Financial indebtedness is a form of slavery. It is a debilitating situation, and it will continue to get worse until you decide to gain control over your finances.
The key word is decide. While my parents provided excellent financial management examples, once I left their household I decided that I would not live frugally the way they did. I ended up feeling utterly unaccomplished and incomplete. While passionate about social change, I had done nothing about my own personal financial responsibilities. I had proposed solutions for solving huge social problems but had never balanced my own checkbook. I had fought for justice and equality but could not afford to make a donation to a Black college, the NAACP or any other cause I supported. My shame and humiliation motivated me to take actions that changed my life. Then, I decided to change.
Tap into your personal motivation, and make a decision to change. Think deeply about the reasons you spend money you don’t have, or why you don’t budget and why you don’t worry about paying bills on time. Maybe you never had any luxury you wanted as a child, so you’re determined not to deprive yourself as an adult. Maybe your parents sacrificed so you could have everything you wanted, but never showed you the price they paid. Maybe it just makes you feel good to have new stuff. I can relate to this. We all want to feel good!
While immediate gratification has become almost synonymous with being an American, the consequences of indulging this behavior are long term and severe. The deeper in debt you get the faster your debt accumulates, thanks to things such as interest rates, late fees and poor decision-making. It becomes a vicious cycle. If you’re in this situation, you’re not alone. According to a recent Prudential study on the African American Financial Experience, a majority of Black Americans reported having debt, particularly credit card debt, while at least half reported that reducing debt is a top priority.
The gap we need to focus on is the gap between wanting to eliminate debt and actually eliminating debt. The latter takes much more than a desire; it takes discipline and determination. It takes a strategy. While debt elimination won’t happen overnight, one of the most important things you can do is make up your mind now to live debt-free.
Decide today that you are going to change your situation, and you will be successful doing so. As a pastor, I turn to God when I need help with difficult situations. One powerful biblical example of someone who knew how to take on new tasks and succeed is Joshua. Joshua, the great conqueror who led the Israelites after Moses, knew that success required the right attitude. There are no shortcuts to success and there are no shortcuts to alleviating debt — but it can be done.
The most important step to annihilating financial dis-ease is setting your mind right. You must want to break the chains and end financial slavery. With a clear and determined mind, and the right resources and guidance, you can properly assess your finances — or address the mess — and be on your way to gaining control of your financial situation.
Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. is the author of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, and founder of the dfree® financial freedom movement. Find your way to financial freedom at www.mydfree.org.