How Some Whole Life Insurance Policies May Be A Lot Better Than Dave Makes Them Out To Be

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Photo by Thomas Hawk

[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan]

The Whole Life Versus Term Life Debate

In Financial Peace University, Dave makes it clear that he hates whole life insurance products. He encourages everyone to buy term life insurance and then invest the difference normally paid for a whole life policy. There are many in the personal finance world chanting the exact same mantra. I get it. I understand most of the reasoning behind the debate.

When I first heard about the whole versus term life insurance debate around 2004, I immediately bought a decent amount of term life insurance to protect my family. Then, I turned around and canceled my variable universal life (VUL) policy that I had been suckered into by a “friend” and his buddy life insurance guy a few years earlier. I was too ignorant back then and didn’t understand the various forms of life insurance. I had no clue on “good” and “bad” forms of life insurance. Fast forward a few years. I now have in place a newer, larger, quality, twenty-year term life policy. I have peace of mind knowing my wife, four daughters, and son will have the resources they need if something happens to me.

Bank On Yourself: The Infinite Banking Concept

A few years after buying this latest term policy, I ran across several books and blogs recommending a new financial product (which is really an older way of doing life insurance) called the Infinite Banking Concept (IBC). The basic idea behind IBC is the reality that most American families will finance large ticket items such as cars, college, and homes. When financing these items through conventional banking methods, borrowers are throwing away thousands of dollars in interest that they could be recapturing for their own personal benefit. When properly set up, an IBC utilizes a form of permanent, whole life insurance to create a personal “bank” of money to borrow from, that also has some tax advantages tied to it (assuming that the Federal government doesn’t mess with these policies in the future).

Let me say upfront that I currently do not have an IBC. At the time of my writing this book, I’m still in the research and investigation phase. My first impression after reading several books and web articles on IBC is that the concept and its application in this way are intriguing. The idea of building up a storehouse of wealth over several years in which the person, in theory, becomes his or her own bank seems rather ingenious to me. But, because I have heard the whole Dave Ramsey rant on whole versus term life insurance for so long, it has taken me a while to process the concept.

In the article “My History With IBC,” economist Robert P. Murphy, PhD addresses the problems that Dave brings up about whole life policies:

… Dave Ramsey is a radio talk show host who (admirably) counsels people on how to get out from their crushing debt load, through obvious but crucial things like making out a budget, communicating with one’s spouse on financial affairs, etc. Ramsey is very entertaining and I can certainly understand why his show is so popular. However, Ramsey absolutely has it out for whole life (and other types of permanent life insurance) policies, advocating instead that people “buy term and invest the difference.” For example, in a post from his website, Ramsey implies that you won’t have any cash value for the first three years of a new policy. He goes on to explicitly say that the rate of return on your money is much higher in mutual funds, that you won’t need life insurance after 20 years if you follow his plan, and that the insurance company keeps your cash values when you die, giving your beneficiary only the death benefit.

Every one of these (typical) objections is either misleading or downright false, at least when it comes to Nelson Nash’s IBC approach of using whole life policies. First, if you set up the policy properly with a “Paid Up Additions (PUA) rider,” then right off the bat, a portion of your periodic payment is buying a chunk of fully paid-up life insurance. Thus, your cash value begins rising immediately, and you can begin borrowing against your policy right away (if you need to).

As far as comparing rates of return, again the problem is that Ramsey is viewing permanent life insurance as an investment, rather than a cash flow management strategy. Yet even if we use the standard tools of financial analysis, it is a non sequitur to point out that a mutual fund is expected to have a higher 30-year (say) average annualized rate of return, compared to the internal rate of return on an insurance policy’s projected cash value growth. Such a bald statement ignores the difference in risk between the two strategies. (Whole life insurance policies have guaranteed minimum rates of return. Do equity-based mutual funds have that?) Ramsey could just as easily “prove” that nobody should ever buy a corporate bond, because stock issued from the same company will always have a higher expected return…

By making these comments, I’m not “proving” that more life insurance is always the best thing to buy, from a conventional “asset class” allocation perspective; otherwise we would have the absurd result that everybody should put every last dollar of his wealth into life insurance policies, with nobody owning stocks, bonds, real estate, or precious metals. (Obviously somebody has to own a share of corporate stock or a piece of real estate, and that ownership must be voluntary. So their prices adjust to make it attractive for someone to acquire and hold.) All I’m making is the modest point that in Ramsey’s critique of whole life and related insurance policies—when he compares them very unfavorably with “buy term and invest the difference in mutual funds”—he isn’t even attempting to set up an apples-to-apples comparison of the two strategies. He’s pulling one set of statistics—internal rates of return—out of context and trumpeting them as if they’re decisive, when the actual situation is much more nuanced.

