March 1, 2008
Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck!
If your paycheck is being stretched to its limit and you’re feeling the pinch, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. According to the American Payroll Association, 67% of Americans would find it difficult to meet their current financial obligations if their next paycheck was delayed for one week.
We talked to financial experts and people just like you and _discovered that employees across all income levels feverishly count down the days until they get paid. We also talked to _people who were once hanging precariously over a canyon of debt but who have done a complete turnaround and have regained firm footing. Whether you’re earning minimum wage or six figures, you can learn not only to live within your means but to also begin saving for your future. Here, black enterprise shows you how to stop living paycheck to paycheck.
Held Down by Debt
For many couples, debt is the elephant in the room, until an unexpected event occurs. Lisa and Wade Norwood, both 43, are a successful married couple with two children-Chris, 17, and Julia, 9-who live in Rochester, New York. Lisa is an assistant dean at the University of Rochester and Wade is a health _planner at Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency. The couple brings in approximately $120,000 each year, but their total debt load is more than $90,000. About $25,000 of that is credit card debt, which is spread across six cards with an average interest rate of 18%. Another large bill is the annual $13,200 elementary school tuition for Julia. The Norwoods admit to not managing their money well in the past and are making an effort to spend less, but the recovery process has been slow, and they still find themselves strapped for cash each month.
“Our problems started when we began living beyond our means on credit cards,” Lisa says. She recalls the days when money wasn’t an object. A family night out could easily cost $200, and their Christmas shopping bill would be more than $300. In addition, the Norwoods occasionally assisted Wade’s family members, who came to them when they needed money to rent a car or purchase an airline ticket. Lisa and Wade helped out despite having their own financial obligations, including the $43,000 balance on their mortgage and more than $14,000 annually for household expenses such as groceries, clothes, and gasoline.
Lisa and Wade’s altruism proved costly when they experienced an unexpected hardship. The couple’s finances took a _terrible hit in 2000, when their 8-year-old daughter Tiffany, who was developmentally disabled, died. “Because she was uninsured, the funeral cost us $10,000,” Lisa _recalls. “We’re just now paying off the last $700.”
Five years later, Wade left his employer to run for mayor of their town. Consequently, the family’s finances really began to suffer. Wade received several months of unused vacation pay, but after losing the election, it took him a while to find a new job. The _family lived on Lisa’s salary, which was $48,000 at the time, for a little more