What My Mom’s Suicide Taught Me about Money

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We all have those specific dates that we can never forget. These are the dates that mark a significant life change. For me, October 2, 2010 marked the day I became a wife. June 14, 2012 marked the day I became a mom. January 6, 2014 marked the day I lost the most.

On that day my mom drove off a cliff and fell 400 feet to her death. This was her fifth suicide attempt, and she was finally successful.

When a loved one commits suicide, we are left with more questions than answers. Many factors contributed to my mother’s 12-year battle with depression and suicidal ideations, but the most prevalent factor was money.

My mom wasn’t alone in her losing battle with financial struggles and depression. The British Journal of Psychiatry estimated there were over 10,000 “economic suicides” between 2008 and 2010, the peak of the recession. American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that financial issues caused a rise in suicide rates among 40- to 64-year-olds over the past 15 years.

The Emotional Cost of Bad Credit

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Bad credit scores and debt can leave you feeling stuck in life. My mom became trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and consistently ran up her credit cards, wrote bad checks, took out payday loans, and even pawned her wedding ring. She always had the mindset that this would be the last time, but she could never dig herself out of the hole.

Since her credit was poor, she could not own a home and had a high interest rate on her car loan. Since her cost of living was high, she was forced to work any job she could get (the janitor at a small, private school, for example).

Bad credit and poor choices with money prevented her from pursuing the life and job she really wanted. Her options were limited because she was a slave to her debt. She wanted to go back to school and become a grant writer, but she was never able to due to lack of funds.

The Importance of Financial Honesty in Marriage

Another area that fueled my mother’s depression was a broken marriage. My parents constantly fought about money. So my mom hid her purchases and credit cards from my father. When he found out, a whole new round of fighting began.

The money fights ruined their relationship, but divorce wasn’t an option. My mother didn’t believe in divorce, and even if she did, she couldn’t afford it.

What I Learned from My Mom’s Money Problems

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People talk about taking care of yourself through mental health and positive affirmations. While those concepts can be helpful, I think a lot of stress and worries can be avoided by taking care of your credit score and finances. A bad credit score can feel like a prison when you are trying to advance your life.

After I graduated from high school, I was determined to stay debt-free and not mess up my finances like my parents had.  I learned to take care of my credit score so that I can have better opportunities.

When I bought my first car in 2008, the dealership’s credit manager looked me in the eye and said, “Even if you have to eat Ramen for the month, don’t miss a payment and don’t ruin your credit.” I took that advice to heart, and lived on bare minimums to pay my car loan and state college tuition.

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While in college, I worked the 4 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. shift at Starbucks, using my free drink employee perk to make filling protein smoothies for breakfast and lunch. I would then drive an hour to school, park in the neighborhoods to avoid buying a parking pass, and walk a half a mile to my class. For dinner, I often completed receipt surveys to get $1 off my next meal. When I bought a BRC burrito at El Pollo Loco I stuffed it with as much free salsa as I could. I repeated the same process most days. I had no debt and was a lot thinner.

I knew that a poor money habits meant that my mom had to make sacrifices she didn’t want to make. She had to live paycheck to paycheck because she had no other choice. I wanted to choose my sacrifices, knowing that they would lead to a better life.

My efforts paid off. I graduated debt-free and got married the same year debt-free. My husband and I were able to save p and buy our first home two years into our marriage. When we found out we were expecting, I was able to stay home with my daughter because I wanted to. I wasn’t forced into hard choices because of my credit score or because I was desperate for money.

Your Money Choices are THAT Important

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While I don’t believe that an excellent credit score or good money habits are magic potions that make your life perfect, I do believe both play a very important role in life. We only get one life to live, so don’t spend your years chained to debt or stuck in negative financial cycles.

There are so many free resources online, especially on Credit Sesame’s blog, to show you how to transform your credit score and debt situation.

Suicide is Never the Answer

No matter how bad your financial situation or credit score is, suicide is never the answer. Your life is valuable. Please seek out financial help. If you can’t do it on your own, free and low cost debt and credit counselors are available through NFCC.org. If you feel trapped and are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.Suicide.org.

If you know someone who is struggling with heavy financial burdens and has mentioned suicide as a solution, even if they did not seem sincere in what they said, please point them to these resources for help.

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Published April 19, 2017 Updated: April 18, 2017
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