Outrunning the Debt Monster
About the Guest
Are your spending habits becoming a debt habit? Christian financial expert Ron Blue shares four biblical principles for building a healthy financial foundation for your family.
Are your spending habits becoming a debt habit? Christian financial expert Ron Blue shares four biblical principles for building a healthy financial foundation for your family.
Outrunning the Debt Monster
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. You may have heard Ron Blue offer that kind of financial counsel before; but odds are, as we start a new year, it doesn’t hurt to hear it again. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to talk about money today. Do you and Barbara ever have any money fights in your marriage?
Dennis: Now what kind of question is that?!
Bob: You know! We all have fights. I’m just wondering if there were ever—
Dennis: Of course! Of course—a clash of values, and savings and spending—and you know, you name it—we’ve had the discussion about it.
Bob: Do you lean in one direction or another? Are you—
Dennis: Are you wanting me to declare this publicly? [Laughter]
Bob: I want to know: “Who’s the thriftier among you?”
Dennis: You know, honestly, I would have to say Barbara really has done a pretty good job over the years; but as we’ve moved into this new season of life, I’m a little thriftier than she is.
Dennis: She kind of—I’m kind of squeezing George, and he’s weeping; you know? [Laughter]
She believes—she wants to put a smile on George’s face; you know?—she wants to spend him.
Bob: We were out to eat the other night, and I left a generous tip for our waiter; in fact, it was an extremely generous tip. In this particular situation, I tipped 40 percent.
Dennis: Oh, my goodness!
Bob: Yes; I did.
Bob: And my wife looked at me and she said, “40 percent?!” I said, “Well honey, the waiter was our son. You know, we should...” [Laughter]
Dennis: I was waiting for the rest of the story!
Bob: She’s going, “I know; but it’s still 40 percent!”
Bob: “Make him earn it!”
Dennis: In fact, I remember a story our guest on today’s program—Ron Blue / Ron joins us on FamilyLife Today—Ron, didn’t you give a guy or a young lady a tip at Chick-fil-A® one time?
Bob: Oh, I remember this story—it’s a great one; yes!
Ron: It was one of those—I used to have breakfast at Chick-fil- A with my son and would always order the same thing. This Hispanic lady always waited on us; and when we would walk in, she would serve us with a smile—she’d have our breakfast ready. I was walking out of the restaurant one day and I said: “You know, you tip people in restaurants. Why don’t we tip fast food people?” I couldn’t think of a good reason; so I reached in my billfold and pulled out a twenty. The Lord said—almost verbally/audibly—said, “You cheapskate!”—[Laughter]—because I had a lot of twenties in my billfold. [Laughter]
I folded up five twenties, and went back in and said, “Can you accept tips?” She said, “Sure!” So, I gave her $100. A week or so later, I was back in. She thanked me for the gift and she said: “You know, when you gave that to me, I needed a new set of tires. I was feeling very blessed that you did that.” But she said, “When my daughter got home from high school, I found out there had been an apartment fire and somebody had lost everything in their apartment.”
She said, “I thought they needed the $100 worse than I did.”
Ron: So she said, “We gave it to them.”
Ron: I learned a lot of lessons in that!
Ron: You know, I gave out of my abundance;—
Dennis: Yes; really.
Ron: —and she gave out of her poverty.
Dennis: I think that’s a message for today—frankly,—
Ron: Oh, my goodness.
Dennis: —for our generation. I wonder how much truly sacrificial giving occurs, even within the Christian community / the community of faith, which ought to demonstrate sacrificial giving if anybody should.
Ron Blue, for those who do not know, is the founder of Kingdom Advisors, which is really a ministry of financial planners that are better equipped to, shall I say, divert God’s money to kingdom work instead of other endeavors. That’s kind of my definition of what you do. Do you like it?
Ron: It’s my definition too! It’s symptomatic of the real thing.
Dennis: He’s all about giving!
Bob: Your staff is working with folks who have their assets—they are trying to figure out, “What do we do with our money?” and you’re trying to help them think through—not just, “Where’s the smartest place to get the best return on investment?”—but “What are the value decisions that guide those choices?”—right?
Ron: Yes; I think—what I have found is that the key to financial freedom is not an amount of money, ever—it’s a heart attitude and belief. God’s Word speaks to this—that the only way, really, to achieve financial freedom is to give. We force our hands open, and then God has an opportunity to use that money—just like that lady I gave $100 to—I have been ministered to more by that gift than I can imagine. I’ve shared that story with a lot of people—that was multiplied. That’s a real sense of freedom when you learn how to give.
