Activities, Budgeting, Money Management, Saving

Ask Chuck: Help Me Get Our Spending Under Control

By: Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

We have to cut our spending this year, but I really don’t know where to begin. When I bring up the subject, my spouse always has an excuse. If we don’t get things under control, we are going to face eviction from our landlord. 

Cash Crunch

Dear Cash Crunch,

I’m so glad that you wrote to me and are ready to make some big changes. My hope is that if you set a clear direction, your spouse will be inspired to join in the effort. Forced eviction is devastating emotionally; it is expensive and wrecks your credit score. Let’s work hard to avoid it!

Some of the obvious ways to reduce spending include eliminating the big expenses, like a car payment or rental/living costs in excess of 40% of your net spendable income. Look at both of those expenses closely, and determine if you need to make any changes. If not, there are some not-so-obvious ways you can save money each month that really add up over time. Cutting what seems like a necessity may seem impossible, but over time, the sacrifice will prove rewarding. Here are a few examples I want you to consider.

Do You Really Need Amazon Prime?

Membership fees jump for new members on February 18th. Renewals take the hit on March 25th. The annual cost will be $139/year plus taxes or $14.99/month plus taxes. An alternative is to keep a shopping list until you reach a total that qualifies for free shipping from Amazon or other companies. You may have limited shipping options, but this leads to better planning and less impulse purchasing. You can also use Amazon gift cards to limit spending since a credit card is not linked to your account.

Do You Really Need That Streaming Service?

According to The Streamable, in 2021, the average viewer had five or more subscriptions. The top five include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, and HBO Max. In May 2021, Bloomberg reported that the average streaming consumer spends $40 per month. That comes to $480 per year! Different streaming prices can be seen here. The average cost of cable TV comes in at $64 but can run from $11 to $127 or more per month.

Do You Really Need Audible or Spotify?

Free audiobooks are available via Overdrive and Hoopla with a library card. Spotify and other small monthly fees that seem insignificant can really add up. Nothing is too small to eliminate to help you avoid eviction!

There’s More

Look at your spending with a critical eye. What could you realistically eliminate? What are your real needs? What do you need to reprioritize? Small daily purchases can add up quickly.

Analyze what is spent on subscription services, fast food, coffee, bottled water, shoes, clothes, gym membership and gear, house plants, manicures, pedicures, tattoos, haircuts and color, lottery tickets, toys for children, etc.

Challenge

Ask your spouse to join you in tracking all spending for the next 30 days. When Ann and I did this years ago, we found that recording each dollar spent made us more aware of our actions. We realized that we had some costly habits. Write down your expenses. Don’t leave anything off your list so that you know where your money is really going.

After 30 days, come together and share what you learn. It may only take a few days before a heightened awareness sets in. Prayerfully discuss what you could sacrifice for six months or a year. I suggest you gently educate your spouse on the long-term benefits. Can you agree to get the help of a mentor or come under the accountability of trusted friends? How about planning a reward when reaching your goal? You can likely cut back on your spending by 25% by just changing some of your habits.

Once you get your spending under control and avoid eviction, there are many other reasons people decide to better manage their money. Reduced spending builds the habit of saving, and with the help of automatic deductions, people learn to live without. The possibilities can include:

  • Building an emergency fund
  • Paying off debt
  • Saving for retirement
  • Giving more generously
  • Having funds for vacations, a move, a business, education, holidays, births, deaths, etc.

Years ago, a woman confided in my wife that she was tired of her husband limiting her spending. She felt like she was being treated as a child. Ann listened and then asked, “Have you considered the possibility that he loves you so much that he wants to protect you and save for your future together?” The thought had never entered the woman’s mind. It changed her entire perspective and opened the door to healthy dialogue about their finances.

