Conquering Debt

Brian and Cherie Lowe discuss their casual attitude toward finances during their first nine years of marriage and the moment they realised with terror that they were in over $127,000 in consumer debt. In this Focus on the Family podcast, they share the obstacles they faced and the strategies they followed to paying off their debt.
Living paycheck to paycheck
A lot of young people coming out of tertiary education today are burdened with high student loans and rely on credit cards and personal loans to meet their everyday expenses. Relying on lines of credit, many people live paycheck to paycheck. Brian and Cherie Lowe were no exception and recall their own personal journey of slaying consumer debt which started in 2008. Brian recalls,
“We had over $127,000 in consumer debt not attached to a major asset.”
Functioning on a day to day basis, Cherie would make sure they paid their household bills and ensured there were groceries in the fridge.
It had been nine years into their marriage that the Lowes accepted they had a problem with their finances. Brain sat down and started to crunch the numbers and realised how much debt they had accumulated. Going through their accumulated debt line by line, gave Brian and Cherie an overwhelming feeling that getting out of debt seemed insurmountable.
Presenting a financial plan with love
After reading one of Dave Ramsay’s books on getting out of debt, Brian was motivated to change course but looking back he realises that his financial plan of action when first delivered to Cherie was not done in love. He likens this approach to having a great steak dinner with all of the fixings but presenting it on a trashcan. Brian muses,
“Anytime you are trying to make a big step or a big change it needs to be presented with love… I didn’t cast the vision well.”
Brian advises spouses to focus first on your own financial actions because you have some control over your personal actions. Some of the steps Brian personally took to reign in the household finances included ceasing to use a credit card and taking more steps to change his relationship with debt.
It helped Brian to take Cherie on the journey of tackling their finances constructively by imagining together a future with no debt, asking questions like,
“What would it look like if you were out of debt? How could we be more generous? Where could we go if we were out of debt? What would our kids’ future look like?”
Brian found canvassing a financial future together without the shackles of debt to be an important first step in the journey of conquering debt rather than dictating a financial plan
No plan, no financial freedom
Cherie says that when interviewed by others on living with high consumer debt, people are often surprised to hear that the debt accumulated wasn’t due to luxury purchases or expensive holidays. In fact, Cherie points to the ‘boring debt’ they were burdened with being a consequence of having no plan on how to wisely approach their finances. Cherie notes,
“If one of our kids got sick and we didn’t have cash in the bank we were going to pay with plastic.”
Brian says living moment to moment with your finances is a scary position to be in and is like having an albatross around your neck. For the Lowes, being in a position where you are just working to pay bills took away a sense of financial freedom and made them very vulnerable to increases in interest rates which would have plunged them further into debt.
Being open and transparent with others
There was a spiritual component to carrying a large amount of debt. As lifelong Christians, Cherie and Brian carried a lot of guilt and shame as they saw themselves as being the only ones being unable to steward their finances. Cherie says,
“I would look around on a Sunday morning and I would see everyone else in the pew and think ‘Everybody else has their act together, they must love Jesus more than I do.’”
As Cherie began to share her story on her blog Queen of Free, she became more open and honest with others about the couple’s struggles with finances and this was liberating. Eventually the Lowes started to have conversations with family members about their decision to reign in their finances. A chapter in Cherie’s book “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After” discusses familiar relationships and how approaches to gift giving need to change. Cherie recalls the positive changes that took place with their extended family, where they received support and gratitude,
“It became more about spending time with each other than spending money on one another.”
Communication is key, says Brian and was required from day one in implementing their plan to eliminate consumer debt. He says,
“One of the things I stress to folks is the death of communication is the birth of resentment.”
Both Brian and Cherie agree that talking openly with one another about their finances made their marriage stronger. To help in their journey to financial freedom, the Lowes would talk about their debt as a ‘dragon.’ By naming the threat they faced, it gave the Lowe’s a fire in their bellies to vanquish the common enemy and work together towards their financial goals.
Listen more to Brian and Cherie Lowe on their journey to conquering debt here.
About Brian and Cherie Lowe

Brian and Cherie Lowe love to encourage couples to manage their finances well – together. The Lowes paid off over $127,000 in debt in just under four years, learning powerful lessons about communication, patience, organization and connection. Their story has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Redbook, NBC News, Focus on the Family and more. Writing and speaking together, Brian and Cherie long to bring hope to the hopeless.

Find more from Cherie Lowe at QueenofFree.net.