Stronger: Finances (Learning from Failure)
Updated: Jan 20
Yes! You are in. Most people, really, really like money. Many love it. To be frank, I've made too many mistakes on this front. Some of you have already heard this testimony. For some of you this will be the first time. It's a painful lesson of mine that will help some of you that like to spend like...I used to...especially our young adults as they become earners.
First, a 'Play of the Day' by Dr. Lorrits on the importance of reviewing game film. Whether you are an athlete or not, you will get this. You play over and over in your head some successes, yet mainly the failures in your own life. Here is a new way for some of you to look at the importance of your failures. Mine included...
I love that Dr. Bryan Lorrits, if you would like to hear more of him. Check out the 'Bryan Lorrits' Podcast. That's Bryan with a 'Y". That excerpt came from '2020: The Year We Must Never Forget', published on 1/4/2021.
Ok, you ready for some dirt? First, notice the tagline of FriDudes. "Getting Real. Pursuing Truth." Part of getting Real is talking about what doesn't work in life. Pretending your life is perfect is... FAKE. As Dr. Lorrits astutely points out, the wise will learn from their failures. For the wise, there are no wasted experiences. God will absolutely use your failures if you seek Him. Check Rom 8:28.
I recall seeing a recent episode of 'My 600 Pound Life', if you are not familiar with that show it follows overweight people trying to get healthier. Thinking to myself, oh wow, I'm glad I'm not that person. Of course, a quick heart check and a pull and it comes to my mind, I do have or at least had a 600 pound life...financially.
Truth, most of us have a 600 pound life somewhere. It could be physically or debt or a sucky marriage and infidelity or an addiction to work, money, boos, porn, social media, or politics or anger management or _____________. Here is my 600 pound life with debt...
Do as your Country does...The American Dream...Debt
For Rich or for Richer?
For Poor or Poorer?
By the way, remember when I said we are all flawed. I am definitely flawed. I am one that definitely got caught up with the ways of this world. Both Lori and I worked. From when I left college, I earned more money every year. The more I made, the more I spent. I will say that we did learn how to live off one income for a while. We started with two incomes. Once we had kids, things changed. After our first child (a blessed daughter) was born, she was a daycare kid. Lori wanted to be a full-time Mom and raise her. I actually argued with my wife that she should work. Correct, I wanted her to keep working. I was raised on equal rights. Hey, you went to college, you should work. I didn’t want my kid to be one of those stay-at-home-clingy kids. Plus, I liked the double income.
PAUSE on that film right there, it was more important for me to have more money vs. who was raising my kids.
Once we had our second kid (a blessed son), I started doing the math. Daycare costs how much per month? Hey, $1,200 per month is two Hummers or Range Rovers sitting in my driveway. Yes, I’m dating myself. In the early 2000's, Hummers were the ultimate status symbol of self-indulgence. Fuel prices were also only $1.25 a gallon. Who cared about 8 miles per gallon back then?
Another major turning point was the daycare provider herself. We had a growing issue of our daughter being bit by a certain toddler renegade. After about the fifth bite mark with a perfectly outlined- teeth-marked bruise on her little arm, I confronted Ms. Daycare. I didn’t yell and scream. I handled it civilly. She was ready for me. She was a veteran. She had heard it before and she will hear it again. It is her business. She simply pulled out the contract. She pointed down to a section and read out loud, “We the parents agree that our daycare provider is raising our kid(s) during the day.” When I signed the agreement, I didn’t really read it in detail. At first, I was taken aback. After thinking about it for only 10-15 seconds more, I simply thought, wow, she is right. She is raising our kid. We drop our daughter at 7:00AM. We pick her up by 6:00PM. We feed her and put her to bed by 8:30pm. She is raising her almost twelve hours per day. We are raising her 2.5 hours per day.
Lori had me worn down. The daycare realization fully kicked in. The math of two kids in daycare helped take off some of the sting. We would still be losing more income by her leaving her job.
We became a one-income family. Lori became a full-time mom. You know what?! We survived. Not only did we survive, we really thrived. At first, we simply learned to live on less. We spent less. We ate out less. We held off on major purchases. We adjusted. It wasn’t a pain at all.
Here is the key point about the daycare tangent. Full-time parents, you now have my utmost respect. BTW, our kids turned out to be great. They didn't end up being clingy-stay-at-home kids. Economically, we learned how to live on less. We adjusted. Have you ever noticed that whatever you earn you spend? Well, the majority of us, yes. To the accountants and other like minds that can save and budget, I tip my cap to you.