When IBC policy holders take out a policy loan to personally finance large sums of money, they must set up terms of repayment with interest. The purpose of repayment with interest is in order for the policy to generate the benefits of the storehouse of wealth system. The good news here is that policy owners are paying themselves back with interest. They are able to bypass the greedy, overpaid executives in the large corporate banks in New York City. This is the beauty of IBC.

Potential Uses for Your Storehouse of Wealth

As I continue doing research on IBC over the last several months, I’ve been asking myself a bunch of “what if” questions such as:

  • What if I established an IBC, let that policy mature for a few years, build up a storehouse of wealth, and then put this money to work creating more streams of income that create more streams of income?
  • What if took out a policy loan for a decent amount of money, used it as a down payment for a bargain rental property, and started some new streams of income this way?
  • What if I took out a policy loan to buy an existing business that had decent cash flow to it already?
  • What if I used a policy loan to do some peer-to-peer lending?

I do see the potential to use an IBC as a personal storehouse of wealth to create even more wealth. This money could be put to work at higher interest percentage rates and create multiple streams of income. My own next step in the process is to speak directly to a trained professional in setting up an IBC policy.

IBC Core Details

Here are some of the core details of what I understand about the Infinite Banking Concept. First, the policy (or policies—multiples can be set up for family members) must be established in mutual insurance companies. Second, these policies are not the “run of the mill” whole life policies. They are a very specific, specialty product: high-premium, dividend-paying, whole life insurance policies. Third, seek out trained professionals who know the specific mutual insurance companies as well as the technicalities to set this up an IBC properly. Check out the resources at the end of this chapter to find these professionals. Fourth, it will take a few years (perhaps 3 to 5) of premium payments to establish a policy in a position to be a storehouse of wealth. There are methods to speed up the cash value of a policy to tap into these benefits earlier than this. I recommend speaking with a certified professional in IBC to uncover all the many options.

Fifth, when requesting a policy loan, it is just a matter of filling out a form to request the money—and it will be available a few days. The insurance company won’t ask a bunch of personal financial questions or check credit scores like most lending institutions. The insurance company administers and guarantees the value of the collateral. The company actually doesn’t even care if you repay the policy loan. They will simply deduct that amount from the cash value/death benefit of the policy. But, the policyholder cares if it’s repaid, because repayment with the terms chosen accelerates the growth of the policy. Sixth, an IBC policy shouldn’t be viewed an investment vehicle. It should be viewed as a cash flow management strategy with many unique benefits. Seven, creating an IBC policy (or policies) in a family is a way to move away from the corrupt, fiat money system of a central bank. It creates a personal privatized banking system. This is the key distinction and benefit of the IBC. Conventional, commercial banks create money “out of thin air” as well as create all sorts of national financial problems. A privatized banking system such as IBC is based on actual cash values created within the policy.

The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book released in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.

A Different Approach To Financial Investing: The Investment Pyramid

Diagram Source: You, Inc. Investment Hierarchy from Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, and Playing Field of Personal Finance by LIFE Leadership. Used by permission.

Diagram Source: You, Inc. Investment Hierarchy from Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, and Playing Field of Personal Finance by LIFE Leadership. Used by permission.

[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

In the book Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, and Playing Field of Personal Finance by LIFE Leadership (Brady and Woodward), the authors include a recommended investment strategy they call the “investment pyramid.” The plan starts at the bottom of the pyramid with what the authors view as the safest form of investing. Then, they encourage readers to work their way to the top of the pyramid to what they view as riskier forms of investing. There is validity to the investment pyramid concept, and it is definitely a unique way of looking at investing. This step-by-step investing approach is not taught in Financial Peace University. After a fully funded emergency fund is established in Baby Step 3, Dave jumps into Baby Step 4—Invest 15 percent—and then talks about 401(k)s and IRAs. If you charted Dave’s action on the investment pyramid, he moves from a Level Two emergency fund directly to Level Six stock market investing. He completely bypasses Levels Three, Four, and Five. Dave would appear to have a lot more risk tolerance than Brady and Woodward.

