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My Financial Lesson

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Our Story: Dave Ramsey says it best: “Debt is normal and normal is broke… Be weird”.  We were SO normal! And we didn’t know any better. My guess is a lot of you reading this will be able to relate to our story… but many of you won’t agree with my conclusion or challenge to you. My wife and I started out like so many others. We had a small amount of debt. During the first 3 years of our marriage we managed to accumulate around $50,000 in debt. That included: a furniture store charge card, two vehicles, and ten credit cards with various companies. The two expensive cars had a combined monthly payment of almost $1,100. How much were we making at the time you may ask? We made around $70,000 A year. I had 2 jobs at one point, which is how we justified a $630 car payment for one of those cars. I quit one of my jobs not long after buying that car. Typing that number out, $70,000 a year, is crazy to me. All I can say is WOW. I don’t think we realized how much we were actually making. We were so bad with our finances. We even tried one of those credit counseling places. It didn’t help.

So, we joined the Coast Guard to start a new life for ourselves. My pay decreased. We didn’t anticipate going to a small town which my wife had a hard time finding a job that paid more than minimum wage. As a result, one year after joining, we had fallen behind on most of our bills. We had a voluntary repossession of my sports car (I loved that car. It was so cool). We were always fighting. The stress was overwhelming. We were both depressed and we didn’t talk to each other about it. We just fought. Add that stress on-top of the fact that I was in the Military and me being on a boat for days at a time. My poor bride was left by herself, at home, to deal with the debt collectors calling every day and the bills that kept piling up. All the while she’s trying to work as much as she can for minimum wage. She actually made more on unemployment than she did with most of those jobs. Eventually we filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I don’t remember too much about the whole process. I remember I was scared of what was going to happen. I remember having to go to court for the judge to look at our case.  I remember being worried about what this might do to my Coast Guard career. But the funniest part was, I remember having to pay money for the Bankruptcy. $726.50 to be precise! We didn’t have any money. Thus the reason why we were behind on our bills and had a car taken away. But we found the money to pay for it somehow. All of a sudden it became a priority to change this part of our life. Because we thought it was the only way out of this huge mound of debt. I think we did some kind of debt/bankruptcy counseling. It didn’t help.

The bankruptcy was completed and our case was discharged (meaning finalized).  We were “Debt Free”, technically. We couldn’t get any more credit even when we tried. And we did try, just to see if we could. Then, one day we were approved for a low limit credit card. Before we knew it we had about 4 credit cards, another car loan, a personal loan because we “NEEDED” a new shed for our house to park the riding lawn mower in, and a new mortgage, because we thought we should buy a house. We had about $23,000 in debt (not including the $200,000 mortgage). Then one month after we bought the house we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. That changed our lives.

Fast forward to today; we are DEBT FREE! No debts at all. No more mortgage (which we had to short sale). And we’ve got an emergency fund. We’ve never been in better shape financially. We have a whole new way of looking at things. We hardly fight about money now. We’re not perfect but we drew that line in the sand and decided that we weren’t going to live that way anymore. We will not be normal. Remember, normal is broke. We’ve been there. It’s a bad place. Nothing good  can come from debt.  We want to be totally weird! The bible addresses this perfectly: Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender” (NIV). That’s pretty clear. The bible talks a lot about money. Now debt is NOT a sin and it’s for sure not a salvation issue. But nowhere in scripture does it say anything positive about debt.

Some studies I’ve read say the divorce rate in this country is around 50%! The number one cause of divorce and marital problems is money fights and money problems. Here’s my challenge to you: Debt is normal…

Be weird!

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