Escaping The Debt Trap

repossessionThe grim faced men stormed past our front door and up the stairs. I heard them knocking loudly. After a few minutes, they descended again, this time carrying household items; fridge, TV, microwave and sofa sets. ‘I didn’t know our upstairs neighbors were moving!’ I remarked to my next-door neighbor. ‘I don’t think they are’, he replied. ‘Those are not movers, they’re auctioneers!’

Being repossessed or otherwise harassed because of failure to pay a debt is one of the most humiliating experiences you can ever go through! Many people discover too late that debt is often a path not to quick wealth but to humiliation and poverty. Debt is also one of the surest ways the enemy uses to destroy people’s  purpose and destiny today!

So what if you’re already heavily in debt? How can you escape the debt trap?

gazelleThe richest man of his time once gave this advice to people in debt – “Free yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter” (Proverbs 6:5). This is not a cute little metaphor! When a gazelle catches wind of a predator, it takes off with all its might. . Even a cheetah, the fastest animal in the world, has a kill rate of only 5% when it comes to gazelles. Is it because the gazelle is faster? No! It’s because it is focused. The lesson from King Solomon is that you’ll only escape the debt trap if you have gazelle-like intensity!

In my book ‘Financial Fitness’, I explain the following four steps to get out of debt. STEP ONE is to take a deep hard look inside to discover what led to your situation. Constant indebtedness is often a symptom of underlying fear, pride, or a get-rich-quick mentality.  You need to be able to face the truth and ask God’s help to think and act differently. You need to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). This may also mean forgiving others who may have let you down. True repentance may mean cutting up your credit cards and making a commitment; ‘I will never borrow again’. As the saying goes, if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you want to do is stop digging! Then ask God for wisdom to build wealth the right way (see James 1:5)

pay debtSTEP TWO is to create a survivor budget, which includes only absolute necessities; basic food, shelter, utilities, clothing and transport. You may need to sell your furniture or car, move back to your parent’s home or cheaper house, or look for a second job. I know it sounds crazy but when you’re on a cheetah’s breakfast menu, only gazelle-focused intensity will save you!

Remember, if all the Joneses (the cool looking broke people) still think you’re cool, you’re probably not focused enough. You have to get passionate about it. Your destiny is at stake… This is war!

no debtSTEP THREE is to make a plan to pay off all your creditors, starting with the smallest debt first. Paying off the smallest first creates quick wins, which increases your motivation. Plan to negotiate with the rest of your creditors to make a minimum payment on each of your debts except the smallest. Every extra shilling you can squeeze from your survival budget goes towards the smallest debt until it’s paid. Once done, turn attention to the next smallest one and then the next. Every time you pay off one, the amount available for payments gets larger and your momentum increases.

STEP FOUR is talk to all your creditors. Show them that you have a plan and intend to pay something each month until you do. The worst thing you can do is go quiet on them. Ask God to help them see your sincerity and extend grace to you.

All this is certainly not easy and it may take several months or even years, but the result is freedom to start again. So are you ready to start? Remember, it will take gazelle-like focus and intensity to escape the debt trap!

God and debt

This weekend, catch Pst Oscar at Mavuno Church as he continues with the counter-cultural and transformative series, ‘The Four Horsemen Of Financial Ruin’

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Parental Advisory

tantrum1It was a moment that saved our life. My then girlfriend and I were visiting a young couple with a rather hyperactive six-year old daughter who was prone to throwing tantrums at a moment’s notice. True to form, just as we were getting into our conversation, the little girl began to raise her voice demanding attention, and the atmosphere began to tense up. But this time, the outcome was completely different from what had come to expect. Her dad looked her in the eye and said a single word calmly and with authority, ‘No!’. To our amazement, with no more incentive beyond that, the little girl immediately calmed down and the rest of the evening was spent pleasantly catching up with her parents.

Welcome to the complex world of parenting today! Many in my generation grew up in traditional homes where children were meant to be seen, not heard. Parents ruled their home with an iron fist and punishment was regularly meted on offenders with belts, slippers and in some cases slaps and even more extreme measures. Open disobedience was unimaginable and parents were feared and obeyed unquestioningly. This model in a better form had actually worked well for generations. But in an urban setting without supportive extended family structures, it broke down and more likely isolated children from their parents. It often became abusive in the hands of parents who were ill-equipped to bring up children in the new setting of the city.

tantrum2Much of today’s parenting practice is a reaction against the negative extremes of traditional parenting. Starting in the 60’s and 70’s, many parents in the West stopped depending on age-old techniques and wisdom to bring up their children but instead began relying on the teachings of modern psychology with its focus on self-esteem. As usual with time, these trends made their way here. But clearly, they too have their shortcomings. Who has not witnessed that child screaming as they demand something from their embarrassed parent in the supermarket aisle? Or had a panic attack when your friends mentioned they want to pass by your house with their not so well behaved children? The modern ideal of busy working parents who delegate almost all of the upbringing of their children to maids and drivers has only served to complicate the matter. The result of modern parenting techniques is pampered, insecure, demanding, out-of-control children with short attention spans and a sense of entitlement.

airplane2I must at this point confess that my inspiration to write this article came out of serious annoyance and sleep deprivation! I was on board a long flight in a Boeing A777 cabin where ninety adults were kept forcefully awake for several hours by two screaming toddlers whose mothers seemed unable to control them. Whereas in the past parents may have tyrannized their children, today, it is the kids who tyrannize adults!

The problem with children is that they don’t come with instructions. And yet how we bring up our children is extremely important not just for the future of the home but that of our nation.This sacred duty has huge, generational consequences and yet few people study or prepare for it. The good book in Proverbs 22:6 encourages us to ‘direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it‘. But how exactly should we do this?

An important part of that answer is understanding the end result. What is the goal of raising our children? If we’re raising them to depend on us, then we are ensuring they will never succeed in life. As one of my friends used to say, children come into the world disorganized and parents have the option of either entering into their disorganization or organizing them and preparing them for an adult world. All parenting must bear in mind that we are equipping our children to be independent, productive citizens who live purposeful, value-based lives that positively impact others.

Back to the moment that saved our lives! What we learnt that day at our friend’s house is that parent’s can learn how to train their children effectively. Ourfamily2 friends shared that they had taken a class that had changed their approach to parenting. The results were so apparent that we decided that when we had our own children, we too would take that class. Several years later, we did, and have never regretted it since. Neither have our kids!

This month at Mavuno Church, Pastors Oscar & Beatrice Muriu of Nairobi Chapel will be sharing secrets they’ve learnt about this critical topic. They will be speaking candidly from their successes and failures about how to prepare our children for modern day realities. Whether you are an actual parent or a potential one in the making, you owe it to yourself to make sure all your friends, colleagues and relatives are there with you. The fate of our homes and nation may well depend on it 🙂