Proverbs 22:7

Monday night, I got real mad. Cody and I have been attending Financial Peace University at Mountain Valley Church and man, did I get pissed off. I was already mad to begin with because the wonderful paralegal department at Phoenix College wouldn't lift a finger to help me get into the classes I need this summer so I can graduate in the fall instead of next spring, but I digress. This particular session was called Dumping Debt, and it was simply infuriating. And all you have to really do to get pissed off about having debt is to read Proverbs 22:7:

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Let the truth of that one smack some sense into your silly little head for a second. This version is the NIV. It reads pretty much exactly the same in every other translation. I guess there's not much left to the imagination in a statement as plain as that. The only major difference I found is that some translations replace servant with slave.


Leave it to God to be that profound and blunt.

Cody and I are slaves. We are tied down completely by our debt. Don't get me wrong- we are able to pay our bills, and we are by no means in dire straits. It's just that our money comes in, and it doesn't have our names on it. It has other people's names on it- FIA Card Services. TruWest. Desert Schools. Honda Finance Corporation. Nordstrom. Direct Loans Student Services. We work hard 40 hours a week to give these people our hard-earned money, with interest. And for what?!!! A new car? A new dress? The latest craze? Fancy gifts for other people? A bunch of crap we don't need, that we probably don't have anymore, but that we have the potential to be paying off for decades to come?

Hmmm. Seems our judgment was lacking a bit.

With the arrival of my first credit card offer from Discover at the ripe old age of 20, the words "buy now, pay later" rang in my head like a schizophrenic, impulsive gong with every trip I took to the mall. I wanted to look cool. I wanted to look like a somebody. I wanted people to think better of me because of what I had.

Looking back, if I could have strapped myself up in a straitjacket at even the mere thought of a new pair of jeans or a sequined top, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I'm sure there was some part of my soul watching from the outside screaming at the top of her lungs, "LISTEN TO YOUR DAD! HE'S TRYING TO SAVE YOU FROM YOUR UNAPOLOGETIC IDIOCY!"

I grew up in a family who was comfortable but never rich. My parents made sure that we had everything we needed but not necessarily everything we wanted. My dad is a financial genius and I didn't listen to a word he ever said to me about money- and although he knew what was best, he let me make my own choices, probably because he knew I would have to deal with the consequences and it would teach me a lesson. My parents even bailed me out in tremendous ways when I was in college, and even after. There are no words to describe my gratefulness for their generosity.

A few years ago, it occurred to me that, gee, Dad really did know best all along, and I couldn't continue on that way if I wanted to have a future. I was able to pay off a lot of the debt I owed and I was on my way. So this whole concept of debt begetting slavery is not new to me. It's just that we still have a long way to go. Eighteen months seems like an eternity when you are in a buyers' housing market and your hands are tied because you have a negative net worth and no 20% down payment (yes, I know a mortgage is debt, but it's the only one that appreciates in value, generally speaking). Fortunately we both have excellent credit because in spite of the irresponsibility of having any debt in the first place, we have been responsible with the payments. As much as it kills me to look at the homes on the market that are affordable knowing that we can't buy right now, we both know that we can't take on more debt while we are still in debt. So we're plugging away to get out. Getting Gazelle Intense to out-run the Cheetahs that are after our money and our future every day.

We learned that 70% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. And only 55% are worried about it (nobody knows what the other 15% are doing). But that means that it is "normal" to live paycheck-to-paycheck, and it is also "normal" to think that it is a normal thing to do! What are these people going to do when retirement hits and Social Security has run out?! Is this why most Americans these days seem to favor a large government- so that they will be taken care of when they can't work anymore?!! Because they don't want to do the hard work themselves?!!!

OK... I'm going on a crazy tangent here. I've just been mad. I've been mad at myself. Mad because it's somehow been accepted as normal to be in debt. Mad that credit card marketing has worked so well. Mad that I fell for it; mad that my husband fell for it. Mad that high schoolers are being taught that when they get to college, they "need" a credit card to establish credit and have a "future" (true story). Mad that I have dear friends who make outrageously unnecessary purchases and justify it by saying that they can "afford the payments." Mad because I used to do the same thing. Mad that I knew better and didn't listen. Mad that we live in a country where slavery is, indeed, alive and well.

If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this: Everyone thinks car payments are a fact of life (I guess these are the same 70% who live paycheck-to-paycheck... no?). The average car payment is $464 per month. If you instead bought a used car and paid cash for it, and made what would have been your "fact-of-life" car payments to yourself in a money market account, you would be a multi-millionaire by the time you reached retirement. If you choose the car... I hope the car will still be worth that choice when you retire.

Money isn't everything. Wealth isn't everything. But you have the choice to be smart or be stupid (i.e. "normal") with your hard-earned money. You can choose to put your name on your money or put someone else's name on your money. You can choose to be a good steward of all that God gives you so that you can give it back to Him. I'm so excited to be learning this stuff now and hope that even if it's not through me that someday you'll get excited- or even mad!- about it too.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Emerson said...

Yes Andrea, actions do have consequences and I am so glad that you have come to this realization while you are young enough to do something about it. Good luck!