Do You Have A Philosophy Or A Theology When It Comes To Personal Finances?

Photo by Loan Leaders of America Inc.

Photo by Loan Leaders of America Inc.

Money Beliefs

I’ve been involved in studying and teaching the ways of personal finances now for 10 years. It’s been an interesting journey that has impacted my life in many ways; mostly good, some bad.

As I have been on this decade-long journey, it has been thought-provoking to discuss with people their own personal finance beliefs.

We all have a unique set of beliefs or philosophy about money that we arrive at in our adult lives from a variety of sources. The majority of our beliefs we tend to pick-up from our parents (we either embrace their beliefs, or go completely in the opposite direction). Other beliefs, we pick-up from friends and others closest to us. Finally, we pick-up various money beliefs from the society we live in – TV commercials, internet media, so-called financial experts, and so on.

The world’s financial philosophy says one thing. God’s financial theology usually says the exact opposite.

Here’s the weird thing, though. Those of us who name the name of Christ as our Lord and Savior tend to adopt the financial beliefs of our parents, friends, and society over what God’s Word tells us about money. Over the last decade of observing a lot of various money beliefs, I have concluded the following list of four money beliefs often held by Christians:

  • Money Belief #1: Money is worldly and a necessary evil to survive. Let’s not discuss it. Some Christians have a (false) belief that money is a carnal, worldly system that is completely separate from their faith journey. They’ve never been taught or never made the connection that God’s Word has a lot to say about money and possessions. These people may even have the belief that money is sinful and should not be part of our spiritual conversations.
  • Money Belief #2: Money is a taboo topic for the church world. Some Christians believe money is a taboo subject that should never be discussed in church, even though they do recognize that money is addressed in Scripture. I’ve had people tell me directly to my face that we need to stop discussing money in our church because it will run people off to other churches. These same people would probably be more in favor of and less embarrassed by having a sermon series on a Biblical theology of sex than a Biblical theology of money (Personal note: I find this completely bizarre, yet fascinating about our societal beliefs!).
  • Money Belief #3: I know what God’s Word says about money. I like my money system better. Now, leave me alone! Some Christians have a good head knowledge that the Bible does have a lot to say about finances. They have chosen to bury their heads in the sand on God’s money system in favor of the world’s money system. Their actions seem to say, “God, I think the world’s money system is a lot more sophisticated than Yours. Sorry, but I’m going to go along with the world’s system, because it’s better.”
  • Money Belief #4: I recognize that I am God’s financial manager. I will follow His instructions. In this final financial belief, Christians recognize that everything comes from the hand of God, and we are simply called to be good managers of everything that He has entrusted to us. This not only includes our finances, but also our time, talents, resources, and even our physical bodies. Everything we have, everything we are belongs to Him.

Defining The Terminology

So, let’s take a moment and define the terms that we’re talking about in this post.

Philosophy: a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live.

Theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience.

Let’s put this in even simpler terms: a philosophy is a life theory invented by man. Man’s theories are flawed and imperfect. A theology is a system of belief based on Scripture. If we believe that God’s Word is holy and without error, than a theological system of belief is flawless and perfect.

So What? Who Cares?

The big deal here for the Christian, at least in my mind, is the “why.” Why are Christians so willing to adopt a financial belief system that is flawed and imperfect when God has the very best financial plan laid out in His Word?

When we embrace His financial teachings, we avoid debt, we save money, we provide for the needs of our family, and we invest in the Kingdom of God through generous giving.

This financial lifestyle is in stark contrast to the world’s financial system.

In my next post, we’ll take a closer look at actually crafting a Christian personal finance theology based upon God’s Word.

Questions: What financial belief system are you currently operating under? An imperfect theory taught by the world, or a perfect belief system written down in God’s Word?

The Great Financial Debate: Quality vs Frugality

Photo by pjinomaha

Photo by pjinomaha

A Simple Coffee Maker Reminds Me Of The Debate

Over the holidays, I received a Keurig coffee maker for a Christmas present. I’ve secretly wanted one of these bad boys for quite a while, but I also didn’t want to spend $150 to be able to brew just one cup of coffee at a time, either.

Within a few short days of using my new coffee maker, I started thinking “where have you been all my life?” This machine brews an amazing cup of coffee! For 20+ years, I’ve made the traditional 10-12 cup pot in a drip coffee maker. I just never realized how bitter and nasty this coffee is when compared to a freshly brewed cup from a Keurig.

For those of you who are serious coffee drinkers and have done all the different types of coffee makers, then you are very much aware that the daily cost of using a Keurig is possibly twice as expensive as a traditional drip coffee maker. You can make them a bit less expensive by using the refillable plastic mesh K-cups. This is what I’ve done with great results.

As I’ve enjoyed my new coffee maker the last several weeks, I have been reminded of the continual financial debate of quality versus frugality.

Is Frugality Always The Best Option, Really?

There are so many Christian financial, frugality-mindset, well-meaning blogs out there. They teach you how to re-use plastic sandwich baggies, how to recycle old clothes, and how to clip coupons. That’s fine. I understand this line of thinking. I believe there is a place for frugality. We should live with an attitude of contentment and thanksgiving. We shouldn’t be wasteful with what God has blessed us. I’d like to think I live frugally in most areas of my life.

Here, though, is the overarching question to the entire debate: “Is being super frugal in every area of your life always the best way to go?”

For me, the simple answer is “No.” There are some instances where we probably should abandon the frugality bandwagon and step over into a quality mindset.

Several years ago, I had the same epiphany moment with Mac versus PC. Yes, the Mac is more expensive on the front end. But on the back-end, several years after purchasing my MacBook, iMac, and iPad, these computers are still running almost as well as the day I purchased them. I don’t need to constantly update virus protection software. I don’t struggle with my operating system slowing down. I no longer have computer crashes. I’ve experienced the quality but expensive better overall experience over the cheaper PC products. I’m not going back, either. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

On other items less important to me, I’m the dollar store guy. Take, for instance, clothes hangers. I have no problem picking up a ten-pack of cheap, plastic clothes hangers for a buck. No biggie for me. Here’s an instance where I will embrace frugality. Other people who are clothes hounds might scoff at dollar store, plastic clothes hangers. Because they have embraced a quality clothes mindset, they may value a better quality hanger to hang their higher quality clothing.

The Answer Isn’t Always Simple

The answer to this financial debate isn’t always as simple as you might think. It really boils down to our values and interests. If you’re a coffee fanatic, then you’re willinging to pay more for your cup of java. If you do a lot of work via technology, then you will value a higher quality, higher cost product. If you need to dress for success in your career, then you need to buy higher quality clothing.

And this is really okay, assuming we are still living out wise, Biblical financial principles. If you’re going into debt to drink high-quality coffee, to buy an new iMac each year, or to purchase expensive clothing, then we have a much bigger problem to deal with.

I typically take a quality assessment on purchases to see if it’s really worth spending the money on what I need or want. If the higher-end, quality product is worth it long-term, then I’ll save my money and pay cash for the better product.

Questions: How about you? Are you locked into the frugality mindset? Are you willing to pay a higher price on a better quality product? What’s your approach to the great debate of quality vs frugality?

My Top 10 Favorite Personal Blog Posts In 2013

Photo by iabusa

Photo by iabusa

Preface

During this holiday week, I thought I would share some of my favorite blog posts that I have written over the last year here on my personal blog, larrywjones.com. I believe these posts demonstrate some of my best writing and most thought-provoking information that I have shared with my readers. Please note, this list includes my personal favorites, but they do not necessarily reflect the most popular posts according to pageview traffic. I’m saving those for a post next week.

In order to read each post listed below in its entirety, just click on the embedded links. So, without further delay, here are my top ten favorite posts [drum roll, please]:

Larry’s Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts In 2013

10. Stop Blaming Others And Take Ownership Of Every Aspect Of Your Life. I wrote this post after discovering and reading through the book QBQ! The Question Behind The Question. I was so impacted by the philosophy expressed in the writing of John Miller, that I was compelled to write a post about it. Check out the post and get these QBQ! books. They’re excellent!

9. What Should You Do When You’re Waiting On God For Your Next Move? I decided to include this post in the list, because I received a favorable response from several people saying how much the post personally spoke to them. I believe this post spoke to others because it reflects some of my one personal frustrations as I circle about in my own circumstantial holding patterns. I can speak from the knowledge of my own personal experience.

