I believe God wants us to take care of everything in our lives responsibly. The purpose for living responsibly boils down to our ability to serve Him, witness to others and live happily. We have an obligation to maintain good health, protect our families and work hard at our jobs, because those things all affect our service, witnessing and happiness. When a Christian lives a balanced life, setting a good example in everything they do, the world takes note. Money is part of the equation. It’s a powerful witness when a person has their financial life in order, the same as their physical fitness, family relationships or any other metric the world might use. If a Christian is always late paying their bills, asking to borrow money from friends and stressed out by unmanageable levels of debt, what does that say to the world about how well God is taking care of them? How generous can they be? How honest are they?
Yes, they did in a general sense. They taught the difference between “needs” and “wants” as well as the importance of not letting expenses grow bigger than income, the value of working hard to get ahead in life and not having all my eggs in one basket. Those general lessons were probably all I was interested in at the time. As an adult living on my own, I began to care more about the future and the specifics of how to manage money. Google is an amazing resource. I was self taught by searching for whatever questions popped into my mind. How much should I save for retirement? What are loan requirements to buy a house? What are the benefits to a 401k? The list could go on forever.
I’m much more interested in finances than my wife. She generally trusts me to make good decisions with anything regarding money, therefore I handle the big decisions of how much house we can afford, how much to contribute to retirement accounts, etc. We’ve been blessed to both have good incomes with cheap tastes, so it’s not usually a question of, “How will we pay our bills this month?” as much as, “How should we invest our extra income?”
There are too many to count! Of course there is the famous parable of three servants in Matthew 25 which shows investing to be a favorable activity. But I prefer verses which speak against greed. The parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 closes by saying, “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:21 NLT).
It’s easy to focus so much on earthly pleasure and security that we forget what really matters in life. I try to strike a balance, loving money enough to plan for the future and enjoy life in the moment, while always remembering I can’t take it with me.
Not seeing the Great Recession for the amazing opportunity it was at the time. I had a modest yet stable job all through the recession. I should have been investing every penny I could scrape together. Almost anyone who invested in stocks or real estate in 2009, and held on, has come out way ahead. When everyone else is preaching doom and gloom, that’s the time to buy. It’s so hard to convince oneself to invest during hard times, but that’s actually when we should be investing the most.
Two issues. Viewing money as something to spend rather than something to invest, and thinking all debt is bad.
If a person lives their life saving money with the goal of spending it later, it’s really, really hard to get ahead. They save for a new car, vacation, nicer house or whatever they think will make them happy. There is nothing wrong with any of those things. However, the cycle turns into a revolving door of money coming and going. Save for a while, go on vacation, start over at zero.
If they were to look at money as something to invest, they would start a cycle in the other direction. Instead of putting money into an item guaranteed to lose value (a car, for example), put it into an asset that will return money over time. Buy dividend paying stocks. Buy a rental house. Buy a lawnmower and start a lawn care business on the side. Put up money for somebody else to start a business, then collect a portion of their profits. Basically, figure out ways to put money into things that will grow rather than shrink. After doing this for a while, the money will have grown enough to pay for the car or vacation and keep growing, rather than restarting at zero.
When it comes to debt, I’ve heard friends and some well-known financial advisors act as though all debt should be eradicated as quickly as possible. The real question should be, “What will taking on this debt allow me to do?”
If the debt allows you to make money in the long run, go for it. If you’re ultimately going to lose money, don’t do it. It really is that simple. There’s no reason to pay off a house with a 4% mortgage when that same cash could be invested elsewhere and get 10% returns.
Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Our world is full of offers and salespeople encouraging you to upgrade your purchase in some way. Sometimes it’s worth it. Most of the time it’s not.
Make sure to slow down and think about if something is a good deal or not, rather than buying quickly and impulsively, particularly with big purchases like a house or car. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of the new carpet smell or shiny paint, but the numbers have to make sense with your bank account too.
Be patient. It’s no different from wanting to get stronger in any other way. It takes time to get educated and form good habits. Surround yourself with like-minded friends who have their finances in order. Don’t be afraid to talk to people about finances and find out what’s normal and what’s not, or why they make their financial decisions the way they do.
I use the Mint.com website and Mint app on my phone. It’s an excellent way to get an overview of my finances. Mint can compile all of one’s bank accounts, investments, credit cards, loans, properties and other financial information into one place in order to see things like total net worth and how it fluctuates over time. It helps me see if I actually am getting ahead over time or not.
The Get Rich Slowly blog is great for all skill levels in the personal finance world. Investopedia is also a great resource, particularly for those with more experience looking to get educated about specific topics.