A major shift and benefit that I did not anticipate settled in, things were easier. No more debating who should stay home from work when a kid was sick. No more rushing a kid off to daycare in the morning. No more leaving work to pick up the kid by cut off. No more cutting that big check to someone else raising our kids.
Overall, that was the most satisfied I have been thus far with my career. I could provide for my family on my own. I didn’t need my spouse’s job. I definitely needed her help on the home front. Lori was/is a fantastic Mom. She was so good to those kids. Those kids were some of the luckiest kids on earth. Bills paid. Just that mortgage – which was manageable. It was good. It was really good. PAUSE: Film Review, Turning point...
Why do we always want more? Despite being 'good', I had to have more. Despite the peace and satisfaction, I wanted a bigger house. I wanted to live by a lake. I wanted a bigger truck. I wanted a vacation/investment property. I want. I want. I want.
Well, I earned more. I actually started earning a lot more. I was still able to maximize my 401k. I was also spending like a crackhead that just found a bag of money.
Fast forward, we were blessed with a third child (another blessed daughter). I was the primary financial provider. Lori was taking care of business at home. We were solid. Remember, through that time, Lori was dragging me to church. Actually, I was willingly going at that point. We were attending certain marriage enrichment retreats and seminars. Small groups were definitely helping from the communication standpoint. Pause: learning point. Just because you are going to church, tithing (well, ok, giving, ponder that by the way, versed ones), attending small groups and seminars, does not take you off the hook. You can't be reckless with a key area of your life. It will catch up to you. The Owner's Manual says you will reap what you sow. Check Gal 6:7. Put into practice what you learn. Don't let your ego and pride get in the way. Follow the Owner's Manual of life.
Furthermore, just because you are getting some of it, doesn’t mean you get all of it. As I compose this, I still don’t get all of it. I’m like a toddler that moved from 2-3 year olds to the 4-5 year olds. I still make mistakes. Check Rom 3:23.
Once our third child hit kindergarten age, Lori was craving the work world again. You don’t get inner-office 'Way to Go's' and corporate rewards while being a full-time parent. Remember that jerk that didn’t want his wife to stop working. Well now, I become the jerk that didn’t want that same spouse to go back to work. We actually argued over that. I guess you can call me 180 boy. It was the end of an era.
Lori found a job and we went to double income again. More money meant more temptation to spend. Moving on to ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ and the American Dream, we now strive to live in a 3,000+ sq. ft. house, with many flat panels, 3-car garage, vacations every year. We eat out several times per week. That sh!# adds up.
We were doing many things right. As for the material world, we were getting lost in it. The more things we acquired, the more problems that seemed to happen.
PAUSE, so let's review the film, I earned a lot of money. I spent a lot of money. According to the 'American Way', I was doing a lot of things right. I was maxing out my 401k. I had over $100,000 in my home account. I had credit cards and was paying them off...initially. Credit lines expanded. I felt invincible. It felt like Monopoly money. Two mortgages. Got a HELOC, $160,000. Cars, trucks, a boat, jet skis. All loans and/or leases. Not paying cash. Living the American Dream. 2008 going into 2009, BOOM! If you want a history lesson, watch the 'Big Short' movie for a crucial history lesson. The entire United States financial infrastructure almost melted down. Prior to the collapse, I wasn't paying much attention. I was wondering how people earning far less than us were affording these big houses. Turns out the banks were handing out mortgages (mainly not qualified) like they were candy (insuring and selling them off to another who would insure them and then sell them off to another...repeat and repeat and repeat.. In my naivete, I was thinking the housing market was never going to go down. Prices kept going up...Little to my knowledge then, fueled by faulty mortgages. Me, being the financial genius (tongue in cheek), bought near the peak (my latest properties). Collapse. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citi and the other big banks and investment firms, General Motors, AIG and many other 'Too Big to Fail' got their bail out. No bail out for this total fool. PAUSE, further film review, I went from sole provider with a very comfortable living to owning and borrowing for a lot of crap. After the Great Recession I went to about 50% of the cash flow to cover it. BTW, that includes Lori’s job! Worse yet, when times got tough, I neglected finances. Put my head in the sand. My ignorance/recklessness almost destroyed our marriage. In fact, I'm still not out of the woods yet. The rest of the story will be shared someday. For now, I had to make some painful changes. Lori 'chose' to stick with me for poorer. In this day and age, that is not easy. You may even say it is rare. Heck, even when you're the richest couple in the world (see the Bezos/Amazom.com) they divorced. When I have my A game, I give thanks for her everyday and ask here "What can I do for you today?". For those that know Lori, she is a beautiful woman. This was not her fault. She easily could have divorced me and found a much wealthier man that could give her that big house and new vehicle.