The Seven Levels of the Investment Pyramid

Level One, the bottom of the pyramid and the safest part of this investment strategy, is to invest in one’s self. What Brady and Woodward are referring to in this level is learning to think wealthy thoughts. Investing in education and training will take a person farther into their careers as they believe they can go. This investment into personal growth may even take a person into another career or area of expertise. I’m not talking about spending a bunch of money to go back to college and finish another degree, either; I’m talking about educational investment through reading relevant books, magazines, and blogs. Or, it can be as simple as listening to audio books, training programs, and podcasts, or attending conferences. Allow other leaders in the industry to be mentors. There are many ways to invest in one’s self that will cost more in time than in money. Investing time and money at the base of the financial pyramid will lay a firm foundation before advancing into other complex forms of financial investing.

Steve Siebold is a former professional athlete and national coach. He has spent the past twenty-six years studying the thought processes, habits, and philosophies of world-class performers. Steve has interviewed more than 1,200 of the world’s wealthiest people. According to Siebold’s research, “Self-made millionaires get rich because they’re willing to bet on themselves and project their dreams, goals, and ideas into an unknown future.”

Level Two, the next level of the pyramid in which to invest, is an emergency fund. This level is equal to what Dave teaches in Baby Steps 1 and 3. Baby Step 1 is get $1,000 in savings as fast as possible and then get out of debt as fast as possible. After completing the debt snowball in Baby Step 2, the next goal is to establish a fully funded emergency fund of three to six months of expense money in Baby Step 3. Depending on income, expenses, and needs, this could equal out to a range of approximately $10,000 to $30,000.

Level Three advances to investing in survival preparation. An important point to consider when it comes to this level is that survival preparation is a form of savings. It is translating money into purchasing important goods such as food, water, generators, fuel, guns, and ammo. This is to protect the family during a worst-case scenario and an important part of a sound investment strategy.

Level Four focuses on investing in long-term and targeted savings. Brady and Woodward recommend that regularly saving 10 percent of total income into typical savings accounts. They favor safer investment strategies than Dave does. At this level, they also recommend people have targeted savings accounts (sinking funds) to save for car replacement, new furniture, and so on.

Levels One through Four are conservative levels of investing in one’s self with little risk. They are basic levels of savings. Brady and Woodward contend that if people focused only on these four levels of the investment pyramid, people would do well, financially. The authors reserve the final three levels for what they consider more speculative investing.

In Level Five, people should begin investing money into secure investments such as CDs, money market accounts, and municipal bonds. Many financial experts (including Dave) undervalue these investments because they pay lower interest, but they also carry lower risk.

Brady and Woodward consider Level Six and Seven to be highly speculative investing. In fact, their recommendation is to avoid the top of the pyramid altogether, unless the investor is knowledgeable in the areas of real estate, the stock market, ventures, and start-ups. Deciding to invest in Level Six and Seven involves a willingness to put money in these areas that wouldn’t be missed if it were lost completely.

[The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

Book Review: Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, And Playing Field Of Personal Finance

Financial-fitness-bookForced To Ponder

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

I recently made a new acquaintance at my church who studies and understands financial matters. We were discussing my stewardship pastor role at the church and my use of Dave Ramsey materials for financial instruction.

He told me that he believes Dave spends too much time on the defensive side of money. All he talks about is budgeting, getting out of debt, and emergency funds.

I really couldn’t argue too much with my new friend. He was making a solid point.

My friend then recommended that I look into the Financial Fitness materials by LIFE Leadership. So, I bought the Kindle version of their book and did a quick read on it in a few days.

In this post, I’ll share a few of the highlights of what I learned.

3 Key Elements I Learned From Reading This Book

Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, and Playing Field of Personal Finance by LIFE Leadership Written by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward

1. I have perhaps spent too much time on the financial defense side of money then the offensive side. Here’s an excellent quote from the book that makes this exact point:

“Most books on personal finance start (and, all too often, end) with a focus on financial defense (how to get out of debt, protect your money, and prepare for contingencies). But defense is the wrong place to start because it creates the wrong mindset. Defense of money is vitally important, but making it the first priority often puts people in an attitude of scarcity rather than abundance. We will cover financial offense (making more money) first and then defense (protecting one’s resources) later because the values and attitudes of financial offense are naturally abundant, aggressive, and bold. Successful financial offense requires initiative, innovation, ingenuity, and tenacity—the entrepreneurial values” (Kindle location 1212).

2. I need to excel in my current job role, and then figure out a side income to throw off passive cash flow. While this wasn’t necessarily a big news flash for me, it was a good reminder for me on how to stay on financial offense. Here are three excellent quotes from this book regarding this point:

“As you truly excel in your current role, you will naturally be given more responsibility, and as you do the same with the new duties, you will build yourself into a better and better leader. This is why the offense side of finances is so important in achieving financial fitness. Whatever you are working on right now in your life, truly excel at it in order to fully invest in yourself. The natural result will be progress and increasing prosperity and opportunities” (Kindle location 1432).

“If you have a job, it means doing the same thing as an intrapreneur—thinking like an entrepreneur, a leader, and an innovator at your work, rather than just fitting in to your job description. It means adopting an ownership mentality, thinking and acting like an owner rather than just settling for an employee mentality. Focus on the owner mentality in your choices, work, interaction with others, and in all tasks, character opportunities, and relationships whether or not you are actually the owner—as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, or both” (Kindle location 1420).

“One of the key principles of financial fitness is to increase your passive income, even if you continue to work at a primary active income source. Of course, if you are currently employed, don’t quit your job until your passive income has surpassed your active income (and you have sought professional advice, gotten out of debt, done the proper planning, and so forth). As we said earlier, you can keep carrying buckets for your employer, but it is also helpful to begin building your own pipeline of passive income” (Kindle location 1753 ).

3. I need to give more consideration to Emergency Preparation: food, water, power, guns, cash, and precious metals. In my mind, I would think that emergency preparation would fall under the area of financial defense. Brady and Woodard categorize this interestingly enough under financial offense. Here is a lengthy but excellent quote on this topic:

“Saving for a worst case includes the opposite of compounding money, which we will call “impounding.” This means putting away various forms of money just in case catastrophic things happen. Stash some cash in a safe, secure, secret place. And in case inflation ruins the value of the currency, put away some silver coins as well. Silver is better than gold for this purpose because in a worst-case world, gold will be very valuable, so a gold coin will be worth a lot more than the food you will want to buy with it. Small silver coins will be easier to trade for small needs. Gold can be used to effectively protect larger amounts from loss of value due to government inflation (more on this later). Saving for a worst case includes the opposite of compounding money, which we will call “impounding.” By the way, don’t be too extreme about this. We are not doom and gloomers, and we’re not predicting a world with roving bandits and no electricity. It could happen, but so could a lot of things. We are simply suggesting that part of sound money planning is to realize that bank holidays and closed banks can happen. They occurred during the Great Depression, even though the world didn’t end. But people with some cash and silver were able to purchase food and fuel when others could not. And major storms, natural disasters, and other challenges can come also. So be prepared. Don’t be fanatical. Just take some wise precautions. Another valuable investment on this same level is food storage. Get the kind that lasts many years and keep it in a cool, dry place. Many people store guns and bullets with their food and metal coins. Learning to hunt might be a very helpful preparation. Again, this is for last-ditch survival needs, but having it as part of your investment hierarchy can be very valuable” (Kindle location 2323).

My Recommendation

Okay, so here’s my recommendation: I highly recommend reading Financial Fitness, especially if you have been down in the trenches with the Dave Ramsey philosophy for a while. I’m not saying that the Dave philosophy is bad, but you can get too immersed in financial defense for too long. This has the potential for developing a financial scarcity mindset, which isn’t where you want to be, long-term.

This book can help you get turned back around to focusing on financial offense, which leads to abundance thinking. I wonder what this world would be like if people had thoughts of abundance rather than scarcity mindsets?

Questions: Have you read Financial Fitness? What were your takeaways from this book? Would you recommend this book to others?

