A Failed American Dream

We were living a very normal life, the average American couple who went to college, got married and started our life together. It never felt like we were doing anything wrong with our finances. At first, things didn’t come unhinged, but we ended up somewhere that we did not want to be.  

Money is such a touchy subject. It seems too personal to talk about.

When we first got married, the two of us had accumulated over $100,000 in debt. In an effort to be responsible, we tithed, earned double income, made our payments and budgeted. However, we also vacationed, went out to dinner and did what we wanted. We lived the life that we thought everybody did. It was a “Keeping up with the Joneses” scenario, feeling unintentionally competitive. That’s what you do, right? You get married, get a job and spend money. It seemed right. It seemed normal. Next life step? Purchasing a house.  

Mindie: I was happy to move into our own house, but our mortgage was ridiculous, over half of our combined income. It was a decision we made together and felt like we could afford it. Soon after we moved in, we got pregnant. The both of us didn’t realize the pressure that a child would bring to our financial situation. I wanted to stay home with Kellen, our first son, and thought we could make it work.

Our plan was to keep current with our payments, but it became too much of a burden to do so.  It came down to extremes:  Do we want to pay our bills or have enough to eat that month?  Things had spiraled down so quickly. It felt like we were reaching up for something that wasn’t there, like we were drowning or being chased. Capital One, Chase, Mastercard and Visa were dictating our lives.  Every night we would receive calls from collections companies. Every night it became harder to sleep.  

Colin: It was hard seeing my wife suffer, she cried a lot. I wanted to be the man, the provider, it was hard that I couldn’t be.

We lost our house.

Mindie: In the midst of losing our house, having a newborn and no financial plan, an athlete that I was coaching mentioned that her family was taking a class called Financial Peace University. Her mom convinced me to try. I signed us up and told Colin about it. He was not interested.  

Colin: I didn’t want somebody telling me what to do with my money or show me my priorities. It was a hard sell for me. After much convincing, I agreed to go but went kicking and screaming.   

Money isn’t a topic that you discuss with groups of people, it felt like our business and not anyone else’s. It is really hard to admit that we got ourselves into this terrible situation.

The “easy” thing to do is to hide from it, but it was too big of a problem for us.

Walking into the class was a huge step for both of us. During the class, we were challenged to be honest and real about how we felt about our financial situation. It was a refreshing relief to find a group of people that we could talk to and even find some who were going through similar problems. We were not the only ones that had these fears and the feeling of isolation was dissolving.

Colin: It took me a few sessions, but I began to realize it was time for me to lead my family through this. Six weeks later, I had a major turn around. I had no idea God had a way for me to manage my finances. It was clear as day, straight from the Bible and that is what brought about change in my life. God used Financial Peace University to pull me out of trouble.  

At the beginning of our marriage, all we kept thinking was: “Make sure you tithe and God would let you spend how you wanted.” We made God a priority in our tithing, but didn’t realize God had an opinion on the rest of my money.

What we realized is that everything is a gift; our home, our car, everything. It belongs to God.

After establishing a plan, we implemented some of the strategies we learned in FPU to attack our debt. Slowly but surely, dollar by dollar, we were able to set up a payment plan and take care of our family’s financial needs at the same time.  

Colin:  I’ve always heard that things improve in the home when the father is taking the leadership role seriously. That was true for us. We began to change when I began to take it seriously.  

Mindie: For so long we were slaves to our debt; it felt hopeless. I cannot tell you the amount of burden that has been lifted because we followed these principles. It breaks my heart to watch others do the same. Our ignorance and selfishness almost destroyed us, but God’s grace gave us a second chance.

It has been incredibly hard, but after six years we are finally debt free. We are able to give to others, save for our future and be on the same page in our marriage. There is now joy in our finances. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train anymore, it’s hope.

Colin and Mindie are now teaching financial freedom classes at Sandals Church and have been since 2011. 

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