Nobody that I know, that has accumulated wealth, can experience financial freedom apart from giving.
Bob: Of course, Ron, we talk about giving in this current economic environment—
Bob: —and then there are young couples, who are listening, who are going: “Well, we hope someday to be at a place where we can give; but we’ve got to get student loans taken care of / we’ve got to get the credit cards paid off. I mean, this is a time where giving seems like one of those noble goals that is way out there in the future; and someday we hope to get there.”
Ron: Well, that’s true; but I think one of the things that everybody needs to have is a sense of perspective. You know, the first economic meltdown was Joseph—that’s recorded in the Bible—I mean, the famine / you know, seven years of plenty and seven years of famine—that’s an economic meltdown. That was their currency / that was their wealth. You find famine, and wars, and economic turmoil all throughout Scripture.
Dennis: And, yet, for a young couple starting out their marriage—who may have started their family in the midst of a lot of debt—
Dennis: —and not having the advantage of the perspective you are talking about, where they’ve talked about an overall game plan for their money—how they are going to approach debt / how they’re going to approach savings. You really talk about this in your book, Surviving Financial Meltdown. Where should they start? What’s the beginning point?
Ron: Well, I know that you know my message is that there are four biblical principles: spend less than you earn, avoid the use of debt, save for the long-term and the unexpected, and set long-term goals. Then, I would add a fifth—and that is that God owns it all—and to understand that. That was testimony that I gave to a congressional sub-committee, back in the early ‘90s; and Senator Dodd was the one that asked me the question. I gave him that answer. He said to me, “It seems like that would work at any income level.” I said, “You’re right, Senator, including the United States Government.”
Ron: Because those are four biblical principles.
As we’ve been going through this turmoil, this is what typically happens—is the interviewer will say, “How would you avoid this?” I’d say, “Well, spend less than you earn, avoid the use of debt, and so forth.” He’d say: “Yes, yes; but I didn’t do that. Now what do I do?” “Well, spend less than you earn. You’ve got to get on a budget; you’ve got to get out of debt; you’ve got to set some savings aside; and you’ve got to set some long-term goals;”—and I would say—“increase your giving.” The principles don’t change! Just because I’m in financial difficulty doesn’t mean that there are different principles.
Ron: They’re the same principles to avoid the problems, to get out of the problems, and when I have a surplus, or when I have a deficit—those are the four biblical principles.
Dennis: When do you tell a couple to cut up their credit cards? I mean, if they are in debt, starting out their family, at what point should they pull out a pair of shears or scissors and cut them and whack them in half?
Ron: Right now! I mean, if they are in debt trouble.
Incidentally, though, credit cards never got anybody into problems—it’s the person holding the credit card that got into problems. [Laughter]
Ron: I look at credit card debt as symptomatic. It’s symptomatic of a violation of a biblical principle someplace. For example, it may be greed: “I want something that I really can’t afford.” It may be poor communication between a husband and a wife: “I’ll show him,” or “I’ll show her!” It may be fear—fear of the economy or whatever—and “I feel better when I spend.” It may be poor communication between a husband and wife. There are a lot of things that cause the credit card debt—it may be a lack of self-discipline—and all of those are spiritual issues.
Debt is just symptomatic of something else that is going on, which is why FamilyLife is such a critical ministry; because you’re dealing with husband and wife communication at its very core.
I’ve found that that’s, generally, why people are in trouble.
Dennis: And, generally, we are trying to practice what we are preaching to the couples. FamilyLife doesn’t have any debt.
Dennis: We pay our bills off as they become due.
Bob: If we don’t have the money, we don’t go out and spend it.
Ron: Well, I happen to know also, that you cut your expenses—
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Ron: —which was a very prudent, practical, wise thing to do.
Dennis: A young couple, like we are talking about here: “Where would you encourage them to look at cutting expenses?” I mean, it seems like this whole culture is an entitlement generation, where we feel like we deserve all the electronic media / we deserve all the access to all the fun and games. It’s difficult to know where to start to cut.
Ron: Well, you know, back in October of ’08, when we saw this economy starting to go south, Judy and I took a look at our budget. We said: “Is there a place we can cut? Do we need all this telephone service?”
We looked at our cell phones / we looked at cable TV: “Do we really need what we are buying on cable TV?”—we cut that. We cut our clothes budget; we cut our eating out budget; we cut our vacation and entertainment budget. These were all nice things, but they were really discretionary when you got down to it. We cut our budget 25 percent, which means that we were overspending probably 25 percent, at least, before we started cutting.
