I just finished reading Smart Women Finish Rich and felt compelled to let you know what a profound impact this book has made. I would like to share a brief history of myself with you.
My name is Michelle Caruso. I live in Oakville, On Canada. I am approaching my 49th birthday this May.
I have been separated and recently divorced, for one and one half years, after 21 years of marriage. I have 2 beautiful and smart women daughters, Kaitlyn 21, and Danya 18. During my 21 year marriage my ex-husband worked off and on for the first 10 years after which he decided in his words, “I’ve paid my dues.” I have been in the equipment lease finance business for over 21 years. In 1999, I made the choice of leaving my employer to work as an agent for a brokerage firm. In a nutshell I became self-employed. I have always been in commission sales, so I had the confidence that I could do this. My income increased instantly. In most people’s eyes I appeared to be very successful. Since 1999 my family’s lifestyle became extremely consumption based. Two family vacations per year, designer clothes, current model vehicles, Harley Davidson Motorcycles (his) and by 2006 we had moved into a 3500 square foot home in one of the most sought after neighborhoods’ in Oakville. All based on my income. We were mortgaged to the hilt; four major credit cards and the line of credit were all maxed. I couldn’t make money fast enough. We were digging ourselves into a hole. You can imagine the stress I was under. By now you’re probably wondering what my income was. Over the ten year period of 2000 to 2009 I earned close to TWO MILLION DOLLARS!
Over the course of my marriage, I lost all respect for my husband nor did he have any respect for me and so on my 47 birthday I looked at myself in the mirror wondering where the woman that people used to call “smiley” had gone. I finally admitted to myself that I wanted out. I moved out that day. Over the next 6 months I hashed out a separation agreement. Canadian Laws are quite simple, everything gets split 50/50. And I was being treated as any man that had a stay-at-home spouse. My ex-husband is entitled to indefinite support because he hadn’t worked in 10 years. After speaking with several friends and colleagues who had gone through divorces and with the consult of my attorney I offered him a five year contract with support payment of $4000/month, plus $1000/month for child support of my eldest daughter who is still in school; this along with half the assets (equity in our home/ RRSPs etc). After the 5 year contract is over he is on his own.
So here I was in my own home, not knowing how to move forward. I had made so many errors in the past that I most certainly did not want to repeat. I needed help, so I hired a Coach. I worked with my coach, Samy Chong, every week for the better part of a year. It’s funny that when I tell people this they can’t believe that I spent that kind of money. My reply is always the same, “this investment in me is the best investment I have made in my whole life.” It is funny that people don’t mind spending $7000 on a family vacation but don’t see the value in spending it on their own personal growth. In my case with an average of 2 family vacations per year, it was easily justified.
I needed to forgive my ex, myself and my past errors in judgment. I needed to move forward. I started by finding my authentic self. I needed “me” back; that person who was always happy, smiling and loving. I needed to find me and find balance in my life. So for the past year I went to work on myself. The one piece that I hadn’t really looked at was my financial situation. I’ve always made a good living and I just thought it would look after itself. I looked at everything other than the spending habits I had acquired over the past 21 years. Well I am sure that you will agree that God always has a way of sending us messages and it became clear to me this past December that reviewing my finances was on HIS list. The last 4 months of 2010, my income took a 10% dip. With expenses at an all time high I could not afford a decrease in income of any size. This past December was the first time ever that I was faced with literally not being able to afford groceries let alone buy Christmas gifts for my daughters. Another wake-up call, get your financial house in order. All I could think about was how am I going to face this. So last month I got caught up on my accounting (I was 4 months behind), made a budget and started to track what I was spending and on what. It became clear that I was living beyond my means. I consolidated the debt on my line of credit and my 2 credit cards and remortgaged my home (at 2.35%). I had heard about a book called “The Millionaire Next Door” from an audio book I was listening to called the Slight Edge. I was determined that I needed to buy and read that book. So off I went to Chapters and along with this book I also purchased Smart Women Finish Rich. (I wasn’t surprised when you referred to this book at the beginning of your book. I have come to learn that there are no such things as coincidences). I figured I’m a smart woman, why shouldn’t I be able to finish rich? I read the Millionaire Next Door first and what an eye opener. Not only about how the typical millionaire lives, but also about what we as parents are NOT teaching our children.
Last week I started reading Smart Women Finish Rich. I finished reading the book last night. This past week I completed your Finish Rich Inventory planner. I am sad to report that my Net Worth is only $248,000. However I am an eternal optimist and the past is the past. If I was able to earn $2M in the past 10 years that I was raising my family with a ball and chain around my ankle, you can imagine what I can accomplish in the next 10 years!
I am I have contacted my financial advisor and indicated that we will need to meet to discuss my investments, mortgage balance, disability insurance and life insurance. I have both but not nearly the coverage I require. I had revised my Will, Living Will and beneficiary’s during my separation, so that is currently up to date.
I have created a Finish Rich Personal and Business Plan where I have outlined my financial goals and how I will achieve this through my business plan (which I completed in December). Now it’s time to take action.
Over the next 3.5 years my goals are clear. I hope to have my car paid off, catch up on my RRSP contributions, pay down my mortgage as much as I can and take my girls on a Mediterranean Cruise for the 50th birthday next year.
For the five years after that I hope to pay off my mortgage with the money I will no longer be paying to my ex-husband and do a few renovations to my home.
I have discussed this plan with my daughters and have indicated to both of them that we need to meet to devise a finish rich plan for each of them.
I love my career. It has allowed me the flexibility to raise my daughters (almost as a stay at home mom) and it has provided me with an excellent living. I have earned every dollar I have made. I gain true pleasure helping my clients sell and purchase equipment that helps them grow their business and ultimately achieve their goals. They are loyal to me because I make it easy for them to do business with me. As one of my customers recently said, “You always look after me”. That is who I am, the person that looks after everyone. Now I have also learned to look after myself first and then give to others. I am passionate about helping and mentoring others. I am the” go-to gal” you speak about at the end of your book.
On a final note I am currently pursuing coaching training through the Coach Training Institute and last June started another business called Inspired-Success (www.inspired-success.ca). I am not making much money with this, yet, but my dream is to help other Entrepreurs and Sales Professionals lead an authentic and balanced life. I know that success is not only measured by money but by who we become. However it is my belief that if you are successful in all of the non-financial areas of your life you will also have financial success.
This smart woman plans on finishing rich!
Thank you for writing this book.
P.S. I will keep you posted on my success.