While I don't know the exact number, I suspect there are millions, especially in light of the number of bankruptcies that are filed each year.
When I say hand-to-mouth existence, of course I'm talking about the people who get a paycheck and it's all gone before the next payday. When I was talking with a young man the other day who is in this predicament, I told him there is no good reason why a person with good health and a sound mind should have to live this way, in light of the tremendous economic opportunities in this nation.
As I pondered his situation, my mind gave me an interesting concept that may help to explain why so many people are deep in debt and how many of these people can get a handle on their finances. This may not apply to you, but I bet you know someone it does apply to.
Before the days of “fast food,” many restaurants used to have “place mat” menus and on the reverse side of many of them was a series of dots that could be connected to reveal the outline of a picture of some kind. The reason for these menus was to serve as a distraction in case the service was slow. There was always a starting point and you could just go dot-to-dot-to-dot until the outline was complete and you could then see the completed picture.
This brings me a little closer to what I'm trying to say here.
Back when I was in school, one of the few things I remember from my math classes is that, “... the shortest distance between two points is a straight line." This is a principle that affects each of us every day of our lives and it also comes into play when a person attempts to connect the dots on that menu that I talked about earlier. Taking this thought a step further, this same principle also applies to the people who are deep in debt and living a hand-to-mouth existence. The reason this is true is because these people can't visualize or see the big picture, which is to say these people have no goals or the self-discipline to stay on a straight line to achieve financial success.
You see, it's what happens between the dots that does them in. They make poor choices and bad decisions and wander around for days, weeks and even months before they are shocked back to reality. All the while they are spending money on nonessential things, paying a high interest rate and late fees, and in many cases thinking the system is rigged for the rich and powerful. When a person gets so far down, they give up and lose their incentive to achieve financial success. The good news is that there is still hope for most of these people if they can get the right information to help them get out from under the load.
The first step in achieving financial success is mental, and that's why it's important to be able to visualize what will happen in the future if they can stay on course, follow a straight line and connect the dots. Here is a good example that will further illustrate what I'm saying. Just suppose this person is you and you drive an automobile and a friend wants you to meet him at a certain location on the other side of town. The time he wants you to be there is during the rush hour when there is more traffic on the streets than any other time of the day.
If you are a person who can connect the dots, here is what happens when you start out on the trip across town. In your mind you begin to visualize the streets, the signal lights and the traffic patterns to plan your route where you can make as many right turns as possible. I've seen people, and you have too, who make a left turn against the traffic during the rush hour where there is no signal light and they wind up taking their life in their own hands and lose some valuable time in the process. By contrast, people who take time to visualize the trip don't waste valuable time making left turns against the flow of traffic. Do you see what I am saying?
The bottom line is this. To achieve success in any undertaking or in life itself, we must be able to connect the dots by using that great mind that God has given to each of us. We must first visualize the best possible route and then stay the course until we arrive.
If you don't already do this, set some goals and begin now to pay yourself by setting aside about 10 percent of your earnings before spending anything on nonessential items. While you may need debt consolidation, beware of credit card companies and others who offer to help you or those you care about. Remember, these people charge for their services and that just adds more debt to the load you may already be carrying.
My final question to you is simply this: Can you connect the dots?
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)