Bob: That’s a good exercise for a couple to do—
Bob: —once a year—and not in the middle of an economic downturn or challenge.
Dennis: Right; right!
Bob: I mean, just stop and ask the question: “Are we using this? Do we need this?”
Bob: It’s easy for that stuff to just kind of creep in and become a part of your monthly expenses without any scrutiny going on.
Ron: You get sloppy on it. With credit cards, it’s so easy to buy things. Earlier on, in my career, professionally, I counseled people to pay cash; because it makes a lot of difference.
When you put out $30 or $40 for gasoline, for example, you think a little differently when you turn on the air-conditioning when you drive and so forth—
Bob: —rather than just swiping the card.
Ron: —just rather than swiping the card. Pay cash when you eat out / pay cash at the grocery store. Now, that sounds impractical in today’s credit card society, and I don’t know that every—I think you need to do that until you establish some boundaries.
Ron: That’s a good thing to practice.
Dennis: I think of the Book of Ecclesiastes. You know, here was Solomon, who said he liked the vineyard, so he went and bought it.
Bob: —bought it.
Dennis: He liked a palace, so he got a palace. He liked horses, so he got a whole stable full. He accumulated more wealth than any person who’d ever lived before him.
I think this culture—that is full of advertisements / always trying to convince us that what we have is not enough, and that we need these services, this entertainment, or this possession—I can be gullible!
It’s amazing how, in my mind, I can be walking down an aisle and say: “You know, I’d like to have that! [Laughter] You know, I can justify that!”
Bob: That’s right!
Dennis: And you can always find someone to compare yourself to who has it.
[Laughter] I’m just amazed at my rational thinking on this thing and, before long, if I’m impulsive and not disciplined, I’ll go get it; and then I’ll regret it—
Dennis: —especially if it’s paid for with a credit card, which I pay off, of course; but, nonetheless, the impulsive purchase can easily be made at that point.
Bob: Let me ask you, though—there are some folks, Ron, who would look at what you are recommending and say: “If Americans did what Ron Blue wants us to do, you want to talk about an economic meltdown? Our whole economic system is built on Dennis getting out the credit card, buying what he wants.
Bob: “This is how we have what we have in this country. If we go to the four biblical principles Ron Blue is suggesting, we’re going to be in a world of hurt!”
Ron: Absolutely; that is true,—that if we went to a saving and investing economy, eventually, we’d be better off—but it would take a long time to get there, and there would be a lot of pain in getting there.
I tell people this—I know that most of the people that hear me or read my books are not going to practice those four principles. But enough are that they are then prepared for any type of meltdown or any type of adversity. You don’t know when you are going to lose your job. If you have got three to six months in your savings, and you have no debt other than maybe a mortgage, you are as prepared as you can possibly be. That is a good position to be in.
I would rather be on the lending side than the borrowing side. If I overspend $1,000 a year, that’s $40,000 over a working life, ages 25 to 65.
The lender, if he makes 12 percent on that $1,000 a year, has made $1,000,000 off of me. If I take a $2,000 credit card bill and pay the minimum payments—and a $2,000 credit card bill is not that much--it will take me 32 years to pay it off, and I will have paid $10,000 back—$8,000 in interest—in order to borrow $2,000. See that just, rationally, doesn’t make any sense.
Yes, our economy might collapse; but I’d rather be on that side of running my life, according to biblical principles; because I will have done all that I can to provide for myself and my family.
Bob: You know, I think it is Proverbs 6, where it talks about the ant—
Bob: —and how the ant is doing what Ron Blue says an ant ought to do. He’s making sure that there is some set aside—
Bob: —and he’s being prudent / he’s being thoughtful. You’re saying: “If we all became ants, we’d have some hardship for a while and then things would work out.” The reality is—we aren’t all going to become ants; are we?
Ron: No; and the reason is that we live in a world that’s fallen, and there is a sin nature out there. I’ve read the Book of Revelation, and it’s not a pretty sight until you get to Revelation 21 and 22. I know the end of the story. I think of what Jesus said to the church at Laodicea—He said, you know: “You think [emphasis added] you are rich,—
Ron: —“and you’re not. You think you see, and you’re not.” Then he says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if any man hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him.” We use it as an evangelistic verse, which is appropriate; but it’s really written to Christians. It is saying / Jesus is saying: “I’m all you need. None of this other stuff is going to provide anything you are looking for—contentment, joy, peace, any security—none of that comes from your possessions.”
