Prepare for the Future

This is number 6 in a series I call Financial Freedom. The last post was entitled “You Need a Vacation”.

My wife and I started late preparing for retirement. When we were young it was not an imperative and we lived paycheck to paycheck. Our parents never really instilled the necessity of getting ready for retirement. They did not really prepare themselves for their eventual loss of income. In fact, JP Morgan calculates that 74% of Americans are not saving properly for the future. As I realized their inevitable position it made me think about our own lack of preparation. 2 Corinthians 12:14 “…Children should not save up for their parents but parents for their children.” I did not want to be a burden on my children and as always God provides ways to do so. Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, o sluggard, observe their ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gather her provision in the harvest.” Was an ant being wiser than me? I was being called by God to make a change.

The best way to do this is invest in a 401K and never touch it. In our first few years of marriage we did have a 401K. It accumulated $1500. We closed it out and took the cash for other things. It seemed like a small amount and we really needed the money. I now think differently. Proverbs 27:23 “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds.” We do not have flocks and herds today. We have money. Different times and ways of exchange but the concept holds true. I needed to be aware of what I had and the future. What preparation was I making? Really none! I knew something was wrong until the title of an articles caught my eye …”How to Become a Millionaire”. Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? The article was about something called compound interest. The concept astounded me. Leave it to God to come up with answers to hard questions. Here is how it works.

Let’s say I was 25 when I cashed in that $1500 but this time I decided to leave it in a 401K. If I left it alone and never touched it along with a conservative rate of 8% return then that would grow into over $80000 by the time I was 75. Pretty cool! I did no work and gained $78500. Now let’s say I was really wise, like the ants, and put in an extra $30 a week. Cost of a cup of coffee every day? At the age of 75 that looks like 1.1 million. Wait what!? Yes, that’s right. An investment of almost $80K over 50 years will make you a millionaire in retirement. Not only that but most companies have a matching program and investing more will inflate that number.. Praise God that He has come up with ways to do the thing He calls you to do. BTW … Had I started saving with my first job at the age of 15, over the course of 60 years that is 2.5 million. Can anyone afford not to invest in their future?

1. Prayerfully decide how much you will set aside for your future. Figure out how much you will need to retire. Seek advice from a professional if necessary.

2. Ask God to give you the resources necessary to prepare for the future.

3. Thank God for the abundance He has provided so that you can prepare for tomorrow.

I wish I had started saving at 15. We started saving later in life. The good news is that it is not too late to start. For us we still had some time but needed to be more aggressive than if we had started earlier. We started by contributing the minimum amount matched by our work. We then increased this amount as promotions and raises allowed until we reached our goal. Right now we are on track. We have been fortunate. God has been very good to us. We did have to make some sacrifices at first. Lesser vacations and fewer dinners out. A warning though. Matthew 6:24 “… You cannot serve both God and money.” The goal is not to accumulate wealth. The goal is to make preparations for your elderly years. It’s our responsibility and our calling.

My prayer for you and me is that we trust God’s word, do as He commands, make a plan then faithfully act on our preparations for the future.

Misers Never Prosper

This is part 3 of 10 in a series I call Financial Freedom. The previous was called Save for a Rainy Day:

I’m a saver. What that means to those who may not understand is that any time I spend money on anything frivolous I feel guilty. It could be something as inexpensive as a pack of gum. A totally unnecessary expense in my mind that carries a small amount of burden with it’s purchase. I am not exactly sure why I get this feeling but I will say it may be a product of my youth.

My grandparents grew up in a different time. When they were young, times were difficult. They learned to use everything they had. Nothing was thrown away because there was always a use for it. When my grandfather died, I had the job of helping get my grandmother organized. What I found astounded me. I wouldn’t exactly call them hoarders but they did save things that may one day have a use. There were 3 freezers full of leftovers, a closet full of empty plastic containers for more leftovers and another closet full of shoes along with a shed full of cardboard. All useful things. Their house was tidy and clean but full of things they would never be able to use. I don’t hold any ill for them as I understand that they were a product of a different time. Indeed, we could all learn from there frugal habits but there needs to be boundaries on what is practical.

There are much more extreme examples. An 18th century man named Daniel Dancer is known for his miserly ways. His saving went to the extreme. He would not bathe or wash his clothes with soap because he did not want to spend the money. Dancer barred his front door and exited an upper level window so no thief could steal his things. Only taking one meal a day he died a lonely life. In fact, Dancer refused medical attention in the end even though money was hidden throughout his house. Consider these verses Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal: for where your treasure is, there our heart will be also.” and Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Do not worry about tomorrow: for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Was fear creating an unhealthy attitude toward saving in preparation for what could happen? We know that saving is good but at what point are we not trusting God for tomorrow? Consider this … Jesus himself used resources in ways that seemed frivolous. Familiarize yourself with the story of Mary anointing Jesus in John 12. Mary anointed Jesus feet with very expensive perfume which could have been sold for a great deal of money. When she was chastised by Judas, Jesus proved her act justified. Now there are many things that could be learned from this passage but what I would submit is not everything need be used for the poor or in seemingly righteous means. There is benefit in sometimes spending some on ourselves. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 ” Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God had given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.”

