I quickly needed a larger space to run my business, so I took $10,000 from an art sale and borrowed another $10,000 from my parents. I knew nothing about managing a business, so I brought in a partner to handle the finances—at least that’s what I thought she’d do. It had only taken me three months to get angel investor funding—and within 12, the money was gone. I was so busy with my creative role, on top of being a single mom, that I didn’t pay close enough attention to what my partner was doing. It was clearly my mistake.
If I had to pick a low point, this was it. My marriage was over, my business had failed and I was completely broke. There were weeks when I was so paralyzed with fear that I couldn’t get out of bed—I couldn’t figure out how I’d messed up my life so badly.
Looking back, I know exactly how it happened: My parents never taught me about money, and while I had graduated college, I hadn’t been required to take business classes. But hitting bottom was actually a huge blessing because it made me realize something: With my life stripped down to nothing, I really had everything—my sons, my health and myself. Eventually, with emotional support from my parents and friends, I began to forgive myself.
How I Finally Turned My Life Around
I had finally wised up—I was on a mission for financial stability. I got a job in marketing—and got serious about budgeting.
My approach to money today is on steroids—I love knowing where every cent is.
I worked with an attorney to finally get my business accounts in order—everything from contracts to trademarks and licensing deals. More importantly, he pushed me into taking a lot of it on myself, so that I could pursue projects as a fully engaged, responsible grown-up.
I also discovered the Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE). My CPA had recommended checking them out, and when I saw their slogan—”A Man Is Not a Financial Plan”—I had to know them.
Besides basics like budgeting, WIFE has taught me to plan for the future and depend on myself. I learned the hard way that you need to save, plan ahead and create a stable foundation in order to have the freedom to be entrepreneurial—and successful.
Today, my approach to money today is on steroids—I love knowing where every cent is, and I’m proud of the way I educate my kids to be financially savvy. I now have emergency funds, insurance for the future and retirement accounts. Now, instead of avoiding bills, I actually get excited when my bank statements hit my inbox.
It’s a long way from being $4 million in debt.
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Elizabeth Bryan is the co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings” and the upcoming “Soul Models: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Compassion.“