Monday, July 7, 2014

We Are All Slaves

When I was wee tot, I lived in poverty. Around age six or seven, my mom met her second husband and waved goodbye to the outhouse and stovetop baths.

Before I left poverty, my mom and dad had racked up debt (mostly because of my dad) and I spent much of my time with my grandmother after their divorce. She was a humble lady content with the little she did and did not have. 

Several of my family members ordered a lot of “stuff” from Fingerhut, JC Penny, and Sears catalogs. They amassed unnecessary debt and accumulated piles of junk. I wanted the junk too.

I thank my step-dad who gave me my first wise words of financial advice: most of the people with nice homes, new cars, and lots of stuff aren’t rich, they are in debt.

I didn’t get it. 

I ran off to college with very little financial aid. A few of my friends were maxing out their loans each semester. Some of the money went to tuition and books, but a lot towards booze, cars, and—once again—junk. Some of those friends have created lifestyles of debt. And they are the ones I hope to reach in this message. By the way, if you are one of those friends, please know this isn’t targeted to anyone specifically. Many of you have done this.

When I graduated, my wife and I had around $22k in student loans (combined). I went off to grad school, she took a couple of jobs, and we made our minimum payments (perhaps a little more) while enjoying our lives. 

During my time in grad school, she discovered Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University. He’d be proud because we bought our kit from Half Price Books for little of nothing. We’ve now been married for four years and have almost paid off all our debt. If we don’t purchase a home soon, I may very well call into his show. Dave Ramsey helped to set us on the path to becoming debt free.

But, that’s just the beginning. 

A few months ago I received my acceptance letter for the University of Cincinnati’s Ph.D., Political Science program. It came with a full-tuition scholarship and a generous stipend. My undergrad was also in political science and I received my M.A., Christian Education from Southern Seminary. Needless to say, I have a heightened interest in politics and education.

One of the many areas of overlap for these two academic interests is the economy. I want to see the American economy bounce back to what it was prior to Jimmy Carter’s time in office. And I not only want to see our national debt disappear, I want to see all debt in the U.S. disappear. 

The poorest 47% of Americans have no wealth. Much of my family is part of the 47% and I want them to experience life as I have for the past 20 years. I’m not wealthy. I’m not a 1%-er. I still have student loans, rent an apartment, and have crumby car, but I’m no longer enslaved to my debt.

When we amass debt, we enslave ourselves to greedy corporations. Whether it be a local bank or payday loan company, lenders have continued the slave trade, but legally. 

Did you know debt is bought and sold on Wall Street? Particularly that which belongs to debtors in default on their loans. This ought to seem shady. Why would anyone want to buy debt when the debtor has no means to pay up? If you’ve been the victim of a collections group, you know why. Your neighbors, family, and employer will receive calls until you make a deal and start making payments. If they do their job correctly, you will end up with a high interest rate, low monthly minimum payments, and nearly a lifetime before you can get rid of your loan. 

Credit card companies heavily target those who have recently come out of bankruptcy. There’s an addiction to credit and its conclusion is financial slavery. Lenders understand this and capitalize on your misfortune and ignorance.

Forget guns for self protection. You must arm yourself with knowledge. Guns simply do not work against debt. Your new gun of choice is knowing how to get out from under your debt and live within your means. To quote Dave Ramsey, “In order to live like no one else, you must live like no one else.” Think about it. 

This post is lengthy, but only the first part to what I hope will be many posts to come. If you have enjoyed this reading—or even if you absolutely hate what I’ve had to say—please comment and discuss. Might this be a place for civil discussion on how to make our world a better place.

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