Sunday, August 29, 2010

Couldn’t You Have Picked a More Exciting Hobby? (4)

So, that’s where I found myself in 1995 and as I stated in the first post of this series I was searching for a way to solve my money problem. After 11 years of searching I had made no real progress in paying off the debt. In fact, after buying a house and another new vehicle, the debt had only grown. I honestly believe I had just resigned myself to the typical myths:

"I will always have a car payment."
"I will make minimum payments on these student loans until they are done."
"30 years from now, I will have this house paid off."
"This is normal, life is full of payments."

At some point in 2006, I reached the point where I ended my first post in this series:

You ever have one of those moments where emotionally you have given up, but mentally your mind says, “God, I’m ready and willing, please help.”?

Because I had quit trying to find the money answer on my own, I stumbled onto Dave Ramsey through a Focus on the Family (FOTF) radio program. I rarely listened to FOTF, and I am not sure why I was listening on that particular day. I was streaming it while at work and listening through my headphones. It was during the last two weeks of 2006. Focus on the Family was replaying some of their most requested programs from the past year. As I listened to Dave, something struck me about how he talked about money and having financial peace.

He mentioned things about handling money God’s way, and that the “borrower is slave to the lender”. Well, I had enough debt for that statement to ring true. Dave said, "We give you the same common sense advice that God and your grandma did; only we keep our teeth in!" It wasn’t long before I found his website, and started doing more research on him.

I bought his book, The Total Money Makeover (TMMO), which I had seen in the stores many times but never picked up. As I said before, I had resigned myself to just making the minimum payments and living a normal life. I already had so many personal finance books, why would I need to buy one more?

One of the greatest discoveries in listening to Dave was that life did not have to be full of payments. I was right, broke was normal, and according to Dave:

"Debt is Normal. Be Weird!"

Within the first month or two of 2007, I had read the book, and was quoting things in it to Mindy. The book is set up in two parts, not literally, but through the message that it delivers. The first half starts with a challenge to stop denying that you are not doing too badly with money and start behaving differently. Dave discusses things we believe about money merely because it is so engrained in our American culture. These are labeled as myths, about both money and debt. He gives common sense advice on how to look at these myths differently. Through his explanations, it is easy to understand how we keep getting the same bad results when we live by the same bad rules. Your knowledge and understanding of money goes through a process of transformation by reading and studying the first five chapters.

In the second half, Dave’s plan is laid out in seven baby steps. The baby steps lead you on a walk out of the bondage of debt and into a life of financial peace. The walk is one of both contentment and sacrifice, but depending on your level of “gazelle intensity” can start to look like a full sprint. Overall, his strategy is loosely based on the Bible and he includes a few scriptural quotes. But, as he says in the beginning, it “isn’t a Bible study on the subject of money.” The subtitle of the book is “A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness”, and as Dave states, “that plan includes addressing the spiritual issues surrounding money.”

I was very interested in getting started, but as with most things I tend to lack patience. As we progressed through the year, I applied his plan incorrectly. At the end of 2007, Mindy and I were still struggling with quite a few financial issues both on paper and in our attitudes. Through my impatience I was trying to apply at least four of the seven baby steps all at once, instead of concentrating on the step I was on.

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the book (most libraries carry it), and see what you think. If you do start to apply the plan to your life, remember that focus is one of the main keys to success. Next time, I will discuss the focus we found in 2008, to be continued...

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