“It was a huge blow to my ego,” John says, “that something you’ve built is completely falling apart.”
John had to declare bankruptcy. John’s wife, Liz, was pregnant with twins at the time, and the family had to rely on loans to make ends meet. “We actually took out a loan that would never end,” says John.
“It was a horrible financial decision for us,” says Liz.
The Kunziers began, slowly but surely, to pick up the pieces of their financial life, but then the Great Recession of 2008 hit. “It was literally like someone ripped the rug out of us,” John says.
Liz kept a “money tree” – a lucky tree that people sometimes keep in their homes. The tree was not in very good condition, but it was limping, then one day one of the twins cut it down. It was the perfect metaphor for the family’s financial situation.
As a result, the family never took vacations, ate out, or bought new toys. Despite this, they were not unhappy.
The Kunziers are a big family. John and Liz have seven children including twins and two grandchildren. So when they ran into financial difficulties, they had to cut everything but the essentials. The couple didn’t even give each other birthday or Christmas presents.
They have been candid with their children about their situation, especially as they have grown up. The family lives in a very wealthy neighborhood and the children are used to seeing people with a lot of material possessions. But John and Liz maintained the philosophy that “things don’t make you happy”.
The Kunziers. Photo via the Kunziers.
“I understood that we were a different type of rich person”, explains Claire, the Kunziers’ daughter. “We being rich in family.”
Not wanting their children to feel a sense of deprivation, Liz says, “We didn’t say, ‘Oh, we can’t do this because we can’t afford it’, we just said, ‘No, we’re not that’s not something we’re going to do.'”
“We wanted to make sure your upbringing was good, memorable and fun, and that you didn’t experience anything different,” John told his children.
Additionally, the Kunzier children learned valuable lessons from their parents’ financial experiences.
When the market recovered, the Kunziers were able to refinance their home, which helped them out of their financial hole. “All of a sudden things got better, better and better,” says John. “It’s a snowball effect, anyway.”
Because Kunziers are open with their children about their financial journey, their children will have a better idea of how to plan financially and make wise money decisions.
“I think it’s really important for me to hear that,” Claire says. “Because I’m a freshman in college and I’m starting to make these financial decisions on my own, especially with loans.” Claire says she won’t be living on campus next year, so she won’t have to take out a loan to pay for room and board.
Claire with her sister and mother. Photo via Upworthy.
“For me,” she says, “deciding what’s important to do is being shaped by what you’ve done.”
The Kunziers now have a lot of financial wisdom, tips and proven advice to pass on to their children and grandchildren. But perhaps the most crucial lesson is the one they’ve already taught – how to maintain a resilient mind and focus on what’s most important when times are tough.
“We didn’t have all the money in the world, but we were each other,” says Jack, the Kunziers’ son.
“Not having a lot of money isn’t the worst thing in the world,” Liz says, “because if you have your family with you and you love each other, it doesn’t sting so badly.”
Learn more about the Kunziers in the video below: