Every day I meet with people who dream of opening their own business, and far too often, they will not be able to fulfill their dreams due to the inability to manage their finances and to having too much debt. The median household income in America is about $54,000; in the area in which I live, it is nearly $83,000. That is $29,000, or 53%, higher than the norm. Yet, many of the people I meet with are living well beyond their means and are saddled with debt.
For example, I recently met with a man whose annual household income was more than 4 times the median at $220,000. He has done somethings right–he has a government pension and he has invested on his own into a retirement plan. However, he is drowning in debt. He has children in college and owes more than $100,000 in student loans. His credit card balances, car loans, and consumer debt total nearly $200,000. He came to us hoping to borrow $300,000 to open his dream business. He wrote a great business plan, he had the right management team lined up, and he was willing to inject some of his retirement funds into the business. However, no bank was willing to give him a loan due to his overwhelming debt. I doubt that he even realized how deeply he was in debt until we required him to complete a personal financial statement. It is likely that much of that debt represented purchases made with little forethought and for possessions with little lasting value.
Unfortunately, this is not a unique story. I see it time and time again. I had one client tell me recently that the bank should understand that going into business was her plan for getting out of debt and improving her family’s financial situation. Life does not work that way. Opening a business is risky, and banks will only loan money to those who have proven that they can manage money. Of course, they also have to have a good plan. But, no matter how wonderful your idea is or how great the potential of your proposed business, you cannot borrow money to start a business if you don’t have good credit, moderate to little debt, and your own money to invest in this business.
Your dream may not be to own your own business. You dream may be to retire at an early age, to become a missionary, to buy a vacation home, to leave your children with a large inheritance, to donate millions to charity, or something else entirely. Whatever your dream, it will be difficult to accomplish if you do not manage your money well and live within your means.
Making a budget and sticking to it is the first step to living within your means. Budgeting allows you to (1) discover where your money is going, (2) determine what level of expenditures is appropriate for your income, (3) develop a plan to pay off your debts, and (4) start building a nest egg to make your dreams come true.
Budgeting isn’t glamorous, but it pays big dividends. As Proverbs 21:5 tells us “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” Make a commitment today to start budgeting and managing your money, so that your dreams will not be deterred by excessive debt.
What dreams are you being held back from fulfilling do to too much debt? How can you make changes in your spending to make your dreams come true?
If you need help with budgeting and money management, please see my earlier blogs on “Honoring God With Our Money.”