Out of Slavery: Life After Debt

Out of Slavery - Life After DebtThe other night I was flipping through channels on TV (you know, 300 channels nothing good to watch) and I landed on the SyFy Channel and an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

It was one of my favorites (“Redemption“) so I decided to go ahead and finish it.

Of course, since I was watching live TV, I had to endure the commercials.

Interestingly enough, several of the commercials were devoted to companies offering debt consolidation, credit counseling, and mortgage assistance services.

The promises by each of these companies were pretty enticing. Some of it went along the lines of: “Payoff all your debt quickly and easily!“, or “You have the right not to pay what you owe!“, or “We can save you thousands of dollars on interest!“, “It’s free!“.

It sounded too good to be true, and given we were watching the SyFy Channel, it made me think that these companies knew the audience would be willing to believe in claims that have very little to do with reality.

When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The reality is that there are still some lingering effects from the Great Recession of 2008.

Banks and lending companies are enforcing tight standards for granting credit. Even the government has tried to help by putting more controls around consumer credit card companies.

And certainly everyone had to stop and take a moment to evaluate how we handle money in view of potential down cycles of our economy.

But as you think about your particular situation, let me challenge you to consider some basic principles around debt and how to overcome it.

Regardless of where you are today: lots of debt, little debt, or no debt, these principles are true and when they are applied they will cause you to win with money.

There is life after debt.

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First, what’s God’s view on debt?

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”
Proverbs 22:7 (ESV)

Think about that statement for a moment. In essence it says that when you owe money to another person or entity, you are a slave to that person.

Think about what you owe. That person or entity chooses what interest rate you pay, when you pay, and what the minimum is. They control that portion of your income.

If you fail to pay for any reason they can take the asset or garnish wages after securing a judgment against you. They are in total control.

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Second, why do we use debt?

  • We don’t plan for expenses. When we don’t have control of our money through a budget it never seems we have enough to cover all expenses.
  • Lack of discipline for saving money leaves us relying on debt to cover emergencies.
  • We seek to take advantage of “deals” such as airline miles, hotel points, cash back, etc. We typically spend more when we use plastic. So we tend to spend more by chasing the magical free air fare or hotel stay.
  • We are influenced by the culture. We accept that paying interest is a way of life and that is the only way to get what we think we need.

There is no easy fix for getting out of debt.  There is no magical pill or perfect government program to get you out of debt.

You have to do it, you have to take control. You will get out of debt only when:

  1. You admit that using debt/credit will not bring you prosperity.
  2. You get sick to your stomach when you realize how much money you are paying in interest.
  3. You get tired of carrying the debt burden.

I know it can be stressful to carry the debt load because I have been there. I know it might seem impossible to pay it off but you can do it.

Let me tell you that I know it is possible to be debt free because my wife and I have done it. We paid off almost $50K in unsecured debt in 29 months.

We did it with God’s provision and by applying His principles. It was not easy but it was totally worth it.

Today, we are no longer slaves to debt. We are free of debt and we are walking with hope and in control of our finances.

How would life look to you if you were debt free? What could you do?

Contact me and let me show you how you can have life after debt.

It can happen!

“Debt is dumb. Most normal people are just plain broke because they are in debt up to their eyeballs with no hope of help. If you’re in debt, then you’re a slave because you do not have the freedom to use your money to help change your family tree.”
Dave Ramsey, Author and Personal Finance Expert

What Happens After you Get out of Debt?

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What happens after you get out of debt? You might be thinking that you can’t even begin to think about that right now. You are doing just well enough to work your budget every month, pay the bills on time, and apply any and all extra money to that debt snowball.

Or perhaps that’s exactly where you are. You have sacrificed and paid the price, you have budgeted each month, you built that initial emergency fund, you cut back on expenses, and you worked extra hours.

And now, that last debt on your list is finally gone. So this coming month will be the first time that your “debt” line item in the budget will have a $0 associated with it.

Congratulations!!! So what happens now? Where do you apply all that energy and focused intensity you used to get out of debt?

Well now you can relax a little but without losing your purpose. There is more work to be done :-).

I like to think about financial wellness, as a journey in three stages that are analogous to the building of a home: laying down a firm foundation, building up your financial household, and letting the trees grow.

Let’s talk about each phase.

1. Laying down a Firm Foundation

Every home needs a great foundation. In terms of our finances, this is the stage where we move from standing in quick sand to higher, firmer ground. This where we get on a budget so we can gain control of our money and where we eliminate our consumer debt.

When this stage is completed, you know where your money is going and you have some savings for emergencies. Peace of mind with your money is now part of your life. You know what else comes with debt freedom? Options! You are in control and you get to decide what happens next, not the creditors.

2. Building up your Financial Household

After the foundation is laid, the frame of the house is added and the different rooms are laid out.

In this stage of your financial wellness journey, you now can focus on adding to the firm foundation, by directing your attention to other elements of the plan. Here the focus is on strengthening your financial position and minimizing risk.

3. Letting the Trees Grow

When a new home is constructed, usually the builder plants a couple of trees in the front yard. Initially they are of course small and fragile, but with time and proper care, the roots grow deep and wide and the trees flourish.

In older neighborhoods you can see strong, tall trees that provide beauty, shade, and a place for kids to climb or for friends to gather.

In terms of your money, you want to go beyond the initial foundation that benefits you and your family today. You want to share the blessings with others around you and with future generations. You want to give extravagantly and you start thinking in terms of the legacy you will leave behind.

Before we go any further, I want to emphasize a point about giving. Even though I see stage 3 as the place where you can give extravagantly, I don’t want you to think that giving should be ignored in the first two stages.

Generosity does not have to be limited by the size of our bank accounts. You can be generous with your time, talents, and your treasure at every point in your journey. The more generous you are, the more blessed you will be. In the words of Anne Frank: “No one has ever become poor by giving”.

Over the next two weeks I will have a mini-blog series, focusing on stages 2 and 3 of our journey towards financial wellness.

Next week, we will focus on stage 2:  building up of your financial household. The following week we will shift our attention to stage 3: letting the trees grow.

Hope you will come back next week!

What do you think of the three stages of financial wellness? What stage are you in right now?

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