Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom

Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom

by DeForest B Soaries, Jr.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310343967
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 427,085
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

DeForest B. Soaries Jr. is the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. He formerly served as New Jersey’s Secretary of State and his work was featured in the acclaimed CNN documentary “Almighty Debt.” Soaries earned degrees from Fordham University (BA), Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv) and United Theological Seminary (DMin). He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Donna, and twin sons, Malcolm and Martin.

Read an Excerpt

Say Yes to No Debt


By DeForest B. Soaries Jr.

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2015 DeForest B. Soaries Jr.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-34396-7



CHAPTER 1

Admit the Problem

Coming to Your Senses, Acknowledging Slavery


Imagine if Visa or Mastercard sent me the following letter: "Dear Mr. Soaries, We're pleased to send you a brand-new credit card. It's still going to carry platinum privileges, but we're changing the name from Platinum to Slave. We know you'll enjoy using your new Slave Card. The best card you can have. Slave."

You get my point. Financial institutions don't send us "slave cards"; they send out gold or platinum cards. They would never use the term slave in any reference, and we would be understandably offended if they did. Instead we proudly whip out our gold card and hand it over to the cashier as if we're extra special instead of especially enslaved.

The first step for getting out of slavery must be identifying the reality of our condition. We must acknowledge that the truth of Proverbs applies to us: "The borrower is servant to the lender" (22:7b). The word translated as "servant" can also be accurately rendered as "slave." And the reality of our condition is that we are servants or slaves to our lenders. With this admission as our starting point, we can then begin to break the stranglehold of debt with a three-tiered approach.

In order to restore the cornerstone of your financial strength, you must start wearing 3-D glasses. You must identify and vigilantly monitor the three core components of financial enslavement: debt, delinquency, and deficit. These three elements often serve as barometers of an individual's or a family's financial health.

The levels of household debt threaten our ability to develop any meaningful wealth or to pass that wealth on to future generations. According to the Federal Reserve Board, about one- third of lower-income families spend more than 40 percent of their income on debt repayment, compared to 20 percent for moderate-income households and 14 percent for middle- income families.

Advocacy organization Demos reports, "Credit card debt continues to threaten the financial stability of many low- and middle-income families in the United States, hampering their ability to save and move up the economic ladder." Obviously, the riptide of consumer debt can reinforce one's inability to rise above it. The more your income is consumed by debt, the more you must borrow to pay for essentials such as food, mortgage or rent, utilities, and transportation. Each month digs the hole deeper, making it harder — but not impossible — to climb out of the hole and stand on solid ground.

Another snare, delinquency, emerges within this cycle when we cannot pay our bills on time. Late payments lower our credit scores, which in turn can cause us to pay higher interest rates even on strategically reasonable debt, such as mortgages. (Some people call this "good debt" because it is secured by an asset.) Late fees, higher interest rate penalties, and lower credit scores not only increase the amount of our debt but they usually discourage and dishearten our desire to fight. Looking for emotional comfort from our desperate situation, we may be tempted to spend, charge, or borrow even more. If we are serious about our fiscal freedom, we must commit to eliminating such delinquency. Simply put, this commitment honors our pledge to pay all of our bills on time.

Finally, we must get to the heart of the problem and change our attitudes and behavior. To be free of deficit living means we live within our means and eliminate the need to close our spending gaps by using high-interest credit cards or, even worse, alternative financial services such as payday loans, pawnshops, and rent-to-own schemes.

These three objectives represent the core of being dfree® and ensure lifelong freedom if pursued concurrently, consistently, and conscientiously.

As I learned when I decided to become free from financial slavery, a plethora of information is available for anyone who wants to learn about money and money management. Financial literacy programs, books, and information abound.

However, what's missing is a practical strategy that we can use to identify the false beliefs, inconsistent values, and harmful habits that have kept us locked in comfortable consumer prisons. Our greatest challenge these days is that we still have not recognized our status as economic slaves. This pervasive debt trap, with its slavery of owing money, spending money, and living above our means, is harder to address than the slavery of the past. Those individuals captured, brutalized, and brought to this country against their will over two centuries ago knew they were slaves. They knew the reality of their situation. Consequently, they could and did struggle against their slavery and pursue their freedom in a variety of ways.