Using Mint.com As An Excellent Financial Dashboard To Think And Act Like The Wealthy

Mint.comI’m A New Fan Of Mint.com

Several years ago, I heard about Mint.com but never really took the time to dig deep and discover what this website was all about.

So, why didn’t I?

Like many financial websites, I assumed it wasn’t really going to change much of my current financial process of budgeting, saving, investing, and debt-free living. For many years now, I have been disciplined in my finances, so I wasn’t seeing the need to throw one more layer of personal finance tracking into my current process.

But a few months ago, through the encouragement of some friends of mine, I decided to give Mint.com another look.

Now I get it.

I’m not sure why I didn’t understand the beauty of this site five years ago. Because we now live in the age of electronic banking, we all have website accounts that need to be monitored. These websites include multiple bank checking and saving accounts, investment accounts, credit card accounts, and perhaps other loan accounts such as student loans.

So, once I actually took some time and plugged all my electronic accounts into Mint.com, I began to see the beauty of the website. Mint.com became my own personal finance dashboard. Instead of visiting all of my accounts individually, I could have a snapshot of my family’s financial health in one convenient website.

As I was reviewing my financial dashboard the other day, I had this thought:

Used correctly, an account on Mint.com can help people to focus on three important principles of the wealthy.

3 Important Principles Of The Wealthy

Source Note: These three principles were taken from Rich vs. Poor People Principles by Harv T. Ekker.

  1. Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people play the money game to not lose. With the way the financial dashboard is set-up on Mint.com, it has a quasi-game feeling to it. And, if you are the competitive type, I can see the dashboard having a unique way to encourage you to pay off debt, save, and invest.
  2. Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people focus on their working income. Due to the nature of this financial dashboard, you have a clear picture of your net worth. Mint.com automatically adds up all your assets and subtracts your liabilities, leaving you with your net worth at the end. Mint does a great job with this wealth principle. I’ve enjoyed watching my net worth grow each month. Thumbs way up!
  3. Rich people manage their money well. Poor people mismanage their money well. At the end of the day, Mint.com is a great tool to manage your personal finances well. Now, you still have to put work into your personal finance management. Mint doesn’t do this management for you automatically, but this website sure can help you become a better money manager.

I realize that not everybody out there is as detailed and compulsive as I am regarding stewardship and personal finances. I am always on the lookout for new ideas and great tools to give me an even greater edge in this area of life. Mint.com is one of those tools to give you an advantage in living out the principles of the wealthy.

Questions: Do you use Mint.com in your personal finances? Why or why not? If you do use this service, do you agree with my assessment of the manner in which it helps you focus on these three wealth principles? Why or why not?






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Does The Bible Really Contain A Secret Money Code?

Photo by Susan Kambalu

Photo by Susan Kambalu

Sean Hyman And The Biblical Money Code

His advertisements are everywhere!

Over the last few months, it seems like anytime I have my local talk radio station on, Fox News, or simply browsing the web, I keep running into advertisements for Sean Hyman’s Biblical Money Code.

A few weeks ago, I was curious enough to just go ahead and purchase the lowest subscription possible to check out what all the hype is on this Biblical Money Code book is all about.

Buying The Biblical Money Code book is really more of an opportunity for you to end up on an email subscription to the Ultimate Wealth Report plus NewsMax.com. Of course, this is the new normal in today’s digital marketing age, so now I am blessed with at least two to three extra emails cluttering up my inbox each day!

But, you do also receive several ebooks and other pieces of financial information for your purchase. It’s not a complete “bait and switch.”

Who Is Sean Hyman?

Sean Hyman is a former pastor who has allegedly moved from making $15,000 a year to now giving away up to $50,000 a year. He didn’t make this kind of money in church work, however! Here’s a portion of Sean’s bio regarding his financial work:

Sean Hyman has become a trusted correspondent on CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg due to his extensive background in the financial markets, having spent more than 20 years in the investing trenches. Over that time, he’s been a stockbroker at Charles Schwab, a trading course instructor for foreign exchange market maker Forex Capital Markets (FXCM), a financial writer for numerous outlets, and a key speaker at conferences both nationally and internationally. Over the course of his career Hyman has also held five financial licenses …

… Sean Hyman became the editor of the Ultimate Wealth Report newsletter because he loves teaching and helping others to have a better life than what they’d had before. His goal with the Ultimate Wealth Report is “to shepherd readers in the right direction so their wealth doesn’t get eaten away by inflation, but rather benefits from the rise of inflation.”

