Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Getting out of Debt

Jan Thompson is a Registered Representative offering securities through Securities America, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, and advisory services through Securities America Advisors, Inc.

The information provided in this program is for general education purposes only, and should not be construed as specific investment advice. Please consult a financial advisor regarding your specific situation prior to implementing an investment plan.

Leslie Basham: Last fall, when the housing bubble burst and the country plunged into recession, Jan Thompson wasn’t surprised. Here she is back in 2006, when she anticipated the trouble.

Jan Thompson: With Americans spending 10% more than they have coming in, it doesn’t take long to figure out how that is going to compound and eventually bankrupt people. I think there’s a serious wave of some very challenging days coming with the creative financing that’s been done with real estate, for example. When I see certain types of mortgages that my clients have taken on, one of the first things we do is rework that, because I know that they’re headed for a ticking time bomb.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 29.

Revive Our Hearts is primarily a Bible teaching program, but in the month of July, we’ve focused on a series of helpful, practical interviews. They have showed us how to incorporate biblical principles into relationships with spouses, children, and others in the body of Christ. Our final interview for the month will address a struggle that is top of mind for many people.

Jan Thompson saw the financial crisis coming when she talked with Nancy in front of an audience in the summer of 2006. The steps she suggests in escaping the money maze are definitely still relevant today.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In recent years I’ve had so many friends that I’ve watched walk through major financial stress that just seems to suck the life out of their lives, out of their marriage, out of their walk with the Lord. I’ve seen people struggling with depression, with anxiety, with conflict in marriage. These are good friends, and I’ve watched them going through this.

I finally said to myself, “We have to address this issue on Revive Our Hearts. There are so many women and couples struggling with financial pressures and all that results from that in their lives marriages.”

I began to seek the Lord about how we could address this subject in a way that would be helpful, in a way that could help people get not just the surface fruit problems, the symptoms, but the real heart issues. And the Lord brought to mind someone that I’ve known for many years but had never had a chance to have on Revive Our Hearts. Her name is Jan Thompson.

Jan is a certified financial planner. Since she was a little girl, God has given her a gift and an ability to deal with money and has given her—as she has developed in more recent years—a business to help people with their finances. She’s developed a lot of insights into God’s Word as it relates to good stewardship of God’s resources.

She teaches women and others—couples—and does seminars and consults privately. God is helping her help others and serve the Kingdom of Christ by helping to get God’s perspective on finances.

So, Jan, thank you for joining us on Revive Our Hearts this week, and thank you for learning these things yourself and then for having a heart to teach them to people like us so that we can see God’s kingdom furthered as we become good stewards of His resources.

Jan Thompson: It truly is a privilege.

Nancy: Jan is a wife. She’s a mom. She has her priorities in life in order. And her husband Tom is here today, but he’s not on mike with us; he’s praying for us. It’s been fun to talk with the two of you and see how you’ve applied so many of these things in your own marriage.

What is your mission statement as it relates to helping people with their finances?

Jan: My mission is threefold. It is to educate, equip, and empower people to be the best trustee possible of the resources God’s going to give them to manage throughout their lifetime.

So I am here with my educational hat on. I am here with my empowerment hat on. And back in San Diego I have my practice where I do the equipping.

Nancy: You talk about the resources that God will entrust to people through the course of their lifetimes. Some of us are sitting here thinking, “Well, I’m not going to have any resources through my lifetime.” But you realize that’s not quite the case.

Jan: That’s not the case. In fact, one of the favorite groups that I enjoy speaking with . . . I actually got into this industry through teaching a college course called “Personal Financial Planning.”

I thought, “If I can get a hold of young people who are graduating from college equipped with a degree, hopefully prepared to go out and earn a living . . . no one has taught them how to manage the three and a half million dollars that the average wage earner is going to experience in their lifetime.”

Nancy: Three and a half million dollars?

Jan: That’s just at an average wage with three and a half inflation factor built into that through age 65.

Nancy: That we will have to manage.

Jan: That’s as a single person. If you get married you actually are doubling that. So you’re now at about seven million dollars that is going to go through your hands. As a business owner, would I hire someone to come in and manage my company if I knew I was going to be handling about seven million dollars—for someone who had had no training whatsoever, just had a passion and zeal to go out and do something?

So that gave me that passion to get involved on the college campus and start teaching this personal financial planning course, which I did for a number of years.

Nancy: What did you find out when those students came into class? Where were they coming from?

Jan: They came in dazed and confused, could care less about anything in that class. But the teacher side—and I think my primary spiritual gift is administration and organization—wanted to see how could I turn those light bulbs on in that classroom. Now I can’t say I’m a great teacher in every area, but because of my passion for the subject and my desire to see their lives changed, it became a challenge every semester to see what could we do to do that.

And it’s so much fun years later. It’s been probably 10 years since I used to teach that course, and I get word now back from students who said, “That was probably one of the most practical classes I had, because I’ve used everything I got in that class.” When the first day of class they’re thinking, “I’m never going to use this stuff.”
I would tell them the first day of class, “Everything that we learn in this course (I can’t say that about any other course in college) you will use everything you’re going to learn in this one. So keep your notes. Even if you could care less now, keep your notes. You will go back to it.”

Nancy: And as those students are coming out of high school into college, what are some of the misconceptions or the misunderstandings they have in relation to finances?

Jan: That you can just spend mindlessly and it will never catch up with you, is probably the biggest one—that there’s an ATM or money tree in the backyard because Mom and Dad were always there taking care of it.

I see clients now whose children have graduated from college. They’re coming back home, and they are clueless about what it costs to live there. In fact, at our local high school I would go in and do a session for their seniors where we would take a real life scenario. I would give them a job description and the kind of money they would earn and the kind of expenses they would have, and we would play a game. I would divide them up into two teams to see who could manage it well.

It was very enlightening for them to realize that the lights don’t stay on if you don’t pay the electric company. Newlyweds, they think they can live on love. But the power company really wants to see cold hard cash. So just those concepts—that Mom and Dad always took care of things that were invisible to them, that there are going to be responsibilities. You can’t just go out and buy all the toys that all your friends are having and be a responsible steward.

Nancy: So you’re often finding when people come to you—and I think this would be true of a lot of our listeners—that they’re in this first stage, this basic survival mode. They’re clueless. They’re frustrated. They’re maybe head over their heels in debt—no plan. How do you get them started in getting out of that desperation mode and moving toward a place of financial freedom and security?

Jan: Well the very first thing, the place you start, is getting an idea of what’s coming in and what needs to go out. I think that if the listening audience and if the women in this room will take that on as a personal challenge—to make sure that you are incorporating your children and learning this process, going through this, observing how you are managing money—that they will be better equipped to do this themselves.

Nancy: So how do you get started? You’ve got this mess of bills. Maybe you’re in a situation where you have no idea where you are financially. And you know God’s not pleased with this. You want to honor the Lord with your resources. You want to be a good steward.

Jan: Where do you start?

Nancy: Where do you start?

Jan: I have an income and an expense statement that I use with every client that comes in (http://www.crown.org/ has tremendous understanding-your-cash-flow tools). What I’m finding with my children’s generation is they don’t carry cash. Everything’s done through credit and debit.

So while I use the envelope system, which I don’t now . . . when I use that term, does everyone understand what I mean here?

Nancy: Just for those of us who don’t . . .

Jan: It’s once you’ve established what’s coming in and what’s going out, you put these amounts in envelopes of what you have to spend for the month or for a certain period of time. For example, for groceries you have X number of dollars in the grocery envelope. When you go to the grocery store you take this envelope with you, you spend it, and replace it with the receipts.

The goal is to see, to track, to monitor how much are we actually spending in these categories. Because I can tell you right now . . . I can think of a client that immediately comes to mind—great income, nothing to show for it. And as we began to dig deep into “How are you spending your money?” we did this envelope tracking system for three months.

We came back and realized they were spending $277 a month at Starbucks. Now Starbucks is great, but they would meet there every morning, enjoy their lattes, and head off to work. Mindless spending—no idea; but they had no money to be able to pay down their credit card debt.

So as you understand where the cash is going, it’s that mindless spending of whipping out the debit card, whipping out the cash, and not accounting for it. I’m not saying that Starbucks is wrong. If you enjoy Starbucks, make it a part of your cash flow system. I believe God is perfectly honored by that as long as you’re not going into debt to finance things that you’re doing so mindlessly.

