terms, DEBT FREE!

 

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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comThe Beginning: From Slave to Lender