8. Drawing A Line And Taking A Stand On Debt. If you’re ever going to get serious about your financial future as well as achieving financial freedom, you have to address the debt issue in your life. You have to draw the line. You have to declare your debt dependence as completely over and you’re getting out as soon as possible! In this post, I successfully address the “debt thing” head on, and even use a Bible verse to thump people on the head!

7. 8 Characteristics Of An All-Star LinkedIn Profile. The true, engaged professional has a killer LinkedIn profile. The best profiles are similar to online resumes, but on digital steriods! Over the last two years, I’ve become a huge fan of the various tools and features that LinkedIn has to offer professional business people. In this post, I outline the eight characteristics of the very best profiles out there, today.

6. 17 Strategies To Be Successful In A Continuing Bad Economy. No one really likes the bad economy that has set in over the last 5-6 years here in the United States. But, it’s time to stop whining and complaining about it, and actually get busy doing something about the problem. In this post, I offer up 17 strategies to be successful, even though the economy is still sluggish.

5. 5 Great Leadership Lessons from the Movie Star Trek Into Darkness. I placed this post in the mix of my Top 10 favorites because I love the topic of leadership and I enjoy the Star Trek franchise. I put two great personal tastes together, kind of like peanut butter and chocolate. Doesn’t get much better than that!

4. A Financial Vision For America. Using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech as a model, I crafted this blog post in an inspiring speech-styled format. Here, I attempt to give a compelling vision of better financial solutions than we are currently pursuing in the United States.

3. What’s Your “Why,” And Why Haven’t You Discovered It Yet. A couple of years ago, I ran across Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk on YouTube called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action?” This is one of those TEDx talks where all the light bulbs go off in your head, but the reality is that Simon is just reminding us of the importance of our “Why” or our purpose in anything we do.

2. 5 Spiritual Lessons On Stuff Management From A Busted iPod. Last year, my daughter dropped her iPod and cracked her glass screen, exactly two weeks after I purchased it for her. Needless to say, I wasn’t too impressed or happy about it, either. So, my solution was for her to earn money to be able to have it repaired. Along the way, I believe we both learned some important spiritiual lessons.

1. 14 Practical Leadership Lessons I Have Learned From Being An Orchestra Director. I’ve been directing volunteer orchestras now for almost 20 years. During this time, through much trial and error, I’ve picked up several important leadership lessons. In this post, I share what I’ve discovered about leadership along the way. Interestingly enough, this post really “caught fire” in my digital circle of influence, and this post was also featured over on the XPastor.org website: A Recent Post Featured Today Over At XPastor.org | 14 Leadership Lessons.

7 Components For A Solid Financial Foundation

Photo by jonathanpercy

Photo by jonathanpercy

Big Buildings Require Massive Foundations

One World Trade Center, the primary building that is replacing the twin towers that were destroyed in the attacks on 9/11, has been under construction since 2004. The architectural planning started well before that.

This new 104-story super-tall skyscraper is now the tallest building in the United States and Western Hemisphere as well as the fourth-tallest skyscraper in the world by pinnacle height. Its spire reaches a symbolic height of 1,776 feet as tribute to the year of the United States Declaration of Independence. This is one massive skyscraper.

Get this, though. The foundation for this huge building took several years to complete.

The foundation for One World Trade Center is some 70 feet below street level and required dynamite blasting down into solid bedrock.

The symbolic cornerstone of One World Trade Center was laid down in a ceremony on July 4, 2004, but further construction of the tower was stalled until 2006. Then, on November 18, 2006, 400 cubic yards of concrete were poured onto the foundation of the One World Trade Center, carried by as many as 40 trucks. The first steel beam was welded on to the building’s base on December 19, 2006.

On January 9, 2007, a second set of beams was welded to the top of the first set. Later in that year, the construction company completed a row of steel columns at the perimeter of the construction site. Two tower crane bases were erected, and by the end of 2007, the tower’s footings and foundations were nearly complete [Source: Wikipedia].

Before the beautiful steel and glass structure could rise high in the New York City skyline, a solid foundation for this large of building had to be created to support it. It took a lot of time, energy, resources, and money to build it. This was a carefully executed piece of the building plan. In no way did it happen on accident.

The foundation is the most critical component for building anything of importance, including a financial plan for your family. Get this part right, and a magnificent financial legacy can be created to give financial life to your family for generations into the future.

