Monday, July 4, 2016

Debt, Adoption, and Dave Ramsey

My last blog sparked a discussion with a Vegas friend and I realized that before I start talking about our trip planning and budgeting, I should share our philosophy in a nutshell.

Dave Ramsey. That pretty much sums up or philosophy.

A few months ago, I had typed out our entire debt-to-debt-free story, then lost it.  I'm still not up for rewriting it, but will condense the story here.

Ken and I both had debt when we started dating. We were engaged quickly and decided, thanks to wise parental advice, that it wouldn't be good to marry with all that debt, the majority of which was consumer debt.  Ken sold some of his tech gear; I paid down a bit of my credit card, but we liked to buy stuff.

We made some unwise financial decisions early on and even decided to purchase our first home just 9 months into our marriage.  Realizing we needed guidance, we took a class called "Debt-Free and Prosperous Living," which taught what Dave calls the "debt snowball."  We followed that concept and paid off our consumer debt fairly quickly.  We were debt-free when we moved to Las Vegas, then we purchased a home and started using credit cards again.

We liked buying stuff.  We also had this idea of our "dream home," and when the value of our home in Vegas more than doubled, we took the equity and purchased that dream home in Highland Village, Texas.

Within a couple of years, after getting ourselves back in $12,000 of debt, we signed up for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University that was being offered at our church.  It had been years since we utilized the debt-snowball, but this was a major part of FPU's 7 Baby Steps to get some financial security and balance.  We started, against our instinct, by saving an emergency fund.  During this time, we realized we had to physically get rid of our credit cards.  We simply were not disciplined enough to hide them away or even freeze them in a block of ice.  We had to close our accounts, cut up the cards, and have no option to use credit.  One-by-one, we paid off each card and account.  Within a year or so, we were free of consumer debt and only had our house remaining to pay off.

This is about the same time God led us to consider adoption. We knew the cost would be in the tens of thousands and that it would likely mean acquiring debt again.  We spoke with some other adoptive families who also lived debt-free.  They said they did not consider the adoption of a human child to be anything even remotely similar to a "consumer debt."  Ken and I couldn't have agreed more.

The #1 question we are asked is, "How much does adoption cost?"  I'll answer it.  A lot. International adoption will cost upwards of $25K if you're adopting one child. I know God planned our double-adoption, because if we had known the full dollar-amount going in, we likely would have said it was impossible.  It really was impossible.

With a bit of seed money left for us from my departed grandparents, plus our deposit from the cruise we cancelled and a lot of faith that God would provide the remaining costs associated with bringing our son home, we began our homestudy.

Over the next 12 months, God provided means for us to adopt not only Tian, but Travis!  They were our sons and the Brownies' brothers, and He knew it!  Financially, it still doesn't make sense on paper. We applied, to no avail, for loans.  We applied for several grants and were not chosen. Then, upon the advice of a friend I had met online, we applied and received a generous grant from the JSC Foundation.  We also were given mind-blowing gifts from friends and acquaintances, sold our dream home, downsized to an apartment almost half the size, and borrowed the final amount needed from a close family member, knowing we could pay that amount back when we received our tax return. 

Within one year of bringing home the boys, we were debt-free once again, and have been since.  We do carry some medical bills we are slowly working through, but haven't touched a credit card in years.

I can't promise that everyone who adopts will become debt-free or even financially secure.  Contrary to some of the prosperity-gospel messages out there, obeying God does not always end in financial reward.  However, God does show up and provide for us to do what He's called us to do.  We can also choose to be wise with our money, which is how Financial Peace helped us.

I blogged one of my favorite provision stories earlier this month.  You can also read back over God's provision on my Prayer Requests tab.

We are not perfect with money.  It's still an area we knowingly make wrong choices, disagree, and find ourselves needing a kick in the pants to be accountable to a system we know will work.  But the basic concepts of financial planning have certainly allowed us to stay above water and even plan a vacation, during our leanest years.

Now on with the fun!

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