In almost seven years of running an online service for singles, I have been asked almost every question imaginable when it comes to dating. Most of the time, I don’t feel qualified to answer them — running a website does not necessarily equate to having the wisdom to give advice on the complex realm of dating and discernment. But I can usually answer questions simply by sharing my observations of the over 100,000 single Catholics that have used our service.
I have observed many single Catholics struggle with financial issues, particularly debt in the form of credit cards. And yet I have never been asked a single question about money. I will explore the reason for this, and several other issues relating to money in this column.
Money and Debt — Two Things Never To Discuss At Dinner
Really? No, not really. The fact is, more people are comfortable talking about sexual issues then they are about money. While politics and religion are the two topics you should not discuss at family functions or in strange company, money is the subject that really makes people uncomfortable.
The next time a friend or family member stops by to show you their shiny new car, instead of oohing and aahing in an attempt to make them feel good about their purchase, try asking these questions:
• Did you know your car depreciated about 20 percent just by driving it off the lot?
• After five years of making payments how much will the car cost you?
• How come your warranty is shorter then someone who buys the same car with only 10,000 miles?
If you ask these questions you will quite likely lose a friend or start a family feud. But in a day where most people think in terms of payments rather then total costs, these vital questions are often the ones never asked. So people continue to buy houses, cars, furniture, appliances — heck, even groceries — with little concern for what it costs. All they consider is whether they can afford the monthly payments.
What Does Money Have To Do With Dating?
EVERYTHING! The reality is that for most of us, money affects just about every aspect of our lives. There is a 50% divorce rate in the United States, with money being one of the top three reasons, and therefore this topic must concern singles in the discernment process. I have watched literally dozens of friends and family members add enormous amounts of stress to a new or existing marriage because of money and debt.
The worst part is, this does not have to happen. With so many issues facing single people today, the one thing that should not affect them is money — and yet time after time, I see single people enslaved by debt because of fear, ignorance and poor lifestyle choices. The good news is that is never too late to change your financial situation, and it is generally easier to do when you are single.
Been There, Done That
I have been in debt most of life since I turned eighteen and got my first credit card. I had no idea how to handle a credit card, and more importantly, I did not know how to handle money. My parents did a great job raising me, and I could not have asked more of them — except that they never taught me how to handle money. It’s ironic that they actually met at two consecutive banking conventions before they began to date each other. My dad was a frugal person and he learned that from my grandfather. But other then being told to save, I never really understood the concept of credit vs. cash, living on a budget or how to get money to work for you, instead of you working for it. But while I wish my parents would have given me more financial knowledge, I certainly cannot blame them — because it was still my choices that got me in trouble.
Standing At A Crossroads
Because of my lack of discipline with money — as well as other areas of my life — I found myself on the brink of losing everything. I was in law school, had started a company and was hoping Miss Right would come along soon. But underneath this, I was not even close to being ready for marriage. I could not even take care of myself, let alone a wife and children. I had almost $10,000 in debt and my credit rating was in the tank. I nearly ruined my business, along with friendships and partnerships. Fortunately I was around people who cared enough to help me straighten out my life and gave me a second chance when I didn’t deserve it.
It took about two years to erase my debt and stabilize my credit rating. But it was not easy. The hardest part was not the money, it was getting over my pride. I felt like a failure and was embarrassed over having my poor choices exposed — and there was the lost pride that came from not being able to spend money and live the lifestyle I had grown accustomed too. In the end, not only did I get my financial house in order, but I grew as a person.
Once I got out of crisis mode, it still took me another year to move from trying to clean up my mess, and into controlling my money and having it work for me. Even now, I still struggle because the world tempts you to spend, spend, spend and get instant satisfaction. But now I have the knowledge and discipline to quickly correct myself when I start to get lazy with money.
Once you get a taste of the feeling that comes from living within a budget, paying cash and not carrying the baggage of revolving credit with you, you realize that money should never hold you hostage. Financial freedom is not just about material things or money in the bank — it is about living your life according to certain rules and values that are very consistent with our Catholic faith.
This article has been re-published with written authorization of Catholic Match, LLC.
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