The process of killing your debt will absolutely change the way you think about and behave in the economic realm.
Believe me, as a fully reformed "earn, overspend, earn, overspend and repeat-er", I totally understand that you can't successfully get to the end of your debt without truly both your economic beliefs as well as your behaviors.
For me, one of the most surprising things about going through my own debt-elimination process, was how it taught me to be “selfish” with regard to any financial decisions I was making as well as my overall perception of “macroeconomics” and my own role in them.
Now, let me explain what I mean by “selfish". I don’t mean it in terms of only “looking out for number one” at all costs, no questions asked and PERIOD.
That’s actually not good at all.
To be sure, from a Christian worldview, that attitude and mindset diametrically opposed to how I understand how God would have us live and operate as believers.
Quite the opposite, we are actually to live and give selflessly, but with both wisdom and discernment.
So then, you might be asking, "how then does the use of “selfish” in this context flesh out in light of your worldview, cuz?"
Great question, please allow me to explain.
Being economically "selfish" doesn't mean you don't serve others. It just means you recognize your obligation to be financially responsible.
My Colombian-born-natively-Spanish-speaking wife who has now spoken English for about 7 years (really well now, I might add), used to make some hilariously cute mistakes back when she was first learning English.
As you can imagine we had a lot of fun (and still do) with our shared "Spanglish" attempts to understand one another those first few years of marriage.
One day we were having a conversation and she was trying to explain a personality trait she noticed and accidentally conflated the words “selfless” and “selfish” into a new completely new sort of word, “selflish”.
After correcting her, I thought to myself, “hey, maybe she’s actually on to something here.” Hmmm… Selflish...
That’s actually about the best way I could explain what mean when I’m talking about being selfish (responsible) in economic terms in the context of being selfless in one's overall worldview.
Selfless in terms of the giving of your time and resources but, at the same time, selfish in how you (wisely) disperse those resources.
Remember, you heard it here first. 🙂
But, to further explain, what I mean by “selfish” is that I had to start reconsidering anything that had to do with finances and how I looked at economics from the perspective of how my 10-years-in-the-future self would look at it.
When it came to finances, I realized that I had to begin to ask more questions like:
“Is this purchasing decision responsible and/or wise?"
“Does this decision serve the best interest of my overall financial goals?"
“Is this decision something I will remember fondly, or will I hate myself in a year’s (or ten year's) time?"
Financially, this shift in mindset was a total game changer.
From the perspective of how I looked at economics, it actually released me from a lot of the cultural indoctrination of guilt I experienced as an American.
What do I mean by “cultural indoctrination of guilt"?
Let me give you an example that I think illustrates well one aspect of this "cultural indoctrination" and see if you can relate.
"Hey guys, go be good 'Merkans and use those credit cards to stimulate the economy."
If you were a functioning member of the economy in 2001, you may remember how after the 9/11 attacks that, in a national address, then president, George W. Bush encouraged people to “get out there and stimulate the economy”.
Now, I want you to pause and think about that for a moment. It may not seem like a big deal, but I'll explain how it impacted me psychologically and see if it makes sense.
Most people (including that reformed "spendy" version of myself) took that "encouragement" as some sort of permission to go spend money they actually didn’t have. I mean after all, it’s our patriotic duty to “stimulate the economy”, right?
This sort of ridiculous and false patriotism (along with many other cultural indoctrinations I had to "deprogram", like "you'll always have a car payment, student loan, mortgage, debt, etc.") only served to further destroy my already faltering finances.
In fact, by 2004 my own personal "stimulation of the economy" had pretty much wrecked my life and it was only at rock bottom that I started to see that some things had to change.
My debt elimination process cause me to have to completely rethink and reconsider every single dollar I spent as a matter of basic economic survival.
As a result, I started to truly understand for the very first time that it wasn’t MY responsibility to make sure that someone else was employed or “made a profit” just by spending my own money (or more accurately, other people's money I was borrowing).
I know this may sound crazy, but I truly believe that there’s an indoctrination (or at least a very strong persuasion) that we as Americans have into this kind of thinking.
And, if we ever want to personally win with money, we truly have to analyze and largely jettison many of our own underlying (and patently false) assumptions about how our economy works.
And I enthusiastically credit Dave Ramsey with the lion’s share of my paradigm shift.
Dave Ramsey was the one that “gave me permission” to be selfish in this way. He was the one that made it okay for me to say “no” to buying stuff I couldn’t afford to make it look like I could (afford it).
And again by selfish I mean, looking out for my own best interest in the same way you would encourage a parent would put on their oxygen mask first, then to place a mask on their much more helpless child.
All of this is to say, I have to be healthy before I can really be of real service to the real economy.
And I say real economy because there’s also a fake economy of debt and other types of nonsense that we’ll save for a later diatribe.
Even if they try using this face, don't buy unless you're sure it's absolutely in your own best interest.
Another thing I credit Dave with teaching me was to release myself from the guilt I felt when I didn’t buy something from someone and I knew it might lead to their (at least temporary) professional demise.
We are all surrounded by people in jobs and professions that try to appeal to this indoctrination I spoke of earlier by manipulating us into decisions for the sake of “their job”, “their career” or for the sake of the overall economy in general.
Car salesmen, retail clerks, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and many others can be prime culprits for this type of pressure we may sometimes experience.
If you don’t want it or need it, it’s not your problem, so don’t make it your problem.
One of the things I love about capitalism is this sort of “self-cleansing” mechanism.
If ideas (and/or professions) don’t work, they deserve to die and it’s not anyone’s responsibility to prop them up.
So, if someone is in a profession that’s not working out for them, they have the option and the responsibility to go do something else.
It’s not your problem or your responsibility to “bail them out” by buying something from them when it makes no sense for your own personal finance.
You have officially been given permission to be responsible. :)
So, you might be saying to yourself, “I’m not responsible for anyone else’s financial well-being? Really?"
The truth is, the macro economy is not your problem nor your responsibility. Your own micro-economy is very much your problem and your responsibility.
You’ve got to make your own situation work (in a legal fashion, of course) before you can be of service to anyone else.
It is not your patriotic responsibility to go spend money you don’t have to “stimulate” the economy.
Just remember that debt is just plain dumb and you're not helping anyone, except for those bankers that already own the largest buildings in your city, by taking it on.
Your future self will always hate you for what you’ve done to him/her if you take on mountains of debt. You borrowed money from yourself and forced yourself to pay it back with interest. You're going to be VERY unhappy with the you that did that.
As Dave Ramsey is fond of saying, “Debt is dumb, cash is king and the paid off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice."
Debt-freedom is true freedom/liberty.
Get yours today and let me help you get it!
So, what kinds of behaviors, beliefs and/or feelings do you need to look at changing as a result of this permission to be responsible?
Please let us know in the comments section below and let's keep the conversation going.
Now, let's talk about a proven system to address where you are with your money.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)2. Starter Emergency Fund of $10003. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses5. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)6. College Funding (if applicable)7. Pay Off The Home Mortgage8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!