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’

Dangers Of Debt

credit cardsShe was excited when her friend told her about the opportunity to start a ‘side-hassle’. It seemed such a sure thing! So she applied for a bank loan and invested it all in the business. That was six months ago. Today, she’s full of regrets. The business proved to be a lot more work than she had been led to believe and has picked up very slowly. Worse still, her company is going through an unexpected financial crunch and she’s not been paid for the last two months. She even ended up borrowing from a loan shark just to pay last month’s rent. And she’s terrified at the thought of what will happen if this month’s salary doesn’t come through on time!

Welcome to the realities behind ‘easy credit’!

Some people get into debt because of reasons beyond their control; a major illness or accident, or somebody died and they inherited a debt. But most people get there because they don’t know any better! The conventional wisdom today is that debt is leverage: That it’s normal to live in debt and that you will never succeed unless you borrow; whether it’s to start a business, buy shares, pay school fees or pay for some new dresses from the lady who comes round at the office.

debt1Even though the good book doesn’t call debt a sin, it repeatedly points out the dangers of debt. Debt is enslaving. As the richest man of his time, King Solomon, wrote in the book of Proverbs, ‘The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is a servant to the lender’. Once you borrow, the lender literally ‘owns’ you! Their actions affect your mental health and how well you sleep. For example, when banks revise their interest rates upwards, you might get a note in the mail informing you about the new rate. But they certainly won’t ask what you think about it!

Debt is also expensive. Again, Solomon counsels, ‘Do not be a person who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you’. When you’re in debt, the principle of compound interest works against you and you end up paying far more for the things you buy than if you saved up and paid for them.

debt burden 2And as our friend found out, debt is presumptuous. It’s based on the assumption that we can control our ability to pay in the future. Solomon warned, ‘Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring forth’.

Ultimately, easy access to credit can promote a culture of consumption rather than a culture of savings. It can destroy the ability to learn to live and invest within our means. Paradoxically, that’s an almost sure path not to quick wealth but to poverty!

This week, Pst Oscar continues the awesome series at Mavuno Church – The 4 Horsemen Of Financial Ruin.

Things I Wish I’d Known About Money

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a talk about managing money to a group of mainly young adults going through the Mizizi experience. As I answered their different questions, I realized once again how poorly our education system trains us to manage this critical resource!  And I reflected on some of the things I wish I knew about money when I graduated from college.

money1Critical lesson numero uno: it’s not how much you earn that counts but how much you save. The work of a job is not to make you wealthy! It only provides the raw material for growing and multiplying wealth i.e. your salary. It is what you do with the salary you earn from your job that determines if you will grow wealthy or remain poor! The book of Proverbs (6:6) tells us that even with their little brains, ants are smart enough to put aside food for to ensure they survive future droughts. Years of observation have convinced me that it’s not the people who get big salaries that attain financial security but it is those who learn to live within their means, save something every month and invest when opportunities present themselves!

financial wisdomSpeaking of opportunities, number two critical lesson is regularly increase your financial wisdom. This comes through reading books about money management as well as spending time with and asking the right questions to wise investors. The truth is that money flows from the well salaried to the wise.  I have gained amazing insights and opportunities by spending time with people wiser than myself. Here again, the book of Proverbs has something to benefit us when it challenges us to ‘get wisdom at any cost’ and counsels us that wisdom is better than silver or gold (I know, you thought Bob Marley came up with that, didn’t you!).

debt

A third important lesson is understand the dangers of debt. It’s all the rage nowadays to borrow money, whether it’s to fund your business startup or to buy new furniture. But the wisdom of the Proverbs warns us that ‘the borrower is a slave to the lender’. I’ve found that for most of us, the easy availability of credit short-circuits the development of creativity and patience, as well as wisdom gained from slow growth. Coupled with which the Swahili saying ‘kukopa harusi, kulipa matanga’ (to borrow is like a wedding, to pay back like a funeral) is extremely true!

Lesson number four is live for more than money. Money is simply a tool. At the end of the day, the reason you want more is so you can have time to enjoy peace, health and good relationships with the ones you love. What the good book refers to as ‘shalom’. Never sacrifice your relationship with your loved ones because of the pursuit of money. That’s putting the cart before the horse!

familySo every Sunday this month, Pst Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel is speaking at Mavuno Church about ‘The Four Horsemen Of Financial Ruin’. You owe it to yourself to be there!