In the year 1996 I was on welfare. I was just a young lass of 21 and had very little prospects in life. This was after my first hospitalization, the one featured in my book, Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist. Even on welfare I could charm the men, and ended up dating a man as poor as I was. We eventually married and are married to this day. Back then we celebrated me getting a job at the convenience store. The “sunrise” shift (formerly the graveyard shift, but sunrise sounds much friendlier). Josh, a short order cook, would come to work with me at night to ensure I was not robbed or raped and then go back to his job in the morning.
We were poor, but were happy and working.
Through hard work, we put me through university and when I graduated in 1994 I was immediately hired by the government. I worked hard and started earning $100K when I moved to Ottawa.
Then came the big 2010 crash/depression/psychward visit/gambling addiction manif
estation/it was a shitty year. All of our money problems really began at that time.
We were never concerned with money. We were poor, then we were not poor but had not learned how to manage money. It came in, we spent it, got a mortgage, car payment, movies and so on. Retirement wasn’t a thing we talked about and I will be honest, I STILL do not understand how RRSP’s work. So when we were hit with me not working in 2010, we were very ill prepared financially. Josh had stayed home to raise our children. After the adoption, it was a full time job raising them, social workers, doctors, therapists, school calls etc. I didn’t concern myself much with the finances at the time, I was recovering. Given the previous gambling addiction, I had always controlled the finances, so we didn’t really know what mess we were getting ourselves into.
I went back to work, eventually left the government and worked for a non-profit. One year ago I started working with the amazing Money Coach Judith Cane. She said she had seen it all, but man, did we give her a challenge. She has a program she runs that helps people take all their needs, wants, debts and income and creates a plan that works for you. She does not so much financial plan as actually coach you to work with your money. I filled out all the forms and we were good to start figuring out how to manage our lives and money. Woot, at age 40 I was finally going to be a grown up!
I was not as clear on what our debts were at. I had student loans, a mortgage and one loan, but it was the back taxes from the government that did us in. Apparently in 2010 when I was sick, E.I and our insurance didn’t take any tax off the money we eventually received and I ended up owing quite a bit of money that year. I didn’t have any money, and was working day by day to get better mentally, so the clear answer to my problems was to just never open any mail from Canada Revenue Agency. This seemed like a logical plan. Judith helped us gather all our information, going as far as talking to CRA for us so I didn’t have a panic attack. In the end we found out we owed $44,000. What? I figured eventually they would owe us money and it would all even out, but apparently there is a thing called “penalties and fines and interest” so what would have been a $20,000 debt was now that large. This was entirely our doing, so it was time to finally deal with it.
If Judith had not been there to watch what happened next, people would think I was making it up. Every time I tried to move ahead a little bit and get hold of our finances, something happened. It went like this:
- Furnace went. $2500 we didn’t have.
- Condo board decided everyone had to put a new roof on their townhouses. $5500 we didn’t have.
- Brakes and tires went on the car. $3500 we didn’t have.
- April, 2016 we BOTH lost our jobs.
At this point we started laughing. Maybe we should have panicked, but no, we laughed. We had already sorted out past taxes, and received some back that eventually paid for the items above and a small car. We coasted for this year, and were like “we are so going to do Judith’s plan once things level out”. I had been paying $1000 of my income to the past taxes each month, and once I was laid off the government put a lien on my house. We looked at bankruptcy, but we didn’t have enough debt to be worth it! You cannot consolidate debt as a married couple and the only truly large debt was the government and since there was a lien on the house, it was impenetrable by bankruptcy. I had proudly paid it down to $34,000.
So there we were. Judith was amazing to helps us through the emotional drain of all this. She saw that it was not what we were doing now, but that we had no choice to but play a shell game with our finances because we were paying for mistakes and illness that stemmed back from 2010. Our future will look great. Poor as we are, I am heading off on full scholarship to Coady Institute’s Global Leader’s Change Program, and we are floating on the good graces of sponsors for my blog during this seven weeks. It will be exciting and when I am back, we will figure life out (again) and make a plan.
We should be stressed. We should be like totally freaking out. We are not. We do not have thousands of dollars of credit card debt. We do not have debt collectors at our door and I do not feel ashamed for getting sick in the past. I do not feel ashamed for not knowing better, and forgive myself the mistakes I did make when I was learning. We cannot thank Judith enough. From listening to us cry (more me than Josh), to giving us feedback and, for not judging us or blaming us for our past mistakes, she was able to be a comforting and educational resource that I cannot recommend more.
When I am back from my program I will be sure to finally get to dig into the actual plan and program she offers. Ironically she is a money coach, and we had no money to coach, but there will be in the future and when it is there, we will continue to be fiscally responsible and pass those skills to our children. Financial literacy is not taught enough to children, and while not everyone will mess up as large as we did, we know we are not alone. Call Judith today at 613-875-5834 to find out more about her services, whether you have money or have a lack of money, she has options to help.
Being poor doesn’t suck; it is a temporary inconvenience that will be rectified. Life doesn’t suck because of all the learning (and comedy material) we receive. Also floss.