Dear dfree® Academy Partner,
Welcome to the dfree® Online Academy! I am excited that you have decided to achieve your financial freedom. The dfree® Academy was created to offer you a convenient way to take dfree® courses, in an effort to equip you with practical approaches and values-based principles that will shift you toward financial freedom. This course is offered entirely online, which means that you simply need access to a computer, tablet or smartphone and internet access to complete any portion of it. You also need a copy of the dfree® books:and to follow along with the lessons that coincide with each video. After purchasing the books, available via the dfree® website, there are no charges. The course is FREE!
My goal is to help you experience a dramatic transformation in your lifestyle so that you will be better able to use your money to reach your life’s goals, including giving back to others.
I'm glad you've decided to take an important step in your dfree® journey. Now let's begin.
DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.
Introduction to 12 Steps to Financial Freedom.
Our session today is about barriers. The goal of this session is to admit that we have financial challenges and discovering the barriers that must be removed in order to reach our financial target.
Memory Verse: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7, NIV)
Commitment #1: I will open an account that I do not currently have (circle all that apply):
1. Bank or credit union checking account
2. Bank or credit union savings account
3. Investment account
4. Retirement account
5. College savings account
Commitment #2: I will list three to five challenges I have had in the area of finances.
Commitment #3: I will name at least three financial goals I have:
Commitment #4: I am proud of these financial actions I have taken.
Commitment #5: I will identify and invite someone to join me in my dfree® journey.
Commitment #6: I will join the dfree® Billion Dollar Challenge (www.billiondollarpaydown. com) and set my personal debt reduction goals.
Our session today is about barriers. The goal of this session is to address our financial mess by addressing the barriers we have and by getting financially organized.
Memory Verse: “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov- erbs 14:12, NIV).
Commitment #1: Much of our spending is influenced by advertising. I will track and translate
the advertising messages I see today in the following chart (use additional paper).
Commitment #2: I will list three ways I can avoid being influenced by ads:
Commitment #3: I will conduct a financial snapshot "treasure hunt."
Commitment #4: I will obtain a free copy of my credit report from one credit agency
Commitment #5: I will make a list of all of my sources of income.
Commitment #6: I will make a list of all of my debt and ongoing bills.
Our session today is about dealing with our attitudes. The goal of this session is to explore how our attitude affects our decisions and to clarify the difference between things I want and things I need.
Memory Verse: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19, NIV).
Commitment #1: I will list at least ten personal needs and wants in the table below.
Commitment #2: I will analyze my list of wants and needs and make sure each item is in the correct category.
Commitment #3: I will estimate the annual cost of my needs and write the amount next to each item.
Commitment #4: I will estimate the annual cost of my wants and write the amount next to each item.
Commitment #5: I will circle the items on my needs list that can wait.
Commitment #6: I will memorize the dfree® pledge:
Our session today is about starting a plan. The goal of this session is to create and launch a new plan for using money.
Memory Verse: “Do not love the world or anything in the world” (from 1 John 2:15, NIV)
Commitment #1: I will list my short-term financial goals-things I would like to achieve within the next 12 months. Example: Create an emergency savings fund—Goal: At least $3,000.
Commitment #2: START THE PLAN: I will locate my spending leaks using the exercise below.
Commitment #3: List income and expenses.
(NOTE: Some workbooks mistakenly omit Commitments 3 and 4)
Commitment #4: Develop Cashflow Strategy
Commitment #5: I will revise my spending plan to better reflect my needs and wants.
Commitment #6: I will not try this alone
(NOTE: Some workbooks mistakenly omit Commitments 3 and 4)
Our session today is about controlling your finances. The goal of this session is to take control of your financial future and use the new plan you created in chapter four.
Memory Verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NIV).
Commitment #1: I will register for the free money management resource and tool at www.smarteys.com.
Commitment #2: I will complete the debt snowball and reduction activity below:
Commitment #3: I will calculate the cost I actually pay on my debts using the chart below
Commitment #4: As I make payments on my debt, I will log them on the Billion Dollar Chal- lenge (www.billiondollarpaydown.com) website.
Commitment #5: I will identify some things I can do to increase my income and use the in- creased income to make power payments on debt.