We enter marriage with a philosophy of money. Most often, we marry an opposite. The goal is uniting around God’s principles regarding our finances. Pray about how to lovingly communicate with your spouse. Treat him/her with respect and love so you can make progress. My desire is to see God’s people free and marriages united, strong, and thriving. We must recognize the errors in what the world has taught us about finances and have our minds renewed by God’s truth. Consider this effort to lead the way out of this crisis the best gift you can give your spouse.

If credit card debt is a source of frustration in your marriage, consider contacting Christian Credit Counselors. They specialize in assisting people with getting out of debt and on the road to financial freedom, and they are a trusted source of help.

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Budgeting, Goals, Money Management, Personal Goals

7 Steps to Achieving Your Financial Goals This Year

By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

Another year has come and gone, and last year’s goals are now in the history books. So how did you do? If you want some guidance in achieving your financial goals this year, then read on! Below are 7 steps to achieving your financial goals this year:

1) Be SMART. No, I’m not talking about intelligence. The first step to achieving your goal is to set a strong financial goal that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound). In order for your goal to be strong, you have to really want it (do you have a strong emotional attachment to your goal?). Once you are emotionally invested in your goal, then being SMART with it will strengthen it even further.

2) Know Your WHY. Take some time to determine WHY your goal is so important to you. For example, my wife and I have a goal of moving from our condo to a single-family home in four years because our baby girl (on the way) and future unborn kids are very important to us. We want to raise our kids in a place that is large enough and located in a great school district because family, education, and stability are a top priority. Knowing the WHY behind your goal will help keep you on track when you stumble (and believe me, we all stumble!).

3) Find the Money. Once you have your goal and you know your why, then you need to consistently put money toward your goal. To do so you need to be aware of where you are currently spending your money, and then find savings within your current spending that can be used to fund your goal. One of my favorite tasks as a Dr. Budgets money coach is to find the savings within my client’s current spending that allows them to achieve their financial goals. The key is to keep spending money on what is important to you and cut spending in the areas where you receive very little value from your money.

4) Build A Plan. Now that you have all the facts and figures of your current spending and have determined where the money is going to come from to fund your goal, the next step is to build a spending plan that coincides with your SMART goal. This is also when you may have to adjust the “T” portion of your SMART goal based on your findings from Step 3.

5) Monitor Your Progress. Having a plan is worthless if you don’t follow it. Monitoring your progress and making adjustments along the way is critical to successfully achieving your goal. If you don’t know how you are doing, then you will be flying blind. When I coach my clients, I track their spending and monitor their progress toward their goals, which greatly increases their probability of success.

6) Celebrate! Setting some milestones (or mini financial goals) along the way toward your ultimate goal, then celebrating and rewarding yourself when you hit those milestones, makes your journey much more enjoyable and will help keep you motivated. So think of some experiences or things that you want, then use those as rewards for when you hit your milestones. Also, remember to celebrate when you do achieve your ultimate goal. This is an area where I have had trouble in the past, but I’ve been getting better at rewarding myself, which has made it more fun!

7) Repeat. Repeat Steps 1 – 6 for your next financial goal. I do recommend you limit the number of goals to a maximum of three. Ideally, you want to focus on just one financial goal at a time.

These are my 7 steps to achieving your financial goals this year. I hope you find these steps helpful as you start off the new year. What is your top financial goal this year? What will you do to achieve it? Wishing you a great start to the year!

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Budgeting, Debt, Money Management, Personal Goals

Ask Chuck: Help My Financial Anxiety!

By: Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

My husband and I are both working adults. With 3 kids at home and trying to care for some extended family here and abroad, I am increasingly struggling with financial anxiety. Now the holiday pressures are making it worse. Please help me deal with this! 

Family Financial Stress

Dear Family Financial Stress,

You obviously have a big heart…maybe bigger than your budget can afford.

The Bible says that we are to provide for our own immediate families (1 Timothy 5:8). This is a responsibility that the Lord has entrusted to us. When you add extended family members, here and/or those living in a different country, it is no wonder your stress is great.

Immigrants or children of immigrant parents face pressures that differ from many in the general population. Learning the language, navigating the culture, and the burden to succeed create tremendous stress. In my travels, I have seen how parents in some nations sacrifice greatly to give their children an excellent education. Once in the working world, these children are then expected to sacrifice for their parents. The pressure for a couple to support four aging parents along with their own children can be financially and emotionally crippling.

Financial Anxiety

Researchers at the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that prior to Covid-19, more than half of American adults experienced financial anxiety. The report shows that anxiety occurs in thinking about or discussing money. (This is without the very real pressures you and your husband are shouldering.) Women, young adults, those with financial dependents, and those who are low-income, unmarried, and unemployed feel most anxious. Respondents reported that too many expenses and monthly bills, especially medical expenses, were major factors contributing to high anxiety.

My Advice

First, establish a budget that primarily takes care of your immediate family. Meet with your husband, and discuss the appropriate distribution of the surplus funds that you discover in your budgeting process.

Next, set priorities for whom your budget will allow you to support, and then, determine how much can be allocated to them as the Lord provides.

Communicate to those whom you may not be able to support on a regular basis that you are sorry that you cannot continue. Let them know that you will help them establish a budget, and encourage them to try and take care of their needs themselves.

For those that may be totally dependent on your financial support and are unable to work or care for themselves, set some goals for what you may be able to do should the Lord provide an increase in your income, but live within your budget without compromise.

Make or improve your plan. If grandparents are living with you, possibly they can be asked to make some contribution to the needs of the family, like babysitting, doing household chores, shopping for discounts, cooking, cleaning, or running time-saving errands. Don’t rule out that some family members may be capable of generating income under the right circumstance or opportunity. A friend who operates an online business has his parents that live with them answering emails, praying with customers, and even filling orders.

Consider creative ways to give meaningful gifts that do not cost money. Often, a handmade card, a day spent together, or a poem or song will convey your love far more than a gift that comes in a box.

Reduce Financial Anxiety 

God’s Word gives us financial principles for our good. When we fail to know and live by God’s financial principles, we actually create circumstances that increase our stress. He also told us how to deal with anxiety. Here are some tips that have helped me:

  • Acknowledge Him as your Provider. He is a God of abundance, and He is faithful.
  • Live one day at a time. That means to keep your mind and emotions on today. Matthew 6: 25-34
  • When you are afraid, learn to pray and seek God’s guidance.
  • Cast your cares upon the Lord.
  • Practice gratitude. Give thanks to the Lord for three things every day. Philippians 4:4-9

The key to breaking the anxiety loop is faith exhibited by a deep trust in God’s character and an assurance of His promises.

Faith is a muscle that grows under tension. It is an exercise that must be practiced. Remember the words the apostles spoke to the Lord? “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5 ESV) Or, remember the father who brought his boy with an unclean spirit before Jesus for healing? “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV)

Invite the Lord to intervene and give you peace in the midst of your trial. Ask Him for wisdom to make the right decisions and the words to talk winsomely with your family.

If your pain is from debt, stop all borrowing. Are you in need of a raise? Improve your skills, meet with your boss, and ask for feedback on how to qualify for an increase. Have you mishandled money in the past? Get on a crisis budget, and ask all family members to help.

Crown has many free online courses available to guide you, like budgeting tools and career assessments. Also, if debt is a problem, Christian Credit Counselors is a trusted source of help.

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Budgeting, Debt, Money Management, Saving

Ask Chuck: Time to Get Out of Debt?

By: Chuck Bentley

Dear Chuck,

I have been steadily paying down debt, and the end is within sight. I’m due a sum of money for the sale of some real estate and wonder if I should pay off the remaining debt or save it. Seems like a good time to be debt-free. What would you do?

Almost Debt-Free

Dear Almost Debt-Free,

I can think of only a few reasons why you would not go ahead and become debt-free if you are able. Of course, I don’t have your full financial picture, so I will try to give you a few things to consider as you come to your own conclusion.

