So I happened upon Suze Orman’s monthly column in O Magazine, and I found myself shaking my head. Now, normally I love myself some Suze. But in this case, she devoted the column to giving financial advice to the Cartwright family, a duo with two kids who were losing their home and wanted to know what to do next. The Cartwrights, like so many other families, had found themselves in a financial crisis after making a series of poor financial decisions, which they took responsibility for (racking up $37,000 in credit card debt) as well as being the victims of some predatory loan practices.
Suze went on covering her bases, and I was nodding along, about ready to jump ship and read an article on upcoming fall fashion trends, when I read these words from Suze:
“I challenged the Cartwrights to scour their spending for ways to come up with the $350 they need for student loan payments. I noticed that they spend a combined $250 a month on their landline, cell phones, and cable. I want them to get rid of their landline and reduce the cell and cable plans so that the bill doesn’t exceed $100. We also agreed that…their $130 monthly restaurant budget needed to be reduced.”
Okay, wait a second. Hold the phone.>
I’m not a financial advisor, but here’s what I can say for sure: financial health responds to integrity. If you are massively out of integrity around money, you’re going to see more financial problems, either now or down the road.
Integrity is: when your words and actions match, and they are in alignment with your values, commitments, beliefs, and life vision.
A lot of people are in debt. I have been in debt (more than once). If you are currently reading this and you are in debt and you say you want out of debt, start making sure that your words and actions match. As hard as it may be, you have to actually make the words (“I want to be out of debt”) match your actions (“I’m going to stop spending money on anything other than the necessities”).
And then–oof–you can’t rationalize. Because no matter which way you cut it, cell phones and cable and restaurants are not necessities.
We get out of integrity when we try to avoid facing reality.
Reality: you’ll need to stop spending money, in order to get out of debt.
Reality: that will probably involve at least temporary deprivation and reigning yourself in from spending on the things you like to buy.
Reality: it won’t be fun, for awhile, unless you find some way to make it more fun (e.g., creating “not having a cell phone” as “an awesome way to be more present in my life” or “not eating out” as “a great opportunity to get creative with my home cooking skills”).
No one is perfect. Everyone is out of integrity somewhere in their lives. But there’s this trend of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, and pretending as if we don’t need to face the consequences of our decisions or the circumstances life has handed us.
I encourage gentleness–and I also encourage seeing things for what they are. In the case of creating financial health in your life, debt is debt is debt. There isn’t another way to square it.
Sometimes that kind of honest vision can feel like diving into frigid, cold water, but avoiding taking that look at reality doesn’t make the water any easier. When I define courage and talk about feeling the fear, I’m candid about the fact that no one, not even I, get out of that part. Avoiding the fear does not make the fear go away.
So go forth, brave soul. Give your life an honest look. Beyond the fear is a space where you get something no amount of money can buy you–the ability to go to a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and know that you’re living a life of integrity. It’s priceless.