Thursday, November 24, 2011

Debt -- the real challenge to freedom

As I watch country after country succumb to overwhelming debt, I am often reminded of the old adage, waste not, want not. Our own country has a crushing level of debt but collectively, we cannot find the moral courage to live within ours means. The way to financial security is simple, spend less than you make. I am always impressed with some trivial, but significant examples of waste and improvident living. Almost every day, I drive by several "convenience" markets. I see cars lined up to purchase huge sugar water drinks and other even more harmful substances. A local thirst buster is about 80 cents. Many people drink two or more a day. Let's say conservatively, they spend $1.60 a day, five days a week. That is $8.00 a week, or $416 a year, almost one full month's payment on a car or house.

I am certain that that is not all they spend in convenience markets. If you tracked every penny that you spent for a whole month, you would probably find similar expenditures. But the interest on debt is even more insidious than purchasing junk food at a convenience market. You have nothing at all, not even sugar water, to show for your payment. We hear a lot about a housing crisis, there is no housing crisis, houses are fairly reasonably priced right now. What we have is a debt crisis. People who purchased a home and then dutifully paid the interest year after year without thinking twice about losing all that money to interest, now find themselves unwilling or unable to pay for a house that is worth less than they originally paid, and usually less than the balance due on the their long term mortgage.

Clear back in 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley, a prophet of God, said, “We are beguiled by seductive advertising. Television carries the enticing invitation to borrow up to 125 percent of the value of one’s home. But no mention is made of interest.” He went on to say, So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings. … I am troubled by the huge consumer debt which hangs over the people.”

President Hinckley quoted President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in the April 1938 general conference, said from this pulpit: “Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1938, 103).

The first step in provident living is to live within your means.

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