Shifting Sands

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. Covid-19 has created stress in many areas of our lives. A Pew Research Center survey reports that half of the non-retired adults say the economic impact of Covid-19 will make it harder to achieve their long-term goals. There are medical and financial pressures along with rising mental health issues. Add to that inflation, the instability in Afghanistan, forest fires, flooding, the possibility of a stock market, and real estate bubble… Need I go on?

A major benefit to being debt-free is that you will be in a much stronger position to weather the economic storms we may face. If your overall picture is good, then pay off all the debt. But, there is more to consider first.

A Safety Net

It is great to be debt-free, but uncertain times also require that you have savings available for emergencies. You want to avoid ending up in the same position six months from now. Therefore, I suggest you give a portion, fund an emergency account, and then apply the rest to debt.

Have you ever done the limbo? The object is to get under a bar without touching it. Budgeting is very similar. Your income represents the bar. Your spending must fall below the bar every month, or you lose.

In limbo, you must take carefully-measured steps to keep as far away from the bar as you can. The gap between your body and the bar is what I call “financial margin,” which we all need. This is the space that grants peace and financial protection in the unexpected storms of life.

It is possible to increase your monthly margin quickly by adjusting your lifestyle. Consider the benefits of choosing to live on far less than you make. Manage the common budget busters—food, entertainment, and transportation—to further reduce expenses.

Other Tips

Paying down the highest interest-bearing note first will save you money in the long run. Paying down multiple small notes can provide a psychological advantage. Repay any late mortgage or rent, utilities, HOA fees, taxes, and car payments so there is no threat of losing your home or car.

Do you owe family members any money? Do not ignore this responsibility. Be honest, and treat them as you would want to be treated so that relationships are not harmed.

Be Intentional 

Even if you do pay off all your debt, it is important to manage your finances well as you go forward. Just because you become debt-free does not guarantee that you will stay that way unless you manage what you have well. Here are my three tips:

  1. Plan ahead: Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3 ESV)
    • Budget wisely. This will keep you from creating more debt and will allow you to build an emergency savings fund. If needed, a crisis budget can get you to a position of financial strength. Here are instructions, an online fillable form, and a spending plan.
  2. Seek counsel: Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22 ESV)
    • Please consider my advice as only one source of those you will turn to for help.
  3. Make wise decisions: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5 ESV)
    • God is the source of all wisdom. When we learn His Word and commit to live by it, everything in our lives will begin to take on new excitement and joy. Using money to fulfill God’s purposes for your life will be the best financial decision you can make.

Thank you for the question. I don’t think you can go wrong if you pay off the debt and commit to following the steps above.

For more guidance, especially if your debt is related to credit cards, please consider contacting Christian Credit Counselors. They are a trusted source of help.

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Budgeting, Money Management

You Don’t Need an Emergency Fund for These Financial “Emergencies”

BY DANIEL RODRIGUEZ

An emergency fund (or cash reserve fund) is important to your financial security. I would say paying off high-interest debt and building up an emergency fund are the foundation of your financial stability. This rings even more true during these unprecedented times. But, when should you tap into your emergency fund? What constitutes a financial emergency? I believe the list of actual financial emergencies is short. This would include unexpected life events such as losing your job, a large medical bill, an expensive auto repair, or a substantial home repair. So, what is NOT a financial emergency and how should you plan for those expenses? Here are some items that I would not consider financial emergencies:

Property Taxes. If you use an escrow account to pay for your property taxes, then you are funding your property tax payment every month. This is an easy way to ensure you aren’t surprised by your property tax bill. If, on the other hand, you don’t use an escrow account, then you should be prepared to pay for this expense every year by budgeting for it in your monthly housing expenses.

Most Home Maintenance Expenses. Owning a house means having home maintenance expenses. There are countless things that need to be fixed or maintained. It is important to have a line item in your spending plan for home maintenance expenses. You can use an average of your home maintenance expenses for the past three years to give you a ballpark estimate. You can then round that figure up to account for unexpected expenses. This will at least give you a baseline estimate, rather than having a $0 budget line item for expenses that will invariably come up.

