Financial Solutions Spotlight: Sally Dahlquist

Financial Solutions Spotlight: Sally Dahlquist

Apr 16, 2024

In 2023, FamilyMeans Financial Solutions helped over 1,400 individuals pay back nearly $4 million dollars of debt. Through budget and debt counseling, our debt management program, our newly added rental and housing counseling, and education, Financial Solutions is able to provide hope, healing, and relief to those coming to us for support. Each situation is different, and our team of Certified Credit Counselors are here to provide a light at the end of a dark tunnel.

At our 2024 Better is Possible fundraiser, we were able to hear a Debt Management Program success story. Sally Dahlquist, a local to Stillwater, shared her story of being in crippling debt, renting a room in a friend's house, to gaining control of her finances and being able to purchase her own home! Sally is just one of thousands of local individuals that have "graduated" our Debt Management Program, and we are grateful to share her story: 

I’m Sally Dahlquist and I successfully graduated from the Debt Management Program!  

It still feels unreal, like a miracle that I did it - all thanks to your support of FamilyMeans! I hope by sharing my story, someone else may hear and solve their problem too. 

People who use this program ARE just like you. They’re people like me. 

No one ACCIDENTALLY gets into debt. It actually usually happens slowly over time, or maybe you lose your job, get a divorce, get sick, and a year later you find yourself behind on the mortgage.  

You think it would never happen to you, but finding yourself in unbearable financial debt happens to average, middle-class Americans all the time. The average FamilyMeans client owes about $20,000 in credit card debt.  A person in bankruptcy often owes 1 year’s worth of salary. 

I got myself into serious debt over the course of NINE years while trying to get my business off the ground, and with the help of FamilyMeans, I got myself out of it.

Let me take you back to 2005. Life was pretty good for me back then, I was in my 30s, and living the dream. I had this fun boyfriend who liked to go out. I had my own apartment in uptown, in an old house like Mary Tyler Moore. I would go running by the lakes and even ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2014. I had a sporty little Saab convertible. I worked as a biochemist and part-owner of a small biotech company that develops important testing for things like AIDS, COVID and cancer screening 

Life was good! Except when I looked at my finances. I was living a lie on debt and had reached my breaking point in the summer of 2005 when my life literally went to hell.

On July 16, it was a beautiful evening, my boyfriend and I got dressed up and went downtown Minneapolis for a night at Rossi’s jazz club, which is now Hell’s Kitchen. I offered to treat so at the end of the night, I gave my credit card to the waitress, and felt sick inside as I dug my hole of debt just a little bit deeper, but smiled and signed the bill anyway.

I owed in total about $140,000 for credit cards, student loans, and taxes.  I had no savings, and an impossible amount of debt, high interest loans and even 20% of my company’s debt!  Eventually, I couldn’t pay my rent and lost my snazzy apartment, my boyfriend left me, and I felt hopeless. 

I was “maxed out” financially and emotionally. I felt trapped.

That night at Rossi’s was the last time I charged something on my credit card that I didn’t know when or how or if I would ever be able to pay for it.  

I took a hard look at my finances and over the next year, I started to make some changes.  I lived within my means.  I cut my expenses.  I bought an old Honda. I took odd jobs to make extra money. But it didn’t seem to make a dent in my debt.  At this rate, it would take me 29 years to pay it off.  It felt pointless and I felt hopeless.

A year later, I was still hiding my debt, and worried all the time. I was awake at night, and falling asleep during the day. I feel asleep at work GIVING a job interview. I got kicked out of First Avenue for falling asleep in front of the speaker. I couldn’t keep pretending that things were OK. I was born into a financially stable home, I have an MBA… I was born in EDINA - this shouldn’t be happening to someone like me! 

At work, we were on to something big, on the verge of major breakthroughs that would really help people, doctors, and researchers. This is what kept me going. Every time I wanted to quit, I would look at our business, the work we were doing was just too important!

My business partners took out second mortgages, and even spent an inheritance, which was the breaking point for them.  We all owed taxes. My colleagues were on the verge of bankruptcy and fighting constantly. We got into a shouting match at lunch in public. I’m surprised my partners didn’t punch each other out! But I had this inner belief that we were going to make it. I told them that I was going to make this company profitable if I had to drag both of them kicking and screaming to do it.

That’s when I reached out to FamilyMeans.

Starting the Debt Management Program, my counselor worked with my creditors to drop my interest rates.  They were there to help analyze bills with a fresh perspective, with suggestions that I hadn’t considered. I was paying LESS each month, but making twice the progress. They gave me the power, control, discipline, confidence and tools to tackle my debt.  

Finally there was hope!

Let me be clear: FamilyMeans does NOT pay-off debt for you, nor loan more money, nor refinance debt.  All the debt stays in your name. FamilyMeans acts as a mediator between you and creditors. And the DMP was easy.  It was all about working SMARTER, not harder!

My credit cards would be paid off within 5 years, then I could pay more on my student loans and be out of ALL my debt even sooner. It felt like forever, but at least now there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

After so many years of feeling hopeless, I finally felt I in control and that I could conquer this debt.

I was optimistic and motivated!  I sold all my stuff, moved out of my apartment, rented a bedroom with my friends to cut expenses even more.  I drove that old Honda.  I started volunteering with clubs to get free activities, like skiing, and tennis. I put every extra dollar towards my debt.I had owned up to my past and stopped hiding my financial failure.

This process changed my way of thinking - I chose to focus on fun! I chose not to hole up and be depressed about the situation.  It’s hard to cry while riding a bike! Instead of feeling powerless, thanks to FamilyMeans I had a plan and didn’t have to worry anymore.  I could focus on good things in my life.  I now had an attitude of gratitude.  Changing my mindset to be thankful for the smallest of things. The bedspread my grandma made me, the friends I lived with, a running car, even though it leaked oil, didn’t lock, and the radio got stolen...

Remember that jazzy night out in downtown Minneapolis?  Well, it took me 2.5  years to pay for it, and by 2011,  I had paid off ALL my debt early, and was current with my taxes. I even started saving, and in 2012, I bought my own house.  In 2016 when my business partner retired, I was able to take out an SBA loan to buy him out.  In 2020, I sold the company and RETIRED EARLY.

It’s only taken me 24 years to become an overnight success.  I’m grateful to FamilyMeans for giving me a solution.  Without the debt management program, I couldn’t have done it.  When I needed help, they were there.  My story, as a single girl supporting a biotech business, is just one of many reasons how people get into debt.  Who knew that giving me a helping hand, you were indirectly supporting scientific break-throughs?

Debt can happen to anyone. You might think of debtors must be stupid, or gluttonous over-spenders incapable of managing their money, or corrupt.  But that only accounts for about 8% of people in bankruptcy.  And it doesn’t just happen to low-income people, but people of all incomes.  The people who use this program ARE just like you.  Just like me. 

Today, there are many others who need the same help as I did.  Your donations can make that happen.  Our contributions TONIGHT are an investment in this community.  We’re investing in our neighbors who need a boost and our support has a ripple effect.  Today I stand here, having overcome my debt and ready to pay it forward.   Join me in helping more individuals and families access the DMP. Click here to make a secure online donation. 

You have an even greater impact than you realize.  Who knows what will be achieved by the next person we help?

Everyone in this room can be proud that they are helping the greater community, starting with one person like me.  Thank you for your contributions to FamilyMeans.

Sally DahlquistSally D FamilySally Running