Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Practical money management practices for disciples of the Master

I discovered something about money management for a follower of the Way. No debts, right? No treasures, right? That has got me into trouble in the past. But I finally discovered the missing piece of the puzzle: paying obligations ahead. If you still have obligations (debts) from a former (pre-disciple) life, or obligations you couldn't avoid (an apartment lease, for example), every time you have extra money, use it to pay ahead on those obligations. If you are already totally obligation free (no leases, contracts, or debts), give the full amount of any windfalls away. That is a major breakthrough for me. Can you offer any refinements or suggestions? Read more explanation below.

Release all claims and make no oaths

The Master tells his disciples to release hold on possessions and to make no oaths at all, but to live day by day on the mercies of Heaven and the world. But in my world of health care bills, rents, alimony, taxes, law suits, and a mortgage I accepted a decade ago and have no resources to pay, what does that mean, and what does it look like?

After being immersed in the Tao Te Ching, Tolle's "A New Earth", Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and countless other master teachings for months, I have discovered some practical money management suggestions for making real these master teachings.

An orderly way to think about your money reality: debts, payments, assets, and income

Let's start with today. Today you have debts and possessions. I first suggest you consider thinking about them in a specific way that I will explain below.

First, consider that debts exist in two forms (two promises) at the same time: lump debts and service payments. Your mortgage includes both a lump debt of $100,000 to the bank and a service payment of $1,000 every month. Your rental lease includes both a lump promise to pay for one year and a service payment of $500 every month. With any debt, your creditor wants you to promise a) to pay her a lump and b) to service the lump with periodic payments. Please keep in mind that it is exactly this kind of promise that the Master observes can obscure happiness or the Kingdom of Heaven. Keep also in mind that the disciples of the Master are obligated to deliver on old promises or obtain willing releases.

Second, consider that possessions (or claims), like debts, exist in two forms: assets and income. You have both $1,000 in your checking account and an expected income of $1,000 per week. You have both an IRA and a job. Your creditor accepted your promises and gladly gave you debt when you showed adequate assets and income. Keep in mind that the Master teaches you not to hold claim on those assets and income. "To live like me," the Master says, "do not seek; do not expect; do not claim; release hold." And again keep in mind that the disciples of the Master are obligated to deliver on old promises.

Harmonizing your money reality with the Way: paying obligations ahead

You have lump debts, service payments, assets, and income. Regarding your debts, the Master doesn't condemn you, but says "Go forward and avoid making the same mistake again." Regarding your assets and income the Master says, "Don't lay up treasures on earth where covetous hands grasp and breakage and spoilage destroy."

Your plan for harmonizing your money situation with the Way will be based on the Master teaching that "What you would want others to do to you, do to them." You will be totally honest with your creditors and use your assets and income as they exist and arrive to pay forward all your service obligations. You can do this in steps that are very similar to the baby steps taught by financial peace counselor Dave Ramsey.

Step 1: Liquidate your assets to meet your payments

If you have any assets available that you aren't using now, such as savings accounts, retirement funds, old collections, or anything else that's really just junk at this point in your life, consider selling it to get ahead on your payments, then even fulfill the smallest of your debts (as I explain below).

Step 2: Ask your creditors for relief

Especially if you are behind on payments or reasonably anticipate falling behind, without making additional promises, tell each one of your creditors that you regard as sacred the obligation you made to pay them. Before you contact them, prepare a rough sheet showing honestly all your debts, payments, assets, income, and this plan.

Phrases NOT to use:
  • I will pay this debt. (It's a lie. You could die tonight.)
  • I won't leave you high and dry. (It's a lie. You could leave the country tomorrow.)
  • I promise to pay you as soon as I can. (Promises lead to grief.)
  • I don't have any money. (It's a lie. There is $5 in your checking account.)
  • I can't pay you. (Extremely unsatisfying to your creditor. Have some faith!)
Phrases to use:
  • Here is my balance sheet of debts, payments, assets, and income. (Honesty is satisfying.)
  • I'm not sure how I'll make ends meet this (next) month (year). I wanted to let you know. (Make no judgement.)
  • It's very important to me to pay this debt, no matter how long it takes. (Honest; no promise)
  • If you have any suggestions, or ideas, I am glad to hear them. (Listen humbly! Take notes!)
  • Thanks. I hope to get current sooner than later. (The Quaker phrase: I hope)
  • Thanks. I'm hoping everything comes through in time, but I wanted to let you know early. (The Quaker phrase: I hope)

Step 3: Double-check your expenses for possible reductions

You must make ends meet. You must fulfill your old promises. You must get current. Sell anything that makes sense. Look for an inexpensive apartment. Get a smaller, older car. Cancel services as it makes sense. Beg your creditors for a modification as in step 2.

Step 3: Work and/or beg enthusiastically to get caught up

Get current on your payments. Get excited about serving Heaven and your neighbor with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. Get work. Get more work. Get better work. Ask for work. Make things better for everybody and make some income. Follow your bliss in a way that honors your old promises. Get a job or two or three if necessary to get current.

If you are working enthusiastically and still aren't getting current on your payments, be honest--beg for help. Ask your family, friends, and government for assistance if you need it. Don't be ashamed; you are an enthusiastic contributor and servant and worker in ways that are blessing the world, but not returning monetarily at this time to you. Only watch and make sure that you are laboring, not for your own kingdom (the survival, gratification, and security of your Ego) but for the greater good (for Zion, as my people say).

Step 4: Use any windfalls or surpluses to pay ahead

As your debts and expenses shrink or your income increases, you will eventually have surpluses or windfalls. Rather than using those surpluses to lay up treasures on earth or start new projects at this time, use them to pay ahead on your debts and obligations. Check with your creditors (landlord, mortgagor, phone company, bank, merchant, etc.) and get 3 to 6 months ahead if permissible. Then for true debts (mortgages and loans), apply additional surpluses to reduce the principal of the debt. And for other contracts and obligations (apartment or car lease, phone contract, etc.) apply additional surpluses to meet the obligations to their full term (a year of rent in advance, a full phone contract fulfilled, etc.), even if that is two years.

Step 5: When all your obligations are met, Give Away

Once all your obligations are met, which means you have no debts and no unpaid leases or contracts, give away any income that you don't have a real and direct use for. Yes, this does prevent you from being a capitalist, but you accepted that when you decided your Kingdom was not of this World. Right?

Be real: Let go and love others

Finally, let all this honesty and letting go permeate your life. You would never sue anybody at law, but you would agree quickly out of court. You would never hound anybody for payment on a debt that turned into a gift, but you would forgive them their debt and move on. You would never demand service or withhold your excess from anybody, but would use magic words even with your subordinates and with little children. In short, you would seek to have a Santa Claus sized spirit, and you would never be ashamed to ask for help.

No comments: