Off-Topic Thursday: “Living Beyond Rich” Book Review & Interview

I just finished reading a great new book by Jen McDonough (who also guest posted on this blog a few months ago) called Living Beyond Rich.


To be honest, I was skeptical at first, concerned that this would be a positive-thinking, health-and-wealth book. I know Jen well enough to know it wouldn’t be a get-rich-quick scheme, but I was afraid it would be fixated on money and material prosperity to the exclusion of anything else.


I couldn’t have been more wrong. In Living Beyond Rich, Jen tells her family’s story of facing a massive financial crisis, along with several significant medical issues, and hoe they overcame them all. She doesn’t sugar-coat the challenges, and doesn’t offer easy answers. What she does offer is hope.


More times than I can count I’ve heard someone say, “If I can do __________, anyone can.” Usually that statement is patently absurd. I didn’t see anywhere in this book that she says that, but I think she’s one of the few people that legitimately could. I mean, if they can pay off $150,000 in debt in three years and cash-flow $30,000 in medical bills, all while having 3 kids (4 by the time they were done), a couple of surgeries, and more, the rest of us are pretty much without excuse.


But Jen doesn’t beat readers over the head with shoulds or give “wisdom from the mountaintop”. Instead, she simply tells their story, pulling out the lessons they learned along the way. The multiple “Jen’s Gemz”, “Jenspiration”, and “Questions to Ponder” are great for quick doses of inspiration or encouragement. (The fact that one of the Jen’s Gemz quotes is from Walt Disney didn’t hurt anything.)


Beyond finances, though, Jen’s story is about being content, being generous, having faith, and looking past your financial condition when it comes to being “rich”. These are far more important, and Jen communicates that clearly.


If you’re facing overwhelming financial circumstances, Living Beyond Rich can help you come to terms with it, make a game plan, and start moving from debt and hopelessness to living beyond rich. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.


{Note: This review is also posted on I received a copy of this book for review; all opinions expressed are solely my own}


A Virtual Interview with Jen McDonough

Along with reading her book, I also had the pleasure of conducting a “virtual interview” with Jen.


Tell us a little bit about yourself

My family and I live in Lindstrom, MN. We have four kids (Maggie – 13, Robbie – 11, Max – 9, and Remy – 2) and Bob and I have been married for 20 years.


I enjoy helping people to find ways to live extraordinary in my roles as a motivational storyteller, author, and coach. I blog several times a week at, host free monthly teleseminars, and am soon releasing a leadership podcast dedicated to help people gain passion, purpose, abundance and FUN in their lives.


I am the author of Living Beyond Awesome – my story of an ordinary mom going from a couch potato to a Ironman Triathlete. Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile run, 112 mile run, and then a 26.2 run within 17 hours. This was from someone who could not run 2 blocks just a few years before. Ironman would be the coolest athletic endeavor I would ever get to take part in. It would go on to teach me killer time management techniques, how to achieve success by making and using goals, and to understand that the IMPOSSIBLE CAN become possible when intentional action is taken. These skills would be applied to our next phase that would start just 2 months after Ironman had been completed.



What happened 2 months after Ironman was complete?

Just two months after Ironman was complete, our family would find ourselves hitting the darkest times in our life. We would find ourselves emotionally devastated when our 7 year old son Robbie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a autoimmune disease that affects 1 out of 300 people. For whatever reason, his body killed off is insulin producing pancreas cells so he requires insulin to be given externally. At the time, he was getting 5-7 shots a day and getting finger blood pokes 4-6 times each day. Making matters worse, our son had sensory issues so shots would turning into hours of screaming those first few weeks. Wanting desperately to find a cure for our son, we would turn to our faith and medical research. Within a month, I would obsessively pour through over 300+ medical research studies on my own, even though I wasn’t a medical expert. Within a month, we found the closest study he would qualify for and that was right outside of Denver Colorado at the Barbara Davis Medical Center. While Robbie’s medical treatment for the study was covered, we were responsible for all but $1,000 for our travel and lodging expenses.


We were shocked and stunned to see that after we had decided on trying to qualify for the study, we couldn’t even afford the first plane ticket. Not only could we not afford the plane ticket, but we found that after trying to pay our medical bills, we found our other bills starting to pile up. Bob and I had GREAT insurance, however, we were in NO way prepared for the almost $4,000 worth of medical expenses we would incur from his hospital stay. In addition, we had a $2,000 car repair during this same time.


It was as if we woke up one day to find ourselves standing in the grocery line praying that our nearly maxed out credit card would cover our grocery expenses. We were scared out of our minds, we were embarrassed/ashamed about our situation, as well as very, very sad.


Our situation seemed absolutely hopeless. We prayed for a “fix” to come our way in the form of a pot of gold, but nothing came our way. Suddenly, our ways of “finding” money completely dried up. We had a maxed out credit card, our mortgage was upside down, and we couldn’t find any banks to loan us anymore money.



You were scared, living in shame, and had no hope….what happened that turned the corner for your family?