Pause: film review, mark my words. If Lori and I didn't have Jesus Christ as our foundation, all those Sunday sermons and our blessed couples' small group, we would not be married today. Check Matt 7: 24-27. So for those versed and Deeper, you know the Bible (the Owner's Manual) says, if you are in debt, you are slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 (NIV), “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” You don't feel like a slave when times are good and you can pay everything monthly and have surplus left. Try missing some payments, compound interest can be a bitch and you don't own jack sh#!
Pause, film review. For those striving to save and give more, compound interest rates can be your best friend or your worst enemies. You ever notice which buildings are the tallest in your cities? Whose names are on the majority of the stadiums: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, etc. All fueled by the power of compound interest rates that drive your loans. As long as you pay your bills, they will lend you more. More money for them, less money for you. BTW, if you think this is some side tangent of hate for financial institutions, wrong. Some of you work for them. Just be wise. Understand they are in the business to make money. The more you borrow, compound interest rates can build you a 'Hell Scraper'. Gulp, I don't know. What is the opposite of a sky scraper?
Added reflection. For many of you, you were smart. You were and still aren't spending like a crackhead that found a bag of money. You weathered 2008-2010 like a champ. So, are you teaching your kids what to do? Puzzling to me that our schools teach pottery yet neglect personal finance. If your kids push back on you, have them listen or read this. Back to my mess...
For the record, I didn't foreclose. I did burn through my surplus and savings. I started using my credit lines/cards and ended up maxing them out...thinking naively things would just magically correct themselves. I suppose the American way would be to file bankruptcy. I didn't do that either. My foolish ways dug this hole or built this Mt. Everest of debt. I went from feeling I was on top of that Mt. Everest to looking up at it in distress. It was my mistake to correct. Humbly, I needed to repent. I needed to correct my ways and mistakes. I needed to come clean to God that I was clearly not getting him involved enough with each purchase. I was not being a good manager of jobs and money with which he blessed me. I wasn't tithing properly. I needed to come clean to my wife that I was a fool for neglecting the finances at the toughest of times and making her own it. I begged for mercy, grace and forgiveness. So, we made a plan and started selling my treasured earthly possessions...well, slowly but surely. Thanks be to God, I have made progress. Knowing two mortgages were too much and at a breaking point, I prayed to God do I sell my dream lake house or the place in California? Two days after that prayer, I had an unsolicited offer on the lake place. Sigh. Ok, humble pie. We sold my lake dream. Fast forward, humbly, I am STILL paying off those debts...including taxes. Technically, I may be at base camp 3 or 4 of my Mt. Everest of debt elimination. 2021 was supposed to be my debt free year. That was my plan. God didn't tell me that or reveal it in a dream. To be frank, I will need a miracle to accomplish that this year. God clearly says I am not done yet and maybe better sharing this is part of my healing. So to those for which my personal, raw, game film of my 600lb debt life, resonated. Will you learn from this? Will you share this? As you earn more, don't automatically spend more. Stay away from debt. Don't lease. Don't finance. Pay off your house while times are good. Be a good steward with the jobs and money that God has blessed you. PAUSE, film review. For those stubborn like me, who say I lease for this tax advantage and I borrow and have never missed a payment and still want more...
Please be honest to yourself here...at least for those married Has your marriage or life gotten better or worse as your houses got larger and you accrued more stuff? Has your marriage gotten better or worse as your vehicles have become nicer? Has your marriage gotten better or worse as you work more hours? I don’t want your short-term answer either. I want your long-term answer. If you just moved to a new, huge home, you have another honeymoon phase…for awhile. Sooner or later, we want more.
============================= Some of the worst dads I know are traveling CEO’s. Oh, they certainly provide financially. Big time in most cases. But they are poverty poor in the relationship department. Many are so successful on the business or fame front, but are colossal failures on the relationship front. I’ll never forget the college kid I hired as a summer intern. His dad was a CEO at a major healthcare company. They attended church each week. He and his brother and sister attended excellent schools. They had the best. They grew up in a huge house out in the country with a bunch of land. He also told me that his dad was gone all the time. He really didn’t have a dad growing up. He later stated that his dad’s job was his family – not them.