So we will typically track how clients are spending money for a three month period of time. It is tedious. I’m not going to tell you this is fun. It’s not fun for me. It’s not fun for them because it’s much more fun to spend mindlessly. It’s much more fun to go out and spend several hundred dollars because it feels good; it’s meeting a particular need in our life.

But I firmly believe that if God owns it all, then every spending decision is a spiritual decision. It is a heart decision. Therefore, if I want to honor the Lord, I need to understand not just what’s coming in but how am I spending it? Am I honoring You by every purchase that I’m making? And I actually take it down that deep, to that deep of a level.

So use tools like an income and expense statement, a worksheet, the tools on the www.crown.org site. I think there are so many wonderful tools now that weren’t available 20 years ago when I started setting up my own systems. It’s almost as though we’ve got information overload. There’s so much out there that you’re not sure where to start.

I will tell you it takes about three months to get your arms around cash flow, to understand how you are truly spending it. And it takes a firm commitment and discipline to do that.

God actually was dealing with an area of my life that I surrendered to Him just in January that helped me identify more with this. Money has never been an issue, because again this is an area where He’s put a passion in my heart. I would no more think about spending mindlessly; it just wouldn’t even occur to me to do that without asking Him first.

However, I was not stewarding my physical health very well. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping properly. I wasn’t exercising, and I was 40 pounds heavier than I am right now.

So as I tried to identify with people in this mindless spending, this weakness they have to just do whatever they felt like doing, God put His finger on my heart and said, “How is this different? They’re not stewarding their resources, but you’re not stewarding your health and your temple.”

So I went through a process much like what I have done with my clients. I put myself under someone’s accountability, and twice a week that person would check in on me. I monitored everything I ate, every piece of exercise I did, every time I drank a glass of water. It was tedious. I hated it. I resented it for 12 weeks.

And I thought it was very interesting. I’ve done this with my clients for three months on the cash flow side. They made me make a non-negotiable commitment and I was going to be kicked out of the program if I didn’t do this for 12 weeks, show them my records, check in with them twice a week.

So going through that the first three months of that year, not only did I feel better and lose a lot of weight, I understood that conflict that goes in with saying, “I don’t want to write down what I just ate. It’s tedious.”

Nancy: Or what I just spent.

Jan: Right. In the same way I hear clients saying, “I don’t want to write down what I spent. I enjoy this area of my life. I want to keep it to myself.”

So it comes with that willingness to surrender and recognize there is a weakness here. I’ve got to deal with it. I’ve got to make myself accountable to someone. And I tried everything. You name it, I’ve tried that diet.

And you know what? The program I’ve been on this year, the diet didn’t do it. It was the change in my heart that did it. I tell people, “I’m one Krispy Kreme donut away from the abyss.” I have a weakness for certain things.

So I have had to make sure that I have built barriers around my life and accountability around my life to make sure I don’t fall over into that because it wouldn’t take much to throw me back into that, just as with spending.

Nancy: So we want to start with tracking, knowing where we are. Now some people may think, “We have enough resources. Why do I need to track? There’s enough coming in to pay the bills.” Is it important for everybody to know what they’re spending?

Jan: I believe it is. And even with people with enormous incomes it’s, “Are you accountable for that? If God has trusted you with that much, there’s a reason He gave that to you. Are you fulfilling His purpose?” You can’t do that if you don’t know where it’s going.

So I don’t care at what level of income you are or what level of net worth you are. You’re going to go through this exercise just so we can say before the Lord—as we lay out this spending plan before Him—that we are truly honoring Him with a life of significance, not just of success or survival if that’s the mode you’re in.

Nancy: Okay, so a lot of people are in survival mode. You’re going to tell them that they need to learn to spend less than they earn. A whole lot of people are going to say, “That is impossible. I don’t earn enough to spend less than what I earn.” And you’re going to say . . .?

Jan: That I believe that God is big enough to provide for all of our needs if we are honoring Him with these principles. It starts with putting Him first in the spending plan. However, it does not end there.

I have seen people say, “But I am tithing. I am giving to the Lord,” but they’re violating every other principle out there by not being conscious of not just the percentage you’re giving, but the percentage that you’re managing beyond that.

