I got my first credit card in college.
It was red.
It was shiny.
And it had a $1000 limit.
In the beginning it was exciting, but I didn’t actually use it much and I was good at paying it off when I did. Which is probably why I was offered a higher limit the next year. Up to $2000 – I was rich!
(Yeah, I was stupid back then)
In the next couple of years I got a few more credit increases: $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $25,000.
They kept giving me more and I didn’t know why, but I kept taking it and sometimes even fantasized about being some kind of rich young tycoon with a limitless ‘black card’ flashing it round to adoring groupies…
(Like I said… stupid)
But that’s the way it was.
A few years later I got upgraded to Platinum and then I applied for a couple more cards for good measure.
I had a MasterCard, two Visas and an AMEX and it didn’t look like the good times were ever going to end.
Total limits: $55,000. Age: 23. Priceless.
The thing is, I knew I really couldn’t use them much because I was still working on my career and I didn’t have much discretionary money to deal with the statements.
Then I got a great job and it wasn’t long before things started to change.
I thought, “Hey, I’m earning the big bucks now so why not spend it up?!”
I bought clothes, watches, fine food and top shelf booze…
I traveled. I went to clubs…
No worries. Put it on the card.
I was even paying more than my minimum repayments. And I could afford it. For a while.
Looking back now I can’t remember what it was that made me realize the extent of my spending, but it did happen. I remember looking at my monthly statements and thinking that the repayments had suddenly started to seem pretty steep and the interest was nasty.
I remember it started to shock me and I was trying to reel it in. And it was going great, too. But then the inevitable happened – work downsized and I was made redundant at the grand old age of 25.
I remember wondering how this could have happened to me. I remember thinking that it was unfair. I mean, I was on my way man! It never occurred to me that my past success was anything but a guarantee of more and more success in the future.
But life doesn’t work that way.
Without warning it had suddenly become impossible to meet my repayments and I had to beg my parents to pay the cards off for me. And luckily they were reasonable about it and gave me a loan.
But I was back to square one.
(Actually, I was worse off than square one now because I would still have to pay back the loan to my folks at some stage. Somehow.)
But the sun came out again and in less than a year I had another job and I was getting paid well again.
With $30,000 in debt hanging over my head I wanted to do something to get back in the black with my folks quickly.
So, I turned to Google to get some ideas and was bombarded with sales pages filled with testimonials of overnight get-rich-quick success stories. I mean, these ordinary people were making money hand over fist. And I was certain I could do anything they could do – and a whole lot more! So I figured it would be a cinch and jumped in without so much as a geronimo.
See I didn’t cancel those stupid credit cards when I paid them off, so I bought everything.
Man, I must have racked up some nice commissions for a few affiliates who’s lists I was on at the time.
The thing is, I even made a few bucks here and there from a couple of strategies and for a while I thought I’d found the pot of gold while I was promoting ‘questionably legal’ psychoactive drugs with Adwords. That is, until the affiliate program ripped me off and my Adwords account got suspended (permanently)!
I was a golden customer.
I subscribed to all the ‘gurus’…
I bought the Up-Sells, OTOs, Premium Memberships and Limited Time Master Resale Rights…
I believed the hype…
I was just waiting for the skies to open up and start raining down money on me.
But this wasn’t the only thing going on in my life. No sir. I was also busy getting married and trying to buy a house. So when the bank agreed to the mortgage I was ecstatic (and pretty shocked – though I guess my deposit was legit enough because I’d been busy saving on one hand while spending on credit on the other).
Even though I’d just blown $1000s on internet marketing courses that I’d promised to ‘take action’ on, I ended up forgetting about it all for the next 12 months or so.
I was earning the big bucks at work again and living the good life with a new missus, a new house and a whole new opportunity to live that life of success I was robbed of once. But this time things were going to turn out the way I expected – I just knew it!
So my wife and I bought clothes, watches, fine food and top shelf booze…
We traveled. We went to clubs…
No worries. Put it on the card.
(Insert facepalm emoji here)
And it only took 12 months to max out my cards.
Meanwhile, I still had about $10,000 left on the books with my parents. And a mortgage with the bank. Which is where I went for help this time to pay off the cards and I was redeemed again.
$10,000 still owed to the parents and $40,000 refinanced on the mortgage.
Not so priceless anymore.
And I was starting to get worried. I knew my spending habits were out of control but I just didn’t have any plans to curb them. So of course I went back to internet marketing chasing those guaranteed overnight success stories of ‘instant online paydays’!
When I remembered my dream of making it big online I dusted off all those courses, eBooks, software programs and memberships. I couldn’t get my AdWords account back, but there was always Bing and Facebook and PoF.
I mean, I now had a big credit limit available again!
The future was so bright…
But it turned out to be nothing but a mirage. Seriously. No matter what I tried I just couldn’t get any of the ‘guaranteed’ methods I’d bought in those courses to bring me any decent money.
I’d work on them furiously for a month or sometimes even two!
And I’d make next to nothing. Or total nada. In any case, it wasn’t even close to the consistent little trickle of money I’d made before.
I felt ripped off, scammed, used, tricked and manipulated.
And then I started noticing that lots of people were struggling to make money online. Things had changed and it just wasn’t easy any more (apparently).
Internet marketing was dead! At least that’s what the forums were saying adamantly. So I gave it away. Again.
But I didn’t give away my dream of instant riches.
Obviously internet marketing was a dead-end now, but the interwebs were full of other great advice about ‘foolproof’ ways to make money quickly…
So I tried my hand at blackjack.
With over $50,000 in unpaid debt hanging over my head I wanted to make that money back fast. And maybe it was ‘Rainman’ or some stupid movie that brainwashed me but I actually believed that the ‘guaranteed’ betting systems I found online would work.
Honestly. I kid you not. I really thought I could count cards and win. I mean, it just sounded so easy (and again – the testimonials!!!)
What’s more, my most recent adventure in internet marketing hadn’t eaten up all my credit so I used it to bankroll my new mission.
Seriously – I was completely, moronically, hopelessly, unrepentantly stupid and I ended up losing $50,000 in 90 days.
Miraculously my wife didn’t kick me out when I confessed to what I’d done, but she forced me to cut up my cards.
But I still had to sell our house to pay off my debts and we had to move in with my parents for a while. And now here I was – married with two kids living at home again – feeling like a total failure.
My wife was angry and miserable.
My marriage was on the rocks and looked pretty wrecked.
I think I was even truly sorry for what I’d done and honestly repentant, but…
The vision of success that had driven me to do so many stupid things still wasn’t extinguished.
It kept me up nights.
It haunted me during the day.
I had no house, no savings, no independence.
I had the dregs of any kind of self esteem.
But I still had an unrelenting dream.