Building Financial Stability After Prison:
When I concluded my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons in August of 2013, I set new goals with Carole. We were 49 years old and making progress, but we would have to cover a lot of ground to prepare for a stable future. Although I felt passionately about working to improve outcomes of our nation’s prison system, I also had a responsibility of preparing for our family’s future. Carole had sacrificed a great deal to marry me while I still had 10 years remaining to serve in prison. I wanted to provide her with the comfort of knowing that we were stable. I promised to work toward a goal of providing stability for our family.
While Carole advanced toward her Master’s degree in nursing, I had to figure out a way to build my own career. With limited resources, it would seem that I would need to think creatively in order to generate more orders for the Straight-A Guide. I needed to build more credibility, showing that the program didn’t only lead to success through prison, but also success in society. If I could achieve “success” in society, I anticipated that administrators might be more willing to purchase our program, even before researchers validated its effectiveness.
One principal of the Straight-A Guide is that we never ask anyone to do or say anything that we’re not willing to do or say ourselves. Accordingly, I began asking a series of questions. What approach could I take to define success? That type of question led to other questions. My definition of success wouldn’t matter nearly as much as what my avatars would expect. I considered avatars as being all law-abiding, tax-paying Americans. How would they define success after prison? Better yet, how would they define success in society?
- In addition to those avatars, I also considered the people in prison that I aspired to teach.
- If I were asking for their time and attention, what would they expect of me?
- How could I earn their trust as being someone who could teach them?
Answering those questions led me to a conclusion. If I could build a financial statement showing a net worth of $1,000,000, others would deem me successful. I set a goal with Carole, claiming that I would work to build a $1,000,000 net worth within my first five years of liberty. To achieve that goal, I had until August of 2018. By succeeding, I would find it easier to inspire more people to see the value of The Straight-A Guide—with or without a validated research instrument.
When I set that goal with Carole, I still had a 0-0-0 credit score. Yet since I had completed my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons, rules no longer blocked me from applying for credit. I submitted an application for a credit card to Bank of America. The banker who had opened my account when I first transferred to the halfway house no longer worked there, so I was starting from ground zero. Soon after I submitted my application, I received a phone call from Bank of America.
The lady who spoke with me told me she was reviewing my application for credit and said that she had some questions. By living frugally, and saving resources that our work generated, the combined balances in our bank account exceeded $100,000. We didn’t waste money on alcohol or splurges after my release. Other than purchasing the Apple computers that I would need to launch my career, we didn’t buy much of anything. I purchased a used vehicle for $4,000 and we saved as much money as possible. The banker who assessed my application reviewed the assets I listed, but asked why her records showed that I didn’t exist in the credit system.
After I told her my story, she agreed to issue my first credit card. Once I received the credit card, I felt a bit more like a citizen. Soon my credit score rose to the high 600s. The next step would be for us to apply for permanent financing on the house we purchased.
I had promised Chris and Seth of ABS Development that I would pay off the balance that we owed on the property just as soon as I could qualify for a mortgage. We signed an agreement with them to purchase the property for $390,000 in the fall of 2012, while I was still in the halfway house. In an effort to help us get established, they accepted a down payment of $12,000 and agreed to accept interest-only payments on the outstanding balance until we could pay off the note. We were ready.