Broke, Desperate, and Being an Idiot

In light of my interview with Jeff Rose who blogs at Good Financial Cents (you can check out the interview HERE), I wanted to relive the past a bit more and talk about how my ‘financial peace & debt free’ journey originally got started.

Learning the Hard Way

The majority of Americans have to learn the hard way in order for them to change.

We have to hit bottom, and for some of your friends and relatives, what you think is bottom isn’t really low enough for them.

Sure, there are a small percentage of people that have “common sense,” but the majority of us have to learn things on our own. It doesn’t matter how many people tell them what to do, it doesn’t matter how many stories they read, or how many people try to help them…they’re simply hell-bent of living life their own way.

The problem with this reality is that you hope they learn the lesson before they fall off the deep end. Some people never realize how to get out of their predicament, and they lose hope, thus never finding a way out…

…Others however finally get a light to click on and begin changing things.

It often surprises me that a lot of people expect change without actually changing anything.

The truth is that if you keep doing what you’re doing (regardless of what it is),
you’re going to keep getting the same results.

If you eat out on a consistent basis, you’re probably going to end up with high cholesterol and be over weight. Furthermore, you’ll probably develop type II diabetes and have some form of cancer later in your life.

If you spend money without regard to your income and don’t limit yourself to a budget, then you’re going to be broke.

If you smoke, I’ll go out on a limb and say you’re going to have some form of cancer and die from smoking. I know, ground breaking stuff here…the world can thank me later.

If you hate your job but never do anything to improve, educate, or better yourself, then guess what, you’re always going to work a job you hate and have limited options of what you can do.

It’s that whole reaping what you sow thing.

Broke, Desperate, and Stupid

In my interview with Jeff, he asked me what my ‘AHA!’ moment was. I’ve never really told anybody that story, other than my wife, but it was a tough question to answer and revealed a lot about my life at the time.

You see, I made really good money for a kid my age. But I lived a lifestyle that was destined for one thing: bankruptcy.

I ate out for nearly every meal; I took my friends out and had parties at my house (and I paid for it all) because I was the one “making the big bucks” and no longer in college; I went to every sporting event and sat front row (or in the first 10) at nearly 7 major concerts…all within about an 18-month period of time.

I did what I wanted without regard to how much I was making. I believed I was invincible. What 21-year old kid wouldn’t that was making $60,000/year? Well, those kids with “common sense” of course.

However, I lived a life on the outside that was all glitz-and-glamor when on the inside and underneath there was only chaos.

I had collectors calling me every day. It got so bad that I had to turn off my cell phone when I was at work because it wouldn’t stop ringing.

There was a time, about a year before my ‘aha!’ moment, that I had to call into work because I didn’t have money to fill up my car with gas!

There were days that I had to choose to eat or party and I chose to party. What an idiot.

I got to a point where I had to cash checks at Walmart because my bank account was so far in the red that the check wouldn’t even cover it, and there was a time where I leveraged some of my most precious personal items to get loans from pawn shops to cover gas and food money. Yes, I got all of the items back after paying 5%/month in interest.

Fear is a Funny Thing

I know looking back that I was EXTREMELY dumb, and some will wonder ‘how can a person making that kind of money have financial problems and be scared?’

Well, the truth is that financial behavior is a direct correlation of financial knowledge. If somebody doesn’t know how to manage money then it’s highly likely they don’t know how to turn things around. IF they did they would have just done it in the first place.

They only know the life they’re living and they don’t realize there’s another way.

When I was “broke” I started to become desperate. I looked for any means to keep my head above water. None of them were sensible because I didn’t have the common sense (the financial knowledge) to know what to do!

I had thoughts of running away to the military because I thought collectors couldn’t mess with me
then. LOL.

I thought about running away and hiding…maybe living in a tent and even considered moving out of the country.

I thought about filing for bankruptcy; that’s what people do that have a lot of debt, right? Little did I know that the majority of my debt wasn’t bankruptable as they were mostly student loans.

I got so scared from being sued and having all of my chaos being exposed that I even fell victim to a scam where I lost over $400. Yes, just another idiotic thing that broke, desperate, and stupid people do. I only had around $15,000 of debt that was past due, so I searched long and hard to get approved for a personal loan. Well, I got denied by everybody in the country (rightfully so) BUT! I did find a place that would give me a loan funded by private investors as long as I made the first payment up front. It seemed pretty legit…a well-designed website and a 1-800 number to what appeared to be a call center. They even returned all calls until I Western Unioned them the money.


Fear will make you do just about anything, regardless of how crazy and ridiculous it seems. For those people that are broke and desperate, I know you’re just looking for a way out. Any way out…any solution to the nightmare that never seems to go away.

Little do you know that the solution stares back at you in the mirror every morning.

We all have what it takes, it’s just whether or not you’ll willing to make the changes and the sacrifices that are necessary. It’s not easy…

If there is one thing I always forewarn my clients before they sign up for my coaching program is that getting out of debt and winning with money IS HARD! It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

After my ‘AHA!’ moment things changed forever. There was no partying, no eating out, no vacation or concerts. There wasn’t anything.