The tragedy today is that we're reluctant to admit we're slaves. But unless we're willing to address the root of the problem, we will never experience the financial freedom that's available to us. The only way a sick person can get well is to first admit to being sick. If you're walking around coughing and sneezing and blowing your nose and insisting, "I'm all right — nothing's wrong with me," then your words are undermined by reality.

The only way a weak person can get strong is to admit to being weak. You'll notice in the Gospels when Jesus would encounter people who were sick or lame, he would often say, "Do you want to get well? What do you really want?" (see John 5:2 – 15). He wasn't being insulting or insensitive; he simply knew that the process must begin with individuals embracing the reality of their situation and wanting to change it.

Instead we bury the depth of our indebtedness with more purchases, another vacation, a new car, another loan. The idea that we would voluntarily become slaves is offensive to all of our sensibilities. But when we continue to spend what we don't have, charge what we don't need, and borrow more than we can repay, then we must call the problem what it is: slavery.

I know this firsthand. I was once enslaved to consumer debt. I couldn't even pay my federal income taxes. Consequently, the IRS garnisheed my wages to cover the back tax payments I owed. Lest you think that I haven't learned what I know the hard way, please allow me to share a little of my own story.


The Cost of a Full Tank

My life with "plastic power" began with my naïve assumption that I should accept any credit card a company was willing to give me. After I received my driver's license, my parents helped me buy a very used car for cash so I did not have any car payments to make. But the car had a terrible habit of needing a full tank of gas at least once a week. Even though this only amounted to $5 or $6 at the time (if you can imagine that!), an eighteen-year-old unemployed college student was thrilled to receive a new credit card from the Gulf Oil Corporation.

When that gas card arrived in the mail, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! I drove straight to the gas station and filled my tank. Prior to getting the card, I'd buy whatever I could afford, even a dollar's worth of gas — yes, one dollar — and drive for at least half a week on it. My new plastic card, however, empowered me to buy a full tank anytime I wanted.

It never occurred to me to consider the interest rate my new empowering card would charge me for all those full tanks. Nor did I consider the reality that my financial status would not change between my purchase and the arrival of the credit card bill. I basically ignored the fact that I would need to pay the bill for the gas I charged. After all, I'd entered the world of adulthood. I was a free man. My new life felt so exhilarating that, in some strange way, even the gas I bought seemed to be free. What a life!

A few weeks later, the first credit card bill from Gulf arrived. I was shocked to see how much gas I'd purchased, and it far exceeded what I could muster for a payment. Much to my relief, Gulf did not ask me to pay the entire amount. "What wonderful people," I said to myself. "They must really understand my circumstances. All they want me to pay is $20, and I can pay the rest next month." So I sent Gulf the $20 just as my bill indicated. Meanwhile, I kept using my card to buy gas for the next month.

When the next statement came, I knew the company must have made a mistake. I had sent them $20 toward my previous bill, but my new balance was higher than I expected. On top of this, the cost of all my newly purchased gas had been added to this new balance. When I called the phone number on my bill to ask them what happened to the money I had sent them, a very polite woman explained the situation. She told me that most of the $20 I had paid went to pay interest and the rest was used to pay down the principal. My first introduction to interest payments left me speechless.


The Breaking Point

The Gulf card began a fifteen-year cycle of credit, interest, and penalty payments that I am often too embarrassed to describe. While I established myself publicly as a civil rights activist, community development leader, and proponent for social justice, privately I remained broke and avoided bill collectors on a regular basis. I was preaching about going to heaven but was heading deeper and deeper into financial hell.

Before the people at Gulf realized that I was not the kind of customer they wanted and canceled my card due to constant late payments, I had gotten two airline cards from TWA, an auto loan, and a Diners Club credit card. I had also bought furniture, which the store so generously allowed me to finance, for my apartment. I didn't realize until later that it would take me eight years of minimum payments to pay off my new $400 sofa!

