Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Buck Stops Here

I own every single one of my problems.  They don't belong to my wife, my children, my boss, my creditors, or anyone else I interact with.  They're 100% mine.  I decided long ago not to play the blame game.  Guess what happens when you decide the buck stops with you?  Solutions find a way into your life.

Perhaps the most painful lesson I learned is about "leverage."  This is using other people's money to increase the potential return of an investment.  The most common example of this is using a mortgage to pay for your home.  I met with my mortgage broker and shared my idea to remodel our California house.  The plan was simple — cash out all my investments and borrow money against my 401k to pay cash for the renovation.  Once construction was completed, my broker would give me a bigger mortgage.  We hired a contractor and paid cash for everything.  When our construction was complete, we got our new mortgage.  The tax bills and early withdrawal penalties were more challenging to repay than expected.  The banks got nervous about our bigger mortgage and decided to revoke our lines of credit.  Business declined while monthly expenses escalated.  I never repaid my retirement account and ended up paying a 10% penalty for cashing it out.  The cash was needed to pay monthly expenses.  There was no way to "leverage" my way out.  And there was no one to blame but myself.

The one thing that increased when everything else seemed to be decreasing was my prayer life.  Looking back I think God was getting a pretty good laugh at how I attempted to manage my own money.  Everything else I turned over to God was going great.  The one thing I decided to remain in charge of was the money.  It was disappearing in the blink of an eye.  There was this twinge of guilt when I finally said, "God, everything belongs to you now, including my financial statements.  Sorry there's nothing there but a bunch of liabilities."

The next step was to contact my creditors.  I promised every one of them I would pay them back.  Most creditors don't believe anything they hear.  God heard me.  My prayer resembled Psalm 61:1-3 ~ O God, listen to my cry! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety.

He heard me loud and clear.  I stand on my rock with my sign held high — the buck stops here.  One by one, my creditors are getting repaid.  I avoided bankruptcy.  I replaced the word "leverage" with "cash."  I also eliminated "excuses" from my vocabulary.  My hope is that today's story inspires you to take ownership of your problems.  May you find the towering rock of safety.  And if you have time, please add your thoughts in the comment section below.

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