Let’s get this out of the way early. You have to GET OUT OF DEBT!

That’s it. This post could end right here.
Everything else we talk about in the finance category is written with the assumption that you are currently out of debt or are trying to get out.

Now that that’s out of the way, I have a confession. I’m still clawing my way out of debt too. My wife and I had to learn some lessons the hard way when it comes to money, so I truly hope that you will look at the lessons in this category and hear that they come from hard earned experience. Over time I’ll share some of the mistakes we’ve made, and you will quickly learn that I’m absolutely not a finance major, financial advisor, or even someone good at math. I have learned a lot over time, and that’s what I’ll talk about. For everything else, I’ll bring in smarty-pants people who can mess us up with some truth on their specific expertise.

For now, let’s keep it simple.

If you spend less than you make, you will have some money left over. If you do this for a long time, you will have a lot left over. If you use the leftover money in the right ways while it’s just sitting there, you will have a LOT left over!

Before we start talking about what to do with the leftover money, we need to get to the point where we have leftover. I define debt as everything you have to pay on aside from monthly utilities or service bills like cell phones. Yup, that’s right, even your house needs to be paid off. Car payments – average. Credit card balance – average. Mortgage payment – average. Since we’re all here to end average in our lives, I’m proposing that we all start the journey to being completely financially free. Debt is not an option when you are trying to become financially secure and not live month-to-month, paycheck-to-paycheck. Bringing things back into reality – it’s not wise to wait too long to start saving for retirement. I believe the whole idea of formal retirement is obsolete anyway! I’ll go into that in a post of its own. So keeping in line with most advisors we will start saving before the mortgage is gone. Credit cards, student loans, and car payments have to go first!

Imagine a life where your entire mortgage payment was not going to someone else but instead you got to keep it and do with it what you want. For my wife I put it like this: “Babe, when you want to go to Disney World we will be able to save for a few weeks and we can go stay at the best hotel, get park-hopper tickets, and not worry about a single thing while we’re there. Once we’re debt free.” Imagine being able to tell your boss that you won’t compromise your ethics for the bottom line, and then not worry about losing your job, because you’ve got a year’s worth of cash saved to cover expenses while you find a better job or strike out on your own. I don’t care if you make $13 an hour or $4k a week, this scale slides. High incomes usually carry high lifestyles so the principles are exactly the same.

In the finances category on End Average, we will talk about all sorts of money topics, but the goal of it all is to get to a place where you don’t have to worry about money. To not fight about money with your spouse. I will share my views on money handling as a Christian and things the Bible says about the subject. I can’t wait to remove money worries altogether. I started this financial journey from the bottom – as Dave Ramsey says: “you have too much month at the end of the money”. All of this should be taught in school starting in first grade, but since it’s not, I’ll try to tackle it here one topic at a time. My goal is to keep it simple because the simplest principles make the biggest difference. Let’s get to a financial level that requires a professional financial planner to take us from level 9 to level 10 in our pursuit of financial freedom!

The next step – here’s your homework until the next post in the finance section. Take a pen and paper, no fancy excel spreadsheets, and write down all the debt you have. I want it to include credit cards, student loans, mortgages, and how much you owe your aunt Edna. Everything. Done? Good. Now, next to those lines put how much you pay monthly on each of them. By doing this, you can get an idea of where you are starting, taking the daunting “debt” and starting the process of controlling it with a budget. Keep this paper handy because we’re going to use it when we talk about budgets (Ouch! The “B” word!), and how we will factor the debt into it. If you want to be financially free you have to stop procrastinating. Own your situation, figure out where you need to be and make a plan to get there.

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hangin’. In time I’ll share a few cool tricks and habits that help me keep track of my money. They make life a whole lot easier. If you think it is too late or there’s no hope, you are wrong. I’ve been there. The best part of this journey so far is that my wife and I don’t fight about money! It took us a while to get here, but it’s possible for everyone. Imagine that! For now, you go do your homework. Be honest with yourself, nobody else will see it if you don’t want them to!

Let’s end average together!

Ryan.

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