7 Kids – No Debt?

The Gee Family: 7 kids, 7 missions, 7 college graduates and no debt! How did they do it?

When each child was born they received a bank account. They alone were expected to fill it, and they did, from the time they were very young. They did enormous paper routes. The older kids delivered the Salt Lake Tribune in the morning, while the younger kids delivered the afternoon Deseret News. They picked up odd jobs from neighbors and worked concessions at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City, Utah. One collected and saved his coins like they were gold doubloons.Watching their accounts grow became somewhat of a family game. When the monthly statement arrived in the mail, the siblings would have a competition. They never revealed how much they had saved, but they loved to compare the interest on their savings.

Coupled with a sense of hard work, the Gee children were taught to serve. They had several elderly neighbors and their mom constantly made them aware of people in need.

“We shoveled driveways. We cleaned out the cabinets of older neighbors who couldn’t bend over easily,” Natasha said. “Mom was always pushing us out the door to serve. I don’t think I would have been aware of that on my own.”

They didn’t always go willingly. Andrew said he remembers a specific time when his mom was having him help a homeless man at an apartment complex in their neighborhood. He didn’t want to do it. In fact, he was really upset he had to help.

“But that memory stuck with me,” he said. “In fact, that apartment complex is now one of my favorite places.”

It was that service piece that eventually led all seven kids to serve full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to Italy, Germany, Uruguay, Peru, Washington state, Wisconsin and Kirtland, Ohio.

Though both of her parents served missions, Natasha said a mission was never on her radar. Her parents certainly never pressured her in that direction. But when the time came, she felt like she had been too blessed in her own life not to give back to the Lord.

Because of its low tuition, BYU was an obvious choice for most of the Gee kids. Plus, there was an ingrained love for their parents’ alma mater. Many of the family vacations as children involved driving from Salt Lake to the BYU campus for a day to explore the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum and the Cougareat.

Even so, as BYU became more competitive, it wasn’t easy for all the kids to get accepted. Andrew was rejected on his first application, but his mom encouraged him to apply again. And again.

On his third try, he got in.

In an era of youth-entitlement and self-centered living, this family stands out. They are a reminder to me of the influence that parents can have to teach hard work and service.

They also remind me that happiness almost never comes from the acquisition of material goods, but in looking outward. That is the best kind of debt-free living.

Tiffany Gee Lewis
Deseret News