Our folks grew up in a different time. I remember once when the bank in Elloree contacted mom & dad to let them know they overdrew on their checking account. It was a point of severe embarrassment to them and they went to town and put some more money in their account. There was no overdraft fee. I’m sure my folks apologized and promised to do their math better in the future. I bet back then there were people who intentionally wrote bad checks, but I never heard of them. They were definitely in the minority. Our parents didn’t own a credit card. They paid cash, or worked out payments with the store, or did without.
Buying a house is the biggest debt I’ve ever taken on. My dad never had that burden on his shoulders. I have clear memories of my life as far back as 2 years old. And since I never got into drugs or drunkenness I have no missing years. We lived in a rented house until I was 3. My dad bid on the old school house that had been condemned and he won the bid. He dismantled it and used the lumber to build the house we grew up in. He sold the hard wood floor out of the auditorium for more than he paid for the whole school building. So he built his house without incurring debt. And this ain’t no humble house. Sherry & I like our quaint little house, but there is nothing quaint about what my dad built. He and mom are retired now, and they still live in that house.
Money matters have changed a lot since I was a boy. Rarely do you ever hear about somebody getting into a house without a sizeable debt. As a boy, I often saw people pay for their house as they built it. When we moved into this house, we were looking at a 30-year note. Sherry took the grocery bill, light bill, all kinds of bills, and I concentrated on paying for the house. I was thankful and relieved to be able to pay it off in 17 years.
And a credit card is something neither one of us was prepared for. Since our parents didn’t have credit cards, there wasn’t much they knew to tell us on the subject. The big thing I remember hearing is that the credit card people would check you out thoroughly and would only give you a line of credit that they knew you could pay. Sherry & I definitely saw a shift in that thinking over the years. We started getting the calls and mail like everybody else. We were amazed at all the people who wanted us to know we had been approved for the Gold Card. It didn’t take long to figure out that these people would let us run up a debt that we’d never be able to dig out from under. Right now I have 2 credit cards with a total credit line of $27,000. Now for some folks, that’s not much money. But Sherry & I are out of debt and we’re sure not looking to incur more. A sizeable amount of the debt we have now paid off was credit card debt. Buying was made easy: interest charges snuck up on us, and before we knew what was happening, we were in over our heads.
I don’t think many people my age were taught any more about handling money than I was. But with all the financial pit falls out there these days, and the generally poor condition of the economy, I think everybody needs as much education on the subject as they can get. I needed to go to my daughter’s house this morning, and while I was there I saw one of my granddaughters studying a book on finances. She’s 9 years old. Of course that girl is an entrepreneur and at her young age she has several different paying gigs. I was telling her how proud I was of her for wanting to know how to handle money when she asked me if I knew that there are 2,350 verses in the Bible that talk about money. Well, the truth is, I did not know the Bible had that much to say about money. I don’t doubt it; I just didn’t know it.
I genuinely do feel sorry for folks who are deeply indebted at this time. While I was paying for our house, that debt stayed on my mind all day, everyday. Our economic future is not real bright and I’m sure that folks who have debt are at least as burdened as I was – or maybe more. I don’t want to be a fool with money, but I don’t want to put my trust in it either. Even though I didn’t know about the 2,350 references to money in the Bible, I do remember a verse I read somewhere in Proverbs. The writer said money could sprout wings like a bird and fly away. I sure understand what that means. We’ve all heard the stories of riches to rags. Life has so many twists, and turns, and surprises, and our money can vanish from right in front of us. I think I tend to agree with the Pope. He said the worse the world economy gets, the more people will see they need to trust in God and not riches. Smart man. Maybe that’s why they gave him the job.
Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music