Financial Freedom

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” — Hebrews 13:5

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6:19-21

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? — Luke 16:11

We have this perception that millionaires are rich, drive around in Lamborghinis, and live in homes that rival Buckingham Palace. Sure, some millionaires do fit that profile, but I discovered that most millionaires don’t look anything like that. Many of them are average people, driving average cars, living in average homes, and working average jobs. These people have discovered the true dream life: the financial freedom to live their lives in a way that gives them peace of mind, contentment, enjoyment, and fulfillment.

In other words, the real dream life is the opportunity to pursue happiness in the way that suits you best yet also is within the realm of financial reality. My dream of a peaceful life at home with my kids may not be your dream. But discovering what your dream is will help you get off the consumer treadmill and move toward the life you want.

Part of my “enough is enough” moment, when I realized my life was not heading in a direction I wanted, was the lack of peace I felt. Sure, we could have continued on and I could have gone back to work in the corporate world. No one would have been the wiser. On the outside we probably would have seemed to have it all, despite living a life that left us restless and discontented. The truth is, we had to get uncomfortable and make some difficult decisions to achieve the dream life we envisioned. And if you want to live your dream life, you’re going to have to be willing to get uncomfortable and make those changes too…

While it’s true that there is no secret to becoming debt free, I also know that it can sometimes feel impossible to live without the crushing weight of debt. So just how did our little family of five, in the metro Atlanta area, live on a salary of $47,000 a year?

It took us two years to achieve the feat of becoming consumer-debt free, to dig ourselves out of the burden of $55,000 of consumer debt. In that time, my husband, Pat, and I both worked numerous side hustles, threw every extra check (rebate, bonus, or tax refund) toward our debt snowball, and gave up my fully loaded Tahoe. We hit many snags along the way and even had to push back our debt-free date. But we kept going, even when it was hard.

Let’s take a minute here to look at our numbers. When we started our journey toward financial freedom, we had over $55,000 of consumer debt that included our credit cards, the Tahoe loan, and my student loans; had nothing in savings; and carried an $89,000 mortgage. You may look at our mortgage number and say, “Wow, that’s so low. No wonder you were able to pay it off.” But let me stop this train of thought and pour some perspective into your glass.

When we bought our house, it required a lot of renovation before we could move in. Rats had taken over the home, the drawers were completely missing from the kitchen, and both toilets were literally in pieces as if some teenager threw cherry bombs in them. Animal waste from the previous owners’ cats and dogs had completely damaged the flooring and subfloors. Just making the home livable cost us $30,000—some of which we paid in cash and some we paid with debt. It required Pat and his best friend to sleep in our boat in the garage while they completed the renovations; I was pregnant with our first child, and Pat didn’t want me in the home with the rats and animal waste and construction debris.

To add more perspective, Pat was barely making $47,000 a year while supporting three and half people, carrying an $89,000 mortgage, and dealing with $55,000 of consumer debt. To put it another way, our debt was more than three times my husband’s annual salary!

If you’re still not convinced that our debt-free journey took tremendous effort, our $89,000 mortgage and $55,000 consumer debt would be equivalent to someone making $160,000 having to pay off a $400,000 mortgage and more than $100,000 consumer debt. I share this perspective so you won’t get lost in our numbers and dismiss our accomplishment.

The truth is, we could have stopped at any point. We could have decided that living debt free wasn’t worth the effort and allowed ourselves to fall back into debt. But we didn’t. And it paid off in the end. If you’re truly committed to attaining financial freedom, I have no doubt you’ll achieve it. I know this because we achieved it. Your numbers could be, and more than likely are, completely different than ours. And that’s okay. Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap. Just get out of debt — and stay out!

Excerpted with permission from Getting Good with Money by Jessi Fearon, copyright Jessi Fearon.

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Your Turn

We weren’t made to be crushed by financial burden. Do you need to get out of debt? If that seems impossible, it isn’t! Start small, but get started! It’ll change your life! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full

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