Although I had a good job, it didn't pay me enough to carry snowballing balances on four credit cards. I had little knowledge and no strategy whatsoever for my finances. I had never taken a course, read a book, or even had a serious conversation about credit or credit cards. We didn't really have lengthy conversations about money in our family; my parents assumed I had assimilated their values and frugality.

I now see the irony in my helping to ameliorate the effects of slavery and segregation in my social work while signing up for a different but equally devastating type of slavery of my own through my carefree lifestyle. But at the time, I saw no contradiction between the way I was living and what I did for a living.

It really wasn't until I decided to get married that I realized my financial life was a mess. I realized that no bank would lend me any money for a mortgage to buy a house; I knew I could not afford a decent car; I was embarrassed because I had no money saved; I had no health insurance, no retirement fund, no emergency fund, no budget, and no strategy to improve my conditions. But I was engaged to be married — and the ages of my fiancée and myself suggested that if we were going to have children, we did not have many years to wait. And with the prospect of children coming up, I knew there soon would be greater financial responsibilities.

Not only was I drowning in consumer debt and owner of nothing in my early thirties, I actually was indignant when bill collectors called my house about money I owed. One could probably have diagnosed me as having a mild form of insanity. I say that because when the bill collectors did catch me on the telephone, I began telling them that they should have a much nicer attitude toward me because it was people like me who made it possible for them to have their jobs. I actually told one caller that if I had paid my bill on time, she would have had no one to call. What would she do then? I was so crazy that I tricked myself into believing my tardy bill payments were acts of kindness for the bill collectors. Never mind that my credit score would take years to repair and improve.

One might assume that this was my lowest point. Unfortunately, it got worse. Just a few months before my wedding, I received a certified letter from the United States Treasury Department — not a good sign. Not only did I have this credit and finance problem, I had decided that since I owed so much income tax that I couldn't pay, I would wait to file a return until I had the money. However, the IRS decided that if they did not take some action, they might never hear from me. So they sent me a letter — return receipt requested — that the mail carrier would not release until I signed my name to verify that I had received it. Since I already knew that I owed the IRS money and the approximate amount, I figured there was no need to open the letter. I just put it with the growing stack of other envelopes containing unopened bills.

The next letter from the IRS arrived right after the IRS had taken money from my meager checking account for the back taxes I owed. I opened the letter. This letter said that my failure to respond to their previous notices left them with no choice but to take drastic measures. Here I was on my way to my wedding day and the government was taking the little money I had. They not only wanted my back taxes, they also charged me penalties for failing to file my tax return and interest on both the taxes and the penalties. I didn't have to die and go to hell; I was there and the heat had just gotten hotter.


Loose Change

I made up my mind that I had to change — and I had to change by the time I got married, only weeks away. Once I made my decision, I discovered an unlimited supply of avail- able information which I had simply never noticed or engaged. For instance, as a dedicated music lover, I always listened to my car radio while driving. With my new objective in mind, I discovered that there's much more on the radio than music, including a daily four-hour radio show that featured financial advice. As part of the show's format, people would call in and describe their situation to the host, giving their age and describing their assets, listing liabilities, and explaining their goals. The show's host would then describe various options for them to consider. Soon I was hooked and arrived at three important conclusions.

The first was that I received so much information, I felt like I had stumbled across an entirely new world. I took notes and wrote down terms the host used that I did not understand. Later, I researched the terms to make sure that the next time he used them, I would know what they meant. I wrote down the names of books the host mentioned and then got the books from the library — at no cost — and read them to increase my knowledge. I could not believe that the same radio I had used solely for entertainment was now like the Underground Rail- road, helping me to become a truly free man.

My second discovery while listening to the show was that the host always advised people to pay off as much of their debt as possible. He consistently told people that it made no sense having money in a savings account or a certificate of deposit earning perhaps 5 percent interest and also have a credit card balance and pay 18 percent interest. This made perfect sense to me. But I had never heard anyone talk like this before. And there I was paying high interest rates with no savings at all. One thing became clear: I would never have any money if my charge-and-spend mentality did not change.

