How I Turned My Financial Life Around in a Year

By Gerri Detweiler

NEW YORK (Credit.com) —When Linda Mannerberg attended the Women's Money Conference in Las Vegas Nevada in 2012, she was struggling with debt and a gambling addiction she hid from those closest to her. She attended the conference again this year in April 2013, but this time she was in a completely different place. She received a standing ovation for turning her financial life around in just a year.

Like many of the other women at the conference who applauded her success, I was deeply touched by Linda's story and asked her if I could share it with our readers. She agreed, but said she didn't think it was a big deal. I told her I disagreed. Here is her story:

When I came to the conference last year, I was in a lot of debt. I had credit card debt, a car loan and payday loans. I would get paid and pay the interest on the payday loans, but I wouldn't have enough to pay off the loans.

I also had a gambling addiction -- I would get up in the middle of the night to go gambling.

My boyfriend and I have lived in Las Vegas about nine years now. When we first moved here, a new casino held a slot tournament. It didn't cost anything to join, so a friend and I decided to go. I ended up in the finals and won $5,000. That's when my gambling problem started. I thought that if I won that, then I can win again.

Of course I never did.

In fact, this year when we went to the casinos to get our gambling loss statements, I was shocked. It showed that I lost $35,000 with all the casinos. I used to play penny slot machines so I kept thinking, "I am only playing 40 cents at a time." But it adds up.

Keeping Secrets

No one knew about my financial problems. I hid them from my parents and my boyfriend. We've been together 22 years, and he didn't have a clue. I kept everything to myself. We have our own checking and savings accounts, so he didn't know what was going on.

So I listened carefully at the conference, and took lots of notes. I knew I needed to change because if I didn't, it was going to get worse. I sat down with my boyfriend and told him everything. I thought for sure he would throw me out on the street, but he was really nice about it.

He said he would help me, but I needed to follow what he said. He took over my money. I cashed my check and gave it to him. He paid off the payday loans and took over my payments on the other loans and gave me just enough money to put gas in the car or whatever.

Finally, after six months we decided I could open a savings account -- but he told me he wanted to see how I could handle it. I think he was making me prove to myself that I could have that money there without spending it.

Getting Help

After the conference, I also talked to a friend at work about my problem. She told me I would be surprised at how many people are gamblers, and that I should talk with one of my co-workers who, I was surprised to learn, also had a gambling problem. She took me to Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

Now, I don't want to be in casinos anymore. If I get a gambling urge I call a friend, or I stay home and don't get dressed.

Last year when all this happened I owed about $12,000. Since then I have been able to pay my boyfriend back all that money he spent paying off my debts. I only have student loans and my car loan now.

After the first Women's Money Conference, I ordered my free Credit Report Card from Credit.com to see my credit score, and so did my boyfriend. Once a month we look at it to see if my credit scores are getting better.

Recently I needed a new car, so I applied online to see what I could get. When I learned I qualified for a car loan at 2.9%, I started crying. My last car loan had a 9% rate. We ended up buying my car from a dealer in Utah, 404 miles away, because it saved me $3,000. Now I research things carefully.

Recently, I opened my own checking account. My goals now are to double up on my payments on my student loans and car. My boyfriend is going to get ready to retire and I want to be able to retire, too. Being ready for retirement is my goal now.

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