A Fast Overview Of The Six Keys

The primary ebook focused on the Biblical Money Code that you receive as part of your subscription is called The Six Keys To Financial Success. Like many ebooks you receive online, it’s a brief 47 pages and a quick read.

In the ebook’s introduction, Sean makes the case that in order for God to bless us financially, we need to follow all the financial wisdom in Scripture. In order to unlock the full potential of the Biblical Money Code in our lives, we must be fully obedient to all God’s wisdom, not just part. That won’t work.

Sean states that most people only follow some or part of the Biblical financial wisdom found in Scripture. Perhaps, they may tithe on a regular basis, but the rest of their financial life is a complete mess. Or, maybe they live a debt free lifestyle, but don’t tithe.

Sean drives home the point that a believer living in full obedience to each financial principle unlocks the full and complete blessing of God in the area of personal finances.

Here are the six Biblical financial principles that Sean focuses on:

  • Principle #1: Pray for God’s Favor and Blessing In Your Work.
  • Principle #2: Tithes and Offerings: 10% Plus Some, Not Just 10%.
  • Principle #3: Save Money and Reduce Your Debts
  • Principle #4: Invest for Your Future
  • Principle #5: Philanthropy
  • Principle #6: Being the Lender and Not the Borrower

My Take On The The Six Keys To Financial Success

I am of the personal opinion based on my own research PLUS personal experience that there is a “Biblical Money Code.” Is it some kind of big secret or something? No, of course not. But, the Bible does give us A LOT of common sense wisdom when it comes to handling money.

I do believe that God blesses complete obedience to His Word and His will. I also believe in the power of the Law of the Harvest. When you do the right things in the right order and in the right way, you will reap a bountiful harvest.

This is so very true in this area of personal finances. If you follow Biblical financial wisdom in every area (giving, saving, spending, debt, and investing), then God will bless you. You will reap what you have sown.

BUT, I would be hard pressed to say that this will happen every time for every person in every situation, though.

God is God, and He does not always conform to the box that we place Him in. He may allow negative financial circumstances into our lives, even if we may be following this “Biblical Money Code.”

Why would God allow this to happen, though, if we’re playing by these Biblical money rules?

It’s always difficult to pinpoint a definitive answer. We may never know this side of heaven. Perhaps God is teaching us an important spiritual lesson. Maybe He wants us to learn to rely on Him, rather than money. Or, maybe, He wants us to learn a lesson in controlling our emotions and growing in the virtue of patience.

I believe the key is remaining open to growth in your life when your expectations aren’t met, even when you are doing all the right things. But, don’t give up, though. Keep on doing all the right things in spite of the circumstances. There will be a tremendous payoff, eventually. Remain obedient, teachable, and press through to the end!

Questions: Do you believe in a Biblical Money Code? Why or why not? Have you experienced the Law of the Harvest in your personal finances from following these principles?






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3 Ways To Run Your Personal Finances Like America’s Successful Companies

Photo by Sal Falko

Photo by Sal Falko

America’s Best And Brightest

I enjoy hearing success stories of America’s best companies.

In our current political climate which often demonizes hard work and smart business practices, I have an even greater appreciation for companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, Wal-Mart, and Berkshire Hathaway.

Even during the worst economy in decades, these companies have figured out ways to succeed. They have made intelligent financial decisions that have helped them prosper.

I wonder what would happen if we approached our personal finances like these successful companies?

What if we as individuals and families had the financial mindset, will, and tenacity to make it in a difficult economy just like these businesses? If we did, then I believe we would no longer be in a down economy!

There are some great personal finance lessons that we can all learn from these prosperous companies.