Commitment #6: I will reduce my spending in these areas.
Our session today is about setting a schedule to accomplish your goal. The goal of this session is to actually make a timetable for your financial goals.
Memory Verse: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NIV).
Commitment #1: I will make a list of my three-year goals and place dates next to each:
• Personal Goals
• Professional Goals
• Intellectual Goals
• Financial Goals
Commitment #2: I will calculate my retirement financial needs using the exercise below and create a plan for meeting them.
Commitment #3: I will open or add to my investment account for long-term financial goals.
Commitment #4: I will review my spending plan to make sure it is accurate.
Commitment #5: I will sell the following assets/items and use the proceeds to pay off debts.
Commitment #6: I will read one article or book about personal finance.
Our session today is about getting out of debt quicker and planning a better financial future. The goal of this session is to address how to accelerate the process of getting out of debt and securing your financial future.
Memory Verse: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Commitment #1: I will identify financial professionals to advise me as I pursue my goals.
Commitment #2: I will track my spending again to make sure I am still on-track.
Commitment #3: Now that I have professional advisors, I will ask for help with the issue or issues that make me feel like I am stuck and will never reach my financial goals.
Commitment #4: The greatest obstacles I face in my financial journey are.
Commitment #5: I will determine if I can lower debt payments by refinancing one or more items.
Commitment #6: I will envision what I would do if I were wealthy. I would do the following with my money.
Our session today is about minimizing the stress. The goal of this session is to financially pre- pare for the unexpected.
Memory Verse: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22, NIV).
Commitment #1: I will calculate how much life insurance I need and set a date to establish the required coverage.
Commitment #2: I will consider my options for disability insurance and set a date to establish the coverage I need.
Commitment #3: I will make sure I have suffcient insurance coverage on my house or apartment.
Commitment #4: I will make sure I have suffcient health insurance for my entire family and will ask someone for suggestions about improving my coverage.
Commitment #5: I will set a date to complete my will and my healthcare directive (living will).
Commitment #6: I will designate a certified financial planner to meet with at least once a year.
Our session for today is to maintain focus. Therefore, the goal of this session is to take meaningful steps toward your financial goals.
Memory Verse: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).
Commitment #1: My goal is to increase my income by $ per month.
Commitment #2: I will make a list of things I love to do or do well enough to get people to pay me for it:
Commitment #3: With my new income, I am committed to increasing my savings or debt reduction by $ per month.
Commitment #4: I will log-on to the Billion Dollar Challenge’s website (www.billiondollarpaydown.com) and increase my debt reduction goals.
Commitment #5: I will update my personal financial statement using the chart.
I will make a daily appointment with myself (for at least seven minutes) to continue to keep my dfree® commitments for my own financial freedom at
Commitment #6: I will spend at least seven minutes every day on a personal financial matter.
Our session today is about investing in others. The goal of this session is to help others achieve financial freedom.
Memory Verse: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV).
Commitment #1: I will share what I have accomplished during this dfree® lifestyle workbook with the following people (list in workbook).
Commitment #2: I will invite the following friends and family members to join the dfree® Billion Dollar Challenge, www.billiondollarpaydown.com, to set and track their debt reduction goals and progress.
Commitment #3: I will support with a minimum of % of my income.
Commitment #4: I will give the following people some type of assistance or gift that will help them reach their financial goals. (list in workbook)
Commitment #5: I will make a daily appointment with myself (for at least seven minutes) to continue to keep my dfree® commitments for my own financial freedom at : am/pm
Commitment #6: I will contact when I begin to stray from my previous dfree® commitments.
Our session today is about giving back to others. The goal of this session is to assist others in their journey toward financial freedom.
Memory Verse: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18 NIV).
Commitment #1: I will contact the following organizations or groups and encourage them to include dfree® in their activities: (in workbook)
Commitment #2: I believe the following members of my family could benefit from dfree® instruction:
Commitment #3: I will spend hours a week helping someone reach their dfree® goals.
Commitment #4: I will promote dfree® in the following ways:
Commitment #5: I will form a group in the Billion Dollar Challenge (www.billiondollarpaydown.com) and lead them to adopt a dfree® Lifestyle.
