Being a husband and father is tough. It is definitely the hardest and most worth-while experience of my life. I am willing to bet all spouses and parents would agree with this. Leading our families requires very intentional thinking and actions to create the outcomes we desire. We face so many challenges, but there is one challenge I see families faced with more and more every day that places a stranglehold on millions of families across America – finances. Perhaps I should say lack of finances. Early on this was a huge struggle for our family. It was the number one stressor in our relationship and often the only thing Beth and I ever fought about. I learned to create and focus on one simple word which has radically transformed our family life and completely removed this stress from our household.
That word is margin. Margin is a simple concept, however, it is not necessarily an easy thing to create. Eight years ago we had no margin. In fact we had negative margin. I worked 70 hours per week. We had $20,000 of credit card debt and we were trapped about $70,000 upside down in our mortgage. That was an incredibly tough spot to be in. We were a young married couple who had roommates because we needed their rent money. Every financial decision as simple as grabbing lunch after church with some friends was stressful. Bill night was the most stressful night of the month in our home. Beth knew to stay away from me because the pressure of our bills and our debt weighed on me so heavily my tendency was to be short with her and unleash my frustration on her. I am ashamed of that time. It was not my wife’s fault we were drowning in debt and had no money. She did not deserve that. The facts were I loved my wife. The facts were I did not “want” to take out my frustration on her. Unfortunately, far too often, that is still what wound up happening. Can any of you relate to me?
Being short and unloving towards my wife was not something I wanted. I desired to be a better husband. I prayed for and worked to be more patient. While those are important steps, I found it to be a wiser solution to remove the financial stress completely from our household. How did we do that? We began to create margin.
I will not go into all of the statistics about debt and the average American household. There are far too many and they are all depressing.
That is extremely concerning when you consider THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DIVORCE is financial stress. I do believe love can conquer all things, but my question for you is, “Why would you want to subject your marriage to that type of stress and pressure if you do not need to?” I realize we cannot control everything that happens to us, but we can observe warning signs in broken families around us and choose to proactively avoid some of the pitfalls they have fallen into.
It has been my observation most families live at the financial red line.
This appears to work well until the car needs a new transmission or one of our kids need braces. Things are moving right along until our job relocates us and we cannot sell our home in the previous city so we are stuck with two mortgages. Maybe we make a great paycheck, but what if you became seriously ill or injured and were unable to work for six months or a year? I do not share these things as scare tactics. They are just a few examples of real life scenarios millions of Americans face every year.
What happens when one of these life circumstances hits us? For the majority of us who live at that financial red line it derails our lives. It can lead to foreclosures and loving spouses who become bitter and stressed out. What if it did not have to be like that? What if we built margin into our finances so when those unexpected things hit us they do not completely derail our lives and families?
Eight years ago the smallest unplanned financial event would have crippled us. When we learned this concept of creating margin and understood its wisdom we began to work on creating it with psychotic focus because we understood it was one of the wisest things we could do for our family.
When I look back at the past year and a half we have experienced some significant unexpected financial events. Two years ago Beth and I struggled with infertility and had to pay almost $20,000 to go through fertility treatments. Last summer my father almost died and was in the hospital for a month. He could not work. My mom could not work. I was by his side every day for a month and I was not involved in operating our business. Because we created financial margin every single bill was paid on time and we were able to spend our time where we were needed most. Last week our condo back in Florida was supposed to close. At the final walk through we discovered mold had broken out across the entire unit and it going to cost us around $11,000 to repair. I do not enjoy that news. I would prefer not to pay for those repairs, but because of financial margin it is not a stressor. Even as I type this post today, I injured my back pretty bad three days ago and have been lying on the floor at home unable to go anywhere. In our previous employment that would have been an expense we could not manage.
I do not believe anyone could have anticipated those events we experienced the past two years. I am willing to bet you have gone through some significant financial storms yourself. How did you handle them? Would it have been more helpful to have previously created financial margin before the storm hit? What if you those events did not create stress in your home? Bill night used to be the most stressful night in our home. Now bill night does not even exist. Do you see the value and wisdom in creating financial margin NOW? In my next post I will share some strategies on How To Create Financial Margin.
Question: What was a financial storm you went through? How much margin would it have required to have better handled it? Comment below.