For those of us who don’t want to live with our children someday

I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the internet a few days ago searching for a little tight-wad financial motivation (the German furniture and weekend trips are calling to me). Dave had two different callers who dialed in for the “I’m debt free!” holler. This is a regular occurrence on his show; followers of Dave are taught and encouraged to pay off their consumer debt with his painful but brilliant spendaholic rehabilitation steps. Once financial freedom is achieved they are encouraged to call his live radio show and tell fellow disciples of their miraculous financial rebirth.

Hundreds of people call in but few are chosen. The two callers they chose for that particular segment were rather unique. Both of them were in their twenties. Do you realize how unusual that is? Most of us spend our twenties in a Visa stupor with no plan for the ever pressing future.

One call was a couple in their mid-twenties with two small children who had paid of an astronomical amount of consumer debt in two years of eating beans and rice. The other was a girl of 27 and wasn’t just debt free, she had paid off her house. Neither of them had large paychecks. Both of them said the same thing, “We’ve been listening to your show since we were kids.”

They had good parents.

In all this German countryside free time I have, one of my favorite pastimes is listening to talk radio. The entire political stage is focused on our national debt crisis right now and how this guy or that gal might fix it. I’m not so smart when it comes to finances or politics, and Heaven knows that if Old Moneybags wasn’t around to pay the bills they would probably be hiding under some bed in my last house. But one thing I do know: Our federal government is nothing more than a reflection of an entire generation (or two) of debt lovers.

And during the news breaks when they talk about the economy, the “good news” is that consumer spending is up. Right, cause that’s really going to fix all our problems. Oh, I understand that we need to spend money so people can have jobs and our economy can stay afloat, but how much of the consumer spending out there is actually being fronted by Visa or Mastercard? Is it true spending or borrowed spending? Do half of the buyers even know the difference? Before we got ourselves educated I can tell you, we certainly did not.

Hot on our heels is a generation raised on plastic. Barbie now comes with Visa, how will these small children know the difference between credit and cash if it all looks the same?  I know they’re important on some levels, but how will trigonometry and algebra help the average high schooler survive in this economy? Why aren’t our kids taking regular classes on mortgages and compound interest and retirement plans? Do you have any idea how many brilliant people out there are up to their ears in debt because they never took the time to learn the basic principles associated with balancing a budget?

We’ve racked up some unwelcome consumer debt with this move (Mama just had to have a new couch) and I’m starting to look around me and regret it. I hate that company store, and I want my soul back. There is a feeling that comes when you take control of your finances. It’s not a feeling of deprivation, it’s a feeling of freedom. If you don’t choose where your money will go, Wal Mart will choose for you.

We must teach our children to be smart with money. There is value in frugality. Stuff is just stuff, but financial freedom will bring more than just peace to your marriage, it fosters opportunity and independence. Like Dave always says, “Live like no one else so that someday you can live like no one else.”

I sure hope we’re financially prepared for the future because I’ve got a sneaky suspicion it’s going to get really popular in the next few decades to “move in with the kids.” Personally, someday I would really like to have my own kitchen to putter around in.



  1. Unfortunately – that is a real possibility. We have had kids live with us. We have lived with in-laws, they have lived with us. It is becoming more common. Guess we need to do it like the Europeans (since that is what Obama wants us to be – nope – won’t go there) – and get a house large enough to house several families.

  2. I love the advise of Dave Ramsey. I am 27 and can say that since following Dave Ramsey’s plan my husband and I are debt free (besides our house).Society needs to learn delayed gratification. They want what they want and they want it now. I think that personal/family finance classes should be taught in schools, along with being practiced and taught in the home.

  3. Your story is eerily similar to my parents story- only without a Dave Ramsey for their generation, They were 50 years old when they finally cleared out all debt except the house-. Even though they struggled the entire time I lived at home, they were never shy about telling me why and how they had made a mess of their finances. Some parents would back away teaching their kids to be financially responsible when, they themselves, are a trainwreck, but having my parents teach me through their mistakes was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    Thank you for sharing your story with others- I hope, when they are old enough to fully understand, you share it with your children, too, so they can learn through your mistakes and hopefully become responsible consumers.

  4. I have to say that my husband and I married quite young and went all the way through college (both of us) with no debt whatsoever. We lived very inexpensively and used hand-me-down everything and also worked our butts off. When we wanted to buy our first home, we didn’t even possess a credit card. 🙂 So grateful for parents who taught us that if we didn’t have cash for an item, we could not buy said item. Even today, after 14 years of marriage, we are only in debt for our home.

  5. good post Annie. Debt is a prisoon for sure. I remember after my first divorce (sounds like such a soap opera) that I got my FIRST Visa card…yup, never had one in the 22 years I was married.
    I didn’t quite realize you had to pay a “MIMIMUM”
    I thought, hey $10 a month should be good.
    oooo….learned that the hard way.
    Now….at this time of my life, my and hubby are indeed debt free. No, we don’t live the high life, but we live the good life of knowing NO ONE OWNS us.

  6. My daughter took a class in college called personal finance, and it taught all the things you mention here. I think it should be required at the high school freshman level, and again the college freshman level. And also to 47 year old housewives.

  7. Annie,
    We lived in Schwedelbach for 4.5 years. During that time in Germany, we paid off over 300,000 in debt (including a house in the states)! We came home debt-free and continue to be to this day. There is not greater feeling. We bought a house this last year with cash. It can be done and living in Germany is the ticket. There’s just not a lot of walmarts around, you know? How many times can you go to Burger King on Ramstein? When you are done with your time there, you will not only have your new couch, a few antiques, but you will be financially set when you get back. ENJOY!!!!!!!!