Family Finance Series
Are you like normal Americans? Until February 2016, we were. We had every kind of debt imaginable. We owed on cars, school, medical bills, even furniture. It was a constant battle: make minimum payments- use more credit –argue about money, make minimum payments- use more credit- argue about money. We were stressing about paying bills, not making any headway on retirement, and living an unsustainable lifestyle. Our financial past was riddled with poor choices and I had had it! We made too much money to be this broke! Something had to change. Can you relate? My wife and I talked about changing our ways many times before, but without kids, we never found the catalyst.
As a husbands and fathers, we want to take care of our family financially. But, how many of us really feel like we’re doing a good job of that? Are you honoring your faith and serving your family with your assets? Finances are one of the most overlooked topics when it comes to marriage and relationships and it can be the cause of a lot of strife. Studies have shown that almost 80% of Americans have consumer debt, no retirement savings, and are living paycheck to paycheck. As of August 2017 US consumer debt is at an all-time high- $12.84 Trillion-higher than before the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007. These two statistics show that the vast majority of Americans are NOT in control of their money. Living intentionally, including taking control of you money, will force you to be more engaged with your family, and will strengthen your relationships with your wife and kids.
Let’s dive in a little deeper and let me tell you what our world looked like. Prior to marriage, neither of us had a history of making good financial decisions. We both had jobs and made plenty of money, but we spent it like it was going out of style. We were consumers in the true sense of the word. We had a “budget”, in the fact that we’d written down all the revolving bills every month, but that didn’t include anything extra we’d spend, and we never looked at it until the money was gone. So the money was gone, then we would argue about how/why we couldn’t pay our bills. We would blame each other and get ever increasingly angry. The fact was, we were both to blame. We were chasing happiness in the form of “stuff” and we had no idea what delayed gratification was. We both drove new cars and made payments every month. We had multiple credit cards and were using them at an alarming rate. I had new gadgets and gear, she had a closet full of clothes and shoes, we went out to dinner and happy hour multiple times a week, but we still weren’t happy, and our marriage was falling apart.
On a whim, I picked up a copy of Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover” and read it on a business trip. I’d heard of his principles before, but I always joked that he was a millionaire and way out of touch with those of us in the middle class. Surely everyone needed a credit card for emergencies. Surely everyone had a car payment- how else can you drive a “safe and reliable” vehicle? In the book he lays out a simple plan to financial freedom and it set me on fire. I became aware that we were headed down a long dark road of miscommunication, deception, and financial failure.
Now that the seed had been planted in my brain, I had a ton of questions on where to start. How do we pay off debt when there is no money left over at the end of the month? How do I talk to my wife about our out-of-control spending? How do I make a budget? How do I change my poor spending habits and create good habits as an example for my kids? Hopefully the following posts in this series will help you answer these questions and give you an idea of how to master your money and use it to enrich your life.