Between shuttling intermittent loads of household goods to the boxy moving truck, I would make subtle glances in their direction. I could tell our parents were trying hard to look supportive while suppressing their own discomfort. It’s one thing when you move from one location to another due to a great job offer or to be closer to family. But we were doing the exact opposite.
The small moving truck being loaded with all our earthly possessions represented a very different reality for all of us.
We were only moving about 200 miles away, jettisoning the bulbous, congested suburbia of Houston for the calmer hill-country life of San Antonio. But the bigger issue was that we had pulled the trigger on the move without having secured new jobs on the other side. Our parents, and many others, thought we were crazy.
“Oh, you must have been pretty well off financially, right?”
“You must have had a fat savings account cushioning your landing, right?”
This was still early in our debt destruction phase, and while we had made a good dent in our debt, wiping out our credit card balances and one of our car loans, we were still saddled with those pesky student loans, and our bank account was far from bulging. I cashed out my company stock and that gave us about $3,000 dollars to last us as long as…well…as long as it would last.
But that’s not to say we didn’t have help. Some friends who lived in San Antonio were out in California with family for the summer, and they graciously offered up their house to us for a few months, so rent wasn’t going to be an immediate issue. We also had several friends in San Antonio who were excited for our arrival and were more than willing to step in and help with the joyous chore of unloading the moving truck and shuffling things back and forth to a storage unit we rented.
Upon arrival, step one was finding a job. For any of you that have experienced a season of unemployment, you can appreciate how hard this was. With most companies sheltered from job applicants by cryptic online application forms, there’s little you can do to connect with a company without real connections. And I had none.
Two months in, our money was running thin and our marriage was running hot. I had typed and retyped my resume into every known job portal and local job application board on the planet. But it was 2006 and companies weren’t exactly on a hiring spree.
I was intent on finding full-time employment with benefits, but when you watch your savings plummet to $400, you start adjusting your standards. Beggars can’t be choosers, and though we weren’t actual beggars yet, being choosey was an option that was rapidly disappearing.
And we were determined never to use debt again, so that meant the $400 was all we had left. We had made some great strides in Operation Debt Destruction, but our net worth was still significantly negative and we were very much still broke.
This was a defining moment for us.
Were we serious about staying out of debt? Or was that just a nice idea that was easy to cling to with a steady paycheck rolling in? What if we only had $400 left to our name? Would we stand by our convictions or cave to the idea that this situation could only be resolved by a credit card?
Honestly, it was a struggle. Once our bank account dropped below about $800, every day seemed like a battle between our convictions and the only solution we could envision – borrowing money. But each day we decided anew to ride it out. All the way down to $0 if that’s what it meant. We had no idea what would happen then, but surprisingly our resolve actually grew stronger as our bank account grew smaller.
And then one day I got a call from a recruiting company interested in placing me with a local financial institution. I interviewed with the recruiter, then with the folks at the financial company. I got offered a 6-month contract position and jumped on it.
They, of course, had no idea how close to being penniless I truly was. Like everyone in financial trouble, I did a great job of pretending everything was fine. But the stress was real, and when that first paycheck came in, it was like an armored truck flipped over and spilled bags of cash right into our bank account.
We immediately started building our emergency savings back up. And when that was done we fired up Operation Debt Destruction with a new passion to kill those student loans. And it turned out this financial company liked my work enough to eventually hire me full-time…benefits and all.
So was it a good risk? Looking back, we definitely know it was. But in the moment it’s hard to see all the factors at work. We often think everything is completely dependent on us and our abilities or actions, but that’s just part of the equation.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
That’s exactly why we now have a fully funded emergency fund of 6 months of living expenses just sitting in our savings account, doing absolutely nothing, until we need to pull the emergency cord, which we’ve done a few times since this adventure back in 2006.
But with a fully funded emergency fund, those events now feel more like minor side-steps than full blown emergencies.
And we have no intention of going back.
Have you ever taken a huge step of faith? How did it work out? Do you have any regrets? Would you do it again? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.