7 Components For A Solid Financial Foundation

  1. Commit to a plan that you will build something amazing! When the City and State of New York, the developer, and the architect decided to build a new skyscraper, they just didn’t start digging a hole in the ground, lay some concrete and steel beams, and put a building up. No, they spent years creating various architectural designs, drawings, and models. They created the plan, first, before anything else took place. Then, they committed the time, energy, and resources necessary to execute an amazing plan. The same is true for a financial plan. You and your family need to spend time and energy creating a vision of what you ultimately desire before anything else takes place.
  2. Resolve that you will do rich people stuff. Assuming you desire to create an awesome financial legacy that will last several years into the future, then you need to plan the way wealthy people do. You need to do rich people stuff. Rich people make several wise financial decisions. They have cash reserves on hand for emergencies. They avoid debt. They do monthly budget planning. They ask questions like “how much?” not “how much per month?” and so on.
  3. Put your estate planning in place. None of us know when we will pass away, and it would be foolish to set this piece of planning off to the side until we have the rest of our financial plan is in place. This layer of the foundation is critical and needs to be one of the first parts completed. For the sake of your family, please, please, please, don’t delay doing this part. Hire an attorney and get a state specific will completed, signed, and notarized as soon as possible.
  4. Give strategically. Giving is a part of any healthy financial plan. As a Christian, I believe that God should automatically receive my first 10% that goes to my local church. After you have laid a solid foundation for your financial plan, then you and your family can discuss giving beyond the tithe and where that additional giving should go.
  5. Build up an emergency cash reserve. An emergency fund of 3-6 months of expense cash is your “insurance policy” of sorts that will help you through life’s financial up and downs, such as illness, accidents, unanticipated large repairs, and job layoffs.
  6. Pay off your debt ASAP. The majority of wealthy people do not do debt, especially revolving lines of credit. Commit to getting out of debt as soon as possible in order to give your family an amazing financial legacy.
  7. Invest in your retirement savings. The sooner you can begin investing in your 401(k) and Roth IRA’s, the longer these accounts will have to grow through the magic of compound interest. Get moving!

Questions: How’s you financial foundation? Are you being strategic in laying a great one? Have you even given it that much thought? Is your current foundation strong enough to create and support an amazing financial structure in the near future?

You Might Be Out Of Debt If …

Photo by StockMonkeys.com

Photo by StockMonkeys.com

I recently put this list together for a financial article for a church publication. In a Jeff Foxworthy, “You might be a redneck if ..” style, this list reflects ten results of actually getting out of debt and staying out of debt.

Enjoy!

You Might Be Out Of Debt If …

10. You no longer have too much month left at the end of your money.
9. The IRS stopped making house calls at your home.
8. You no longer receive threatening, obnoxious calls from debt collectors or attorneys.
7. You no longer get horrible headaches or ulcers due to financial stress.
6. Your car drives better now than it ever has before.
5. You have money in the bank, and it can stay in the bank.
4. You can fully fund your retirement accounts.
3. You can help pay for part of your children’s college expenses instead of them racking up major student loans.
2. You actually enjoy hanging out with your spouse and working on the family budget, together.
1. You have a greater ability to give even more to God’s Kingdom work.

Question: What have you discovered to be the greatest benefit to being debt free?

When My Heart Is Right, My Money Gets Right

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Do Versus Believe

I think many people believe that if they DO right things with money that their money will be right. If they and their spouse can get on the same page with their money, then they will enjoy peace in this area of money. If they can have a working family budget, then they will gain a sense of control with their money. If they can just get out of debt and stay out of debt, they will enjoy financial freedom. If they can get their retirement fully funded, then they will have financial security in the future.

While all of these concrete actions with money are certainly helpful, what people (especially Christians) BELIEVE about money will impact them in an even greater way, long-term.

Here are three areas where Christians struggle to get their heart right regarding money.

3 Areas Of Financial Belief For The Christian

First Area: Ownership. Psalm 24:1-2 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

Scripture is crystal clear that God owns everything.

But, Christians struggle with this ownership issue. The world’s money system tells us that we are in charge of our stuff. It’s really easy to forget that God has called us to be managers of what He has given us and not the owners.

When we fully understand that God is the owner of ALL things and we are simply the managers of what He has given us to manage, then we start making different, better decisions with HIS money. We don’t have such a tight-fisted stranglehold on money because we comprehend that it’s not our money to begin with. We can live our lives with open, generous hands when it comes to His money. We start making decisions based on what we believe God wants to do with His money through us as His servants.