I ate Totino’s pizzas, Pasta Roni, and Ramen noodles for literally a year and a half. Even on Valentine’s day that year I made my wife (girlfriend at the time) eat Pasta Roni for the 3rd night in a row! She originally asked if we could go out to dinner and when she knew that wasn’t going to happen she asked if we could get a frozen pizza. Unfortunately for her the food budget for the month had been spent. (No, I’m not kidding)

I worked 5 days a week at my full-time job and I worked the weekends, every weekend for over a year, at a gas station.

As I changed what I was doing, things around me actually started to change! Who woulda thunk it!

You see, fear is a funny thing because at the end of the day it’s generally built up because of the unknown.

The lack of really knowing what happens if somebody sues you. Not really knowing how to handle creditors, how to get the mortgage payment caught up, or how to pay all of the bills each month. The fear of actually not knowing if there is a way out!

These fears are very real and can be crippling for some. Emotions are a very powerful part of our being: emotions in general can propel some people to amazing things, but they can push others to the depths of depression.

For those that still have hope of finding a way out, use your fear to help you make the changes that need to be made. Work like a man/woman possessed, be driven and be determined, don’t let anything stand in your way, and fight until you just don’t have anything left.

My fight still isn’t over…I still have some more arss to kick (in the form of debt).

If you’re facing a tough financial situation in your life, or if you’re broke, desperate, and stupid as I was, I’d encourage you to check out a few of these posts and start to get a little edumacated:

About the Author

By , on May 21, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of

How to Become Rich e-Course

Budgeting 101


  1. Justin @ The Family Finances says:

    Great story, and one that a lot of people can learn from. A lot of our financial decisions are made from habit rather than reason, and that gets people into a lot of trouble.

  2. Carrie Smith says:

    Wow Andy, that’s such an amazing and inspiring story. Many of the things you said really hit home. Especially about fear. Before I was able to get my financial act together, I was really afraid of the unknown. I was also too proud to admit that someone like me – who works as an accountant – was bad at handling my personal finances. It’s true we do desperate and stupid things when we’re broke and don’t realize there’s a way out.

  3. Cheeryshirley says:

    Hi Andy & Holly, I just came over from Married With Debt (which my husband and I really enjoy!) and liked what I’ve read so far! It seems really balanced and I especially like that you and your wife are on the same page and support each other! I look forward to checking out your archives! Thank you! Cheeryshirley

    P.S. I’m off to subscribe! 🙂

  4. Shilpan says:

    This article is interesting as today I was talking to a friend who suggested that we shouldn’t think to live small by cutting expenses. We should think of living large by increasing income. I don’t have problem with that. But, most people start living large in anticipation of increasing their income. That’s a sure way to get into a major problem.

  5. SB @ FPR says:

    wow what a story. I also liked our interview at GFC. All the best for the remaining debt pay off. You have years to catch up with retirement.

  6. Wow, thanks for sharing this! We have a lot in common in terms of our financial past. I was hesitant to share mine at first, but then I realized how liberating it is to share in an effort to help others avoid making the same mistakes. I hope you have found a realization that’s somewhat the same after posting this!

  7. eemusings says:

    “If somebody doesn’t know how to manage money then it’s highly likely they don’t know how to turn things around. IF they did they would have just done it in the first place.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I have huge admiration for people who grew up with poor role models who manage to break the cycle. It’s frustrating for me to see many of my fiance’s family and friends make poor financial choices – but I fully sympathise, because it takes knowledge and drive – and with nobody to show you otherwise, YOU need to educate yourself and motivate yourself to do things differently.

    • Andy says:

      You’re 100% correct. I get pretty frustrated when I hear people or other bloggers how it should just be common sense to save properly for retirement. Well, that isn’t reality. There are tons of people struggling out there and all they really need is proper knowledge of how to get things started in the right direction.

    • That quote reminds me how powerful information is. I know that having the right information itself doesn’t directly results in change, but it definitely empowers. Thanks for sharing your story

  8. I am always intrigued when you share your story. These feelings are all so real. My BF has almost $100k of student loan debt and I really feel for him. It’s hard to put myself in his shoes and understand what he was going through but this post pretty much sums it up. Now that I’ll be delving into having a ginormous amount of student loan debt myself, I know what this fear is. What differentiates me from being broke and desperate is I’m fully armed of knowledge that can help me pay off those loans. I’m determined and I want to be able to pay them back. Of course, I know that this may not be possible if I can’t find a job or if I get laid off, but I’m thinking positively.

    You’re right though, fear makes us do crazy things. I’m so glad you got out of your rut. Your wife is a wonderful woman for sticking it through with you! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Andy says:

      🙂 She is pretty nice sometimes.

      You’re right though, now that you have a better understanding of the situation, how to attack debt, and the lifestyle you need to live in order to do so, then you’re much further ahead of me at that age (and ahead of most people for that matter).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer and Stuff

The articles are written by personal finance enthusiasts (not certified professionals) based on their personal experience. What works for them may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, we disclose that we have a financial relationship with companies mentioned in this website. This may include receiving access to free products and services for product and service reviews and giveaways.

Any references to third party products, rates, or websites are subject to change without notice. We do our best to maintain current information, but due to the rapidly changing environment, some information may have changed since it was published. Please do the appropriate research before participating in any third party offers.

For additional information, please review our legal disclaimers and privacy policy.