One day when I was fourteen, everything fell apart. Mom started crying in the car as we were coming home from the grocery store. As we pulled into the garage, I asked her what was wrong. She answered, “That business trip your father went on…he’s never coming back. The divorce paperwork has already been filed.”
Over the next 18 months, there was a lot of stress. Before going to bed each night, I would check on Mom. Usually she was in bed, crying. Many a night I tried to comfort her as she repeated over and over again, “Oh Mike, what are we going to do?” I didn’t have an answer, except to insist that I would quit high school and work my summer job year round. As the second-oldest of my seven brothers and sisters, I felt it was my duty to help support the family. Mom did not want me to quit school, and I had no way to stop her tears. I felt helpless.
By the time I was sixteen, we were selling furniture in order to have money for food. One day the sheriff knocked on the door, gave us a box of trash bags, and told us, “Today is the day. You folks need to be out by 4 pm.”
Mom was able to persuade the Maryknoll nuns to let her and her eight children stay in a little rundown cottage they owned. It was quite small, but we made do. At night, the unheated living room was the only quiet place to do schoolwork.
I was quite busy, working part time to pay for tuition, clothes, and transportation. Although proud of my hard work, I still felt angry and frustrated about money problems and a system that didn’t seem to care about people. But I was determined not to give up, and went to college on academic scholarship, as I saw this as the only way to get a fresh start.
Throughout my life, I have found that thinking things out works. I don’t feel helpless anymore. I have always believed “Knowledge is Power”, and today I believe that more than ever.
If you are angry, frustrated, and distrustful, I understand. If financial stress is tearing your family apart, I understand. If you find yourself consumed by financial worries, I understand.
Most of the problems in consumer finance are rooted in a lack of planning. We need to be better educated on our choices. We need to make the right choices to create a bright financial future for tomorrow. Let’s begin today!