Why didn't I have the courage?
I saw how much he struggled and yet I could never muster enough strength to speak out.
Would it have helped?
Could my voice of reason really have changed a thing?
Unfortunately, I'll never know.
I've shared before about my father's struggles with debt. I vocally shared how it affected me, especially in my book. As a kid, when he was buying me every single G.I. Joe I could ever want, I didn't think anything of it.
When I became older, I sensed he had money issues; I just never realized to what extent.
In junior high, my father remarried and we moved into a 3 bedroom 2 bath house. It was 1990 and he paid a whopping $7,000 for the house.
Did I mention we live in a VERY small town in the Midwest? Even at that time, that house was dirt cheap. It needed some work but it was more than liveable and I was super pumped because I had a much bigger bedroom.
What I didn’t know at the time was that all of the remodels and the repair were not paid in cash. They were put on credit.
This finally sank in when my dad was having his house reappraised for the third or fourth time. I never really knew the reason of why he was having the house appraised so often but in a conversation with him, it finally clicked.
He was having the house reappraised so that he could BORROW MORE against it by taking out a second mortgage. That second mortgage then was used to help pay the minimum payment on the credit cards that he used to fund the remodels and other purchases.
At that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I now realized the scope of the financial mess my dad was in.
Tough Financial Honesty
Being a financial advisor, I was able to help people make smart decisions with their money. People were paying me to be brutally honest whether they could really afford to make a major purchase, retire when they wanted to, or take a vacation.
As honest as I could be with my clients, I couldn’t find that same confidence with my dad. I wanted to say something. I wanted to take him by the shoulders, shake him, and ask him “what are you doing?”.
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In his last remaining years, I can remember watching my dad age more rapidly.
I could tell that the stress of the debt was getting to him.
His beard once clinging to a hint of brownish gray was evidently turning white.
What struck me most was his face. My dad has always been the jokester. Thank goodness for his sense of humor because that wackiness is something that I cherish to this day. But as the stress began to mount, his face looked more somber. And worse, so was his spirit.
He tried to hide the pain that he was feeling from me, but I could see it clearly written all over that once easy-going face.
My dad had already filed bankruptcy twice and yet, he still couldn’t get a grasp on his finances. At the age of 69, my father died from a heart attack.
I am lucky to have a father that loved me and would do anything to support his son. He was never hesitant to tell me how much he loved me and I was never shy to let him know how much I loved him back. What I do regret to this day is not helping him get a grip on his finances.
Could he have lived longer if he didn’t have the stress of all of his debt?
Could he have met his grandsons had I made him cut up his credit cards and forbid him from charging on them even more?
I share this story now because I had the privilege of talking to someone who recently read my book. He shared with me that when he read about the relationship with my father, he could totally empathize. He also had a father that struggled with his finances but unlike me, his father was still living.
Up until that point he hadn’t had the courage to approach his dad and talk to him about his money struggles. But after reading my book, he was encouraged to do so. He was able to have that difficult conversation with his father and help him get his life back on financial track.
When I heard that story I nearly cried. Partly because I never imagined that sharing the story of my father in my book would have that kind of impact on someone.
The other part is because unlike him I didn't have the courage to talk to my father. And that is something I still regret to his day.
Do you have a loved one, a parent, a sister, a cousin, that is struggling with their finances and needs an intervention? If you do, do like the gentleman that read my book and have that important talk.
Don’t regret not raising your voice and helping someone in need.