I found a recent interview with author Ben Sherwood to be so compelling that I couldn't wait to read his new book, The Survivors Club. This book reveals the hidden sides of surviving car accidents, violent crimes and serious illnesses, giving insight into why some people beat the odds while others don't and why some people bounce back and others give up. In the end, based on pretty amazing research, Sherwood reveals how anyone can become the kind of person who survives and thrives.

I couldn't help but mark certain passages as I flew through one chapter after another and found principles that relate perfectly to surviving financial challenges like unemployment, soaring interest rates, rising prices through inflation, the cost of college or any number of other financial challenges so many people face these days.

The First Rule: Everyone is a Survivor. "Survivors keep going," says Sherwood, "despite opposition and setbacks. They may want to quit, but they still persevere." Some financial survivors even manage to excel under the worst circumstances. They make the most of misfortune. This first rule brings to mind a reader who calls herself "Grits." Through a series of life challenges, she has found herself living on about $10,000 a year. You read that right. Still, she has managed to pull herself out of debt, lives below her means and is about as joyful and full of life as anyone I know. You can read her Turning Point story in the June 09 issue of the Debt-Proof Living newsletter.

The Second Rule: It's Not All Relative. When it comes to adversity, says Sherwood, we're all prone to making comparisons. Which is worse? Losing your home through foreclosure or filing for bankruptcy a second time? Losing out on a job because your credit score is so low or having your deadbeat nephew default on a car loan you cosigned? While some challenges appear to be worse than others are, when you're going through your own financial ordeal, it doesn't make any difference where it ranks on some expert's chart of financial crises. Whatever crisis you are facing right now is just as big a deal as anyone else's.

The Third Rule: You're Stronger Than You Know. I didn't have to read The Survivors Club to know that, when faced head-on with a life-changing financial crisis, ordinary people can do extraordinary things. My mailbox proves that on a daily basis. Choosing not to file for bankruptcy and figuring out how to pay that mountain of debt; cutting the food bill to $50 a week for a family of four when the household income was suddenly slashed by 70 percent; downsizing from a spacious home to a postage-stamp sized apartment and finding joy in the move. These are the kinds of stories I read every day. These are people who, when faced with a problem, discovered they are a lot stronger than they ever would have imagined.

I consider myself a financial survivor. I repaid more than $100,000 of stupid credit card and other unsecured debt. It wasn't that I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to be free of that debt. I had to face a major life crisis. I had to pull myself up out of a complete meltdown. But I did it. I paid it all back, every dime, including all the interest and all the penalties. I didn't ask for a single concession. I survived! And I continue to survive every day, one day at a time. You can too!

Care to share your stories of survival, past or present? Please share them at moneyrulesdebtstinks.com. Your courage will empower others. Together, we can survive anything!

Copyright © 2009 Mary Hunt. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint required.

Check out Mary's recently released revised and expanded edition of The Financially Confident Woman (DPL Press, 2008).

Debt-Proof Living was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt. What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt. Today, "Debt-Proof Living" is read by close to 100,000 cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe. Also, you can receive Mary's free daily e-mail "Everyday Cheapskate" by signing up at EverydayCheapskate.com