The Danger in Being Fine

June 8, 2016

The following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you.


 

Have you ever asked someone how they are, and their response is, “Fine?” It never sounds very good, does it? It doesn’t seem exciting or like they’re doing very well. It sounds just, well, fine.

Fine would be the exact word to describe my finances not too long ago. What this meant, though, was that I was able to make my payments and pay my bills on time (mostly). In reality, those bills and payments represented a huge mountain of debt – to the tune of $74,000.

I never thought about that number, though. I actually didn’t know it for quite some time. All I knew was that I had a car payment for three-hundred-something, student loan payments that totaled two-hundred-something, credit card payments with “manageable” minimum payments, and some other miscellaneous bills. As long as I could make those payments I was – fine.

It didn’t bother me that those payments represented an education long ago taken, clothes long ago worn and no longer in use, vacations long ago enjoyed, food and other items long ago consumed, electronics no longer current, and purchases that I couldn’t even remember.

So for quite some time I made my payments, and life was rolling along. But, then things started to stir inside of me, and I began to question if I was really okay financially. I mean yes, the bills were being paid, but was I making any progress? Did I really want to continue paying student loans for another twenty years? What about saving for retirement and being able to do more with money like travel and just enjoy life?

I brought this questioning to my husband, and his response was, “We’re fine!” I questioned whether we bought a house we really couldn’t afford. Again, “We’re fine.” And so on we continued, making payments and being fine.

“Fine” keeps us where we are.

And then we stopped being fine. A full-time job went to four days a week, and then to three. And things started to get uncomfortable. We had trouble paying our bills and began to rely more heavily on our credit cards. Those minimum payments were no longer manageable, and the balances rose. One-by-one we maxed out our cards. We went from being fine to being in trouble.

We could no longer continue in our blissful ignorance. We weren’t fine – actually, we never were – but now it was evident. With a reduced income and maxed out credit cards, we knew it was time to do something. A fire was lit, and we declared war on our debt.

A two-year journey began that started with us living within our means for the first time in our lives and concluded with every single penny of the $74,000 being paid off. In hindsight, I should thank my husband’s employer at the time, for cutting his hours (no, not really), because it woke us up from our slumber. It forced us to admit that we weren’t okay.

If you look up the word “fine” in the dictionary, there are several definitions including, “with a very narrow margin of time or space.” There is danger in being fine. Fine keeps us where we are. Fine keeps us from being great. Fine keeps us close to the edge – one event away from disaster. Fine keeps us complacent, not wanting more. Fine is the OPPOSITE of empowered. I don’t want to be fine!

If fine can be used to describe your financial situation or anything in your life, for that matter, challenge it. Choose to be better than fine. Another definition of fine is “of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade.” You know, as in a fine wine. THAT is the “fine” I want for me AND for you.

I’d love to hear from you. Are your finances just “fine”? What can you do to move from fine to where you want to be? Let me know in the comments below.