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People often say that money doesn’t make you happy. I believe that this is true, but I also believe that a mountain of debt is a sure-fire way to be unhappy. Debt is one of the deep dark secrets that no one talks about. I’m not here to convince you not to borrow, though I think you should think about it. Debt is a current of water pushing against you. Everything you do requires an amazing amount of effort and energy; nothing is easy. Investments are different. They are like you are going with the current making everything easier similar as it is paddling down stream. Debt robs you of these three things!

1. Hope. I remember when my wife became pregnant. It was our “plan” for her to stay at home. I say “plan” loosely as it was more what we wanted. We couldn’t make it on my income alone because of debt payments. Even though we knew the whole time we wanted her to stay home when we had kids, our choices didn’t all align with that. We had no hope until we stumbled upon Dave Ramsey! Mountains of debt robs you of the hope to have what you desire. It is like a thief in the night, causing our minds to see all the negatives with money and none of the positives. Restore your hope. It is possible to pay off debt. We made a plan and she went back to teaching for nine months when our oldest was one and everything she made went toward paying off debt. It was the longest nine months of her life! My wife is now at home with our three kids. We did it because of Hope!

“Never spend your money before you have it.”~Thomas Jefferson

2. Peace. Do you remember what it was like to have no debt payments? Ever lose sleep because of debt? I have too. It is such a nasty destroyer of peace. It creeps into your mind and worry sets in. Worry is the opposite of peace. Sometimes when we have had debt around for so long we have grown accustomed to the feeling of worry. This is not the way it should be. There is a better way. It requires sacrifice and hard work.  What is your peace worth?

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”~Warren Buffett

3. Freedom. Do you remember the scene from Brave Heart? The one in which William Wallace yells, “Freedom!” Financial freedom allows for so much. To give like no one else can give. It allows you to be spontaneous to go when you want to go. When you  have the pounds of pressure that debt brings, you lose a lot of your freedom. My wife had to go back to work when she didn’t want to. We couldn’t give as much as we wanted to give. Our money was all chained up to bills with other people’s names on them. What freedom would you have with no debt?

I believe debt can steal these three things from you. Debt stole these things from us. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” I believe that this is true. Ask God and He will show you the way. Remove the chains of bondage. Be free!

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When we hear of rip off financial systems or bad investments they all have one thing in common; the promise of quick money. Most of us have very little patience and this is the hook in our mouth. We never hear the term, “get rich slow schemes” as this would allow time to think. In the children’s fable, The Tortoise and The Hare, we learn that the tortoise always wins. My brother once said, “I just wish my tortoise was faster.” Isn’t that the truth? We want to grab our turtle and strap a rocket to its back. This is the point at which I have made my worse financial decisions. These 5 steps help me to avoid my share of stupid tax.

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1. Breath. There are many studies that show deep breathing allows for better decision making. Give your brain full oxygen and lower your blood pressure. Breath down through your belly button then slowly exhale. Yes, using your brain helps to avoid bad decisions. It moves us from emotion back to logic.

2. Can you teach it? We must be able to explain the investment idea to others. If you can’t do this don’t put money into it. Only invest in things you fully understand. Know how it could make money as well as how it could lose money. Everything has an opportunity cost; know what it is. Fund managers and investment help is great, but don’t let that be an excuse for not paying attention and understanding what they are doing. As Dave Ramsey says, “They must have the heart of a teacher.”

3. Prayer. Pray about it. I have not invested in certain things because I didn’t feel comfortable about them after praying. The burden of proof is on the side of investing in something new. One instance of this was a company that got all of its assets frozen. I wanted to invest, but after praying I didn’t feel right so I didn’t do it. Glad I didn’t now, although at the time that was a tough decision. A lot of people I knew were making good money with little effort. I love the people who lost money in the company and my heart aches for them.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”~ James 1:5

4. Counsel. Always get counsel from those that do well financially. Get counsel from the ones that will challenge you, not the ones that will be “yes” men and women. Another chance to teach that person about your investment or purchase idea. They will open your eyes to things that you have not considered. You have to be open to being wrong. Don’t get argumentative and stay open to critique.