Date formed: Group name:
Commitment #6: I will promote dfree® living using the following social media platforms:
Our session today is about impacting the culture. The goal of this session is to make a difference in the financial lives within our society.
Memory Verse: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV).
Commitment #1: I will participate in an activity that helps people with:
Commitment #2: I will encourage people to avoid alternative financial services, such as:
1. Payday loans
2. Title loan store
3. Pawn shops
4. Check cashing stores
5. Tax refund anticipation loans
6. Overdraft protection loans 7.
Commitment #3: I will support a ministry or organization that promotes financial literacy.
Name of organization:
Commitment #4: I will subscribe to a resource that provides ongoing financial information.
Commitment #5: I will celebrate someone else’s progress with their dfree® Lifestyle. Name:
Commitment #6: I will develop a strategy to maintain my dfree® commitments after the dfree® sessions end.
Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. is the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. His pastoral ministry focuses on spiritual growth, educational excellence, economic empowerment and faith-based community development.
He is the author of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom, which was published in 2011 and 2015 by Zondervan. Previously titled dfree®: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery, the book is based on Dr. Soaries’ dfree® strategy, which uses a four-prong approach to teach people how to be debt free. He developed this strategy while helping his 7,000-member congregation to become debt free. A dfree® lifestyle means living without debt, deficits and delinquencies. The dfree® strategy, established in 2005, is available to churches, credit unions and colleges and universities across America. dfree® was also the focus of the third installment of CNN’s Black in America documentary Almighty Debt, which aired Oct. 21, 2010. The 90-minute cable-news feature highlighted three families at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens who were facing tough financial times as a result of the recession, from home foreclosure to underemployment and the struggles associated with paying for college.
Nearly a year after dfree® was featured on CNN, Dr. Soaries announced the Billion Dollar Challenge (BDC) on Oct. 7, 2011. BDC is a grassroots campaign that challenges people to pay off their debt. His goal is to get 125,000 people to pay off $1 billion in debt by 2020. Participants are able to track their debt payments through an online tool on the BDC website. Dr. Soaries has also launched a multi-city campaign to spread the word about the Challenge. In addition to helping people to live dfree®, Dr. Soaries is known for being an active agent for change.
He served as the mediator and facilitator in the meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team on April 12, 2007, after the radio talk show host used racially insensitive language to describe the Scarlet Knights. His experience in creating change stems from his youth. As a college student, Dr. Soaries led a campaign against drug use on campus that resulted in his being kidnapped at gunpoint from his dormitory room by drug dealers.
He later worked on civil rights issues for the Urban League as a community organizer and Operation PUSH as the national coordinator. His roles during and after college eventually led to historic and noteworthy government positions. From Jan. 12, 1999 to Jan. 15, 2002, Dr. Soaries served as New Jersey’s 30th Secretary of State making him the first African-American male to serve as a constitutional officer of the state. In this position, he managed one of the premier departments of state government and served as a senior advisor to the governor on issues that transcended traditional departmental lines. Dr. Soaries is also the former chairman of the United States Election Assistance Commission. This commission was established by Congress to implement the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Dr. Soaries was appointed by The President of the United States on Dec. 15, 2003 after being confirmed by the United States Senate. He was elected chairman of the commission on Jan. 5, 2004 at the first meeting of the four-member bi-partisan commission. In November 2004, this commission was the first federal agency to oversee a presidential election.
Dr. Soaries is a popular speaker at colleges, universities, conferences and churches around the world as well as a frequent advisor to major corporations in the areas of diversity, philanthropy and community relations. He is also special advisor to His Majesty the Okyenhene (King) of the Akyem Abuaka Traditional Kingdom in Ghana, Osageyfuo Amoatia Ofori Panin II.
Dr. Soaries earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Fordham University, a Master of Divinity Degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary. He has also received six Honorary Doctorate Degrees from institutions of higher learning. He was recently recognized by the both houses of the New Jersey Legislature for his religious and community leadership. His work has been featured in several publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Ebony Magazine, Black Enterprise and Government Executive Magazine.
Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Soaries resides in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey with his wife, Donna and twin sons, Malcolm and Martin.