Hot Tip #73 – Get Financial Peace – Part 4
To wrap up our 4-part series on incorporating financial peace into your marriage relationship, I’d like to tell you about the most radical thing we’ve done, and the huge impact that it’s had on our marriage (and marriage bed)!
But first, let’s recap the other steps we took as we moved toward financial peace:
- Step 1: Establish a $1,000 emergency fund
- Step 2: Pay off all debt except house
- Step 3: Put aside 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in a savings account
- Step 4: Invest 15% of income for retirement
- Step 5: College funding for kids
According to Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps to Financial Peace” plan, the last two steps are:
- Step 6: Pay off the mortgage on your home and live completely “payment-free!”
- Step 7: Build wealth and GIVE!
I know. Step #6 feels like it could take FOREVER! Because most people take out at least 20-year or even 30-year mortgages on their home, attacking that loan with enough “gazelle intensity” until it’s totally paid off can seem like such a L-O-N-G-term goal. And my experience with L-O-N-G-term goals is that they N-E-V-E-R get accomplished unless we make them a H-U-G-E priority.
So we decided to make paying off our mortgage a SHORT-term goal instead. How? Read on…
In the fall of 2007, around my 40th birthday, I began feeling as if I had a two-ton elephant on my chest. Literally, I struggled to breathe at times, especially if I let myself linger over thoughts of the life we’d created for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – I loved most everything about my life – a thriving marriage, motherhood, and ministry that kept me energized from day to day. But there was a big hole in my bucket letting so much of that energy drain right through me.
And when I thought about it long and hard enough, I was finally able to label my anxiety. It was called: PROPERTY MANAGEMENT.
We’d purchased the 100+ acre property in 1998, and invested many years (and many royalty checks) in turning that abandoned little 1800 sq. ft. log cabin into a 4500 sq. ft. “dream home” that probably resembled a small retreat center more than a simple house for a family of four. I don’t know where my head was during those years, but somehow I thought I needed a separate room for every activity – a workout room, an office for me, and office for Greg, a formal guest room, a family living room, a kids’ den… and without realizing what a maintenance nightmare it would eventually become, we went from a cozy 3-bedroom 3-bath cabin to a 6-bedroom, 5.5 bath monstrosity… oh, and a whopping mortgage payment to match by the time construction was complete. We went a little over our original budget, to say the least.
We enjoyed the house like crazy the first three years after we added all that square footage. We hosted lots of family gatherings and even weddings and receptions. But after the new wore off and the maintenance got so tiring, I began cringing whenever we received the mortgage reminder in the mail. Out of our $1600 per month payment, only $300 of that was going toward the principal. $1,300 was going toward interest. Every month. I was paying the bank $1,300 every 30 days to live in a house that was soon overwhelming me on a daily basis. So we put it on the market. In May 2008. And it sat there. For 3 years.
During that time, I lost so much sleep… and so much of my patience… and so much of my libido as a result! I remember telling Greg how I’d often wake up with dreams of grabbing the four walls around me and pulling them in for a “cozier fit” because life simply felt way “too big,” and that if I wasn’t able to accomplish that goal soon, I’d be tempted to opt for the four tight walls of a coffin. Not trying to be dramatic, just stating the truth. I felt as if I’d rather die that keep living in that huge house with all of the maintenance, land management, and debt load.
Praise God, in May 2011, we FINALLY got that albatross out from around our necks! We managed to sell it for just enough money to pay off the remaining mortgage, and pay cash for the next house! We wanted to call Dave Ramsey’s show to scream, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!” as so many of his listeners do!
I learned lots of valuable lessons from that experience – mainly that you don’t ever want more square footage than you can effectively keep clean… that you can always manage with less than you think you really need… that “bigger” isn’t always “better,” especially when it comes to mortgage payments!
But I also learned that WE have control of our lifestyle – and if we can choose to expand it, we can also choose to shrink it! And that’s exactly what we did. We found a 1,932 sq. ft. house in Tyler on a 1/3rd acre lot, complete with a garage apartment for our college-age daughter, and we have NO payments on anything! We live entirely off of cash, not credit, and LIFE HAS NEVER FELT SO MARVELOUS!
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, isn’t that great for YOU?! But we don’t have a big piece of property to sell to get ahead!” So what DO you have that you can live without? What kind of albatrosses are around your neck that you’d rather cash-in than to have to keep managing? Consider these questions:
- Could you manage with a smaller house if it meant smaller house payments?
- Do you drive a car that’s a little more expensive than you truly need? Could you manage with a more affordable one to get you around from place to place?
- Do you have clothes in your closet that could be taken to a re-sale shop, freeing up more space to properly store the ones you actually wear?
- Do you have an abundance of “stuff” in your basement, attic, or garage that you’d be willing to part with for the right price? Then have a big yard sale!
- Are there extra computers, video games, televisions, other electronics that you don’t use as often and could easily live without? Jewelry that you rarely wear? Interesting collectibles that collect far more dust than interest? Sell them on E-Bay!
Every dollar you generate could be one less dollar you owe on your house, and several less dollars in interest accruing on your mortgage loan between now and the time you actually get it paid off!
And when you do get it paid off, guess what you’re able to do even MORE of than you ever have before?! (hint: the answer is NOT buy more stuff you don’t need or eat out far more often, although having more expendable income is a nice perk!)
Now you’re in a position to be a HUGE BLESSING to others! Whether it’s giving more to your local church, supporting more missionaries, donating more heartily to charitable organizations, or however you decide to invest in God’s kingdom, there is NO GREATER JOY than to be able to GIVE in order to help others!
Golda Meir said, “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” Dave Ramsey says, “Vow to never hold your money so tightly that you never give any away. Hoarding money is not the way to wealth. Save for yourself, save for your family’s future, and be gracious enough to bless others. You can do all three at the same time.”
Indeed, you can do all three at the same time. And when you exchange the stress and pressure of big monthly mortgage payments and living off of credit for the FREEDOM of being DEBT-FREE, you’ll breathe a BIG sigh of RELIEF in your marriage…
And a BIG sigh of PASSION in your marriage bed as a result.
Seriously, I’ve learned that there IS a clear connection between financial freedom and sexual confidence. Test the theory for yourself, and see if becoming a more confident money manager doesn’t make you a more sexually confident wife as well!