I was raised in small farming community in Southern Utah. My family consisted of my mom, my dad, me, my two brothers and my three sisters. (I was the baby.) During my early years I spent a lot of time out of the house with my friends. Our outings included hikes in the hills, gathering iron with a magnet from our local wash, building forts, playing under the streetlight, catching snakes and small animals we could turn into pets, and lots and lots of sports. My friends and I went to the same school, the same church, and we bought our candy at the same corner market. As much as it seemed like we were all the same, there was one thing that created a huge difference in the way we lived. My friend’s dads were all successful farmers, business owners or teachers, but not my dad. My dad was a laborer for the Union Pacific Railroad.
This meant that my family struggled financially in a way that my friend’s families never did. To overcome the lack of income from my dad’s job, my mom did her part to help supplement his income. She ran a very tight budget, she was the tailor for our school clothes, she managed a garden that provided most of the food we would eat, and she worked long shifts during harvest time when the farmers needed temporary workers. Everything my mom did helped, but it was never quite enough.
Then, when I was about 8 years old my mom got cancer. As you can imagine, I was devastated. I loved her so much and could not imagine living life without her. During this time, our family got turned on its head. My mom had to move to Northern Utah so she could get her treatment. My dad was working away from home during the week, which meant my siblings and I ended up having to move in with one of my relatives just so we could have someone to watch us. Through a miracle, my mom did survive her cancer and my siblings, and I were able to move back home, but life immediately changed. Any extra money that might have been available before this time was now gone. It was being sent each month to medical companies to cover unpaid bills from my mother’s treatment.
It was at this time in my life that I first began to realize my family had major financial issues. My mom started having my siblings and I wash dishes at the school to cover the cost of our lunch, any activities we were a part of that required money came to a complete halt. It got so bad that my mom even changed the way she approached my dad’s paycheck. For years, my dad’s paycheck had come in the mail every two weeks, (I know, it is hard to believe but paychecks have not always been direct deposited) which prior to this time she would pick them up from the post office on a somewhat inconsistent basis. Now my mom was sending one of us kids to the post office every day starting about 3 days before my dad was supposed to get paid in hopes the check would come early, which it sometimes did, so she could cover the costs associated with daily living.
This paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle had a huge impact on me. I hated seeing my parents worry, stress themselves out, and sometimes even fight because of their lack of money. I hated seeing the sadness they experienced when they had to tell me I could not do what my friends were doing because we just could not afford it.
It was under these circumstances that I made a commitment to myself. I said, “Dave”, I couldn’t think of a better name to call myself, “when you get married you are not going to allow your family to live this way.” It was not long after this original commitment to myself that I made a second commitment, which was that I was going to go to college and become an accountant. I know, it does not sound very exciting, but I was good at math and as a poor small-town farm boy I believed it was the only thing I had I could turn into opportunity.
I became the first person in my family to ever graduate from college and I went on to become a successful CPA.
I wish I could tell you my parents financial stress ended when I left the house, but it did not. My parents both died having never experienced what it feels like to be financially secure. To my knowledge they never had more than $5,000 in their checking and savings accounts. They never had an IRA or 401k, the never had a pension, they never traveled, (which is something my mom would have loved to have done) they never bought a new car, if the house needed repairs, they got a loan and paid for the costs of the repair over time. But there is something they did have. They had a never-ending love and commitment to my siblings, and I that I will forever be grateful for, because it has helped me become a person who can use what they taught me to bless the lives of people, just like you.