The final and perhaps most significant discovery was that, as I listened to the callers, I felt humiliated by my lack of initiative. I heard people my age calling the radio show with questions about investment strategies, retirement options, college funds, tax shelter matters, real estate investing, and other assets they owned. Here I was in my early thirties and all I had to show for my life was a stack of newspaper clippings that described my work as I "fought the good fight." These people were my age and they were making plans and taking control of their financial future.

I had never felt so unaccomplished and incomplete. While passionate about social change, I had done nothing about my own personal financial responsibilities. I had proposed solutions for solving huge social problems but had never balanced my own checkbook. I had fought for justice and equality but could not afford to make a donation to a black college, the NAACP, or any other cause I supported. Fortunately, my shame and humiliation motivated me to take actions that would be life changing. In fact, what I now know is that helping people escape the slavery of debt and deficit living is the good fight.

If we are to win this fight, then we must develop a practical strategy that we can use to identify the false beliefs, inconsistent values, and harmful habits that have kept us locked in comfortable consumer prisons. Our greatest challenge these days is that we still have not recognized our status as economic slaves. This pervasive debt trap must be acknowledged as a grave problem with consequences every bit as life threatening as the slavery of our nation's past. But until we're willing to open the unopened bills, make the necessary calls, and face the reality of our confinement, we will never experience freedom from financial slavery.

The choice is yours.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Say Yes to No Debt by DeForest B. Soaries Jr.. Copyright © 2015 DeForest B. Soaries Jr.. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction: Consumer Debt — The New Slavery, 15,
Level I — Get Started,
1 Admit the Problem: Coming to Your Senses, Acknowledging Slavery, 33,
2 Address the Mess: Listing Income and Bills, Securing All Financial Docs, 45,
3 Adjust the Attitude: Establishing Life Goals, Changing Motivation, 59,
Level II — Get Control,
4 Start the Plan: Creating a Spending Plan, Becoming Accountable, 75,
5 Steer the power: Making Power Payments, Starting Power Savings, 87,
6 Set the Timer: Creating Milestones, Setting Goals, 99,
Level III — Get Ahead,
7 Maximize the Margin: Saving and Investing, Building Wealth, 113,
8 Minimize the STRESS: Buying Insurance, Planning Wills/Estates, 123,
9 Maintain the Focus: Ongoing Accountability, Celebrating Your Success, 135,
Level IV — Give Back,
10 Invest in Others: Tithing, Leading, and Mentoring, 149,
11 Ignite dfree® Living: dfree® Training, Starting/Leading dfree® Movements, 161,
12 Impact the Culture: Setting Examples, Pointing Others to Freedom, 173,
For Leaders Launching the dfree® Movement, 183,
dfree® Resources, 209,
Acknowledgments, 215,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Pastor Soaries is well qualified to write a book of the work he has been doing most of his life. He 'walks the talk' which is becoming rare today. He is a teacher and a scholar. -- Steadman Graham, , Businessman, author, and speaker

I believe that this book by DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. is a financial literacy tool that will help this generation win their freedom from the bondage of debt, delinquency, and deficiency. A must read for anyone seeking a practical guide for avoiding and overcoming financial failure. I encourage all church and organizational leaders to join the dfree movement, by utilizing this incredible resource to set the captives free. -- Bernice A. King, , Daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King

It is common knowledge to every Bible believer that the debtor is a slave to the lender. Dr. DeForest “Buster” Soaries, Jr.’s new, updated dfree edition offers keys that unshackle the chains of bondage for those under the influence of affluence and caught in the traps conspicuous consumption. This book is the foremost guide to joyous, debt-free living. -- Bishop T. D. Jakes, , CEO of TDJ Enterprises and New York Times best-selling author

To rid yourself of the shackles of debt, you must first get your mind right. Say Yes to No Debt is the perfect book to help you do just that, by unpacking the psychological causes behind debt and then offering insightful, yet highly practical strategies for debt-free living. But Say Yes to No Debt is more than a book, or even just a concept. It’s a movement that can help Americans of all backgrounds and faiths. -- Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, , The Money Coach and author of the New York Times bestseller Zero Debt

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