Do Not Conform

So I used a bible verse to talk about money…  What are you gonna do about it?

I believe that Jesus wants us to live fulfilled lives on this earth and in this lifetime.  And as many Americans can agree, debt is not fulfilling.

It is heavy.  It is mean.  It is… interest?

When I first realized the amount of student loans I would have to pay back, I was floored.  But let’s back track and discuss the three biggest lies of our wonderful society.

Lie 1:  Know Your Future

We’re led to believe that at the age of 18 we’ll know what we want to do for the rest of our lives and what school we want to go to for training in said lifelong obligation.  So we run straight into college with what we think we want to do… Why?  Why did I do that?  Why didn’t I learn how to build houses or do landscaping or… record some hit rap albums? (I don’t know what kids do these days).

I digress.  I wanted to play football.  And it could ONLY be for the University of Alabama.  I should mention that I wasn’t good enough (or didn’t work hard enough, whichever way you want to look at it) to play football with Alabama.  My folks always said I was stubborn.  What do they know?

Thus began my college career of not being diligent in the classroom, not playing football, and choosing a major I thought I wanted, telecommunications.  No need to discuss my entire college career, but I did switch colleges and changed my major to undecided, then to math, my point being that I was NOT ready to be my own man at the green ole age of 18.

Anyway…

Lie 2: College is a 4 year process

HA!

Well… it isn’t exactly a lie.  Many are able to finish in four years, but it’s borderline unbearable, an absurd amount of hours per semester and almost guaranteed that these students do have an idea of what they want to do for a living.

But for yours truly, it took five and a half years.  And that was after spending the last 2 years as a diligent student who the lesser folk envied.

They’d all be like “Dude! How’d you make a 103??”

And I’d be like…. “Bonus.”

And they’d be like… “Gah…”

So a Bachelor of Science from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville ALABAMA!

But it’s in mathematics…. Crap.  I really didn’t think that through.  And not in math education, mind you.  Straight math.

What I’m s’posed to do with that?  I can’t teach:  no education degree or certificate.  I can’t rack up loads of dollars as a titled mathematician:  no doctorate.  I can’t go back and get a masters degree:  well… I can, but I’m not going to because screw that.  You get your masters.

Which brings me to…

Lie 3:  There’s a job waiting for you!

Let me be clear; there are many recent graduates who DO think things through from a young age and REMAIN devoted to their early callings and ARE diligent throughout the process and DO receive job offers upon graduating.  I like to call those people punks.

I don’t know percentages so I won’t use them.  But 99% of people are normal.  And normal people don’t get those job offers.

So here I am, a broke, nay, a POOR college graduate with no job and a future wifey (five months after graduation, we’ll talk about that in a later segment).

Did I mention I had student loans?  Yea.  A lot.  Again, I will talk about how I managed my money in college later.  It’s very important.

But for now, loans.

Did you know the federal government regulates student loan interest?  Mmm… Well it does.  And they normally sit around 6%.  I know what you’re thinkin’.  Not too bad, right?

WRONG!

Student loan payments are set up (most of them) as a ten year pay off at roughly 6%.  Most of mine were 6.8%.  I had more than one…

I can’t remember an exact number, but my payoff amount was sitting just at $40,000.

FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!

For a just graduated, almost married 23 year old!

Listen, this is no one’s fault but mine, and I need to make that clear, but it truly was a difficult time.  And I seriously did not believe it would ever be paid off.

Jump ahead a few months to my first job, a subject that I will discuss later (sorry, I know you’re really into my awesome, exciting life).

Not much income flowing in the household, even with my wife working.  We did without some conveniences for a bit, no cable or internet, no new cars, I had a flip phone for a while, and, most importantly, no saving money.

Our minimum monthly payment on my student loans (thankfully my wife had no debt) was $442 once our graciously gracious grace period of 6 months was over.

If you’re doing the math, that’s $53,000 over the course of ten years.  When I realized that I actually called the loan company to make sure it was right.  It was.  And I’m sure I sounded like an idiot to the ever so friendly customer service representative.

But the fact is I was indeed dumb, or ignorant I should say.  I was completely oblivious to the real world as I was all too often reminded of as a child.

The real world is dumb, but a 6% interest rate isn’t so good anymore, right?

There are many resources available that will tell you to pay off loans in chunks and to pay well over the minimum, but the authors of such resources don’t know what it means to be below the poverty line.

I do.  It sucks.  And so does debt.

How does “Do not conform” apply, you ask?  Paul meant it so that we would avoid following worldly patterns.  Money is very much a worldly treasure and the way the world wants you to use it is very much a secular pattern.

Our God is compassionate, and he wants you free from worldly patterns.  Unfortunately, most of us are not so rich that we can carry on in our day to day with no regard for finances.

But we can be good stewards of what we’ve been given.

I will attempt to teach you how.

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