This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Back on track: Life happened—and it didn’t fit the budget

From Mennonite Mutual Aid’s Everyday Stewardship magazine, summer 2008

Five years ago I wrote an article in Mennonite Mutual Aid’s magazine about our new experience with budgeting, and our hope to be on the debt-free road and looking toward a managed retirement. In that article, I talked about going through a faith-oriented money management class taught by MMA counselor Donovan Zimmerman at our church in Glendale, Ariz. Ron and I had been married 33 years before we really started talking, planning, and working together on our financial situation in that class using Good Sense Budgeting materials.

It changed our lives for the better. We had new tools for managing our money, using the envelope system of budgeting our money, allotting specific amounts in envelopes for each type of expense.

However, life’s ups and downs don’t always fit in an envelope—or make common sense! Our journey since has been through many mountaintop and valley experiences.

Financial changes are like any changes you make in your lifestyle—whether your diet, your devotions, or your exercise routine—you need to stay focused and keep your routine. When one thing falls from your normal cycle, then everything can fall apart.

Our one thing was Ron losing his job when he was our top breadwinner. This not only upset our lifestyle and routine but also stressed our relationship a great deal as we communicated about money.

We didn’t have that three-month cushion that the Good Sense class had encouraged, and even though Ron secured a job to hold us over right away, our income was greatly reduced and the company car was gone.

We were in a valley of life and experienced what a lot of people experience when losing a job. It isn’t just the security of income, but also losing something you have been trained for and love to do. So emotionally, grieving that loss compounded our stress. Then, within two months, he secured another job that was still less money but did provide us with a vehicle.

Before long, we could see that this new job, even though it was in turf management that he loves, didn’t financially provide what we needed. He began moonlighting to make ends meet —and just meet is what we were doing. All along, he was still watching and searching for something better.

After six months Ron was able to find work as a landscape maintenance supervisor for a development community where he oversees 45 parks and 35 acres of common area. This has been great for him—and for us emotionally and financially. However, after living through the 14 months since our money envelopes went by the wayside, we were again just surviving.
On top of the job issues, we still have school loans from sending our three children to college and schooling costs for Ron as he changed careers at the age of 40—before we even took the money management class.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about sending all four to college. The best thing we ever did was make college a priority for their lives. I couldn’t be more proud of our children— or of Ron for following his dream and being successful in his work. But the reality is we didn’t plan, and now we pay.

During our struggle these past few years, we did have mountaintop experiences. I was asked to serve as an adult worship leader for the 2007 Mennonite Church USA Assembly in San Jose, Calif. This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to expand and develop my gifts.

As members of Trinity Mennonite Church we’re involved in many activities, and Pastor Shane Hipps has given me many opportunities to use my gifts. While working for pay at a doctor’s office, I have been volunteering in care ministry at Trinity, which has included working with members through crisis times, joys in their lives, and facilitating healing services.

It’s through these encounters that God has opened a new path. This spring, I became a new member of Trinity’s paid staff as one-quarter time care minister and am looking forward to a commissioning service for this role. During these experiences, Ron and I feel truly on top.

We will soon be adding our fourth grandchild to the family. Being involved as much as we can in all of our children and grandchildren’s lives is very important to us. God has been providing opportunities for us to stay connected.

Ron and I have been through many experiences together. During the valleys, it’s easy to find fault and to blame, but we have stayed together and trusted God together to walk with us even when we felt God was silent.

I have been reading Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, a book by Richard J. Foster, in which he writes about God being quiet. Sometimes, we have a feeling God has forgotten us. Foster reminds us that at these times of quietness and of feeling abandoned, God is there, continually waiting on us.

I didn’t understand why God was quiet during Ron’s job loss and our financial difficulty. But I trusted, and at the appropriate time, God appeared. Faith is what sustains me through these times. I do believe we travel through the valleys of life to grow and relish mountaintop experiences.

Ron and I have become closer and more dependent on each other, but in the same breath have built self-confidence to be able to handle the many different situations of life. I feel these setbacks will only make my care ministry more effective as I walk and relate to people.

As Ron and I look ahead we see ourselves constantly working on reducing our debt and planning for the future. Ron’s job is providing for us better now than two years ago. I have taken on the position at Trinity that adds to our income and provides opportunities to use my gifts with the people I love.

We met with Donovan Zimmerman again last year about our financial affairs and are checking in with him every so often with questions and concerns. I feel good about investing what few dollars we have with MMA to save for our retirement.

At this point, I encourage others who may be working to reduce their debt—and planning for retirement at the same time—to stay focused and steady. Resources are available, such as MMA representatives who will help you find answers to questions you may have.

For us, there is no easy fast way to reduce the debt we’ve accumulated, but we’re committed to staying focused and are ready for what God has planned for our lives. It’s remembering to put God first in everything that keeps our routine together of making money, saving money, paying bills, and enjoying the life we have.

We are always open to God’s calling. We never know what God has planned for our work here on earth. We need to take risks, and always give God the praise, honor, and glory!

Maribeth Troyer lives with her husband Ron in Phoenix, Ariz. Look for her 2003 article in the MMA Community section at to learn about their earlier life journey.

Emergency funds—for wherever life takes you

Maribeth and Ron Troyer’s situation is hardly unique among baby boomers in their 50s. Their MMA Counselor Donovan Zimmerman finds many who have gone through ups and downs in life, and are dealing with basic debt and saving issues.

“Creating a budget or spending plan tells your money where to go, instead of your money disappearing all by itself,” Donovan says.

And, he also is a firm believer in creating an emergency fund.

“Without one, people often depend on credit cards or even start pulling money from their retirement accounts when they need extra cash—which can cost up to 40 percent in penalties and taxes,” he says.

If people are in serious debt, he recommends building a $1,000 emergency fund first by selling stuff, curtailing your lifestyle, or picking up a temporary part-time job, if necessary. The emergency fund can hold you over as you pay down debt until it is totally paid off. Then fully fund three to six months worth of expenses into the emergency fund. Finally save for your retirement and children’s college.

Specifically for baby boomers, MMA offers YourEnough to help you through decisions about financial planning—specifically as you head toward retirement or wherever else life is taking you. You can order a free Your enough planning guide at the Web site, from your MMA counselor, or by calling (800) 348-7468. See also the new Planning & Advice section of MMA Web site for services at your stage of life.

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