Financial Bypassing: Money and Spirituality is the title of a talk I gave at the SAND Conference in October 2019. At the end of the presentation a member of the audience asked me to document and share my own personal journey on the topic. I agreed to do so. Here it is.
I am actively learning about the relationship between spirituality and money. It began in 2013 when I moved to the United States. Reared in a socialist country and moving to a capitalist economy showed me that my value for and relationship with money was influenced by both my upbringing and my spirituality. The stark contrast between my influences and how the U.S. culture deals with money stopped me on my tracks. I had to learn how it works here in the U.S. in order to find a way to better understand the culture that was to become my home. What I could not readily understand were things like: the necessity to borrow in order to establish a credit score, retail store credit cards that I didn’t know where a thing before 2013, the normalcy of student debt, an over abundance of storage units, driving on the wrong side of the road…ok I’m kidding on that one!
Examples like these culminated in one question; ‘why do people willingly spend money they do not have?’. Clearly it leads to a vibrant economy, yet most people don’t have any personal savings and have to keep working in order to feed their debt. I didn’t understand. I had to learn more about the culture, the economy and the role of money in peoples’ lives. I googled a phrase, something like ‘getting out of debt in the US’, in search of people who were objective about the debt culture here, and I found Dave Ramsey. I saw that he was giving a course some months later in my local area and I signed up. I told my husband I was doing the course in order to learn about the US culture and he said he wanted to come also. We did the course together and it was like marriage therapy!
Dave Ramsey offers a step program that advocates getting out of debt and staying out of debt. My husband had filed bankruptcy the year we got together. I had never missed a payment on a credit card in my life. Our financial backgrounds were as different as could be.
On the Ramsey track, we had to save up an emergency fund that would support us for 3 months should unforeseen circumstances stop our flow of incomes. We had to knock out all debt and thankfully the only debt we had was our mortgage. We took on that challenge. We had to create a budget and agree to live off that budget. We had to talk through and unravel our hidden beliefs around money. We identified and shared trends in spending and saving within each of us.
If you are in debt – seriously consider the Ramsey course. It requires discipline and self-honesty. It’s a little bit Christian and mostly draws on common sense. It is an excellent starting point on the journey towards changing ones relationship with money. He has a podcast that’s also on YouTube. It’s advisable to attend a course locally which adds structure, a time line and most of all - accountability.
Coming up next, Money Blog #2: Budgeting when your incomes are volatile.