We’ve been led to believe that knowing more makes us do better, but when it comes to finances, adjusting your attitude is crucial to doing better. You can know how to balance a checkbook, but that knowledge isn't sufficing to motivate you to actually do it. You can understand compound interest, but not put a dime in the bank or in an investment that grows with interest.
You owe it to yourself to take charge of all of your financial matters. You owe it to yourself to know how much money you have coming in, and how much money you have going out. You owe it to yourself to have a financial snapshot and goals, with dates attached to those goals. You have to get a handle on the situation so you can become financially free item by item, bill by bill, task by task. My life changed completely once I took control of the resources that I had. Yours will too.
The problem that we have as people of the modern age is not a problem of information. The problem we have is a lack of discipline, a lack of focus, a lack of a strategy and lack of will power to change. Our problem is not informational, it is attitudinal. Our problem is not educational, it’s cultural. So, the steps we take to address the problem must address the psychological, cultural, spiritual and emotional drivers that affect and impact our financial wellness.
One of the most well-known biblical parables is that of the prodigal son. In this story, we find a timeless family triangle: an industrious father who has done well for himself, an impatient son who makes a fool of himself and a jealous brother who gets beside himself. The story’s catalyst is the demand by an impulsive young man for immediate access to the inheritance he’ll receive upon his father’s death.
After the young man gets his money, he quickly turns his new prosperity into devastating poverty. It doesn’t take long for him to burn through his cash with reckless living. In short, he makes a total mess of his life. Yet, this prodigal son’s core problem is not immorality; his core problem is impatience. And impatience is not an intellectual problem. Impatience is a spiritual, cultural, emotional and psychological problem. His father described him as having died!
It’s impatience that drives us to buy things we can’t afford, and to use high-interest credit cards. When we spend money that we don’t have, money that we don’t know when we are going to get, we’re experiencing a hellish existence. When the prodigal son realized the mess that he made, he escaped from his self-imposed hell by going home to his father. He wanted to change.
If we’re going to get out of our financial hell, we have to own the bad choices we’ve made and the current hole we’re in. It’s humbling, but so is having a car repossessed or losing a home in a foreclosure. It’s time to tell the truth about ourselves to ourselves. We have to talk to ourselves and make sure no one else is listening so we can really tell the truth. This is how we get better spiritually and make a permanent adjustment in our attitude.
One way to begin the conversation with yourself is to compile a written list of everything you buy, everything you spend money on. Think through what you spend and why you spend it. This written evidence will help you answer the question of “where does my money go?” and help you start identifying what you need to change. This practice of writing down an inventory of expenditures applies equally well to your spiritual life. Becoming more aware of our thoughts and how they translate into attitudes and get actualized in our behavior can benefit every area of our lives.
For the prodigal son to truly change, he knew he had to return to his father’s house where there would be rules and responsibilities. He knew he would have to submit to his father’s way of looking at life. But he also realized submission was a better alternative than staying in hell, and his father welcomed him back as if he had just been to heaven.
Is it time to humble yourself and get on the journey to a better life? The barrier to financial freedom is debt. You have to have the kind of talk with yourself that gives you the courage you need to "say yes to no debt." It’s a life transforming commitment that you’ll never regret.
DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., author of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom, is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey and is the architect of the dfree® financial freedom movement.