The American Dream, Our NightmareWhen we got married, we wanted it all immediately. I wanted everything that my parents had worked all their lives to get except I didn’t have any intentions of waiting that long to get it. And why not, we deserved it, right? So, my husband and I were married about 3 seconds flat before we were off to the races to chase the American Dream! Within our first 6 months of marriage, we bought our first home. It was exciting! We went from a 760 square feet apartment to a 3000 square feet mansion (in our eyes anyway). The only problem was that we were so green and financially UN-educated that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
When I remember the question that the fast-talking mortgage guy asked me, I cringe. Just to think we had no idea what he meant, yet, we moved forward anyway, blows my mind. He asked us, “Would you like an adjustable-rate mortgage?” “What’s that?” I asked. He answered, “Don’t worry about it, it’s the best thing for you. It will allow you to get into that house you want with lower than usual payments.” My mama always says that God takes care of babies and fools. I think that God must have considered us both because we were not approved for that particular type of loan on that day. Thank God!
I am sad to say that in all of our ignorance, we moved forward with purchasing that home though. We believed that we were doing everything right because we were going after our dreams. After only 3 months in that home, we started to see things for what they really were…yes, our American Dream was really our worst nightmare! To make matters worse, those around us were so happy and proud of us that we had to keep pretending to be ok. Behind closed doors, we were on the S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E bus!! We were the epitome of “house poor” (though at the time we had never heard of the term to be able to put it into such elegant words)!
As the years have passed, we have found that many people are in the same place that we were back then. I know you! I see you! I hear hints of your misery in your casual conversations at church, the ball games, and in the grocery store. I sense your shame, and I feel your guilt. I want to help YOU! You see, even back then, we were tithe-paying Christians, attended church every Sunday, gave huge sacrificial offerings (when the Spirit so moved us), served in the church, and never missed a prayer service. I could not understand why God would allow us to scuffle financially when we were so faithful in church.
I remember sitting in church being so desperate for an answer. I prayed most every Sunday that our pastor would speak some Word of knowledge regarding finances to lift this heavy financial burden that my husband and I had gotten ourselves into. We were so beaten down by the pressure of debt that it affected every area of our lives. I became pregnant shortly after moving into our new home. The constant worrying, along with other things, was so overbearing that I went into preterm labor 3 times during that pregnancy. It was a scary time for us. But it was also our turning point! It was then that I cried out to God to help us…to show us how to get out of our mess!
HopeThe answer came one day as I was driving down Lakeland Drive. No, it wasn’t a windfall of money or a misplaced money bag on the side of the road. (I am embarrassed to say that at that time, we wholeheartedly had believed that this was what supernatural debt cancellation looked like). We recited it so often in church that it felt real, “Supernatural Debt Cancellation!” I think that what was most dangerous about that was that we somehow felt absolved of any responsibility to seek out any financial education on our own.
The problem was that in all of our chanting and believing, nothing was changing for us financially. Then one day I heard this guy on the radio talking about “financial peace” and living debt-free. What he spoke of was so foreign to me. We did not know anyone who had either of the things he spoke of. Everyone that we knew was broke like us. We were hooked!! We knew that this was the answer. This was the way out!
Had a plan, time to work it!I would love to say that things just fell into place and were easy at this point, but it was the beginning of hard work, discipline, and a paradigm shift. We spent the next 18 months paying off $50,000 in consumer debt. From there we made the mistake of taking a break before tackling our student loans. Years have passed and during that time we have bought a few vehicles and paid them off within 6-9 months, taken out a 401k loan, and other things that set us back financially.
To make matters worse, we still did not address our student loans. The truth is that when we looked at the mountain of student loan debt, we did not believe that we could pay it off. It reminded me much of the scriptures in Numbers 13 when Moses told the children of Israel to go and spy out the land of Canaan and give a report. They said “We be not able to go up against the people…” they went on to describe the land’s inhabitants as great giants and themselves as grasshoppers. This is how we felt when looking at our student loans.
Finding Dave Ramsey not only gave us hope, but also a plan! Recently, through several encounters, we felt like the Lord was confirming that He wanted us to pay off our debts quickly…yes, even the student loans. We are now on a journey to pay off our debt of $184,000 of debt plus accruing interest, within 12-18 months. We are 8 months in and as of tomorrow, we will have paid off about $84,000. We are believing God and doing the work (Faith without works is dead-James 2:17). We want to share with you all that we have learned so that you too can start your journey towards being a better steward of what has been entrusted to you! Don’t just follow us to freedom…let’s go together!