Archive | August, 2013

How Can I Lower My Mortgage Payment If…

22 Aug

Well, If I am the Phat Man, and I’m writing a blog called “Ask The Phat Man,” I might occasionally get a question that needs to be answered. So I recently solicited questions. There are a variety of circumstances that lead to someone having a mortgage payment. Almost everyone would like to lower their monthly payment, but when should you.

The first situation is someone who asks, “How, can I lower my payment if my house has dropped in value and just isn’t worth what it was when I agreed to my payment?” The best solution would be a mortgage modification. If you call your lender and ask them for a modification, they each have their own set of criteria. Follow that and you can often stay in your house for less money.

The majority of people, even with government programs to encourage such activity, still do not qualify for a modification, which leaves people with a couple of options. 1) Do you continue to overpay for your house that has gone down in value or 2) Do you attempt to do something about it. Some people have a moral compass that pushes them toward #1, but assuming that you are not dissuaded by that, there are limited options. Usually the best option is to sell your house. The reason for this is because over 95% of people qualify for a “short sale” with limited or no deficiency. Almost 50% of short sales in the last few months have included a relocation payment to the seller (meaning you can get $3,000 in pocket to sell your house for less than it is worth).

No earthly situation comes without negatives. The negatives of short selling your house, as one might tell you, are basically in two categories. First, the potential knock to your credit score and second, the potential that someone will not deal with you at all because it is a mark on your permanent record. The first is likely unavoidable, unless you want to just throw lots of money at a house that is underwater. Of course, if you had that money, you probably wouldn’t be leveraged to the point of becoming upside down. If you’ve been making your payments, the actual hit to your credit score is less than you think. If you haven’t been making payments, you need not worry, as your score already stinks.

On the other hand, it is becoming easier to work with banks all the time. Recently, the big banks and programs reduced the amount of time to wait to one year. This makes it all the more beneficial to go ahead and sell the house which is more debt than benefit as soon as possible. Regardless of what you might think will happen in the economy, it is undeniable that continuing to pay for something that is worth less than you owe is a worse financial decision, all other things being equal, than to pay for something that is worth exactly what you owe on it.

On the other hand, if the opposite question arises, “What if your home value has gone up but your income has gone down?” This is where a legitimate refinance might be a legitimate option, but you cannot qualify for one, because of your income. You want to take advantage of the potential to lower your payment, but you fear your income is at the point where most companies may not want to give you a mortgage. This is where difficult advice needs to be given. The ratios needed to get loans are in place for a reason. And while Dave Ramsay can teach you better than I can, the reality is that if you are exceeding those ratios, you need to purchase a cheaper home (or cheaper housing option).

The positive of the situation is that you have equity and when you sell your house, you will pocket some change. However, if you cannot qualify to make payments, you are almost assuredly living “above your wage.” Those who are self employed and “hiding” income as write-offs and distributions are the exception, but they also know the game they’re playing already. Take that equity, buy a less expensive home, and decrease your payment. If you cannot afford any home, pay off your other debt, and start investing in Roth IRA’s. When your income is back where you can afford a house payment, purchase again.

If there is some other situation you have, feel free to ask, but often people attempt to lower their payment by refinancing and/or extending the loan they have. This is often counter productive, as it saves a little money now, but it elongates your commitment to pay down the road. Sometimes a little higher payment is advisable. If you can afford a 15-year loan, attempt to do so. If you are paid bi-weekly, attempt to make an extra half-payment on those 3-paycheck months. Pay off your house early. Imagine a life where you are still earning money and you have no house payment! What kind of great life could you have then!


National "Pray for Your Pastor" Day

9 Aug

This is an adaption from a post I wrote for my church’s website this last Friday. I realized that while my pastors can use prayer, there are many others (including some of my closest friends) who are also pastors which could use prayer. The Monday in August closest to the 15th is the day where our Nation is supposed to Pray for their pastors. You may not see it on a calendar, and, hopefully, you don’t need a calendar to tell you to do it, but you definitely SHOULD do it. Prayer is something that perhaps we should understand better and do more, in general.

Now, churches often fall into some of the same traps as the culture in which they reside. The Pope grew out of the culture of Empires led by a single figurehead person. The American culture is one defined by the business-minded CEO being at the head of a corporation, and many churches fall into the trap of making the hired preacher the person who makes all the business decisions of a church. While that could start an entirely new line of thought, the role of a pastor is more important than making a decision about which color carpet or type of flowers should be in the sanctuary.

