“In this world you will have trouble.” Those are Jesus’ words, as recorded in John 16:33. While he didn’t emphasize financial trouble, many of the troubles we experience are, in fact, related to money. Here are some of the more common financial burdens and some practical steps for freeing yourself from them.
The burden of debt
If you’re struggling under the weight of a heavy debt load, three of the most important steps toward getting out of debt are:
1. Commit today to going no further into debt. It will help a lot to have an encouragement and accountability partner, someone who knows about your commitment and who will pray for you and ask you about your progress from time to time.
2 . “Fix and roll” your payments on any “revolving” debts, such as credit card balances you carry from month to month. You see, if you take on no more debt and make the required minimum payment that’s due each month, that required minimum payment amount will decline a little bit each month. The amount is based on your balance, so if your balance declines a little bit each month, so will your required minimum payment amount.
If you will fix your payment on this month’s required minimum, continuing to pay that much each month even when less is required, you will greatly speed your journey out of debt. It’s one of the simplest steps you can take toward getting out of debt faster.
3. Accelerate your payments. Use this calculator to run some what-if scenarios, which will tell you how much more quickly you’ll be out of debt if you pay more than the required minimum each month.
The burden of a bad economy
We can’t control whether the economy falls into a recession, but we can control whether we are prepared.
Recessions are usually marked by a rising unemployment rate. While there’s no such thing as guaranteed employment anymore, there’s something very close to guaranteed employability. That has to do with keeping your skills as current as possible. You can do that by taking advantage of any training opportunities offered by your employer, perhaps continuing your education at a university or community college (your employer might even pay for this training), and just reading blogs or books related to your field.
The burden of a bear market
As for the stock market, it’s important to know a little market history. The market cycles between bull markets and bear markets, which means we can expect some downturns from time to time. They are not a reason to panic.
Pair that market history with an objective, rules-based investment process that you can stay with through thick and thin, and you will set yourself up for success. That includes choosing something as simple as a target-date fund. Or working with an investment advisor, using a so-called robo-advisor (now offered by most of the large online brokers), or subscribing to an investment newsletter. Any of those options would be better than going it alone, which would leave you vulnerable to subjective, emotion-driven investment decisions.
The burden of discontent
Every day, in myriad ways both overt and subtle, our consumer culture does its best to foster dissatisfaction, to make us want—to make us feel like we need—something more in order to be happy. The single most powerful step we can take to counteract its power is to practice gratitude. Gratitude disarms the consumer culture. It simply doesn’t know what to do with someone who is grateful.
Gratitude begins in the morning as we thank God for another day of life and the opportunity to live in a relationship with Him. It continues throughout the day as we give thanks for the sunrise, the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the job we have, and the sunset.
This isn’t about painting a smiley face on any true troubles we’re facing. It’s simply about building the habit of thanking God for all that we have instead of buying into the lies of our consumer culture, which would have us believe we don’t have enough.
Perhaps most powerfully of all, confide in a friend whatever burdens you’re feeling. The Bible says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). In a world in which so many of us try to put our best face forward through social media, there is something disarming about acknowledging any struggle we are facing. And because disclosure tends to beget disclosure, if you confide in a friend, chances are good that your friend will feel safe confiding in you. Then you can truly carry each other’s burdens.
Matt Bell is the author of Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.