General Life Skills Self-Management

Debt & It’s Impact on Spiritual Health

Once upon a time there were two men who were going a journey. Neither had traveled this particular road before so they had to decide what to include in their packs. The first man went down to the road’s beginning. He saw many people starting their journey. There were little people with big packs and big people with little packs and people everywhere in-between. The man asked everyone short and tall, wide and narrow what they had packed. They told him of all shapes and sizes of gadgets and gizmos that “he just had to bring” and that “he couldn’t do without”. As the first man considered all of this, he became worried he may miss something on the journey if he didn’t bring everything. So, that’s what he did. He bought all shapes and sizes of gadgets and gizmos. When he was finished, he had a beautiful pack that was so large he could hardly move it.

The second man decided that the best way to prepare was to find an expert who had made this journey many times. After looking around, he found exactly who he needed. A wise, well-worn traveler who had passed over the road many times. The guide told the man “Always remember, the pack is not the journey, the journey is not the destination. The pack is just a tool not the point.” The guide gave the man some expert recommendations. Equipped with the expert guide’s advice, the first man finished his preparations for the journey. He had a pack that contained just what he would need for everything he was likely to face on his journey.

The day finally came when the two men set out on their journey. They met at the road’s beginning and shook hands, each wishing the other the best of luck on the road. As they set off down the road the second man quickly outpaced the first. By the end of the first day, the second man was beyond the horizon and out-of-sight of the first. For the second man, the journey unfolded much as the expert had said it would. The man was able to overcome each of the obstacles he faced because he was prepared and because he was not exhausted from carrying his pack.

The first man had a different sort of journey. Weighed down by his large pack, he eventually collapsed beside the road. However, he was unwilling to reduce the items in his pack in order to lighten his load. Thus, he was unable to continue forward and unable to go back. The second man never reached the end of the road.

Most of us no longer embark on journeys by carrying everything we will need in a pack on our shoulders. But we are all traveling on the great road called ‘Life’. And there are ways we make our lives more difficult. A decisive way we impede our own progress is by accumulating debt.

Matthew 6:24 explains why this topic of debt matters. It says “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” We often talk about this verse in the context of being a workaholic or hoarding our money. But this idea also applies to being undisciplined in our spending such that we take on debt and become a slave to it. Debt can prevent you from being generous, taking a mission’s trip, or following God’s calling on your life because you are unable to afford your payments. Debt turns into a burden that crushes your soul by forcing you to continue in a job you do not like or work extra hours just to make ends meet.

How does someone get into debt in the first place? Here is an example of how it happens:

You see on Facebook your friend just got back from a “great” vacation in the Bahamas. And to celebrate their vacation they bought a brand-new Mercedes Benz. For any of a number of reasons, you feel the need to “keep up”. So, like the first man in our story you try to do it all. You take a fantastic trip to Mexico and buy a brand-new BMW when you get home. However, you can’t afford either, so you pay for the vacation on a credit card and you finance the car. Now you have two new payments to make every month. However, you are feeling good about how you are able to keep up with your friend. Until you again look and see that they have just remodeled their kitchen and bathroom. Unwilling to be ‘left behind’ you take out a second mortgage and also remodel your kitchen and bathroom. Now you have a third monthly payment. And thus, the debt accumulation cycle continues.

So, what do you do about this? How do you break these bonds of debt? The answer is simple, but not easy. Like the first man, breaking the cycle of debt requires making choices. Whereas the first man was unable to say no, and simply brought everything, the second man made difficult choices about what to include and what to leave. The second man was able to so because he had a guide who had made the journey many times.

Four Steps to Getting Out of Debt

So, my first suggestion for getting out of debt is to find a financial coach, Certified Financial Planner, or mentor who has been wise with their money and ask them for help. If they cannot help you, ask them to help you find someone who can.

Second, decumulating your debt must be a priority. You master what you track, so a way to start prioritizing this is by tracking how much to are paying in interest and principal on your debt each month. Next, pick a percentage of your income and paying that toward your debt each month. If you make $50,000 per year, 1 percent of this would be $500. $500 divided by 12 is roughly $42. Paying an extra 1 percent (or $42 in our example) per month on your debt is a great way to start paying it off!

Next, you must examine your spending habits. Your spending is why you got into debt in the first place. If you skip this step, chances are you will end up back in the debt cycle as soon as you have broken out.

Finally, you have to make lifestyle changes. For many people, this is the most difficult step. It is also the step that will ensure you are able to save and prevent you from falling back into the debt cycle. Here are a few ways you can make lifestyle changes:

  • When you go grocery shopping, only buy things that are on your list. If you see something you want, wait until you are home, then put it on your list to get next time.
  • If you are shopping online do not let website’s save your credit card information. Input your information every time you buy something. This helps to reduce impulse purchases.
  • Get a credit card with a smaller credit limit.

“No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Do not let your finances and debt be your master but be master over your finances. This is simple but not easy, which is why a trusted mentor or guide who has walked this path is critical to your success. Now may the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you as you embark on this journey.

Jonathan Harner

Jonathan Harner is a Certified Financial Planner working for Wichita Wealth Management. As a warrior himself, Jonathan’s passion is giving order to chaos and bringing peace to fear in the financial lives of the those he works with.

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