Medicated Money

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Where We Are At, And How We Got Here

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. –Leo Tolstoy

As long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be in medicine. I have always felt that the human body is truly a remarkable machine. The simplest cells and organs must work perfectly all the time, every time, in order for us to achieve our daily living activities. This feeling is not just my own, but shared with my wife, who is also in the medical field. This created an attitude towards achieving a goal of a career in medicine. This strong attitude, however, made many other aspects of our lives less important; and in some areas, it made them obsolete! And in this category, our finances fell. School is expensive! And soon, student loan after student loan,became the norm! The realization of not only could we pay for our tuition with 'good debt' student loans, we could use these loans to help us pay for our living expenses as well. We never thought long enough to realize that for every dollar we took then, we had to pay the amount plus interest back now; our degree did not allow that. Now, granted, most of that money never even touched our hands. It went straight to tuition, books, medical equipment (that the medical rep. stated we had to have as students, only to find out we never used it)! But still, the true difficulty and length of paying these loans off was so foreign to us, we kept signing on the dotted line!

Until recently, I never really worried about all this debt. I was told in school 'don't worry, when you start working, you'll be doing well. Plus, with your (then) girlfriend, now wife, in the field, you have nothing to worry about.' So we didn't! It finally hit home after tuning into a Dave Ramsey show while I was looking for the 'other' AM sports radio station in our city! I couldn't believe someone was calling student loans 'bad debt.' Here was someone telling me to 'live now like no one else, so later you can live like no one else!' I thought that was what I was doing for the past few years, working so hard in school, day in, day out, year in, year out! Now, we were living life for the moment because we already worked hard, now we got to enjoy it! Unfortunately, little did I know, but we were living with the disease 'Docitis!'

'Docitis' is where you spend many years working towards a single goal that once you hit that goal, you completely change your lifestyle to reward yourself for hitting that goal by living for the moment. No discipline, no restrictions, just caution to the wind, and enjoying the moment making sure others see you doing it! And we had it bad! Houston has great restaurants, and we were learning that almost on a nightly basis. Friends and family would come visit us due to the fact that we both are from the northeast, and we took them everywhere to show them how good we were doing. Sporting events, fine restaurants, musicals, etc. If it was going on, we were going! If it was not people visiting us, it was going to these places with people we worked with. All go, and never a no! I kept telling myself it was not a problem because we were paying all of our bills on time, though we were not paying down any loans whether that being student, car, or previous credit cards from our school days!

After hearing Ramsey on the radio and waking up one day realizing that money was coming and going through my hands faster than I had time to even see it. I was working hard to play hard, and at times, I felt that I was just working hard. I realized very quickly that I was not even close to working this hard when I thought I was in school. Even faster did I realize that I would have to do this for the next 30 years to just get things squared away! That is when the record scratched.

We decided that we would change our habits as soon as possible. Gone would be the $200 restaurant bill with friends; instead we would start funding a 403(b) through work. Gone would be the $300-$400 dollars a week on entertainment due to spur of the moment decisions; instead we would start paying down our debt. Gone would be the excess; in would be the lesson of moderation, living below our means, and changing our future! The prescription has been filled, and now we have to take our medicine. But we are definitely looking forward to moving forward. We realized that moderation is the key. We have the ability to change our future by just doing what we are good at; making smart decision on a consistent basis. Will it be difficult – absolutely; will we be questioned by colleagues and friends – probably; will we be able to achieve our goals – definitely!


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