3 Ways To Run Your Finances Like Successful Companies

  1. Avoid Debt. Apple, Inc. used to be a great example of this. Apple was formerly a completely debt-free company with billions of dollars in savings. In 2013, though, they decided to go into debt for a number of different reasons which included boosting their stock price, paying out dividends to investors, and taking advantage of our current U.S. corporate tax law. The decision to go into debt was really more of a strategic tax move and not a necessity to stay afloat, financially. Long-lasting wealth is built on the avoidance of debt in any form. In our personal finances, we would be wise to follow the ways of Apple, Inc., pre-2013! Get out of debt as fast as you can and stay out forever!
  2. Pile Up Cash. In our current economic climate, more and more companies are playing it safe: Apple, GE, Yahoo, and Caterpillar, just to name a few. These companies all realize that “Cash is King,” especially in an era of uncertainty. We should have the same mindset in our personal finances. Be sure to have a “baby” emergency fund of at least $1,000 if you’re still paying off any debt. If you’re completely debt free, then you want to have at least three to six months worth of expenses in accessible, liquid cash.
  3. Focus On Revenue Streams: products, traffic, clients, sales, and money. The best U.S. companies out there today have a laser-like focus on bringing in more revenue. They realize that revenue is the life blood for their company’s survival. Click here to see the revenue strategies for three major tech companies. In the same way, we should have laser-like focus on additional streams of income for our families such as side jobs, side businesses, passive income, dividend producing investments, and real estate. I highly recommend a couple of books on this subject from Robert G. Allen: Multiple Streams of Income: How To Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth and Multiple Streams of Internet Income.

Questions: How about you? Are you running your personal finances like these successful companies? Are you avoiding debt, piling up cash, and focused on revenue streams? Why or why not?






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Do Rich People Stuff And File Your Taxes As Late As Possible

Photo by Ken Teegardin

Photo by Ken Teegardin

Tax Season Is Upon Us

It’s tax season. Yippie!

(That was a touch sarcasm if you didn’t catch the tone of my writing voice.)

I recently finished doing all my family’s tax forms. I don’t really enjoy doing my taxes, but who does? This is mainly because I’m either really close to receiving a small refund or owing a ton of money. You see, I have the awesome privilege and responsibility of paying quarterly estimated taxes due to my status as an ordained minister.

My income taxes are not deducted from my paycheck each month, and I like it this way.

(And now, I probably just painted a bullseye on myself for an IRS audit.)

What this means for me, though, is that I need to plan, budget and save accordingly, so that I can pay my federal and state quarterly estimated taxes on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15.

In paying my income taxes this way, I experience the financial “pain” of my taxes. Most people don’t experience this same pain due to tax withholding from each paycheck. Believe me, it’s a totally different experience. The government knows and understands this, too. They don’t want the majority of the population to feel this kind of tax pain.

For 2013, I messed up my tax calculations for a couple of different reasons. Now, I owe a substantial amount to Uncle Sam next week.

While I’m not thrilled with the thought of having to pay a substantial amount of money in addition to what I’ve already paid, I am okay with it.

And why in the world would I be okay with owing the government a bunch of money? Because I have a different tax season financial mindset than your average American.

Two Different Tax Season Mindsets

Poor and lower middle class families typically file early in the tax season.

Why do they file early? I believe this is due to the fact that poorer people tend to view tax season as an opportunity to “make money.” They have structured their withholding as such that they have been enrolled in a one-year forced money-saving program.

The funny thing, though, is that they have essentially loaned their money interest-free to the government for a whole year. They lost the opportunity of using that money for an entire year.

The poor usually have regular income from only one or two jobs. Their tax forms are relatively clean and simple. They can fill out the forms quickly and begin the process of getting their money back.

The sad reality is that the majority of Americans who receive refunds have no real strategic plan for this money once they get it back from the government. They tend to go spend it on stuff that they probably don’t even need, and then the cycle begins anew for another year.

On the other hand, wealthier individuals and families typically file as close to April 15 as possible.

So, why would rich people choose to file so close to the deadline? Probably due to the fact that they feel the pain more of paying taxes. Their tax forms are more complicated. They have a variety of income streams. They have investments. They own a small business. They have more of a producer mindset rather than a consumer one. They understand the value of every dollar they earn.

Rich people definitely experience the pain of paying taxes at a deeper level than poorer people.

And, I wonder what would happen if poorer families had to pay their taxes like wealthier families? My guess is that we would probably experience a tax revolution in this country!

Here are some thoughts on how we can all shift our financial mindsets during tax season.

