Debt: Upside Down and Backwards

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In the simplest terms, here is how you should purchase things:

Step One: Work

Step Two: Save over time

Step Three: Use your income to purchase something

Income comes from the work you do.  When you work over a time period you are able to save up enough money to buy an item.   Photo by respres

Our tricky modern day society has turned things upside down.  Instead of “purchase” being at the end of the formula it has worked its way near to the front.

Step One: Borrow (often regardless of the interest rate)

Step Two: Purchase something

Step Three: Work (for twice as long)

Step Four: Pay Money (for twice a long)

Step Five (if you’re lucky): Loan is paid off

In the book Financial Parenting: Showing Your Kids That Money Matters by Larry Burkett and Rick Osborne the authors illustrate the home buying process in the mid 1900’s:

It used to be that you bought a cheap home, fixed it up, sold it, took the equity , and moved up in price to another one.  Then you put sweat equity into that house, sold it, and bought another one.  That way, by the fourth home you would have the one you really wanted.  Burkett and Osborne bold added.

Since we have now moved purchasing to the front of the line may people find themselves upside down in debt or drowning in debt.

What has caused this upside down backwards equation?

Burkett and Osborne suggest advertising plays an important role. Instead of “find a need and fill it,” advertising seeks to “create a need and fill it.”  Advertising screams, “Go ahead, you deserve it.  Have it now and pay for it later.”

    An unfortunate thing is that debt has become something that isn’t real.  Everyone has it.  No one seems to mind or know how they’re going to get out of it.  And no one wants to talk about the end of the line until it’s too late. Burkett and Osborne.

    But, advertising has only improved its ability to appeal to our natural selves. Advertising does not create the jealousy, greed, impatience, and selfish ambition.  These are internal attributes we must constantly fight against on a daily basis.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying that your debt reveals you are a horrible person who feeds on their carnal desires.  But, I am saying that debt reminds each of us that we are in a struggle to overcome our natural selves as we seek to be ruled by the presence of the Spirit.

What if you are drowning in a sea of debt?

Here are three articles you might want to read to help you get started.

  1. Getting out of Debt: A simple first step suggests you track your receipts for a month.
  2. Getting out of Debt: A second step suggests you get your hands on 10% of what you make in a month.
  3. Getting out of Debt: Step three suggests you get passionately intense about becoming debt-free.


  1. says

    I agree, the advertising just brings out what is already in our hearts. I like how John Piper describes the Christian walk as a War because we are constantly fighting against those things that are natural. It’s easy to be lured away into thinking that going into debt to purchase something will bring more pleasure than having self control and saying no.

    Teaching kids these lessons at an early age will be tremendously helpful throughout their life.
    .-= Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last blog ..MasterCard Called – Your Debt Has Been Canceled! =-.

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