Friday, October 7, 2011

My Spiritual Warfare

            I feel like I am fighting a cold war, and am being attacked (at least metaphorically speaking) from two separate sides. On one end, there’s the relentless and beckoning call of hyperconsumerism. Technology wants me to have the latest and greatest, (although I thoroughly enjoy it) I have to hunt for bargains, deals and the like for everything from groceries to clothing, and even being televisionless, print advertisements ARE EVERYWHERE insisting that my life is not fulfilled unless I drinkthisbeerspendmoneyatthiscasinodrivethiscareatthisfoodwatchthismovie. Sometimes I literally feel like I need to crawl into a cave to re-energize myself from being bombarded with all of this advertising. But when I emerge I’m armed with the frugal fury of Jeff Yeager, the wisdom of Dave Ramsey and the heart of Larry Burkett, and I feel like I can take on any advertiser trying to tie up my income with monthly payments, and can battle as well as look down upon with disdain at any investment advisor with all the little letters at the end of their name who think that my investing style is elementary (BTW I’ve always felt if you have all of those stupid letters after your name: i.e. cpa, cfa, cfp, its certified proof that I need to keep people with those letters as far away from my investments as I possibly can. Essentially, they were forced feed the idea that debt is a tool used to create prosperity, and those letters mean that you accept this myth as truth). For any and all of those people, I give no second thoughts to (figuratively speaking) slicing their heads off with my frugality sword.
            It’s the other side of the attack that, and I think this is the first time I’ve ever admitted this even to myself, troubles me the most and drains my spirit. Just thinking about it I feel like I have to stop and catch my breath. It’s a fight that strains and even weakens my soul. It’s a fight that’s best summarized in a lot of Christian churches and is being played out across our great country via protests. The ideology that having wealth makes people evil, that the playing field known as competition needs to be equalized, and that people are absolved from personal responsibility and accountability because loan agreements that they could not afford were made available to them.
            I can fight tooth and nail against consumerism and never think twice about the feelings or pain that I can render, but against peers and people of the same faith, it literally breaks my heart. I’ll start with faith. In Christian circles, I feel that there is an intense hatred and disdain for wealthy individuals and successful corporations. It’s like there’s an unspoken mantra, “Wealthy and successful people need to humble themselves and give (more), and the poor worker needs to be exalted as the paradigm of what a good Christian should be.” Dave Ramsey lays the counter argument out so majestically, I wish I had said it. Money is AMORAL, period! It’s the human involvement and interaction that makes money take on life and form. In FPU, Dave uses bricks as a substitute for money. For example, if I were to take a brick and fling it through and destroy the window of someone’s home, I would be (in every sense of the word) a bad person. Now if I take a ton of bricks and build a hospital in the poor end of town, I would be doing good works. The bricks don’t care, but this irrationalized judgment call is made, “He has a ton of bricks and he must be evil, but this person has no bricks they must be good,” THEY’RE JUST BRICKS PEOPLE!!! And to my Christian brethren that fight me, I’ll say this: If more “good” people have more “bricks” than “bad” people, WE CAN DO MORE GOOD IN THE WORLD. By changing our habits and views towards credit and building personal wealth, together we can change the balance of who owns wealth. If more “good” people worked Dave’s baby steps and built wealth, we can give like no one else to help: our churches, unwed mothers, families in poverty, areas of the world with limited access to water, seniors who find themselves in financial messes (goodbye social security!!), etc. etc. etc. Essentially, if we band together and build personal wealth for ourselves, we can change the world. Now a lot of this runs in direct opposition to identifying myself as a (partial) objectivist (A LOT more on that later) but basically what I’m trying to say to my Christian brothers and sisters is this: It is in your personal interest to erase debt from your life, build monetary security and wealth for your family, and give whatever you want to whoever you want. Now if you really believe that “rich” people and corporations are evil, then do something about it, capture some of that wealth for yourself (by working Dave’s baby steps) and change that balance. I challenge you, show “them” what good a wealthy person can do in the world by being that example.
            *LOOOOOONG breath pause*
            Now onto my peers out protesting. We, are supposed to be the greatest generation that the world has ever seen in any age. We, are the most educated generation to walk the Earth. We have existed without witnessing the burdens of those that fought for Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage. We have always been able to work and vote side by side regardless of gender or race. We were also witnesses to acts of war on our country’s soil, and are also witnesses to 10+ years of our country being at war. We understand the impacts of climate change, and whether man made or not, we love hybrid cars/mini coopers/high efficient light bulbs/recycling programs for all of the same reasons. We were supposed to think for ourselves. What has happened is that we bought into several myths as truths. Some, which are the most damaging, is that debt is a tool and that a college degree was a one way ticket to success.
            We chose to use debt to pay for our college educations. With those loans we rented places off campus, went on vacations and in every sense of the word lived beyond our means. We thought credit cards were good deals. We enjoyed the “college experience” and did not work credible part time jobs while in school that would have given us insight into the fields we were pursuing academically. We bought into the hype of “The Great Recession” of 2008 and, afraid to apply for jobs, went to grad schools paid for with student loans.
            Now we are out of school and expected to have cushy $30k plus entry level white collar jobs handed to us, just like our degrees. So now we point our fingers to the government, banks, and wealthy people as if they are at fault for our inability to think for ourselves. We say there are no jobs, but yet we are “too good” to deliver pizzas and wipe down restaurant tables or take an entry level sales job and muscle our way into a company. What we have become are entitled brats expecting success to happen to us, rather than us happening to success. I feel like we have never had the drive to fight, scratch and claw our way to achievement.
            Dave Ramsey talks about the path of working the baby steps. He says that before you even begin the first, that there’s an obstacle course difficult to navigate (myths we accept as truths) and that along the way you will be made fun of and mocked from those that think you’re a fool and “uneducated” for even thinking about going thru the obstacle course. Now once thru the course, the remaining six steps are like a giant mountain. It’s daunting to look up at from the bottom, but the view from the top and the ride down make you wish you could do it 100 times. It has always been my vision, my dream, to get to the top of this mountain, setting mile markers (as well as kilometer markers for my readers overseasJ) during my ascent. And once at the top, unpack the longest strongest ropes that man has ever made, and pull as many of you up the mountain to join myself and my fellow “weird” people as I possibly can, even if it breaks every bone in my body. But I, the followers of Yeager, Ramsey and Burkett, and all of the other blogs in the world can’t elude one fact: We have to make change happen for ourselves. In our personal lives, unemployment is either 0% or 100%, and doing what’s best for you, breaking free of debt, getting an emergency fund, saving for retirement, saving and working through college, having the heart and drive to take ANY job that’s available until you can stand on your own two feet, is a decision that we have to make one by one – individually. No one is going to do it for us.

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