For the last few days, the topic of discussion almost everywhere has been centered around CNN and Soledad O'Brien's Black in America Special: Almighty Debt. From debates in beauty salons and barbershops to seemingly angry tweets and Facebook status updates, the discussion about the role faith plays in the finances of African Americans has become multi-dimensional.
While many have taken the stance that prosperity preaching pastors may be to blame, others have questioned both the irresponsibility of some of the families profiled on the special, as well as the advice provided to them.
With valid points on all sides of the argument, there is one reality that continues to be glossed over: many people are just plain delusional about their debt. At the root of the issue, no matter what side you've chosen, the bottom line is that at some point there is a disconnect with reality when it comes to financial matters for many people, Black or otherwise. If you're not careful, you may fall into this delusional state too!
5 Signs You're Delusional About Your Debt
1. You don't know how much debt you really have. The worst thing you can say if someone asks you how much debt you have is, "Uhhmmm, about . . . . " Numbers are very black and white. They are what they are. Either you know it or you don't. How will you ever get out of debt if you don't even know who you owe and what you owe them?
2. You won't open the mail or answer the phone anymore. Believe it or not, dodging creditors doesn't make your debt magically disappear. Avoiding your financial blunders can only snowball the problem. What could have been a simple flurry can become a blizzard if you're not upfront about the mess you've created.
3. You use the church as an excuse to be stupid. Harsh, right? I know. But if I hear one more person who continuously lives beyond their means say, "I tithe, so God will provide," I don't know what I'll do! Tithing is not an excuse for poor money management. Don't pick and choose the parts of the Bible you like for convenience. There are hundreds, if not thousands of verses which relate to money and none of them involve tithing being a valid rationale for over spending and under saving. Not to mention, how can you be the giver you are called to be if you're riddled with debt and barely making it yourself?
4. You are still spending money unnecessarily. You're in debt up to your eyeballs and instead of fixing the problem, you went out and bought designer sunglasses to cover them up. How can you get out of debt, when you continue to add to it? You can't! Until you can get real about where you are with your money, stick to the essentials: food, shelter, gas and utilities. (I used to say clothing, but for obvious reasons, I've learned that I can't say that around some folks! Its amazing how people can attempt to justify a designer bag into the clothing necessity category.)
5. You continue to blame other people for your debt. Until you take responsibility for where you are in life, you will not regain control of your life. Whether it was co-signing for someone else's debt who ultimately defaulted or taking bad advice from your mama, the problem is now yours and you must deal with it. Blaming everyone else won't make it better; it'll keep you bitter and unfocused on a solution.
If the delusion is suddenly fading, here are a few things you can do to aid in your recovery and destroy debt:
1. Stop spending!
2. Figure out what you really owe down to the penny. Get out your shoe boxes, little receipt filled envelopes with the months on it and all that unopened mail piled up on your kitchen counter. Take everything out and add up who and what you really owe.
3. Talk to your bill collectors. Explain what your financial hardship is and work with them to figure out ways for you to settle the debt or create a payment plan with terms that are mutually beneficial.
4. Create some financial goals that can keep you focused and dedicated over the long haul.
5. Create a realistic budget and work hard at sticking to it. It may not be easy, but at least you'll be really facing the problem instead of walking around in a delusional coma like some families we've seen.
Until Next Time,
Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth & Be Blessed!