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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Money management: It's not just secular anymore

Over the weekend I went to visit a church that was having a sermon series on staying out of debt.  To me money management is such a completely non-religious subject I was very interested to hear what a church pastor had to say about it.

Years ago when I was doing research for a novel with a character who is a televangelist, I spent some time watching the channel CBN I won't go into my religious beliefs here, but I will say that CBN is not it, so it was very interesting to me to watch some of the televangelists on that channel and get a feel for what their message was.  I admit I expected the sermon on Sunday to be about how if you have faith in God and do right by God you will be rich, and if you don't you will be poor.  But it wasn't about that.  In fact, much of the sermon sounded like something I would write in this blog.  I've never actually stood up and yelled "Amen!" in a church (or anywhere for that matter) but it was tempting on Sunday.

What stood out most was the message "If you tell a lie enough times and loud enough, eventually someone is going to start accepting it as the truth."  The pastor was talking about the lies that debt is normal, that everyone has debt, that you can't get ahead without debt.  He talked about marketing and how there are so many messages telling us we deserve a new car we can't afford or to upgrade old (but perfectly good) things that we already have.  And that it is taking care of ourselves and being good to ourselves to do that even when it means going into debt.

Another point he made was that you can not know where the direction North is, and you can try to guess where it is, and someone can tell you the wrong place where it is, but hopefully, one day you will obtain a compass and it will show you where North is.  Because no matter what anybody tries to say, North will always be North.  Ok, apparently it shifts a tiny bit over the centuries, but you get my point. In our lifetime North will never become East.

And that's how I feel about the reality of what is sustainable financially and what is not.  Anyone in the world who picks up a newspaper talking about the United States economy and how fragile it is right now and how politicians are all fighting about whose fault it is,  will see that our government's way of operating - based on debt - is not working.   And anyone who sees the numbers showing how many foreclosures there are, and anyone who saw the banks have to get bailed out by the government saw that trying to operate on debt does not work.

And it doesn't work in our personal lives either over the long term.

That is all well and good to hear all that, but then I know many people look at their lives and say "Yeah, but I'm so in debt I can't possibly get out of it!"

Everyone can get out of debt.  It just takes time and work and a change of plans.  First, look at what debt is avoidable and doesn't need to get any bigger.  Your mortgage is not avoidable.  But, can you afford your mortgage payments? If not, it is time to seek out some professional advice on if refinancing at a lower rate would help you, or if you should seriously think about downsizing your home (which is tough in this economy but not completely impossible - last year we sold our house in the city four days before a major holiday when everybody said houses never sell).    Do you have car payments that you can't afford? You might want to think about downsizing your car.  You are still a good, valuable person even without your Mercedes or Audi and getting rid of that and getting an economy car you can afford would be a good way to learn that.

A blurb in the most recent Scientific American states that being extremely attached to objects is often a sign of insecurity in interpersonal relationships.  And close friendships are a lot less expensive than anything you can buy with your credit card.

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