It is possible to learn to spend less than you earn. It is a painful exercise for many people in the survival mode because they do feel that credit cards, they’re just going to have to use credit. That’s all there is to it.

In southern California, it is a very expensive place to live. And I hear this over and over—"we need two incomes in this family to survive; we have to use credit cards." Yet if we’ll take the time to go through this exercise and see what is God trusting into your hands to manage and how are you stewarding it, we typically can find ways to honor Him in a way . . . it may be a little bit painful, because it’s going to mean a few lifestyle choices.

I heard this one woman say this morning that they made some hard choices. But the freedom and the blessing that I think you’re experiencing now goes far beyond whatever lifestyle you were enjoying.

But again, that goes back to most of what I see are not money issues; they are management issues. And those management issues go right to the heart. It goes to the will. It goes to submitting these spending decisions to the Lord instead of doing it so mindlessly.

Nancy: So you track what’s coming in and what’s going out so you really know where you are; you know the state of your flocks, as the Scripture says (Proverbs 27:23). Then how do you move from there toward a place of being responsible with what you’re spending? You talk about a spending plan, for example. I know you can’t sit down and do that with us individually, but tell us how that might work.

Jan: A spending plan, once we understand what’s coming in and we have a pretty good understanding of what’s going out, we then call out of that expense part the non-negotiables. You have to pay your mortgage payment or your rent. You have to pay your utilities. You have to eat. You have to insure your vehicle.

So we determine what are non-discretionary items that have to be on that plan. Then we take everything else and we put it in a discretionary category.

Nancy: Hold on a sec. What if you add all those things up and that’s it? That’s all that’s coming in? There are no discretionary funds here.

Jan: In some cases I’ve said, “We need to sell this house and downsize.” Again, this is where it comes into the pain. We’ve got to do some surgery to get us there. But as long as we continue to finance a lifestyle through debt vehicles, we are going to continue to dishonor the Lord and we can’t expect Him to do the miraculous.

He says, “Try me. Prove me.” But we can’t do that if we’re violating everything that He says in Scripture on how to manage.

Nancy: Okay, talk about debt. How do people get into debt? What’s the problem with debt? And why should it be something that concerns us?

Jan: With Americans spending 10% more than they have coming in, it doesn’t take long to figure out how that is going to compound and eventually bankrupt people. I think there’s a serious wave of some very challenging days coming with the creative financing that’s been done with real estate, for example.

When I see certain types of mortgages that my clients have taken on, one of the first things we do is rework that, because I know that they’re headed for a ticking time bomb. If you learn to spend less than you earn, you won’t need to finance your lifestyle with debt.

That will look different for everyone, and that’s why I have a difficult time quantifying that for you without sitting down with you. But that overriding principle is if we sit down before the Lord and say, “This is what You’ve trusted me with. I believe You’re going to supply my need and I’m going to honor You. What price do I have to pay to get in alignment with Your principles?” That’s the first place to start.

With debt . . . while we are working on reducing debt, I’m also working on saving on this side, because typically debt happens for one of two reasons: either an emergency happened that we weren’t planning for or we have been mindlessly spending without accounting for it.

Well we’re going to account for the mindless spending by having a plan. And we’re going to be preparing for those winters of our life. They will happen to everyone. If you have children—as I was telling you, Nancy, last night—when they get into those teenage years, we call those years our “budget busting” years because there was always an emergency happening with our teenage children.

But with that emergency reserve that you are building up—building up that “woulda, coulda, shoulda” account—at the same time reducing debt, you will find that you are no longer having to go to the credit cards because you have prepared for that.

I think Proverbs 6 says it so clearly. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; observe and be wise. No overseer, no ruler knows how to harvest during the summer and prepare for those winters” (Proverbs 6:6-8, paraphrased).

I’m thinking we look at nature and how God put it in their heart to be preparing for emergencies, periods of winter in their life, and yet we just continue to go along mindlessly and spend as if there were going to be no consequences.

So hold yourself accountable if there are debt issues; work through a program. And again, I can’t stress enough a program like Crown Financial Ministries. It will give you those tools. It will force you to dig deep. If you are married, it will force you to start communicating on these issues with your husband or wife.

But it’s got to come from a commitment in your heart that you will not spend anything that God has not given you permission to do and that you will get out of debt just as quickly as possible.

