Dear Heavenly Father:
We come to You in Jesus’ name. We ask that You bless each student of this course. Please help us all to find the proper life recipe and live according to Your will.
In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
This course is presented from a Christian perspective. There will be many Bible references. We will also stop along the way and say an occasional prayer. If you are uncomfortable with this, you may wish to locate another course. However, we invite you to stick around for at least a little while to see if perhaps this course will work for you anyway.
The majority of this course will deal with personal finance. It seems that is where many of us suffer most. Much of our life affects our financial situation and much of our life is affected by our financial situation. It is a vicious circle.
Before we go any further, a brief introduction is in order. We are David and Suzanne McClendon. We are a husband and wife team. We have been happily married to one another for nearly thirty-two wonderful years. We stood before our family and friends on 3 November 1984. Before that, we had been dating since 1981. We met at Crescent High School in Starr-Iva, South Carolina, in 1979.
The primary writer of this course is David, so from time to time, things will come more from his perspective than that of Suzanne.
David made some typical mistakes during his time at the University of South Carolina, where he majored in Media Arts.
The credit card companies made it so simple to apply for, and receive, a credit card. Sears would start a student with no job out with a $100 credit limit. Once a person had any credit card, he was almost guaranteed a Visa and/or MasterCard. Once a person had these two cards, he could get any type of card his heart desired.
The early 1980s was a time of “Instant credit”. This meant if you had a Visa or MasterCard, all you had to do was go to any store, gas station, etc., that had their own credit card and show them your Visa or MasterCard. The store would run the card though their Charge-A-Plate machine and fill out a few items like address and phone number. The charge you just made was the first charge on your new credit account. You would receive your new card in the mail in a few weeks.
David had as many as 99 of these cards at one time. When Suzanne graduated from high school in 1983, she came to the University of South Carolina as an Early Childhood Education major. Immediately she said, “We need to get these things under control.”
Suzanne laid out the snowball method (only she did not call it that) to David. This is the same method that Dave Ramsey speaks of today. Dave Ramsey says he did not invent the method. It would appear that it is just plain, common sense. However, common sense is not that common any more.
Suzanne and David attacked these cards with the intensity of a lion and paid off all except the Texaco card by the time they left school to get married.
David’s father, Robert Bruce McClendon, Jr., known affectionately as Papa Bruce, proposed to Suzanne one night in his kitchen. The scene went something like this:
Papa: Suzanne, are you ever going to marry David?
Suzanne: If he ever asks me.
Papa: Are you ever going to ask her?
Papa: Now that that bull is over, I want to make you an offer.
Papa hired Suzanne to work for him at the family’s Western Auto store. He went on to hire David as the store manager. Papa and his wife Merle, David’s mother, owned thirteen houses. Papa had decided to groom David to take over the company and he would retire to work his rental houses and build a convenience store in Iva, South Carolina. He also planned to open a Western Auto in Abbeville, South Carolina, and move David and Suzanne down to run it while putting his younger son and whomever his future wife would be to run the Iva store.
We, David and Suzanne, went to work for the store and paid off our Texaco Card. We also paid off Suzanne’s student loan. The only credit we had was for the appliances that we bought through the store.
The company provided our house and cars. We owned nothing. We made a perfectly good salary at the store, but invested in nothing. Along the way, we had our first son, Jared. We thought we were living the dream.
David’s brother Daniel married in 1986, and Papa Bruce decided that, to move forward, the store would need a computer system so that a second store could be supplied from the first store. On 11 May 1987, the computer became operational. On 12 May 1987, Papa Bruce died.
David’s mother decided that the family could not run the store and sold it for much less than it was worth.
We had no debts, but we also had no income and we had no education into how to manage money.
Suzanne’s father, Jimmy Ray Gunter, helped immensely. In fact, he had some very good ideas on how to manage money. We will take a look at much of that in a later part of this course.
We had no money for a while. There was unemployment compensation that came to roughly 25% of our previous salary. The utilities were past due and the refrigerator broke. We had a baby in the house and no way to keep his milk cold.
A couple, friends of ours, loaned us the money to fix the refrigerator. David found a straight commission job with the United States Chamber of Commerce. This was at the time that the Iran Contra hearings were taking place and most small businesses were concerned that the most pro-business president ever was about to be put out of office. No one wanted to spend any money they did not have to.
The local bank loaned us the money to get the utilities caught up and pay the friends back the loan.
Suzanne started selling Avon and Tupperware and we began to get a little relief. Also, Suzanne scoured the newspaper for coupons and grocery ads. The local paper carrier continued to deliver the newspaper even though we were several months past due with him. Thanks, Al.
Combining the ads with coupons from the paper gave Suzanne the ability to feed the two of us for only $7 per week. We had Women’s, Infants, and Children’s assistance, known as WIC, to help with the baby’s milk and food.
One day, David went to one of the finance companies, where we used to finance items we sold at the store, to see if the ladies there would like to buy some Avon.
The branch manager said, “I don’t need any Avon. I need a good assistant manager”. David was hired. This seemed like a solution to the problem but was, in fact, the beginning of financial chaos.
No one ever told us that you do not take out a loan to pay utilities. No one ever told us that utility companies will work with you to catch up past due bills and that there are programs available that will assist you with these bills.