My interpretation of this is to spend some of your hard earned money on yourself. This is God’s gift to you! Working hard with no reward is draining. Forbes magazine suggests that those who spend money on experiences are happier than others. It does not need to be a lot, complicated, righteous or hinge on anyone elses expectation. It just needs to be meaningful to you. It could be movie tickets, dinner out, a pair of shoes or an origami class. You decide but it must bring you personal satisfaction and cannot break the bank. It will be different for everyone based on budget, time, ability and personality.

  1. Ask God to reveal in you any misplaced attitudes you have toward money and the things it buys. Put fear of the future at the top of that list. God has the future taken care of.
  2. List areas that may be hold outs for a sinful nature. These may include overspending, hoarding or miserly ways. Ask forgiveness for these impediments to your relationship with God.
  3. Consider ways you can spend a little on yourself. Make a list and prayerfully consider which ones are doable within your budget. Enjoy!

Here is an experience I had a number of years ago. It was a big leap for me at the time but it was a hobby that brought me joy. I wanted to save $500 to build a climate controlled room in my garage to hold reptiles. I know this sounds odd to most but it was a frivolous expense at the time. I saved a little out of my personal allowance for months. It took about 1 year but was very satisfying and it paid dividends in some unexpected ways.

I had no skills to do the job so I enlisted the help of my stepfather. Quite the handy guy! In a couple days we built a small space in my garage. I learned how to build walls, run electric and hang drywall. However, the best part was spending quality time with my stepfather. I had never had a male figure willing to help with no strings attached. My faith was being restored by a simple act of kindness. I will admit that was unexpected. The finished product was super useful. I later turned the space into a small animal breeding business and when we sold that house it was one of the selling points that the buyers desired. But the most beneficial outcome in my wife’s eyes was that the animals she feared would never need to be viewed by her again. I witnessed so much in this frivolous act … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. God is able to produce fruit in ways we could not imagine if we faithfully seek Him.

My prayer for you is that God would reveal unhealthy extremes in saving and help you identify positive ways to spend money on yourself.

Save for a Rainy Day

This is the second installment of a 10 part series I have entitled Financial Freedom. The first is entitled “Tithe”.

My wife lost her job in our second year of marriage. We were not sure how we were going to manage. She has always been our main source of income. I simply did not make enough to support us. To add insult to injury we had expensive repairs to do on my car. I recall leaving work to find her outside in tears. She was devastated. There was no money to pay for it and we needed our vehicle. We felt helpless! It’s a terrible feeling to need something and not be able to get it. We survived the storm but it could have been so much easier. (Familiarize yourself with the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis) The nation of Egypt was experiencing a time of plenty but there was a storm brewing. They were forewarned of a time of famine. They placed their faith in Jospeh who followed God’s leading. Instead of making themselves fat on their abundance they saved up enough to get them through the emergency. Not only did God provide their need but there was enough left to help their neighbors as well. As an added bonus, Egypt grew rich while other peoples were failing under the strain. Egypt survived because they trusted someone who trusted God.

Everyone experiences troubles in life. Car repairs, illness and joblessness to name a few. When it happens, trust God to have your best interest in mind. (Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.) But before an emergency happens, take the advice Joseph gave to the Egyptians and act likewise. (Proverbs 21:20 There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but foolish men swallow it up.) Emergencies will happen but if you are prepared they can be much easier to ride out with a little preparation. Most people do not prepare well enough. Indeed, Bankrate did a survey which found that only 39% of Americans have $1000 saved for emergencies. According to The Atlantic an average emergency room visit costs $2168. This could be devastating for those without insurance.

Here is what I suggest. Try to save at least 3 months of income. Even a little is a lot. My mother gave me good advice once. I wish I had listened sooner. Even if it is just $10 a month it adds up. Make whatever adjustment you are able. Be creative. Perhaps you could save pocket change or change you get from bottle returns. Our plan was to save in times of plenty. Whenever we had some windfall or extra leftover it would get put away for a rainy day. Raises and bonuses were put away until we got our 3 month backup. Do it however you want but do something not nothing. A little bit will add up but don’t be tempted to spend your emergency money on just anything.

A. Pray for guidance as you make your plan. Put it in writing. Share this plan.

B. Be thankful that God has provided the resources to save up for emergencies.

C. Pray that God keeps you faithful in saving and gives you strength to resist the temptation to spend your emergency stash.

I was a amazed at how easy it was to save once we had committed ourselves to it! We had 3 months safety net within 2 years! Over many years we were able to save up 6 months. Praise God that we were no longer devastated by emergency car repairs. We were experiencing a freedom from the minor storms that life brings by faithfully acting on the concepts exhibited in the Bible. It exhilarated me to realize something about the Bible. It works! By following simple truths put forth thousands of years ago, I could be free from bondage today. I believed in the Bible but had I really seen these concepts at work so plainly like this? I always just wanted my problems to magically disappear or for money to magically appear. Thank God that he was thinking of me when he breathed words into a book for generations to learn from. I was motivated to seek more knowledge about not only money but life in general. Our new found freedom in faithfully saving was yielding dividends in other areas of life. Not only did it allow us to experience less stress in the lean times but it made us more effective Christians. Only God can do that! (Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”) He will multiply our simple obedience in ways you would not have imagined.

My prayer for you is that God would motivate you to save for a rainy day and to let the Holy Spirit reveal truth about saving that will spill over into other aspects of your life.