While those decisions are somewhat important and probably should be made prayerfully, they pale in comparison to the call of a pastor in Scripture. The command in Hebrews 13:18 to pray for our leaders comes immediately after a reason—they are watching after our souls, for which they will have to give an account. As if that is not enough of an encouragement, in 2 Corinthians 1:11, Colossians 4:3, and Ephesians 6:19 give direct commands to pray for leaders, each with separate potential benefits.

It’s hard to not notice when you read the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 that even the great men God has used (David, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, et al) come with limitations and temptations. It is almost impossible to avoid seeing the failings of pastors around us in the world today. I even participated in a facebook discussion recently, where the specific trap of apathy was mentioned. Pastoring is a difficult task and comes with a great burden. We are encouraged to pray for and support them throughout Scripture.

If you need help with how you can pray for your pastor, here are some good ideas from Ligon Duncan. So, pray for all your pastors, especially those who diligently pray for you. You are blessed to have men so dedicated to praying for you, faithfully teaching the Word, studying, keeping themselves accountable, and keeping watch over your souls. So, join me in celebrating National “Pray for Your Pastor” Day! Not only did God command it, but it will help you personally. If God can help persevere our pastors, they will serve us better, and our lives will be forever benefited. Most of all, pray that they will heed the call of God, as they make decisions into the future of our church!


3 Aug

It is easy for me to sit in judgment of the fools in the Bible who would create a stone statue and then literally bow at its figurative feet to express worship. It’s not so easy when someone shows me how I spend countless hours admiring my work on a spreadsheet that I find particularly helpful for the task I want to accomplish. Just because my idols are more sensible to today’s society does not make them any less problematic. In fact, I would venture to say that there are quite a few idols that our culture not only accepts, but rather pushes on us.

Recently, a friend was talking to me about the idol of retirement. Let me assert that rest is beneficial. We are commanded to rest, and God himself took a day of rest after creating the world in six days. I, also, don’t think it is bad to retire from what you do for a living. In fact, it can be a tremendous asset if you decide to use your extra time for distinct kingdom purposes. Nevertheless, I think too many of us focus on this retirement as if we are entitled to not have to work.

Many people today idolize their own sense of fairness or rightness. Quoting Richard Phillips from his book, Many will say that something is unthinkable for God to do, when it is the very thing He says he does in Scripture. Why are we so hesitant to believe or carry out that which is in Scripture? Well, there may be a variety of reasons, but it often just boils down to the fact that there is something that we idolize more than pleasing God.

Whether your idol is our political system, your own political candidates, money, fame, rest, reputation, or anything else, it can become problematic. I believe most people who care about this are willing to accept this statement. The problem comes in spotting our idols. I go about my world so blind to the fact that things are constantly blocking me from accomplishing what I could or should. I am a wonderful idol-maker. I can idolize something trivial without even realizing it. This is why sometimes, I thank the Lord for my enemies. I recently had someone who I don’t believe is my friend point out something on which I made a mistake. I am thankful for that insight into my life (though I could do without the questionable intentions and blow-back after I apologize, but I digress) wherever I can get it.

I think one of idols we have in this culture is wimpy friendships. One of the reasons I need my enemies to tell me some things is because my friends are often either blinded by the same weakness or don’t want to ruffle my feathers. This idol unfortunately leads to many of us being “thin-skinned” or unable to deal with even the smallest corrections. My intern this summer told me one of the things he liked about me was that I was “thick” skinned. I believe I am not really, it’s just that our culture creates people who are offended so easily that by comparison.

In the last 48 hours, I’ve spoken with people who are offended by the words a wide receiver made, a bad court decision, and the food that we are allowed to buy in this country. I don’t like any of those things, but I think the problem could be that we are making politically correct or acceptable speech an idol, or we make an idol out of American political structure, or we make an idol out of our food. All of these are things that we should care about as citizens and humans occupying the planet, but lest we forget, our sufficiency comes only from Christ.

Similarly, our salvation only comes from Christ. If we think we can save the world through sanitized speech, political involvement, or diet; we overstep the reality of what we can do. We are only able to effect real change with the life-changing gift of Christ. This is why I love a verse in my current memorization chapter—”I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Paul was able to not make someone else’s conversion an idol, but rather just love and minister to them. And, that, is something I want, right after I get back from my day trip where I took three separate internet devices to make sure I could check email.