Monday, April 30, 2018

Keys to Financial Freedom: Part Three

As we continue through our discussion about finances in marriage, we must come to what is perhaps the most difficult topic. This is the one that can really derail a marriage, but it doesn’t have to. Today, we discuss expenses and debt. Debt has always been a difficult topic for me, and I’ve waffled over the years on how much is too much and how to handle it. After good and bad experiences, though, I believe that Laura and I have a better grasp of it.

As I said above, this topic has been quite an odyssey for me. I was raised in a home where debt was the complete enemy. We were the Dave Ramsey family ten years before it was cool. I still have a hard time understanding how my parents paid off cars and houses so quickly while still putting food on the table. They are a great example of success in retirement, however, because they live a comfortable, debt-free life and are still able to afford to travel and enjoy life after a career in education.

You would think I would come from that and be fairly credit wise, but I completely ignored it. I got my first credit card and quickly maxed it out with no way to pay it off. To this day, I don’t know how I did this. I really didn’t end up with much to show for it. This just goes to show you how easy it is to do. I found myself with negative money in the bank and a maxed out credit card at 20 years old. Typical, right? It didn’t feel that way at the time. Looking back, income played a part in this. I was trying to go to college and live and eat on a part time salary. I even went hungry for about two weeks a couple of times. I was not going to go crawling back to my parents, though. I had too much stubborn pride. Thankfully, God looked out for me. My grandmother noticed I had lost some weight when I went to see her (and probably that I ate for a small family of bears), so she snuck some money into my suitcase. Thanks, Mamaw!

From that little seed, I was able to rebuild my meager finances and apply those lessons from my parents. I also got a job where I could eat at work. That’s a handy tip if you’re ever a single person in my position. And eventually I could afford to take a girl out on dates—specifically, a cute English major named Laura, who spent most of her time reading books or writing papers.

I married a very wise woman. Laura is incredible at squeezing the pennies out of dimes, and I mean that in the best possible way. However, we have mounded up debt at times. Sometimes, expenses just happen all at once. We’ve been there, and we didn’t have a nest egg to fall back on. The key with debt is learning from it and communicating about it. We both got down on ourselves for our excessive spending. Part of it was necessary, but some of it could’ve waited. Because of that, we made a pact together that we would always have a savings account that would be an emergency fund. It took a long time to build, but has prevented many fights. I’ll talk more about that next time. At first, paying off our debt seemed impossible. Little by little, though, it came down, and after almost ten years, we've now paid off over $90,000 in debt. That’s another truth about debt. You CAN knock it down. It just takes time and patience.

Hopefully, this little testimony has been helpful. I know it can seem insurmountable, and we have certainly fought about it before. Like anything else, you must be together on this. It takes a team to run family finances well. Everyone has to buy in, but once you do, things can really change.

~ Howell

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