Written By: Mark Smith
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I had a really wonderful week on the beach with my family. We had a few hiccups getting there. The car top carrier blow off on I-65, we trained my teenaged daughters in their (new to them) Honda Civic how to survive highway driving resulting in two near heart attacks for Dad and the only place we could find to stay overnight in Birmingham, Alabama was graced by an overly friendly working girl with purple hair and purple high heels.
I treat my yearly trip to the beach somewhat like a sacred trip to Mecca. I come for fun, relaxation and family connectedness but I also come to learn. I have learned more on beaches than any other place. I believe that God sends teachers to me to learn from in the form of books on CD that I download on my Ipod and then listen with an open heart. The Universe spanked me pretty hard with a paradigm new to me this week as I took splashy walks in paradise. I normally write about subjects I have a great deal of experience and authority with. This week I will write about something that I am unfortunately and embarassingly a card carrying idiot about - money. In discussing pain around money during a recent group, one woman said "I hate money" and then another chimed in "yeah, money sucks!". Some of the worst pain that I have seen in 25 years as a therapist has been the oppressive, horrific worry that comes with out of control spending addictions, poor money management, divorce, job loss and other financial disasters.
I have twice listened to Dave Ramsey's book 'The Total Money Makeover'. Wow! I hope that you aren't like me and have been doing most everything wrong with money for decades. My examples in financial management were my sweet Pennsylvania hillbilly credit card buried father and my childlike, free spending, rob Peter to pay Paul mother. We live in a credit based culture where most of us have car payments, mortgages and at least some credit card debt. If you are familiar with financial guru Dave Ramsey you know that he makes an extremely compelling case for avoiding ALL debt, even including mortgages. Without payments, saving large junks of your income and getting on the right side of the power of compound interest seems very possible and extremely wise. He decries new cars, leasing cars, 30 year mortgages, credit cards, loaning money to family members, whole life insurance, college loans, 2nd and to a much lesser degree even 1st mortgages and with keeping up with the Jones'. I can't recommend his book more highly. Check it out at... I for one have some things to clean up.
Ramsey referred to spoiled little kids inside adult bodies who want what they want when they want it. Now we are moving more into an area of my expertise, professionally and unfortunately personally as well. Spending can become as addictive as cocaine. Buying something new makes you feel good. For some people finding a few bargain treasures at a Goodwill store can produce a high that can last for days. We live in a culture where you can appear to have a lot more money than we actually have. Honestly, this is an issue that I struggle with. My weakness? Costco and Sam's Club! I think my brain chemistry changes when I pull into the parking lots, I feel high. Part of my addiction is having the impression that I'm getting a good deal. My fridge is filled with massive vats of pickles I purchased for $2.87 but rarely actually consume. My best friend thinks I buy mass quanities due to the stark poverty of my childhood. He is no doubt right about that. What are your spending weaknesses?
Ramsey advocates a 'Total Money Makeover' fueled by what he calls 'gazelle intensity'. Picture a herd of gazelles being stalked by chetahs, the fastest land animal on the planet. It is life or death for said gazelle and that is a good picture of what life can be like for financially fragile and naive folks being stalked by credit card companies, car dealerships, shady bankers, overly entitled children, unethical mortgage companies and most of all the tantruming materially lustful little kids that are at our cores.
Usually there is one saver and one spender in every marriage. Severe financial problems result when the spender either overpowers the saver or deceives them with secret addictive spending. In my opinion it is a myth that couples top two areas for conflict are sex and money. Couples fight because they marry partners who are thinly disguised versions of their parents. Couples probably don't argue enough about money. The more passive partner usually sign on for way too many new houses, new cars, cool trips, boats etc without putting up enough of a fight. Money is not the cause of marital problems, it is just one of many battlefields where unresolved childhood issues get reenacted.
If you are in pain due to your finances give yourself a wonderful gift by devouring any material you can get from Dave Ramsey. He is a wise counselor and an articulate advocate in all matters related to handling your money. The Total Money Makeover will give you sound direction, wise counsel and most importantly some much needed hope about your finances. Money doesn't suck. Handling money wisely can be a blessing to you and your spouse as well as to generations to come.
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