Money Sense: My New Awareness


ap·o·plec·tic  / [ap-uhplek-tik]   adjective


DH = Dear Husband
USC = Urban Schools Consultant

I run a “Word of the Day Challenge” at my school.  I love it when a student says to me after taking the challenge, “Miss, I heard ‘curmudgeon’ on the radio this morning!” or “Mr. Plummer used ‘apoplectic’ in English class today, and I knew what he meant!”  So often, the same phenomenon has occurred with me.  I learn a word, and then there it is in the newspaper or in a conversation.  I witness the illness of a loved one and then find out that half of the people I know are connected to someone who has suffered it.  I examine our society’s bad habit of debt and . . .
Recently, I’ve been surprised by my newly developed consciousness of money matters.  I have listened to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover CD; I’ve read parts of two money books; and I’ve worked on a one-month budget.  This small amount of study hardly makes me an expert, but it has resulted in the birth of a new sense in me:  money sense.  I usually listen to the radio on my drives to and from work, and it used to be that my brain would blank out when the news turned to the economy.  I was vaguely aware that interest rates were low and that several European countries were having a really hard time with their debt loads, but I was eager for the topic to change to something more interesting.  Now I find I’m riveted by much of the financial news. 
I’ve also become attuned to other people’s fiscal philosophies – picking up on cues relating to their money sense.  A colleague of mine recently talked of his plans to pay off his current car debt so that he could borrow money for his next car.  Another colleague told me that if she had my low mortgage rate (we lucked in at 2.99% for the next four years), she would take out a second mortgage and invest in a condo.  There is such widespread acceptance of debt as a tool in building up equity that we don’t even see it.  A real paradigm shift has taken place in me though, and as a result I’m actually noticing this acceptance for the first time.

USC, generosity & cash

I facilitate our school’s Christian group, and this year I was very happy to have the support of a visiting urban schools consultant (USC) who worked with our graduating students one day each week.  At Christmas time, our group was planning a fundraiser.  We had chosen to support Ratanak, an organization that frees girls from the sex trade in Cambodia, and as we were brainstorming on ways to raise money, USC suggested raffles for students and staff.  “Get a spa gift certificate worth $100 for the staff and gift certificates to a store worth $150 for the students.”  He then backed up his suggestion by taking $250 out of his wallet and handing it to me.  The students and I were stunned, but we went with it – and ended up raising over $600 for Ratanak.  USC also offered to treat our group to a feast just before he left for the Christmas break, and we ordered from a wonderfully delicious Chinese restaurant.  It was the best attended meeting our Christian group ever had.  Again, USC pulled out cash to take care of the bill. 
I talked to DH about USC’s generosity, and we were both rather perplexed by his welcome but decidedly odd behaviour.  After I listened to Ramsey’s CD, I put two and two together and asked USC, “You don’t have any debt, do you?”  He confirmed my suspicion.  I told DH about it, and later, as DH was voicing his vision of life after debt, he included this comment:  “And I’ll support organizations that want to raise money for charity by pulling out $250 and saying, ‘Here, buy some door prizes.’”  DH has never met USC, but he is inspired by him.  USC, by the way, is in his late twenties.

Debt-free colleague

Emboldened by my accurate assessment of USC’s money smarts, I asked a colleague the same question:  “You don’t have any debt, do you?”  He told me he hadn’t had any debt for the last fifteen years.  This fellow teacher is about my age.  He doesn’t dress in a flashy way; he rides his bicycle to get to school; and he packs a lunch for work.  Ramsey says that the rich so often live simply.  That is certainly the case with my money smart colleague.

Another debtor following Ramsey

Last week-end, I was away at a Christian women’s retreat.  My roommate was a woman whom I had never met before, but we very quickly fell into conversation.  Within minutes, we were talking about debt.  She and her husband are debt-ridden just as we are.  And she’s using the advice of Dave Ramsey to help her through.  She said she goes to her car at lunch hour, turns on the radio, and listens to his show.  Ramsey is not as well known in Canada as he seems to be in parts of the U.S., so it was amazing to each of us that we had the same mentor.  The song we sang many times over, as a kind of theme song during the retreat, was Mercy Me’s God With Us.  One line of the chorus is:  “The debt is paid.  These chains are gone.”  I have a new appreciation for that metaphor.   
If my students keep using new words, their vocabulary will develop at an exponential rate.  If DH and I keep fine-tuning our money sense, the debt will be paid, and these chains will be gone.

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