So some of you are saying, “Hey, at least he grew up rich!”. Yes, he did grow up monetarily rich. He also grew up relationship poor. What dream exactly are we chasing in the United States? Is our dream to really keep up with the Kardashians and have broken relationship after broken relationship?
Do we really want things at the cost of our most important relationships? At the end of life, they don’t talk about all your things at a funeral. They may fight about them. They certainly don’t list them all and hand them out like a corporate annual report at the funeral. They reflect on how good of human being the person was (spouse, parent, citizen, servant).
If money guaranteed happiness, Hollywood would be the mecca for the best marriages and families. If that was true, nobody would divorce there, right?!
For richer or poorer, for almost all of you, that was your vow. For a lot of you, ‘poorer’ is a major reason you divorced or will divorce.
So reflection time again, think about when your marriage/pre-marriage was at its strongest. For most of you, it was when you were young and certainly poorer. You had to strive and save for that first house. You lived on next to nothing and you had some of the most fun in your life.
So, let’s go full circle here. Why are we maxing ourselves out? Why are we sacrificing/compromising our relationships for more things? How big do we really need a house?
The tough part is that most of us need two incomes to keep up with the Joneses. On top of that, we tap home equity and other credit. When times were good, it really wasn’t a problem. When sh!# hit the fan, it became a very big problem. It just about, and perhaps still will, take down our country economically.
When our country was at its strongest, we didn’t run deficits. Our grandparents or at least their parents, lived off of one salary. The other took care of the home. It was simple. It was good.
Now, I’m not saying you have to live on one income. I am saying you would be wise to learn to live on one income. If you have another income, then that one is pure bonus (savings and giving, etc.). You will indeed have something called Margin. That’s another must read book by the way.
I will say this. I think we're designed to need each other. One focuses on providing income. One focuses on the home. It is such a simpler model and it really worked for us. I don’t think we were designed to live in a house 5x the size we actually need. That is part of our problem.
Is it safe to say that we all want to live in a strong country? We all want to have a strong family and spouse that truly loves us. It wasn’t that long ago, we had that. Wouldn’t we be wise to look at what worked and what didn’t and make some changes? To pick up that book that is collecting dust and find out what in that Owner’s Manual made our country and families strong?
As you reflect on below, think of my testimony. Reflect on my saying, "I was spending like a crackhead that found a bag of money". It takes one to know one. Do you see the parallel? I want and aircraft carrier. I want a war here. I want free health care for everybody. I want. I want. I want. Yes, some initiatives more noble than others. Can we afford it or are we charging it? Instead our political leaders, buy our votes with promises that we can't afford. We keep charging the Federal Credit Card and kick the can down the road. Trillion dollars more here. Trillion dollars more there. The United States is approaching $28 Trillion in debt. For those of you that think you are debt free (personally you may be), as a country we are $222,000 in debt per tax payer and counting. $222,000+ and counting! Where's the parallel there? Do you think our government looks at money like Monopoly money like I did? For the business majors and anyone that has studied Economics 101, you can't print your way out of debt...at least for too long. Something called hyperinflation kicks in...eventually. And all those dollars that so many worship suddenly become worth a lot less. You need to make a plan and balance the budget. You best do it. I didn't and paid the price. Our states have to do it. Our country should do it. BTW, if you think I'm taking political sides, I see both Republicans and Democrats charging the federal credit card for decades now. If I'm reading the US Debt Clock correctly (see link) below, we are paying $390,000,000,000 in interest per year? What could we do with $390 billion? You now know my story. Foolish to pay all that interest.
Give me a political leader bold enough to say enough. Repent, make a plan, make tough decisions and sacrifices. The tough question really is, who would vote for that? https://www.usdebtclock.org/ Proverbs 22:7 (NIV), “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
As for me, I’m still humbly learning and correcting. In fact, as I further speak and write and when we get to the Q&A section, you may hold me accountable and ask how I’m doing making with my financial corrections.
May we find that truth. Let’s go!
Questions for Quality Couple Time/Date Night...
Do you fight about money?
Do you work off of a budget of 10/10/80 (10% give, 10% save, 80% spend)?
Can your family survive on one income? What would happen if your family income was cut in half?