“Through presumption comes nothing but strife, But with those who receive counsel is wisdom.” Proverbs 13:10  

5. Long term vision. Some won’t like this but I don’t prescribe to market timing short-term single stock investments. It feels too much like the hare in the race. I’m going to hold for the long-term. This helps to avoid microwave thinking and sets my life up to be like a crock pot. No adrenaline rush but highly effective. Investment strategy should be boring.

So if you have made your share of oops financially, join the club. Knowing what to do and doing it are two separate things. Don’t look back except to learn. Look forward, learn your lesson and take your time making decisions. When all else fails ask more questions. With most things we come to decisions too quickly and don’t have enough information. So breath, ask, pray, and ask some more.

What are some things you do to make better financial decisions?

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Half awake driving into work mind numb going through the same motions as the day before. Is this not how most of us live? There is no passion rather a begrudging attitude about having to work to pay the bills. The excitement of the new job is gone and everything seems gray. Living for the weekend and evenings, the day is going to creep by. How do we get that passion back like when we first had the job? These 2 things will bring passion back into your work so you don’t feel like you’re on a train track doing the same thing day after day.

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1. Recognize the alternative. No job. That’s the alternative; all the weekends you want. Problem is no money, may go hungry, can’t pay the mortgage or keep the lights on. Scared, but lots of free time. Talk about stress! Anything I face at work is better than the lack of work and if it’s that bad, it’s time to find a new job.

“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.”  ~Washington Irving

2. What are you here for? What did God put you on earth for? For me it is to restore people by giving them significance in their journey. So I view the world through this lens. If I focus on those parts of my job as a Figaro’s Pizza franchise, I love it. How can I play a role in restoration or significance there you may ask? Letting my employees know they are valued. Giving customers food with service. Hearing about their day. Sometimes praying with them. If I focus on what brings me joy and passion I have no more Mondays. If I focus on rolling dough, doing books, and making pizza my job gets stale.

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” ~Charles Swindoll

These are just two quick things that bring passion and drive back to my day. In the end if this doesn’t help, as an employer I would say please find a new job. This is meant as a coconut on the head as we all need that sometimes. Would you pay yourself the wage you are making for the job you are doing? Sometimes my answer is no. If your answer is no all the time you are not going to feel fulfilled, but rather feel like a leach. No one likes to creep by in life. Stand tall, take charge of your attitude and nothing can hold you back. Choose to have passion!

There is an old indian fable that says there are two types of dogs in all of us; a black dog and a white dog.  Whichever dog you feed more will become stronger and when they fight will win the fight most of the time. Success in finances definitely depends on which dog you feed.

Money is neutral; it is neither good nor bad. The person stewarding the money can do great good or make a wreckage of their life and of others around them.  The scale of the money determines how much good or how quickly the wreckage can occur. As Dave Ramsey says, “Do rich people things and you will become rich people. Do poor people things and you will become poor people.”

So here are 5 ways to help motivate you to have the strength to say no to the pleasures of today. To pay now and enjoy later. To live like no one else so later you can live like no one else.

1. Pray for a proper perspective that matches God. Everything is the Lord’s. Psalm 24:1- 2 states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Without this heart change there is no way to make the ultimate financial decisions.

2. Start with the end in mind. Why say no and why be disciplined? These are questions you need to be able to answer.

3. Decide what you want life to be like in 10 years and write it out. Decisions that are made today need to be made on a 10 year or longer mind-set.  This is done when your goals and dreams are written out. Trust me when I say written out, otherwise they will soon be forgotten.

4. Post a picture of what you are aiming at. Giving in your community, big house, freedom… something that puts it in a picture. Visualizing is key if we can see what we are shooting at it. These visual reminders will give you motivation on tough days.

5. Listen to podcasts to inspire. I listen to Dave Ramsey, Joyce Meyer, Joel Olsteen, Michael Hyatt, and Zig Ziglar.  All of these speakers or preachers help me to stay the course.

There are many more tools than this, but these are my main five.  These are visual and auditory reminders of the goal that is greater than the want of today. These things help my wife and I stay motivated to dig out of debt and save for our future. With each passing day we have moved closer to our dream and I believe you can too if you do these things and set your mind on things above and not onthings of today.

What things have you done to make better long-term decisions with money?