A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

The Money Story, Revisited

I’ve covered this story before, but it’s been a couple of years. We’re going to be teaching another session of Financial Peace University (New and Improved! Only 9 weeks long!) in a couple of weeks, and I always like to start it by sharing my family’s money story. The story continues, and some things have changed.  So, it’s time to revisit it.

When my wife and I got married almost 16 years ago, we were both broke and in debt. We both had credit card balances. I had a car payment. She had a student loan. Neither of us any money saved in the bank. Financially, we were in sorry shape. Fortunately, we were both young and in love. Our relationship was strong and we didn’t know any better.

Unfortunately, we were both young, and we didn’t know any better.

After a couple of months of failing to pay the bills on time, I turned my back on it all and handed the money management of our home completely over to my wife. She handled the payments and the debts while I went out and started bringing in an ever-growing income, and that suited me just fine.

She’d whittle our debts down month after month and finish them off when we received a windfall, like a big tax return or a cash gift for the holidays. It would have been a good system if I’d been more involved, or if we’d had a better understanding of the principles we needed to follow to treat our money correctly. Instead we’d wind up using the freed up money poorly.

A new car. A mortgage. Appliances and furniture. Every loose dime was tied up with a new payment, and credit cards caught our slack. We’d pay it all off quickly enough, but there was always something new, and it was always what we thought we could “afford” – not what could we actually pay for out of our savings.

Twelve years of this nonsense. Twelve years of bigger incomes and zero financial headway. Twelve years and I have no one to blame but myself. I’d finally had enough. With our third child on the way we knew that everything had to change. Fortunately, my wife knew how to start.

The Total Money MakeoverWe began with a few couples gathered together in a family room reading through Dave Ramsey’s book, the Total Money Makeover. We bought in completely. We struggled through writing our first budget. We talked and fought about things that we’d ignored for over a decade. We compromised, made hard choices, and sacrificed together.

Nearly four years later, we have money set aside for emergencies and no consumer debt. No car payments. No student loans. We’re saving for the future. If all goes well, our house will be paid off in just four more years. I’d say that all the pain was worth it.

It doesn’t stop there, though. To keep ourselves fired up we went to a Total Money Makeover Live Event. The next time our church did a Total Money Makeover book study, we were helping to lead it. Then we took FPU at a local church to learn more, and the next time it was hosted there we were helping to coordinate it, and we’re ramping up to do it again for the third time.

These days, I read four or five work and money related books a year. I’m constantly trying to improve my knowledge about the right principles to follow regarding money. It’s drawn me closer to my wife. It’s made me more available to my children. It’s given me a purpose, and all of that is thanks to God.

No radio hosts were harmed in the taking of this picture.Also, I’ve started to coach and mentor people who are struggling with their finances. People who are searching for a plan and principles to follow. People who are struggling and fighting, learning how to compromise and sacrifice. I even took a trip out to Nashville recently to learn to do it better.

The last few years have been a wild ride.

Maybe you’re at a point in your life where you’ve had enough. If you are, great. It’s time to start learning how to do it right. Read a book, take a class, find a mentor. Find a voice that inspires you to change. And you don’t have to go as crazy as we did, but it helps.

What’s your biggest struggle with money? Do you have a money story to tell? Have you given up? Have I gone completely mad? Comment below or drop me an email to let me know.

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Marriage and Family, Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

As You Will It

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work. Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

It’s convenient to give others power over us. It’s simpler to claim the world is working against us. Your pain is easier to bear when it’s there because of somebody else. Staying down as a victim will always feels safer than standing up and owning your life. We don’t like thinking that we’re responsible for our own joy and satisfaction.

Still, we are responsible.

We get to choose who we let speak into our lives. Which people will advise us, and who will be our mentors.

While others may still say and do things that hurt us, we control the weight that pain will carry into the future. We control how much their words matter, and how quickly to forgive them.

We get to decide if we will see problems in our home or workplace as the fault of others, or if we’ll see them as opportunities for us to try amazing and interesting solutions.

Never underestimate your power to change yourself; never overestimate your power to change others.