While we were still reeling from the pain and shock of learning to manage Robbie’s life time medical condition as well as seek out a cure for him, we came across a financial class being offered through our church.


What did you do to pay off your debt?

We became incredibly intentional with our money. EACH and every dollar had a name and each dollar was tracked in our budget. We also became gazelle intense on getting rid of whatever things we could sell. In addition, we worked our butts off. In 2010 we had 10 w2 forms. I learned from Dan Miller from that we didn’t need to wait for someone to post a job…instead, we learned to become bold and courageous in seeking out jobs and offering our services to places. We took on jobs that paid $8-$10.


How could an $8-$10 an hour job pay off $100,000+ worth of debt?

Well, it taught us to view our purchases in hourly increments. For example, that $20 item at Wal-Mart was 2 1/2 hours of work. EVERY extra dollar we earned was tossed at our debt which made us incredibly laser focused on knocking out each debt.


Where did you find the time to work so many jobs?

On day one if you would have told me we would have been working so much to pay off debt, I would have said no thank you. In working with folks, we let them know that getting one’s finances in order is a process. Incremental steps are key to getting to the finish line so please know that you don’t have to take on a ton of jobs to get to where we are, you just need to be willing to take those intentional action steps to get there. It may take you longer, but the point is you will get there.


Getting back to how we found time to work so many jobs. well first, Bob and I committed to one of us staying with the kids while the other one worked our part time jobs. Instead of looking at our situation and saying we couldn’t do this, we instead looked at our situation and looked at what we COULD do. By doing this, we were able to list out our schedule and see areas where we could fit work in. From there, we sought out opportunities to find work to fit those spots. This also meant cutting out things that didn’t lead us to our goal such as watching TV. (Shockingly, the average person watches 153 hours of TV. Just imagine what our society could do if we used that time to earn money to pay off our debt – wow, what a thought!) We also cut things out that were difficult such as the kids’ hockey. By cutting out things out of our schedule, we were able to become incredibly laser focused for over a 2 year period and knock out a ton of debt.


How much debt did you pay off?

We have paid off over $150,000 worth of debt and paid cash for over $30,000 worth of medical in 3 years. In addition, we were able to take our son out to Denver for his medical research trips for the entire 2 year period – we spent ~48 days out there which meant most of it was unpaid time away from work, family and friends. In addition, we became intentional givers. We started off at 1% for our charity giving and hit 10% at our 2 year mark. It has been an incredible blessing to watch our kids learn right along with us. VERY COOL!


Also, I have to add that this was during a time Bob and I had a few surgeries, we had an unexpected addition to our family, and I lost my totally secure job of 14 years that I loved.



How is Robbie doing today?

Robbie is doing today. He continues to have type 1 diabetes, however, we are so proud of not only him, but our other three kids as well for being champions about it. I KNOW that he will have been a part of finding a cure some day.



What words of advice would you have for others?

I want others to hear our story and see that the impossible CAN be possible…that if we can do it, THEY can do it. I want them to know that there is HOPE even in hopeless situations. I want them to know that success comes from taking intentional action and that it is not weak or shameful to seek out help through mentors, councilors, coaches, etc.


I want to encourage people to take a few hours this month and then spend 5 minutes on their budget a day so they too can experience the incredible abundant, joyful and happy life our family experiences today.


I want them to know that the sacrifices are easier to make when we can see an end in sight and that living in fear, embarrassment and shame when it comes to finances is no way to live.


Lastly I want them to know they are NOT alone. MANY people have walked in their shoes before them and many will walk in them after them. There is a choice on how we choose to live and my wish for them is to live the incredible life they are capable of living by taking intentional action.



How can people connect with you?

I would love to connect with people through our blogs at, through our FREE monthly teleseminars, on my podcast which will be on Sticher and Itunes as well as through our blog, on Twitter (@TheIronJen), and Facebook at The Iron Jen. I would also be delighted to come give a workshop or speak to your corporation, organization, club, or church.


Randy CraneRandy Crane is passionate about helping Christians, especially those with a Disney affinity, to discover and connect to their GOD-GIVEN PURPOSE AND VALUE, to build their lives to achieve TRUE SUCCESS AND MEANING, and to POSITIVELY IMPACT their world. For more than two decades, Randy has been leading individuals and teams into a greater joy and child-like appreciation of the world around them, equipping them to reach beyond what they have previously experienced and build a God-given identity and purpose. Ready to experience that for yourself? Tell us where to send SIX free videos all created to help answer the 3 questions you need to experience PEACE, FREEDOM, and PURPOSE!

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  • Randy, THANK YOU so much for your encouragement and support! I am incredibly humbled by the outpouring of incredible kindness, especially with the launch of our book this week. My family and I are so excited to be able to give hope and inspiration to others that are struggling today. It is amazing what we ALL can accomplish through Intentional ACTION (faith being one of those actions).
    Thank you again my friend!
    Live Beyond Awesome.
    Twitter: @TheIronJen

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