How a Catholic family of 16 lives debt-free

The Fatzinger Family Catholic family of 16 are debt free./ Sam and Rob Fatzinger / EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Five years ago, a Catholic family of 16 made international news for sending their children to college without any debt – and now the parents are offering their financial advice in a book.

Sam and Rob Fatzinger, parents of 14 children who live outside Washington, D.C. in Bowie, Maryland, authored the book “A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More: Advice from a debt-free family of 16.”

In an age of credit card debt and zero-down purchases, the debt-free Fatzingers might appear as a cultural phenomenon. They paid off their mortgage in fewer than 13 years. Their children attend community college for two years – “half the price” of other colleges, Rob said in a 2017 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly – before transferring to a state school for their bachelor’s degree. Yet while living near one of the most expensive cities in the United States, the Fatzingers remain debt free.

Financial responsibility is part of being a Christian, Sam told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in an interview that will air on Thursday evening.

“I think that we forget that it’s our financial responsibility as Christians to remember to tithe and to be good stewards of our money,” she said. “And we need to remember, ‘Thy will be done.’ Whatever the Lord wants you to do, you can do that when you have financial freedom.”

They authored a book to guide other young Catholics who might be starting their marriages in debt, or who might be trying to pay off their student loan debt to enter religious life.

“I hate when people say to me, ‘Oh we would love to have another kid, but we’re in debt,’” Sam said.

What is the family secret? The Fatzingers say that – for young married couples – communication, paying off debt, and saving for emergencies are all critical steps they can take to support their marriage.

“Financial problems are very difficult for marriages, so I really encourage people to talk, even before their marriage, about your values,” Sam said.

Sam and Rob say they began their marriage by living off of one salary while putting the other into savings. Once they had children and Sam stopped working, they were already familiar with living off of one salary.

“Also, pay down any debt – non-mortgage debt, especially the high-interest debt – pay off the cars, motorcycles, toys, get rid of that,” Rob added. “Save for a rainy day. Because it will happen.”

Unexpected expenses - such as car repairs or hospital bills – will happen, they say, and couples can experience less stress by having an emergency fund on hand.

Ultimately, their plan is built around trust in God, they say.

“I say ‘trust and prepare’. Trust that God has a plan for you, and won’t give you more than you can handle. But don’t just sit around and wait for yourself to prepare,” Rob told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

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