Most Auto Expenses. Buying new tires is not a financial emergency! Your auto registration is also not a financial emergency. Just like with home maintenance, there should be a line item for auto maintenance expenses and auto registration. These expenses happen every year, so you should be prepared to pay for these when they happen.

Most Health Services. This one is similar to home and auto maintenance, but this one is for maintenance on yourself and your family! Every year, doctor, dentist, and eyecare expenses probably come up (some years more than others), so you should plan for them. This one is harder to estimate because these expenses are much more unpredictable. I always advise budgeting higher than anticipated to create a “buffer” in your budget. If you end up spending less, then great! But, if you end up spending more, then the financial shock won’t be as dramatic.

Tax Preparation. If you have someone prepare your taxes every year, then you should factor it into your spending plan. I advise people to take their annual cost for tax preparation, then divide it by 12 to give them a monthly amount for their budget.

Holiday Gifts. This is another spending category that happens every year that seems to catch people by surprise. Similar to tax preparation, I would take the total spending on holiday gifts then divide it by 12 to give you a monthly amount for your spending plan.

How can you plan for all of these expenses in a simple way? I’m glad you asked! I would use a separate checking or savings account (“Irregular Account”) for most of your non-monthly expenses. You can then use one account to save for your property taxes, estimated home maintenance expenses, auto maintenance expenses, auto registration, health services expenses, and tax preparation fees. When you have large expenses in any of those areas, you can pay for them directly out of your Irregular Account or “reimburse” your main checking account. You can also include holiday gifts in your Irregular Account. Alternatively, you can set up a separate savings account for holiday gifts, then transfer that money to your main checking account right before you start your holiday gift spending.

I hope this was helpful in learning why you don’t need an emergency fund for most financial “emergencies.”

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Credit, Holiday Tips, Money Management

Should you buy now and pay later?

By: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Buy Now, Pay Later

If you’ve shopped online recently, you may have noticed new payment options at checkout, including buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) credit, for purchases like clothing, electronics, furniture, and exercise equipment. BNPL is a type of deferred payment option that generally allows you to purchase items with little to no money paid upfront, followed by installment payments. Its use has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey, 42% of American consumers have used BNPL at least once. Although features of BNPL sound similar to traditional layaway, credit cards, or other loans, there are distinct differences. It’s essential to understand the benefits and risks that come with BNPL (or any financial product) before making your next purchase.

How BNPL works

Products that are eligible for BNPL range in price from less than $100 to several thousand dollars. When you’re buying one of these products using BNPL, you will select that option at checkout online or in an app. If approved, the purchase is sent to you and the cost is split into a payment schedule – typically four fixed payments made bi-weekly or monthly until the balance is paid in full. Approval takes minutes, with no interest or finance charges.

Unlike credit card companies or other consumer loan lenders, BNPL companies generally don’t conduct a hard credit inquiry when you apply. Instead, most BNPL providers only require the following:

  • You’re at least 18 years old
  • You have a mobile phone number
  • You have a debit or credit card to make payments
  • They are able to validate your identity.

BNPL may seem straightforward and convenient; however, you should consider a few things before selecting this option to make a purchase.

Don’t overextend your finances

BNPL can be a tempting payment option for many consumers because it makes it easy to purchase something today and pay for it later. Because you can qualify for BNPL without passing a hard credit inquiry, make sure you have a good sense of your finances and whether the payments will fit within your budget. Just because you qualify for BNPL or any other credit product, doesn’t mean you should use it. Contact a qualified financial advisor if you need help creating a budget or check out the CFPB’s resources.

Understand credit reporting

Your repayment behavior on many types of loans and credit products is reported to consumer reporting companies. This can help you establish credit or build a credit score or hurt your credit profile if you make late payments or use too much of your available credit. Some consumers might assume that BNPL credit helps them build their credit history. It’s important to know that most BNPL credit is not reported to the credit bureaus and won’t impact your credit score. If getting or building credit is your goal, use our resources to better understand how to improve your credit record over time.

