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Show me the money part 4: Interview with author of Don’t Get Suckered

December 11, 2016

In Show me the money part 3: Debt, I spoke on the ways that debt can negatively impact your future.

In Show me the money part 4 I will be interviewing Josh Lawson to get his perspective on college students and debt as laid out in his book Don’t Get Suckered: How to Graduate College Debt Free… and with Your Shirt.

Josh was recently interviewed on the Dave Ramsey Show because of his passion to help people get out of debt.

Over the years, Josh has partnered with our college ministry at Antioch Community Church to help students know how to get out of debt and stay out.

Josh, thanks for taking some time to speak to college leaders all over America. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m originally from a small suburb of Nashville, called Brentwood, Tennessee. It’s actually the birthplace of Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace.

I came to Baylor to study entrepreneurship so I could go back to Brentwood and become a billionaire. God had other plans for me.

I met my wife while at Baylor. We stayed in Waco after graduation and this is where we made our home.

At Antioch, I serve a few different roles (like everyone else).

I oversee all of our local ministries: Grace House, Mercy House, STARS and Unbound.

I also oversee our Financial Restoration Ministry. This helps people find true peace and purpose with their money and rightly align it with God’s Kingdom.

Through your books and the class you helped shape for Antioch, how much debt has been relieved (that you know about)?

Our approximate idea is over $3 Million. But I’d say the exponential impact is so much more than that.

People aren’t just paying off debt. They’re getting right with God, their spouses, themselves, and their beliefs.

My proudest part of all of this is that people are falling more in love with God and He is bringing freedom and purpose to every area of their lives. Because we all know it’s not really about the money. It’s about so much more.

So why do you care so much about college students and their finances/debt?

Well, I’ve met with thousands of people through the years and I have seen a lot of their financial messes.

The more I meet with people, the more I see that the problems usually started in college with student loans.

Our first class at the church we had everyone write out their debts on a small piece of paper. For a class of 40 families, the total debt tallied up to over $1.1 Million, not including home mortgages.

That’s $25,000 per family! And the majority of that started back in college.

Let’s talk about Don’t Get Suckered. What made you want to write this book?

Well, at the end of the day, I want to see our young people join the bigger story of God in the world. But year after year, I see dozens of recent college graduates who just can’t go and serve because of their immense student loan debt.

I still work with people to get out of debt, but I wrote the book to take a more proactive approach so less students and families would get into debt in the first place.

What is the basis of this book?

You have to buy the book to get that! No, I’m kidding. The basis is that staying out of debt isn’t rocket science, but it is hard work.

I outline a few steps that every young person can take to go through college debt free: finding and applying for scholarships, minimizing costs of school, and working during school.

What have you found to be the biggest lie students believe concerning finances?

Obviously the biggest lie is that debt is the only option. We’re fed that lie every day either by well-meaning family members, media, or the schools to which we’re applying.

If I can add a second one in there, it’s that college is an investment in your future, so it’s okay to take on debt.

I would wholeheartedly agree that education is an investment, but rarely do people get jobs based upon the piece of paper that they have.

It’s about the connections that you have and the type of person that you are. So why not work your tail off and learn what it means to work hard for something before you graduate.

The last thing I would say that is preventing so many young people from actually following this advice is the whole entitlement mentality.

Now, I won’t go too far into this because we might be here all day, but our young people for the most part have this idea that someone else is going to take care of them.

Student loans play on this because it’s just the easy button. It’s the idea of just kicking the can down the road and worrying about it later on in hopes that someone else will pay it off for you.

I believe that mentality is killing us and it will catch up with us in the next twenty years. Okay, I’m done with that soap box.

Let’s say I’m a college junior, I have already racked up $20,000 in debt but want to start climbing out. Where do I begin?

Best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging.

There are only two ways to get out of debt: increase your income and decrease your expenses.

So, if you’re a junior, you need to be working as much as you possibly can. You need to be working every single summer and Christmas break, and even during the school year if you can.

You also need to spend some time and apply for as many scholarships as you possible. That can serve as a part time job for you.

I would meet with your department head and ask if they have any department specific scholarships.

I met with one young lady a few years ago and encouraged her not to go into more student debt. She’d racked up about $120,000 in student loans during undergrad and was expecting to add another $40,000 for her graduate degree.

Jenny and I prayed with her about it and the next week she called and said that her department had covered her graduate program and hired her as a graduate assistant.

She went from believing that she would accumulate an extra $40,000 in debt to now being paid to go through the program. It took a little hard work, but it saved her a ton of money!

What other financial principles do you believe college students need to start acting on now for the sake of their futures?

I’d say just the idea of making money. The most successful people I know learned the value of a dollar early on by making money themselves.

You have to learn that money is only made when you put in the hard work. It’s not going to be given to you, you have to earn it.

And to add to that I’d say the idea of making your money grow. Don’t just think about making $1,000. Think about how you can turn that $1,000 into $10,000. It takes a little more brain power and work, but that idea will set you up for future success.

In our financial class, Realign, we also discuss several topics like contentment, giving, and dealing with our thoughts. Many of these topics are not usually taught in college (or anywhere else), but from my perspective, they determine much of your financial success.

Is there any wisdom you would give college leaders about discipling college students in this arena?

It might be hard, but you have to actually talk about money.

Jesus talked about money more than any other topic—more than love, heaven, hell, faith, and grace. He talked about it because people cared about it and he would get to their heart issues through the topic of money. And if Jesus talked about it more than any other topic, why are we not talking about it?

Ask your students about money and you can get to so many of their beliefs about themselves, God, and others.

I’d say if you aren’t talking about money, you’re only getting to about 25% of the issues that you could be getting to.

And you don’t have to be an expert with money to talk about it! You just have to ask questions and more will come up than you could ever imagine.