Nancy: Talk about the difference between debt and obligations so we’re clear on what you think is acceptable biblically to do.

Jan: Right. I think a very big distinction between the two . . . because I love to get rid of all debt and all obligation and be completely free of owing man anything, which I think is an ideal which is God’s ideal.

But when we’re working through good debt versus bad debt—or I call it “obligation”—bad debt is making payments on a depreciating asset.

Nancy: For example?

Jan: A vehicle. If you buy a new vehicle on the lot, the moment you drive it off it’s depreciated. If you put nothing down on it you now owe more on that debt than what the car is worth. You can’t liquidate that vehicle.

Credit cards are another thing. You go out to dinner. You see women out all the time at the grocery store charging their groceries. And I’m thinking, “I wonder how many of those are truly paying that off or are they paying for those groceries ten years down the road?”

Nancy: So if you’re paying it off that month, no problem with that?

Jan: Right. I actually am very pro-credit card. I love credit cards because credit is a terrific tool or a terrible master. A terrific tool in that when I understood credit early in our marriage we found perk cards, one that gave us cash back, ones that gave us airline miles.

And in those early years of itinerate ministry, Tom traveled a great deal. Through the airline miles accumulated on those credit cards, he was able to take our children on the mission field with him because we were able to purchase airline tickets for them to be able to go with him. Our son made a trip to Russia and our daughter made a trip with my husband . . . I forget which country.

So it provided some tremendous opportunity. But I will tell you it can be a terrible master if it’s used unwisely. Using wisely means you charge it, you immediately take it out of that spending category and put it into that credit card account. And as soon as that bill comes in that bill is paid in full.

Nancy: So you’re not paying any interest on it.

Jan: You’re paying zero interest. The day any credit card company gets a dime of interest from me we will cut those cards up. Now this has worked for us for almost 30 years.

But I say this because we have developed systems around ourselves much like me in taking care in stewarding my health. We built systems around our marriage and our commitment to financial freedom to ensure that we didn’t let credit take over us.

Leslie Basham: Jan Thompson recorded that interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 2006. She saw the trouble coming that has now so greatly impacted our world.

Jan’s book Managing the Money Maze will help you make wise choices and avoid personal crises. We’ll send you a copy of the book when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. We’ll also send you the CD of this week’s conversation with Jan Thompson. And you’ll also get a CD of Nancy’s teaching series, Hope for Uncertain Times.

The two radio series and the book is yours when you call 1-800-569-5959, and donate any amount, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to take advantage of this offer.

As the economic crisis began to be front page news, God was doing something in the ministry of Revive Our Hearts that only He could do. Nancy remembers that time.

Nancy: I remember it so well. Last fall as thousands of women were coming together in Chicago, news reports were all focused on the massive econonic downturn the nation was experiencing. We were gathered for the conference that Revive Our Hearts hosted called True Woman '08. The financial reports in the news were anything but encouraging.

As we came together, we knew that God had provided for us to be at that place at that time. My friend, Karen Loritts, spoke at that conference about a topic that was affecting the entire nation, the topic of fear. 

We later aired that message on Revive Our Hearts, and one listener told us that she had listened to the message twice online. She wrote us and said, "Thank you for the reminder of saying 'no' to self-pity. I will take my self-pity crown off and move upward and outward." The messages of True Woman '08 truly spoke to women right where they lived. Those messages are continuing to affect women to this day as they have discovered and embraced God's unique design for their lives

We're praying for the same result at True Woman 2010. Revive Our Hearts is bringing that conference to Chattanooga in March, to Indianapolis in September, and then to Fort Worth in October, and all those dates are next year, 2010. I hope you'll get more information at ReviveOurHearts.com, and plan to join us at the conference closest to where you live. I know those dates may seem like a long way off, but registration opens next week, August 1, at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Tomorrow, Jan Thompson returns to help you escape financial survivor mode and move to significance. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts!

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

Jan Thompson is a Registered Representative offering securities through Securities America, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, and advisory services through Securities America Advisors, Inc.

The information provided in this program is for general education purposes only, and should not be construed as specific investment advice. Please consult a financial advisor regarding your specific situation prior to implementing an investment plan.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.