136 – May 16
“If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.”—Unknown
I know what it’s like to be unable to pay your bills. In fact, things once got so bad for me that I filed bankruptcy.
I had been on top of the world. My bookkeeping service had doubled every year and was now generating approximately $450,000 per year. I had twelve employees and a beautiful new office suite. But I had one major client who accounted for 75 percent of my income, and when they left with a mere two weeks notice, disaster loomed. Since I was absolutely strapped for cash, having been left with many financial obligations and no current means of paying for them, I borrowed $50,000 on credit cards.
Five years later, I had faithfully paid the minimum balances every month, but by then I had the habit of using credit cards whenever cash flow dipped. Compound interest ate me alive. By this time, I owed $80,000. Then my chief bookkeeper quit and decided to go into business for herself. A lot of my clients went with her. My ex-business partners asked when I was going to pay them for the purchase of the company. I tried to sell the condominium I purchased at the top of the real estate market in 1987, but its value had plummeted and I owed approximately $30,000 more than it was worth. It didn’t matter; I couldn’t find a buyer at any price. I could no longer pay my current bills, let alone my debts. The barrage of telephone calls from creditors was non-stop. So were my stress, anxiety, and tears.
A dear friend sent me to a bankruptcy specialist who exclaimed, “The bankruptcy laws were written for people like you!” He showed me that there was a way out, a path to forgiveness of my debts under the law, a new beginning for me after this failure. He pointed out that business involved risk, and that sometimes when you risk, you lose. The average millionaire files bankruptcy 3.5 times, he told me, and I was in some good company, with people such as Walt Disney, Donald Trump, Wayne Newton, Mark Victor Hansen, and R.H. Macy, founder of Macy’s department stores, who filed bankruptcy seven times before he was successful.
I filed. The credit card debt went up in smoke as though it had never been. The tension eked out of my body as I started to relax and breathe again. Of course, my credit was now a black smudge of ashes. But, after all, what did I need credit for? Only to borrow money, and that was what got me in trouble in the first place. I needed to learn to live without borrowing, just as I learned to live without drinking.
If you have ever stood in bankruptcy court and admitted your powerlessness over debt, forgive yourself and learn from the experience. If you have never had to do this, have compassion for those who have.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
I was shocked when I read that Sports Illustrated reported that 78% of NFL players go bankrupt within two years of retirement.
Isn’t anyone teaching these people money management skills? Do they not understand that the riches they make while playing football aren’t going to last forever? That their moment in the sun is but a moment?
I guess not. And I guess they don’t teach them to a lot of movie stars and music moguls, either. Here’s a few of them that have gone bankrupt: Gary Busey, Nicholas Cage, Burt Reynolds, MC Hammer, Toni Braxton, and Willie Nelson. Did they not hire a business manager? Or didn’t they listen to them?
But of course, some celebrities have had their money stolen from them by their business managers like Doris Day and Billy Joel, whose brother-in-law embezzled millions. (Note: you can delegate, but don’t abdicate.)
Many business people who went on to become icons of success have filed bankrupcy: Walt Disney, Charles Schwab, and Sam Walton, too! R.H. Macy of Macy’s department stores filed seven times before he got the company up and running profitably. It takes risk to create and build a business, and you don’t win every time. But with vision and hard work, you can learn from your mistakes and do better the next time!
I filed bankruptcy once, too, in the recession of the early 90s. My major bookkeeping service client that was 75% of my income left with 2 weeks notice when I had just bought the business. (Lesson: don’t put all your eggs in one basket…where have I heard that before?)
But that failure turned out to be one of the most defining moments of my life, because I had to work my way back up from nothing using the tools I developed in my Financial Stress Reduction® Workshop. My clients watched me practice what I preached as I rebuilt my life and helped others do the same. Many people have told me that my journey helped them to let go of the shame of failure and try again.
So if you or someone you know are going through hard times right now, I promise you that failure is not forever! I survived to thrive and you can do it, too.
Here’s to your fabulous success! May oceans full of big treasure ships arrive safely at your docks now and forever!