A few days ago I saw a meme on Facebook that said something along the lines of: “Donald Trump said that his life was a lot better before he became president. Funny, because mine was too.”
Those who know me know that I’m not a supporter of President Trump in the slightest. But I couldn’t help but feel sad for the people who believe the meme’s message.
Why? Because my life has improved tremendously in the year since Trump took office, and my path has had nothing to do with the person in the White House or the men and women on Capitol Hill.
The government won’t fix your finances
I recently saw an interesting discussion on Facebook. A woman was pleading with people never to refinance their federal student loans using a private company. She knew that you could potentially get a better interest rate if you refinance, but she didn’t care. Her reasoning? The government may eventually see just how bad the student loan crisis is and help out people with federal loans.
There are a few problems with this link of thinking, though. Based on the government’s recent proposals, it doesn’t sound like there’s much sympathy for graduates with big student loan bills. For example, the latest budget proposal from the Trump Administration plans to get rid of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which has long been a big reason for people to hold onto their federal student loans.
What’s more, the current Department of Education is looking to make it harder for students who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges to get their student loans forgiven.
But most importantly, while it’s nice that the government has some programs to help people get by financially, it’s not the government’s responsibility to solve all your financial problems. That’s your job.
Self-reliance is paramount
Self-reliance is a foundational principle in the LDS church, and there’s a good reason for that. Being self-reliant means that you can not only provide for yourself and your family, but you can also help others when the need arises. Being self-reliant means that you can think more of others and their needs because you’re not so worried about your own.
With all its entitlement programs, budget proposals and tax cuts, the government is never going to provide any assistance significant enough to fix your finances and make you financially self-reliant.
So, instead of waiting for a change — or complaining that the changes that have been made aren’t enough — roll up your sleeves and go to work.
God helps those who help themselves
In 2013, I was a college graduate with a degree in finance and no job. I spent the first six months of the year unemployed.
If you’ve never been unemployed, let me be the first to tell you that it’s one of the worst things you can experience, psychologically, emotionally, and, of course, financially. Fortunately, we didn’t have kids at the time, and we were living with my in-laws. I’m sure it’s exponentially worse if you have mouths to feed and a mortgage payment.
I prayed and prayed that my interviews would go well. I received priesthood blessings and was hyperactive about family history (I also found Edgar Allan Poe in my family tree, so that was cool). Then I waited for a miracle that never came.
Despite my pleadings, God didn’t give me a great job. Instead, I got a job that paid $9.75 an hour. Combined with my wife’s income, it was enough to move out of her parents’ house. But it wasn’t anywhere near what I expected given my degree.
During that time, the depression and anxiety were so bad that I started looking for other ways to make money, or at least have a hobby to look forward to. I came across some personal finance bloggers who earned a full-time income from their blogs, so I decided to try it out. I invested $300 to create a crappy website and, with no previous writing experience, started pumping out crappy content.
‘Pray as though everything depended upon God. Work as though everything depended upon you’
Over the next 18 months, I woke up early, skipped lunch breaks, and worked on the weekends to write. I took on freelance writing clients who gave me priceless advice, and I spent hundreds of dollars to attend a conference in hopes that I’d find more resources to improve — we still didn’t have much savings at that point, so it was a huge risk.
At that conference, I met my future co-workers at NerdWallet. Through that interaction and all the hard work that led up to it, I found a dream job. It not only paid me enough to support a family (our son was born just four weeks before I started), but it also opened up even more opportunities.
Now, five years after I left school, I earn far more from my full-time writing job and freelance writing business than I could have ever imagined I’d earn at this point in my life. Looking back, I understand that God’s blessings came in the form of guidance. But he expected me to do the work.
The bottom line
Living paycheck to paycheck is no fun. It’s even less fun when your expenses outpace your income. But waiting for an external source to provide a solution is going to leave you broke and still waiting. Take an honest look at your financial situation and pinpoint your problem. Then go to work on improving it.
If your income is low, it may not matter how much you cut back on expenses. So, you may want to also look at opportunities to increase your income. If your income is fine, but your expenses are out of control, you may want to work harder on cutting back on superfluous spending.
Whatever your situation, don’t wait for God or the government to find a solution. That mindset makes you a thing to be acted upon. Instead, be an agent to act and work on what you can control to become financially self-reliant.