5 Ways To Shift Our Tax Season Mindsets

  1. Consider tax strategy in your overall budget process. I know when I plan my monthly budget, I want the largest amount of monthly net income in order to leverage what I need leveraged in my family finances, such as debt reduction, savings, and investing.
  2. Give the government exactly what it deserves. No more and no less. Yes, we should pay our taxes. As Christians, we need to be obedient to the laws of the land. But, handing additional money over to the government for them to use interest free for a whole year is not wise stewardship.
  3. Structure tax withholding and payments for equilibrium. You don’t want to owe, but you also don’t want to receive a massive refund, either. Consider meeting with a tax advisor or financial planner to achieve this tax equilibrium.
  4. Start some type of small side business and see your taxes and tax forms become more complicated. If your business is even moderately successful, you will need to pay estimated quarterly taxes. You will now experience the pain associated with paying taxes at a new level.
  5. Create a wise financial plan for any refund money that you may receive. You might consider using the money for debt reduction, savings, or investing. Otherwise, that money is going to somehow wander into Wal-Mart and be gone forever!

Questions: What is your tax season financial mindset? Do you think more like the poor or the rich? Do you file your taxes early or as late as possible? Why or why not?






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How To Craft A Christian Personal Financial Theology

Photo by UnlockingTheBible

Photo by UnlockingTheBible

Let’s Review

In my last post Do You Have A Philosophy Or A Theology When It Comes To Personal Finances?, we explored four separate money beliefs that I believe many Christians operate their financial lives through one of these four belief systems:

  • Money Belief #1: Money is worldly and a necessary evil to survive. Let’s not discuss it.
  • Money Belief #2: Money is a taboo topic for the church world, but I recognize that money is addressed in Scripture.
  • Money Belief #3: I know what God’s Word says about money. I like my money system better. Now, leave me alone!
  • Money Belief #4: I recognize that I am God’s financial manager. I will follow His instructions.

Unfortunately, I believe many of us as Christians have never connected the dots between the whole money issue being addressed throughout the pages of Scripture and our role as money managers for God. The universal church has done a poor job of teaching and preaching what God has taught us about money through His Word.

In my last post, we also looked at the definitions of “Philosopy” and “Theology.” In simple 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, then a theological system of belief is flawless and perfect.

I believe Christians today are operating under financial beliefs invented by man, not a system of belief founded upon the Word of God.

Crafting A Christian Personal Finance Theology

Now is a great time for Christians to return to God’s ways about money. We live in a world that is severely confused on how to handle money at any level whether it’s personal finances, business finances, or government finances. This is why we’re living through such difficult financial times in recent years.

So, as Christians, how do we put together a belief system that is completely based on God’s Word? How do we craft a truly Christian personal finance theology?

Here are my thoughts on how to develop a Biblical theology of money:

  1. Be a regular reader of God’s Word. Shocking, I know. That’s rocket science right there! Seriously though, if you want to know what God has to say about money, you need to be reading through your Bible consistently. Don’t just camp out on a single book of the Bible. Don’t just read the New Testament or only the Old Testament. God’s financial belief system is sprinkled throughout the entire Biblical narrative. You can’t just read the book of Proverbs and nail down your theology of money, although that’s a great place to start.
  2. Attend a Crown Financial Bible Study and Financial Peace University. When people ask me the difference between these two small group studies, this is my response: Crown Financial is more of a true Bible study that is heavy on Scripture and truth. Financial Peace University is a practical, step-by-step financial plan based upon Biblical principles. I have done both, and I highly recommend both for a solid foundation in developing a theology of money.
  3. Google it! Again, I’m sure this is all rocket science that never even occurred to you. Type in the search bar “Bible verses about money” and you will receive 3,350,000 results! I’m looking at the search list, and I’m seeing some great pages to open up and explore.
  4. Read blogs that address personal finances from a Biblical perspective. There are many great Christian personal finance blogs out there, today. Here’s a list of the ones I’m most familiar with:
  5. Be sure to focus on these main areas in developing a Biblical theology: giving, tithing, saving, spending, debt, investing, business, contentment, planning, and stewardship. Check out this great article that addresses these issues and more: 250 Bible Verses about Money.

Questions: Have you ever gone through the process of developing a solid, Biblical theology on money? What other steps have you taken in developing your theology on personal finances?






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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?

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?