A Lehigh Acres woman, a native of Jamaica and a resident here after spending time in Brooklyn and North Port, has written a practical and informational book on the art of personal financing.
Tanya Cattouse left school in Jamaica when she was 14 to help to take care of family members. But since then and upon her arrival in the U.S., Cattouse has become a self-educated young woman whose "Rules of the Rich Rules to Start on the Road to Becoming Wealthy" may be one of the best understood books on the market about how to handle your personal finances with a lot of advice and tips on other subjects scattered throughout the 300 page book.
Cattouse believes she knows what she is talking about since she and her husband filed bankruptcy in 2008 after having bills close to $400,000, including houses, lands and a huge credit card debt.
"I decided the stress wasn't worth it. I wanted to learn how to budget so I could become debt-free and that became my goal in life," Cattouse said.
So she began reading every book she could find about finances, surfed the Internet for sites by experts on financial matters and decided she and her husband couldn't continue the way they were going because they were facing financial disaster.
She and her husband, much older than she, she says, and their two sons, ended up in Lehigh because of TV advertising they had seen while living Brooklyn.
The book is an easy read because she has written brilliantly in everyday language about how you can put your financial house in order, but to do so, you have to follow a list of rules and pledge yourself to do them or it won't work. You pledge by signing a page in the book.
"It has worked for us and I highly recommend it to anyone who is facing a lot of debt and doesn't know how they'll ever pay off their bills.
For us it was filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy which kept the creditors away. Filing in such a matter sets up a course for those who file to repay their debts and that is what Cattouse and her husband were able to do.
"When we first married, he was taking care of the bills. Then one day, he asked me to take over. I didn't know where to start," she recalled.
But start she did and today, Cattouse says the stress is gone and she and her husband are nearly debt-free. The only thing left to pay off is their home and that is getting close.
Cattouse calls herself a spiritual person and it is so noted throughout the book when she cites biblical verses about monetary matters. Among those biblical notes are also verses to help people become more confident in themselves and to realize that God wants everyone to be prosperous and free from debt.
She held a Meet and Greet gathering with a book signing in Lehigh earlier in April. The next book signing will be on May 1 at the Rush Coffee & Tea Shop at 10035 Gulf Center Drive in Fort Myers, but not far from Lehigh Acres if one travels Daniels Parkway and turns left on Treeline Blvd. to the large shopping center.
"The first two who attend, I will give away the books and I will sign them," she said.
The price of the book, published by Tate Publishing in Oklahoma, is listed at $16.99, but she is offering a special price offer, she says for the book at $10.
The book can also be purchased on the Internet at Amazon.com and at Barns and Noble. You can also order a book at: www.tatepublishing.com.
There is much advice in the book, much of it common sense, but according to Cattouse, many people are wasteful with their money and buy things they don't need and charge way to much money for luxurious items and become "financial slaves" to the credit card companies.
She urges readers not to use credit cards, no matter the attraction such as the promotions to return points to you in cash every time you use your card. She doesn't consider that a big deal, but more of a "come-on" to get you to use a credit card which she says most people don't know how to handle.
Credit card debt can easily destroy your life if you don't take control now, she said for those people who have high credit card bills and can't seem to pay them off.
She offers dozens of smart rules for finances that make good sense, such as never borrow money to pay for groceries, don't buy the most expensive electronic gear and don't buy anything you see on TV.
She offers ways to budget money in a fairly sensible plan.
In her situation, she and her husband prepare a budget each month. While she is the person who makes sure the budget works, she and her husband sign an agreement after they have established a budget and each promises to stick to it, no matter what.
She urges everyone to save money and offers proven ways it can be done and she insists that there always be an "emergency account" for that unexpected expense, maybe like needing a new refrigerator. But she cautions that the emergency fund be budgeted in the next month in small increments to replace the full emergency funds in the bank.
She writes about buying a home or renting a home and which may be the best in this stage of your life.
Because of what she has learned from the experts, she says, she and her family are on the road to financial freedom and that includes beginning college plans for their two children and other needs in the future including insurance plans. She even explains the pros and cons of different types of insurance plans for her readers. She advises that everyone have a health insurance plan.
"If you don't have one now, get one as quickly as possible," she said.
"When we couldn't pay our bills and we ended up with overdrafts from checks, I knew it was time to get smart and do something and that was my goal to accomplish. I want to help others accomplish that same goal in their lives.
"Being debt-free is a wonderful feeling. The financial stress is gone and your life becomes much more enjoyable.
"That doesn't mean you have to give up going out to eat at your favorite restaurants each month, but it means you must budget that into your plan. Part of that budget means saving a certain amount each months, too, and that is something you don't forget," she said.
"I know what it was like. We were paying on two homes, a car, and an empty lot in North Port and huge medical bills that had mounted including high hospital bills. The creditors were calling and wanting their money and that can stress anyone out," she said.
"But never borrow money using your credit cards," she said again." Most people can't pay off each month what they owe and what happens is the huge interest payments mount up and up and after a while the credit card debt appears insurmountable."
But if you read Cattouse's book, and follow its rules and sign its pledges as you read, you could one day become wealthy.
And that is a promise, if you do it right," Cattouse says.