This guest post from Heather is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes.
In 2002, I was 28 years old with a dead husband. It wasn’t a total shock: He had been sick, and there was never an expectation that he would live until a ripe old age. But still, I had entered a very small tribe of people. I was widowed young.
For a couple of years, my husband and I had argued over housing philosophy. He wanted a “forever house”, and I wanted a small house that was easily affordable because we could always move later. Four months before he got sick, we bought a beautiful “forever house” that made both of us very happy, a house that was impossible for me to afford on my own.
As part of my husband’s illness, we put 500 miles a week on our car, so that was fast running out of warranty. Since many of those miles were across open plains and I was driving by myself, I made a push for a newer car that would be healthy through the long drives and the substantial follow-up treatment if everything went well. We bought my dream car.
When my husband’s estate settled, I had:
- About six months of his salary at my disposal
- A house that would consume that money very quickly
- A car payment that was too large
- Some lingering credit debt of my own
- A job that would not sustain me
I knew that traditional wisdom says to wait a year to make any changes after a major life crisis, but if I did that I’d be out of money and far less able to adapt. I saw two big financial problems in my life: the house and the car.
I called the financer on the car. I explained that I would no longer be making payments on the car and I did a “voluntary repo”. I purchased a used car with cash.
I put the house on the market four months after my husband died. The neighborhood gossiped. I got worried looks from everyone who didn’t know me, but my inner circle of friends understood and supported my decision. I was under contract and making a few bucks within a week.
After closing on my house, leaving my job, and getting my “new” car, I took the summer off. I spent time with distant family. I went to retreats and contemplated where I wanted to live next. I went south.
I rented a nice apartment and paid for a year up front, which discounted my rent by 15% and reinforced that I was starting to build a new life. My new town had a lower cost of living and a college atmosphere, so being a newcomer was less intimidating. I started training for a profession that actually paid a living wage.
A year after my husband died, I lived in a different state, with a different car, no debt other than student loans, a new cat, and had started towards a new profession.
I have always trusted my gut, and I didn’t see any reason to stop doing that just because I was profoundly sad and lonely. In almost every aspect of my big changes, I was happy at the outcome. (I changed cars one more time because I ended up hating my first choice — good thing it was cheap!)
The last great gifts my husband gave me were:
- His estate allowed me to finish fixing my financial mistakes from college.
- His illness introduced me to a profession that allows me to make enough money to sustain myself.
- I learned that when I was sad, I would go to the bookstore and spend $100 to feel better. I don’t do that anymore.
It is possible to make solid decisions within a year of a crisis. Financial windfalls that come from death can be life-changing. Be trustworthy, and then trust yourself.
GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, GE Capital Bank, and more.
This article is about Real-Life