Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is Debt Slowly Stealing Your Family's Health and Wealth?

I officiate a lot of weddings and love being a part of a couple's special day along with the preparation that goes with it. However, I've never heard any pair include, 'Till debt do us part," in their vows. But many couples today might as well say it because overspending is often central to the death of their marriage, home, reputation and even family.

In addition, many young couples today believe that they must immediately have what others have worked hard for over many years - the nice house, two newer cars, club memberships, personal toys, hobbies and the ability to go out whenever they want and not worry about it. But often their income will not support all that so they start accumulating debt - house payment, car payments, credit card balances and loans.

Their excuse is to say to themselves, "But we can afford the payments."  And perhaps for a while they can. But eventually the payments won't even pay the interest while they continue to try and live the same way. And if they are living on two incomes the situation just gets worse if one loses their job or has to quit for some reason.

Soon they aren't living the good life anymore. They're drowning in the debt-life and it's not fun. Their relationship suffers, their children endure the extra stresses and they eventually may just give up trying to get out of their mess while bathed in a lot of heartache.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a couple was described who was $50,000 in debt. A financial planner asked them where the boat or pool or RV was that they purchased to incur such a debt. Sadly, they couldn't even remember one thing they bought with that money!

So, let me first talk to those of you who aren't plagued by debt, at least not so far.  First, continue to spend only what is concurrent with your income. Remember you don't have to have everything everyone else has. Be thankful for what you have but resist the temptation to get more.

Second, keep saving something every paycheck. Start if you haven't already with an emergency fund. If things are tight then shoot for $1000 first. Increase your fund to at least several months income later. Save for retirement through your company or start a separate fund or two using a financial expert.

Third, as Dave Ramsey suggests, live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later. Develop a thankful heart and spirit in your home. Drive an older car, live in a smaller house now so that you can have more later that you own free and clear.  Don't give your kids everything and don't borrow money except for your home.

Fourth, start or continue a budget. You must know where your money is going and start planning ahead so you can enjoy a freedom to spend money and have it work for you.

However, if debt has you in its grip, start changing your financial habits today. Develop an emergency fund first, quit using your credit cards, begin saving something every check, downsize your house and cars and start taking control of your money instead of it controlling you. Find a financial professional to help you discover other important ways to save and to spend more wisely.

Money isn't evil. The Bible says that it's the love of it that's the problem. Debt isn't usually an avalanche that kills you all at once. It's more like a non-stop snowfall that gradually gets you. The good news is that it doesn't have to happen. Get financially healthy this year. And if you're already there, stay that way!


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this. We did Dave Ramsey two years ago, and we have been digging out of debt steadily since then.

    I don't mean to put my stupidity on others, but why didn't my parents (who seem to have understood it) tell me how horrible debt was? Why is the chruch not teaching it - it is in the Bible!

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  2. Good question. Sadly many parents pass on the same problems.

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