Second Area: Contentment. Philippians 4:12-13 says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

The world’s money system tells us that we should be unhappy and dissatisfied with what we currently have. We need to go out and buy us some newer and better stuff. We will be helping the national economy if we go out and spend more. It’s a win-win situation all around.

What is contentment, exactly? Contentment is simply being satisfied in our current state. It doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t have goals or ambitions. But, what it does mean is that we can relax and be satisfied with what God has given to us today in regard to our finances. As a Christian, our ultimate source of satisfaction should be in Christ, not in our stuff.

Third Area: Purpose. Matthew 6:31-33 says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The world’s money system tells us that we need to chase after our basic needs with our money before anything else – stuff to eat and stuff to wear.

God flips this philosophy around and tells us that as His children, He will meet our needs in abundance. We don’t need to be concerned with the basic necessities of this life. He will take care of us. God wants our primary concern to be expanding His Kingdom with His financial resources above all else.

Questions: Many people believe that if they DO right things with money that their money will be right. And, while this is certainly helpful, what they BELIEVE about money will impact them in an even greater way. What do you believe about money in these three areas of ownership, contentment, and purpose? Do your actions with money line up with your beliefs?

Drawing A Line And Taking A Stand On Debt

Photo by TangoPango

Photo by TangoPango

The Line Must Be Drawn Here, This Far, No Farther

There is an incredibly, well-acted scene in the movie Star Trek First Contact, when Sloane (Alfre Woodard) is arguing with Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) regarding his erratic behavior with the Borg (the feared alien race). She accuses him of acting out of revenge, much like Captain Ahab in the book Moby-Dick. Picard dismisses this revenge concept, explaining to Sloane the history of the Borg and the human race. Humans have had a continual series of retreats with these aliens. They have never really stood up to the Borg advances and taken a stand in battle.

Then, Picard passionately utters one of the best movie captain lines of all times, “The line must be drawn here, this far, no farther.” Picard meant business with the Borg this time around. He was drawing a line and taking a stand. There would be no retreat in this battle. It was “do or die” time in the captain’s mind.

You can check out a short 1:00 version of this scene, here:

Too Many Compromises, Too Many Retreats

Just like the alien Borg in the Star Trek Next Generation series, I believe, in life, we tend to allow people, financial companies, and governments to take over our lives, financially. We have sold our souls to the alien debt monster. We have made way too many compromises and way too many retreats when it comes to being in control of our money.

We have allowed people, circumstances, and credit card companies to sell us on the supposed benefits of using lines of credit to move us faster into the lifestyle we want.

We have allowed politicians and government agencies to convince us that the United States government debt load is not really as bad as it might look. They tell us that it’s all scalable and sustainable. Don’t worry about the numbers. Everything will be okay.

But, what has happened as a result of all these compromises and retreats on debt? American families are carrying an average debt load of over $15,000. This is a modest number, too; it’s probably way more than this when you factor in student loans . The United States government has a national debt load approaching $17 Trillion. There are hushed rumors that America is on the brink of financial collapse. Nothing good has come of debt in our governments, businesses, churches, or homes.

Drawing The Line On Debt

Once an individual, a married couple, a business man, a church leader, or a politician has that “aha moment” regarding the curse of debt, they tend to draw the line on debt.

Proverbs 22:7 tells us, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”

With a little planning ahead, I believe most people could avoid the majority of debt problems, especially credit cards, car loans, and student loans. But, everybody gets in a hurry to raise their lifestyle. Gotta have the cool car, best college degree, and fancy house in the best neighborhood. Debt helps you get there faster on the front end, but it has a nasty bite on the back-end.

My advice is to draw a line in the sand on debt as early and as quickly as possible. Get a financial plan together and dig your way out of your debt mess before it’s too late and you’re forced into a bankruptcy or foreclosure.

Questions: Have you ever had that “aha moment” when you finally understood what debt was doing to you and your family? Have you ever drawn the official line on debt and said enough is enough? Are you working your debt snowball? Are you debt free?

