I’ve been thinking a lot about our family financial trees. Dave Ramsey talks about this; about how for many people struggling with debt, they have many (or most) relatives and ancestors who have struggled with debt as well. Rick and I see this as we look through our family trees. Personally, I can recall dozens of family members making statements such as:
- I can afford the payment, so that’s all that matters
- We’ll never be out of debt
- I had to file bankruptcy (again)
- We don’t have the money
- I can’t retire
- We’re just destined to be poor
And numerous other statements revealing their financial states. I’ve been thinking so much about this as we work to pay off our debt. Personally, we don’t talk about our debt or its decline with our families. We’ve done so in the past and the reactions have mostly been less than favorable. We hear “You’ll never do it.” We get the head shakes when we mention that we aren’t spending money on this or that.
And from a spiritual standpoint, I can definitely feel strongholds tying to work their way in and stop us from achieving our goal of debt freedom.
The resistance we encounter from loved ones, from ourselves and from the enemy don’t stop us, though. Two main things keep us going:
- Our knowledge that we serve an AWESOME God that wants us to succeed at becoming debt free.
- Our refusal to allow our kids to inherit a life filled with debt
For a very long time, both Rick and I assumed (as we were taught) that a person’s money situation is a “luck of the draw” thing. Either you were blessed with financial wealth – or you were cursed with financial struggles.
As I began reading personal finance blogs near the end of 2012, I started to learn differently. I began finding stories of people who were once deep in debt and had managed to work themselves out and build wealth.
If all of these people managed to break free of debt and money struggles, I asked myself, why couldn’t we?
And so began our journey to dump our debt. We made (for the first time in our lives) a budget and started tracking our spending so that we could see where our money was going. We began to track our monthly debt totals, minimum payments and interest payments in order to gain motivation to keep going.
At first the habits of spending recklessly were hard to break. But as Ruth talks about, there are often other chains that are at least partially responsible for the debt mess that needs to be dealt with. Low self-esteem, relationships that need healing, etc. As we worked to uncover the reasons behind our formerly irresponsible spending – and to heal from them – sticking to our budget began to get easier.
At roughly the one-and-a-half year point in our journey we experienced some personal family crises and our debt went on the rise again. As those crises came to a head in year three, we saw all of our hard work disappear as our debt skyrocketed to unprecedented numbers. And so, in the fall of last year we found ourselves facing a decision.
We could give in to failure as we saw so many family members do over and over again, succumbing to the normalcy of the financially desolate family tree (we call it a generational curse), or we could start again.
Family crises behind us, we chose to start again. And it finally feels as if we’ve beaten those long-held family beliefs that we are destined to struggle with money. They no longer bind or threaten us with such intensity. And when they do try and raise their ugly heads, we simply look at our kids.
One picture that stays clearly in my mind is that of my grandparents. I absolutely adored my grandparents. They were two of the sweetest, kindest people on earth. But they sucked with money. Sucked with money to the point that their kids all had to chip in what they could (which was not much, due to their own financial struggles) to help grandma and grandpa survive. Christmas and birthday presents to G&G were always money related: either cash, or the payment of an overdue bill, or a new TV because G&G’s TV had broken and there was no money to get a new one. I remember giving grandma new “house shoes” as hers were well beyond their prime and there was no money for her to buy new ones.
The thing that drives us to keep going in our debt payoff is that picture of G&G. More than anything, we want to be a financial blessing and not a financial burden to our kids. So we work to build a new family tree; one that is ripe with financial responsibility. Is it easy? Not usually. But I know it will be worth it.
I want to encourage you today that if you are struggling with long-held beliefs that you will always struggle with money, there is hope. With education, practice, determination and faith you can indeed change your family tree, so please don’t give up. You deserve better than a lifetime of money struggles. 🙂
What is your family financial tree like? Have you had to overcome deeply ingrained beliefs about money that were incorrectly taught?