george_hancockstefanDue to various expenses in our family budget, we decided to eliminate vacationing this summer.  We looked carefully and decided that money was in short supply and one of the things that we could eliminate this year was our vacation.  The only way we could afford a vacation was to go into debt and with two daughters in college that was not the right thing to do.

Then out of the blue I received an invitation to go to the 45th reunion of my 8th grade class.  In Yugoslavia where I grew up, mandatory education stopped at the age of 15 or after completion of the 8th grade.  24 people graduated in my class in 1965.  This is the first reunion for our class that a colleague was planning. 14 people have already decided to go.

I started looking for tickets.  The cheapest round trip ticket from New York to Belgrade is about $1,400.  It is safe to say that it would cost me $2,000 for the entire trip, which is money that I do not have. Some of my kids saw my disappointment and asked me if they could chip in towards my ticket.

In the final analysis, as much as I wanted to, I decided not to go.  I complimented my colleague who is organizing this event in August and I wrote to him that I hope that my financial situation will change and I will be able to go to the 50th reunion in 2015.

I have made this decision because I have been reading this year about how debt is something to be avoided at all costs.  The book of Proverbs has many verses on the subject:

The borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7a)

Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you. (Proverbs 22:26-27)

I am blessed to have married a wise wife who keeps our debt to a minimum.  We live frugally, use the credit card sparingly and take bank loans only when we need to buy a new car.

Yet debt is one of those enslaving things that is happening precipitously to many individuals and to our country.  We have become indebted for future generations.  Our children and our grandchildren will pay off the debt that we accrue now.

Historically, until the 20th century, people in this country avoided debt.  In a recent study about weddings, the researcher showed how weddings in the past were done within the family means and there was no debt.  In contrast, today, most couples start their married lives with a huge debt which could be avoided – the debt coming from their wedding reception, the bride’s gown, tuxedo rentals, etc.

There has to come a time in our individual lives, our family lives, our community lives and in our nation’s life when we have to say that we cannot spend because we do not have the money.  Blaming our situation on other people or events and then making optimistic expenditures seems to be more foolish as each day goes by.

As I was thinking about my desire to return to Yugoslavia for the school reunion, I was reminded of my forefathers and foremothers who lived frugally in the 20th century through the First and Second World War and avoided debt like the worst plague.  All they needed was an opportunity to work.  When I would complain to my mother about how difficult it was to work, her curt reply would be, “As far as I know, hard work has never killed anyone and I do not think that it would kill you.  Work hard so that you will have money to do what you want. If you do not have money, do not get yourself in debt because debt is a slippery habit – once you get in debt is very difficult to every pull yourself out of it.”

I will get a video from the 45th reunion and I will enjoy seeing my friends that way.  If things change financially, I hope that I will be there for the 50th reunion.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...