5 Foundational Beliefs A Christian Should Grasp In A Biblical View Of Money

Biblical StewardshipChristianity, The Church, Stewardship, And Money

In the last 30-40 years, I believe the American church has done a poor job of laying a strong foundation for Biblical stewardship. There are a number of reasons for this, but this is not within the scope of this particular blog post.

Fortunately in recent years, other ministries and programs such as Crown and Dave Ramsey have come alongside the church to assist pastors and lay leaders in laying a strong Biblical foundation regarding money and stewardship.

When it comes to Christian finances, I believe there are several key, foundational principles that every Christian should know and understand.

The following list contains my top five foundational stewardship beliefs.

5 Key Stewardship Principles From God’s Word

  1. God owns everything. Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” This is the foundational belief upon which the whole concept of Christian stewardship (or management) rests. We either completely believe that God owns everything in the universe (including all of the stuff in our current possession) or we don’t believe this truth. Plus, how we live our lives and manage these possessions demonstrates if we really believe in God’s ownership or not.
  2. Christians are managers (stewards) of ALL of God’s stuff. 1 Corinthians 4:2 tells us “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” After we come to grips with the first belief, then this second belief should be a natural outflow of the first. If God truly owns it all, then the stuff I currently possess was given to me by God Almighty to manage for Him. As a result, I am compelled to do an excellent, faithful job so that He receives an incredible return on investment!
  3. Kingdom living should be our priority. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Once we understand that God owns it all and we are simply managers of His stuff, then our only concern should be expanding His Kingdom on earth while we are here. Our budgets, expenses, purchases, and investments should all be filtered through a Kingdom mindset. The question that should be continuously on our mind: “Does this use of money truly build up God’s Kingdom and make an impact for eternity?”
  4. Debt is unwise. Proverbs 22:7 reads, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Although the Bible never states that debt is a sin, it does make the claim that it is unwise and dangerous. If you are a Christian who thinks debt is just a normal, everyday reality in today’s economic climate, then can you truly say with 100% authority that having debt honors God and His Kingdom? I would argue that it doesn’t. I believe that our personal businesses, families, and churches should all strive to be debt free as soon as possible in order for our focus to truly be on God’s Kingdom work.
  5. Our giving should be percentage based. Check out Hebrews 7:2a, and 7:4-9 “and Abraham gave him (Melchizedek) a tenth of everything … Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham … ” The tithe (10%) is a great starting point for people to learn and grow in their generosity journey. I understand that a lot of Christians are not in agreement with this statement. But, if you take a comprehensive view of Scripture, including Old Testament (pre-Law and Mosaic Law) and New Testament (as stated in this NT passage from Hebrews), almost every mention of money and giving had a percentage attached to it. Why? Common sense would tell us that we don’t all make the same amount of income. Also, monetary types and values vary widely throughout human history. Percentage-based giving makes more sense according to the concept of “to whom much has been given, much more will be required” (Luke 12:48b).

Questions: If you are a Christian, how do you handle your money and possessions? Do you hold to the Biblical truths in these five principles above, or do you struggle with a carnal, worldly view of your finances? Do you think this list of five principles is comprehensive enough, or would you add or subtract anything from this list?

A Financial Vision For America

Photo by Kyle Kim

Photo by Kyle Kim

The Problem

Our nation is in dire financial trouble.

The greatest nation on earth, the richest, most prosperous country the world has ever known, is on the brink of financial collapse. As of the date of this writing on July 4, 2013, the national debt clock is approaching $17 Trillion.

All political parties, all Presidents, all congresses, all state and local governments must be called to account.

For decades, our politicians have been intoxicated with power and vast financial resources they have confiscated from us, the American people.

For too long, our local, state, and federal governments have paid for programs that are too expensive and just don’t work. For too long, we have run yearly deficits that have led us to unsustainable debt loads. For too long, we’ve been throwing money around we don’t have, at problems we simply cannot fix with money alone. For too long, we have kicked the financial can down the nation’s fiscal timeline, hoping for a miracle to materialize that never will.

For too long, there has been little to no accountability for bad fiscal policy. For too long, our politicians have been playing political as well as financial games with us.

For too long, many of our wealthiest citizens have been gagged and shackled, simply because they have incredible, financial savvy.

Spending money we do not have doesn’t work in our own households, and it certainly doesn’t work in our governments, either. There will be a pay-day, someday. It won’t be today and probably not tomorrow, but there is coming a tipping point, soon.

