I remember a story my mom told about the financial plan of a family that lived near them early in my dad’s military career. As per usual, at the beginning of each month, the military paid their men. The wives took the grocery money to the commissary, and each month, among her other items, this neighbor would buy a huge sack of potatoes—way more than any normal family would eat in a month.
Mom got curious, so she asked about the potatoes. The reply was simple: there wasn’t enough money to last to the end of the month, so when they ran out of money, the family survived on potatoes.
I wonder at this. Clearly, this woman could plan. After all, she planned to buy potatoes to last them through. But they didn’t take time to make a plan for their money. The money controlled them, and they paid by eating nothing but potatoes for several days every month.
Today military families have evolved past this. Now we use credit cards and payday loans to get by.
The statistics on our finances
A recent study by the Federal Reserve found that 47% of Americans could not cover a $400 emergency. As in they either didn’t have $400 cash saved or they couldn’t put the $400 expense on a credit card and pay it off by the end of the month.
Four hundred dollars. That’s less than many car payments.
And for the record, that includes 27% of those earning more than $100,000 per year.
The financial crunch gets worse.
A disconnect is obvious because 65% of respondents to the Federal Reserve’s survey believe they are doing okay or living comfortably. In other words, some of those people who cannot cover a $400 emergency believe things are fine!
20% of the respondents reported their spending exceeded their income in the twelve months prior to the survey. One out of every five people knowingly spent more than they made.
And 31% of non-retirees have no retirement savings or pension. None. Zero.
If you see yourself in some of the statistics above, don’t be dismayed. You can improve. Your checkbook, savings, and retirement balances can go up, and your debts can go down.
And it’s not as complicated as you think.
Does the Bible talk about us having a financial plan?
Perhaps you’ve heard that the Bible talks about money a lot. A quick word search in the New International Version of the Bible found this:
- wealth/wealthy—126 verses
- money—113 verses
- rich/riches—154 verses
That’s almost 400 verses with just these three words!
What about other possibilities? For example, Paul says in Philippians 4:15, “Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.” That’s clearly talking about money but doesn’t have the words I listed above.
Scripture is full of financial references, and that means God wanted us to get it right.
God gives us general counsel, like Proverbs 11:28.
Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.
And specific counsel, like Proverbs 22:26-27
Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.
The problem isn’t that the advice to handle our finances well isn’t available to us. No, the problem is worse. As I look back on my own life, I see at least three problems:
1. I didn’t bother to look for God’s financial plan.
Many years ago, my husband and I sold a car to a young man who couldn’t get a loan on his own. HIs grandmother didn’t qualify as a cosigner, but my husband did. If we had more faithfully read Proverbs back then, we wouldn’t have cosigned on that loan.
2. I didn’t like the advice I received so I ignored it.
Let’s face it. Starting out on a budget after years of spending what you want is tough. And when you see that item you really want on sale for an incredible price, you’d be a fool to pass it up, right? That’s how far too many people get into financial messes.
3. I followed the example of people who weren’t doing any better than I was.
How many times have you heard things like “car loans are normal” or “everyone lives paycheck-to-paycheck”? That type of thinking keeps people enslaved to debt. Never thought of yourself as a slave? Think again!
The borrower is slave to the lender.
Let me be clear that the Bible does not say that debt is sin, so do not feel condemnation for having a mortgage, car loan, or even credit card debt. But before you relax too much, you need to know that the Bible does not have anything positive to say about debt.
Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.
So what do we do?
If you want to get out of your financial rut and build wealth, then you must start with your dream. Figure out why you’d like to get on a budget and save money. And I mean to go deeper than “because God says it’s smart.”
What would you do if you reached retirement age, everything was fully paid for (including your house), and you had five million dollars sitting in the bank?
Go on. Dream …
Got it? That ideal situation … the places you’d visit or the things you would do … that’s why you budget. And get out of debt. And save.
If you need help to know what to do now that you have your dream goal in place, then check out these great books. They’ll walk with you every step of the way.
Money. It’s one of the biggest stressors in marriages. Many live paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to both cover all the bills and save for retirement. Often husband and wife disagree over petty expenses, forgetting that they are on the same team. But money doesn’t have to be a constant battle. Not only does the Bible give a lot of guidance, but God also provided examples of people getting it right. With a shift in focus and a little disciplined effort, you can gain control over your finances instead of your finances controlling you.
If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else. Do you want to turn those fat and flabby expenses into a well-toned budget? Do you want to transform your sad and skinny little bank account into a bulked-up cash machine? Then get with the program, people. There’s one sure way to whip your finances into shape, and that’s with The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition.
When you hear the word retirement, you probably don’t imagine yourself scrambling to pay your bills in your golden years. But for too many Americans, that’s the fate that awaits unless they take steps now to plan for the future. Whether you’re twenty-five and starting your first job or fifty-five and watching the career clock start to wind down, today is the day to get serious about your retirement.