Businessman, personal finance guru, motivational speaker – Dave Ramsey can be described in many ways. But in the eyes of Bernadette Hayes, there’s a surprising title that belongs near the top of his list: marriage coach.
With unwavering motivation and help from her income as an N2 Area Director and Region Director, Bernadette and her husband embarked on a journey to take charge of their finances. They anticipated the sense of freedom that comes from ridding oneself completely of debt. But what they didn’t expect was a life lesson that would change the course of their relationship for the better. Through Dave Ramsey’s program, they learned the basics of how to effectively communicate with each other.
In the winter of 2013, Bernadette’s eyes were opened to the reality of her financial situation, and she knew they needed a change. At this point, she was a five-year veteran at N2 Publishing who made a great living as the breadwinner for her family. But looking at their bank account, you wouldn’t know it.
“We were spending more than we made, and were in a really bad habit of doing that,” Bernadette said. “The debt we had taken on wasn’t necessary. Credit debt, car loans, nothing crazy. But it was that instant gratification, that ‘let me go get that’ mentality.”
So the Hayes family rolled up their sleeves and popped Dave Ramsey’s program into their DVD player at home – a great resource for couples with kids who prefer not to leave the house more than necessary, said Bernadette.
A Positive Side Effect
As always, one of the first homework tasks Dave assigns is to calculate the total amount of debt owed. Bernadette was semi-prepared, knowing that the situation “wasn’t good.” But, like for many Financial Peace University students, the number on paper was alarming. And so began a three-year endeavor to pay down everything they owed.
“To be honest, it was a little discouraging at first,” said Bernadette. “Once you save up the emergency fund, you dive into paying down debt. And we just had so many different forms of debt, it seemed like an impossible task.”
But then something happened that brought the motivation right back. Because Bernadette and her husband were having these open discussions about finances on a regular basis, they realized they no longer found themselves in silly arguments throughout the week that so often stemmed from money stress.
“We felt the positive impact way before we paid down our last debt,” said Bernadette. “They say money is one of the biggest reasons for divorce. Going through this together immediately improved our marriage.”
Bernadette admits that in their relationship, she’s the nerd and her husband is the free spirit – typical spending personalities, according to Dave Ramsey. This struggle between one spouse wanting to keep tight reins on spending and the other being more prone to impulse decisions is what often leads to disagreements. But because of FPU’s requirement for spouses to sit down at the start of each month and agree on where each dollar will go, there’s no room for conflict when all is set in stone.
This process of making and sticking with joint decisions has guided Bernadette’s family through life decisions way beyond finances. In fact, solving their communication problem was the single greatest impact that came from Dave Ramsey’s program, said Bernadette.
The Debt-Free Life
In 2016, Bernadette paid off the last of her debt – an achievement she acknowledges was made possible through the N2 opportunity. Dave Ramsey’s program encourages couples to work hard to earn more money so debt is paid down faster. This usually means selling belongings at a yard sale or picking up odd jobs on the weekends.
“At N2, income is directly related to how hard we work. We don't want to work a ton of hours forever, but you can commit to periods of harder work and see the difference financially,” Bernadette said. “Because I could increase my income by setting more appointments, we didn’t have to pick up additional jobs. The process would’ve taken much longer without N2.”
After reaching this monumental goal, the Hayes realized how important it is for their two children, now ages 11 and eight, to understand right away the power of saving money. Consequently, both kids have since been through the Dave Ramsey Junior program.
“If that’s not an endorsement for the practices of Dave Ramsey,” said Bernadette, “we don’t know what is. His program is simple, easy to follow, and revolutionized our relationship with money.”
“The road’s not necessarily easy the entire time, but the end-game of being debt free is well worth the journey.”
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