Dennis: So, if you were sitting down with a young couple, who were just starting out as we talked about here, what would be your advice to them other than, very clearly: “Stay out of debt”?
Dennis: And “Don’t get in over your head, and avoid consumer debt like the plague”?
Dennis: Where else would you suggest that they focus their efforts as they begin their marriage and family?
Ron: I would say they should be living off of a—we call it a budget / I’ll call it a spending plan. They should plan their expenses before they spend them—so that if they have $1,000 for a vacation in their budget /spending plan, they are free to spend the $1,000—they don’t have to feel guilty about that, and they’ve planned for it.
So, they should have a budget. They should be saving money, a little bit anyway, out of money that comes in, so that they have some margin for error—the car repair, the medical expense, the accident, whatever it may be—
Ron: —they’ve got some money set aside. If they have a budget, and if they are committed to paying off their credit cards every month on time, and if they are saving some, they are doing all that they can do; and they are doing it well.
Dennis: Ron, you said something in there that I want to underline. You talked about—if there is a car that breaks down, or an accident, or a health issue—you didn’t mention job loss, but that could occur in there as well.
Ron: Job loss; right.
Dennis: Most people aren’t prepared to handle these unexpected crises and, as a result, their financial experience over a lifetime just moves from one crisis to another.
Dennis: They are constantly playing defense, and don’t ever go on the offense. I can’t imagine what that would feel like!
Ron: That’s one of the reasons that money is listed as a prime cause of divorce. It’s really not money, but it’s the lack of self-discipline / it’s the lack of communication; because you eventually get to a point of absolutely being terrified—you don’t want to open the mail / you don’t want to talk to your spouse or your family. It is a devastating thing to be financially—
Dennis: —on the brink.
Ron: —on the brink.
Now, some people are going to live on the brink by their vocational choice or whatever, but they can still follow the principles. That’s all that they can do, and they can do all that they can do.
Dennis: I started today out by sending I Timothy, Chapter 6—about verse 6 through verse 10—to a friend. It’s all about not falling in love with money but pursuing godliness and being content.
Dennis: That’s a hard choice for all of us to make on an ongoing basis, but it really is good to revisit the Scripture frequently to find out: “What does the Bible have to say about money?—about pursuing wealth and riches?” There are a lot of cautions in the Bible about this, and I think we need to pay heed to that.
There are also some great authors, like Ron Blue, that can also help us in making good decisions in an economic crisis.
Bob: And a lot of families continue to face challenging times, economically. Ron, I know you have a colleague, Russ Crosson, who has written a book that you have endorsed, called 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple. It’s a great book that outlines the basics—the kinds of things you’ve talked about here today—that couples ought to pay heed to as they’re navigating what can be some very challenging financial waters.
We’ve got copies of the book, 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple. If you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, you can order a copy of that book; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy. This is a great book for couples who are just starting out, or for couples who are at a point, where they say, “We’ve got to take some steps—here in the new year—to get our finances back in control.”
This is a book that will lay out a game plan for you to do that. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy of 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple, or call us to request the book at 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Speaking of money and finances, I haven’t seen where things ended up for us at the end of 2016; I do know we had a lot of FamilyLife Today listeners who, over the last thirty days, got in touch with us to say, “This program really does matter to our family; but even beyond that, it matters to our community / it matters in this culture more than ever.” Many of you got in touch to say: “We want to partner with you. We want to help reach more couples with more practical biblical help and hope for their marriages and their families.”
We appreciate those of you who made a yearend contribution to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We also appreciate those of you who are Legacy Partners with this ministry. Legacy Partners are those who, each month, make a donation to help support this ministry—they provide the financial foundation / the backbone for this ministry. We couldn’t do what we do without our Legacy Partners.
So we just wanted to say, “Thanks,” first of all, to those of you who made a yearend contribution; and then, secondly—those of you who have been faithful Legacy Partners with this ministry / some of you for many years—“Thank you for your financial support and your partnership with us.” Our goal, at FamilyLife, is to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and for your family. We appreciate those of you who partner with us in making that happen.
If you’d like to find out about becoming a Legacy Partner, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—there’s information available there—or just call and say, “I’m interested in becoming a Legacy Partner”; and we’ll get you the information you need about how to do that.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about some of the financial lessons Dennis Rainey learned from watching his father and see how our kids are learning a lot about how to handle money by watching us. Ron Blue will be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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