Something needs to change, today. Our nation must rise out of our stupor of financial insanity into a glorious new sunrise of financial responsibility, stability, and plain, old-fashion, common sense.

The Vision

I have a vision of American citizens who understand personal finances. They budget appropriately. They spend less than they make. They live debt free lives. They save a portion of their income for the future. They actually pay for their own food, cell phones, healthcare, college, and emergency expenses instead of relying on government handouts.

I have a vision of churches and para-church ministries who rush to give aid to our citizens, instead of Federal Government agencies.

I have a vision of a prosperous United States of America, a nation that encourages appropriate government budgeting practices, spending below our means, and paying down its debt load as quickly as possible.

I have a vision of politicians who are required to live under the same fiscal policy rules they enact on us.

I have a vision of local, state, and federal governments that encourage hard work, financial reward, business growth, innovation, wealth, investment. This means lowering personal and business tax rates to reasonable levels so that we actually encourage productivity rather than discourage it.

I have a vision of wealthy citizens who are applauded and thanked for their contributions to society, rather than demonized. They are encouraged to achieve great financial success, because they have worked hard and risked their fortunes in order to invest their finances, build amazing businesses, and hire us to help them.

I have a vision; no, I have a dream today.

The Dream

I have a dream that one day, all of us will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Sweet land of financial liberty; let financial freedom ring!

And if America is to return to being the greatest nation this world has ever known, this must become true. So let financial freedom ring from the New York Stock Exchange to the San Francisco Transamerica Pyramid Center.

Let financial freedom ring from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to the Dallas Stock Exchange.

Let financial freedom ring at the IRS Building in Washington, D.C.

Let financial freedom ring in the US Treasury as well as Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Let financial freedom ring in the City of Miami Mayor’s Office to the Washington State Legislature.

Let financial freedom ring from every household, yea, from every institution, business, church, and government entity in this great land.

And when this happens, when we allow financial freedom to ring from every corner of these great United States, then we will truly achieve the unalienable rights outlined by our founding fathers: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Question: Will you join with me in this vision? If so, please leave a comment and then share in every corner of social media. Thank you!

17 Strategies To Be Successful In A Continuing Bad Economy

Reality Sinks In

Photo by Newbirth35

Photo by Newbirth35

I believe reality is finally sinking in for many of us that we are looking at several more difficult years of the “New Economy.” With the re-election of Mr. Obama, we will have at least at four more years of bad federal fiscal policy for any real economic growth.

We will continue to have rising gas prices and, in turn, a rising cost of goods and services. High unemployment will continue to drag on. The national debt will soar higher and higher. And, of course, we will have additional higher taxes in every area imaginable – income, estate, fuel, utilities, and healthcare. This will impact all of us, not just the super rich.

I don’t want to be Mr. Doom and Gloom here, but if you’re just hoping things are going to turn around financially and we’re going to be back in the “good old days” (financially speaking) of Reagan, Clinton, and the Bushes, then keep on dreaming.

If you want financial change, then you’re going to need to become the change you desire. You’re going to need to be way more proactive about money than you probably want to be. You’re going to need to work harder and smarter than ever to provide for your family. The sad reality is that the folks in Washington appear to want a bunch of mediocre wage earners. They have no real desire for you to become high achievers. Excellence and success are definitely not words in their vocabulary. In fact, they are punishing achievers more than helping them.

17 Strategies For A Bad Economy

As I wrestle with the reality of the New Economy in regard to my own family finances, here are some thoughts on becoming successful in spite of the insanity:

  1. Take personal responsibility. Resist the urge to just give up and jump on the dole. The unfortunate goal of a bunch of politicians today is for you to take advantage of every available free money handout from the government. They want you hooked for life, and then they want you to vote for them because of their benevolence. I say, dare to be different and take personal responsibility. Avoid the handouts. In the end, you’ll be better off for it. It’s about character building, not easy street.
  2. Get out of debt ASAP. Definitely do not emulate the federal government in regard to debt! Start working your debt snowball, immediately. Unloading the burden of debt will free up your resources. You will be able to focus all your available resources on what truly matters as we continue in the new economy.
  3. Build up your emergency fund. In the new economy, this will be more critical than ever. Once you get of debt, be sure to build up an emergency fund of at least 3-6 months worth of living expense money. Having this stash available will help your family through any unexpected job loss or downturns.
  4. Grow in your generosity. Even in difficult economic times, we need to maintain lifestyles of giving. This will enable an attitude of gratitude. I’ve seen it in so many people. A generous life unleashes greatness and, of course, God’s hand of blessing.
  5. Brand yourself. No, I’m not talking about making marks on your body with a hot piece of metal. In the job market of the new economy, you have to stand out. You must be unique. So, what will make your name rise to the top of a stack of resumes? What qualities or characteristics do you possess that people want and need in their workplace? What niche do you cover better than anyone else? Once you figure out what makes you unique from everyone else, then you have to sell that uniqueness in anything that has your name attached to it.
  6. Create a platform. Related to #5, once you have figured out your personal brand, then you need to release your brand out to the world. You accomplish that through some type of platform. This could be a personally branded website (such as larrywjones.com), a blog, a book, podcast, or series of YouTube videos. The best book about creating a platform is Michael Hyatt‘s Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World.
  7. Create multiple streams of income. In the new economy, you must think multiple streams of income, so that if one dries up in these challenging economic times, you will have other sources of cashflow to get you through. Long gone are the days of one solitary income sustaining an entire family. Consider ways you can create residual income streams on the side in addition to the income from your day job. Check out this awesome resource from Pat Flynn: smartpassiveincome.com.
  8. Find a mentor. The fastest way to get where you want to go is to find someone else that has already been there. If you want to be debt free, then find a debt free family and pick their brain about how they accomplished that. If you want to brand yourself through a personal platform, then find someone who has done this and emulate what they are doing.
  9. Network. In today’s world, we have various ways to maintain and even expand our network. We can go out to lunch with friends and acquaintances. We can attend networking events, such as our local chamber of commerce. We can network through the various social media channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. The overall goal, of course, is to maintain a group of social connections that will help you long-term with business and job opportunities.
  10. Become a life-longer learner. In today’s ever-expanding Information Age, it’s critical to always be reading and learning. Paper books, ebooks, white papers, blogs, and more. Be well-rounded and think “generalist.” Know a little something about everything. This can make you a more valuable employee over the long haul. The best leaders are actually generalists surrounded by specialists.
  11. Short and long-term financial planning. More than ever, you need some type of monthly cashflow plan during these turbulent times. You also need to be thinking out ahead for the next several years. Got goals? Do your current plans line up with those goals?
  12. Hire financial experts with the heart of a teacher. Related to #11, an excellent financial expert can help you navigate both short-term and long-term money issues. Also, there is much confusion with all the new laws coming out of Washington, especially with the massive changes in healthcare taking place, today. It’s better to get help from people who understand these new laws than to figure it all out on your own!
  13. Embrace simplicity. The simple life is way underrated. Get rid of all the extra junk in your life. Have a massive garage sale. Give away all the leftovers to your favorite charity. Keep your life and your stuff as simplistic, clean, and organized as possible.
  14. Bargain hunting. Paying full price for stuff anymore is not very bright. Learn how to find great deals at great prices. Learn how to negotiate. Be a cheap skate, but always consider the quality of the product before purchasing.
  15. Discover ways to save in the areas of fuel costs. Due to current political policies, these costs are only going to continue to rise. Does that mean go out and buy a hybrid vehicle? Probably not, because the cost of a brand new hybrid vehicle still outweighs the cost of fuel long-term. In regard to gasoline, consider less driving. Make as few driving trips as you possibly can. In regard to home utility expenses, do an energy audit and see where you can make some reasonable home improvements in order to save on those bills long-term.
  16. Pursue a healthier lifestyle. With the Affordable Care Act going into full force over the next few years, here’s another area that will continue to grow financially out of control. If you aren’t healthy, you will end up paying higher costs, fees, and taxes in order to get healthy. Pay the price on the front end with a better diet, exercise, and clean living. If you don’t do it on the front end, you’ll end up paying through the nose on the back-end.
  17. Pray. Although I have listed this last, it really should be at the top of this list! As a believer in Christ, I believe in God’s protection and provision. I know that He owns all things. I know that He is crazy in love with me. He can and will provide for me during difficult times.

Question: So, has it sunk into your brain that our current economic climate is going to persist for a while? What long-term strategies are you employing in order to survive and thrive going forward? Do you have additional suggestions to this list of 17 strategies?