We also get to choose how to interact with the world, and everything in it.

Food. Do we eat for energy? Or for inspiration? Or for comfort?

Money. Do we earn to provide? Or to be charitable? Or to gain power?

We can answer similar questions for our education, our work, our homes, our investments, our toys, and on and on. What is the purpose of each named thing in our circle of influence? In every part of our lives, we can do so much more with it when we clarify the reason why it’s there.

So, what will the next “town” be like for you? It’s as you will it to be. Any change of venue you make will still have you in it. What will you be bringing with you? You do get to choose. Maybe it’s time to unload some of that old baggage so you have the ability to experience something new.

Final Thoughts: Matthew 25 is pretty clear that everything that we have has been given to us by God, and that he expects us to do something with it. If that’s true, why did he give you a home? Also, what if this applies to relationships? What does that mean for the children he’s given us?

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Food and Booze, Marriage and Family, Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on As You Will It

Changing For the Better Isn’t D.I.Y.

I can be pretty hard on myself.

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I like to use Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life as a reference for how to divide up the key areas of life. It helps to cement the need for balance in the way that I live. While I’ve been kicking butt in a couple of those key areas lately, it wouldn’t take a lot of effort for me to list one or more ways that I should improve in all of them.

There’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself to improve, but many of us get the idea in our heads that attempting to make a positive change is a private matter. We tell ourselves that the only way a change is valid is if we can do it alone. That’s foolishness, and it often leads to isolation and frustration, because true change doesn’t work that way.

Real improvement comes when we surround ourselves and put our trust in others who are pointed in the same direction that we want to go.

It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.

– Warren Buffett

Whatever your current goal is, you need to be spending time with, and seeking the counsel of, two groups of people. Those who are passionately working towards a similar goal, and those who have achieved it. Associating with others who share your struggle allows you to hear voices of experience, and learn from their wisdom. It introduces accountability to your efforts, and motivates you. You gain focus and fellowship.

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Ben Franklin understood the power of a group. He pulled twelve of his friends together to create “a club of mutual improvement,” which they called the Junto, when he was only twenty-one years old. They met for more than forty years, guided by a set of discussion questions, exploring the myriad topics of the day. Franklin became the Founding Father we know today because of the investment he made with that small group of men.

You and I have to stop thinking that self-improvement is a do-it-yourself project. If we really want to improve, we need experts to tell us how to get where we want to be, and extra sets of hands for the heavy lifting. We need to build a trusted community around us that will challenge us to grow.

I’m challenged to start formally putting together a mastermind group like Franklin’s Junto. I’m already involved with an accountability group, but I’m thinking about grabbing Dan Miller’s 1+1=3 as a guide to assembling people who are interested in growing in all the key areas of their life. What do you think? Any suggestions?

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Changing For the Better Isn’t D.I.Y.

Quick Hits of the Week

  • Speaking of change, education has been taking a beating lately. See, the current model that American schools use to educate children has its roots in our Industrial Age, when universal education was implemented. The problem is that the overall structure hasn’t changed much, but we’re in the Information Age now. So, Seth Godin wants to know if we’re going to continue to applaud schools that churn out mediocre factory workers? Rethan Salam reports about how some are working to prepare children for life in this era, by embracing the novel ideas of more personal responsibility, and that everyone has something to teach. While over at Khan Academy, they’re actually doing something amazing and innovative in education. The only way the next decade doesn’t result in an amazing change in education is if we’re scared out of it.
  • Another area where change has been slowly creeping up on the world is the War on Drugs. I’ve read some about Richard Branson recently, and I am impressed with his sense of vision and his love for innovation. So, it was no surprise to me when he wrote that it was time to end the international war on drugs.
  • An area where our drug war has been a massive failure is how it has turned our everyday policemen into pseudo-soldiers. Head over and take this quiz that Radley Balko put together, see if you can tell the difference: Cop or Soldier?
  • While you’re playing guessing games, try your hand at this one: Professor or Hobo? I think this puts a nice bow on today’s Quick Hits. Come back and tell me how you did.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Quick Hits and Links | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Quick Hits of the Week