A large part of Financial Independence for many people is freedom. The freedom to work, or not work, when and how they want. The freedom to live the life that they choose. As someone with debt, every debt paid off is one step closer to freedom. It’s a long road, first to be debt free, then saving towards eventual total freedom. But every victory is one step closer to the final goal.
This week I gained a different type of financial freedom: The Student Loan I co-signed for my sister is officially paid off! I can’t take credit for this step, as it was my Mom that has been making the payments the last few years. If you’ve read about My Big Mistakes, you know that I naively co-signed on a Private Student Loan for my younger sister many years ago. My Mom had agreed to back the loan. But then she became seriously ill, my sister defaulted without anyone knowing, and my credit took a crippling hit at the worst possible time. My financial world crumbled. More importantly, I faced losing two things much more important to me than money will ever be: My Mom and my relationship with my sister.
Today my Mom is the picture of health. She was able to return to work, and stood by her promise to back the loan. Not only did she bring the loan current, she paid it off in record time. She truly is an inspiration to me. She would like to see my sister repay her someday, but we both know that is unlikely.
It hasn’t been easy, but over the years we’ve also been able to mend relationships. I love my sister, and despite her continued struggles, it’s important to me that she be a part of my life. It wasn’t as easy as Forgive and Forget. But then, I don’t think it should have been. It’s the people closest to you that have the most power to hurt you. You have to decide whether the relationship is worth keeping. But just because you repair the relationship doesn’t mean you can’t build boundaries. I’m very close with my sister, and I may even choose to help her out from time to time. But I have to value myself enough not to risk my own life to help her right her’s. After all, we all have to be responsible for our own choices. I’ll never again give more than I can afford to lose. And, in some ways, I think my own willingness to move on has enabled my sister and my Mom to move on as well. It’s still an ongoing struggle for them though.
So, my first taste of freedom is to no longer be tied to someone else financially. My credit score from here on out will be determined by my own actions, and my debts are all my own. It’s an amazing feeling of relief. And it motivates me to work harder towards knocking out my remaining debts. The balls already rolling. Time to shove a little harder!
– Ms. W
Have you ever had a relationship suffer for financial reasons? Or are you celebrating some steps to Financial Freedom of your own?