While most BNPL companies don’t currently report to consumer reporting companies, there are some that do. If you make a late payment, and the BNPL company reports your late payment to a credit reporting company, this can harm your credit history. Be sure to research whether or not a BNPL company reports to credit bureaus before using their service.

BNPL products can carry late fees

While many BNPL companies don’t charge interest, most do charge late fees if you miss a payment. In addition, you could be blocked from future purchases until you make past payments and could even have your debt sent to a debt collector if you fail to repay. Because lenders have different fees and policies, it is important to carefully review the BNPL terms and conditions to understand your obligations. Also, be aware that your bank may charge you an overdraft or NSF fee if you sign up for automatic repayment through your debit card or bank account and don’t have enough funds to cover the payment.

BNPL products don’t have the same protections as other types of credit

Like a credit card, you can use BNPL to make a purchase and pay for it later over time. However, BNPL loans currently lack the consumer protections that apply to credit cards. For example, BNPL companies don’t offer the same dispute protections as credit cards if the item you purchase is faulty or a scam. Returning merchandise bought with BNPL can sometimes be complicated. The BNPL company may hold you responsible for the total cost of purchase even after you’ve returned the product, so be sure to read and understand the merchant’s specific return policies.

Compare BNPL to other payment options

BNPL offers aren’t the only new payment option you might find when making an online purchase. There are other types of installment loans that let you repay purchases over a longer time, though some of these loans charge interest and may also charge late fees. Most of the other loan options also do a hard credit inquiry when you apply and report your payments to the credit bureaus, which could help or hurt your credit score.

As with any loan or credit offer, make sure you can afford to make the payments on time and that you understand the terms of the loan before agreeing to it.

 

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Finance, Investing, Money Management

Ask Chuck: Is Day Trading A Bad Idea?

By: Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

My son’s college roommate made some money in day trading. Now my son wants in on the action. I’m not sure what to tell him, except to avoid it!

Day Trading Fears

Dear Day Trading Fears,

The Bible talks a lot about investing, so I will be able to give you some of those principles to help direct your son. He is jumping on to a very hot trend among young people right now.

Here is a simple framework of my core beliefs about this topic:

  1. Investing is not gambling.
  2. Day trading is not investing.
  3. Investing should be done according to God’s principles.

Day Trading on the Rise 

Day traders are traders who execute intraday strategies to hopefully profit off relatively short-lived price changes for a given asset. On the contrary, investors look to maintain ownership of a given asset indefinitely to give it the opportunity to increase in value.

Recently, Felix Salmon at Axios.com wrote: “Never mind saving for retirement. Gen Z has embraced the stock market as a place to make short-term gains.” Technology, social media, and overconfident young people are causing the resurgence of day trading. Barriers to entry are low, numerous apps make trading easy, and they do not fear risk or failure. They only see potential wins.

According to Investopedia, active traders desire to profit quickly from price fluctuations and only hold trades for a brief period of time. They generally focus on stocks, foreign currency, futures, and options. Volume is necessary because price changes may only be in pennies. Day traders make tens or hundreds of trades per day. Swing traders open or close positions every few days. Active investing is slightly different. It involves ongoing buying and selling activity to beat the market. Portfolios are rearranged to adjust to the market. Passive investing is a buy-and-hold strategy for those interested in long-term investments with minimal trading. It is cheaper, less complex, and for those who desire to build wealth gradually. Each has pros and cons. But beware, some of these methods violate God’s principles.

Investing is Not Gambling

The only thing investing and gambling have in common is they both involve financial risk. However, they radically differ in one key aspect—how you create a financial gain. Gambling requires that other participants lose in order for you to gain. Investing requires that everyone must win in order for you to gain.

Gamblers do not care if others lose, only that they win. The Bible warns against this attitude.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV)

Day Trading is Not Investing

While not actually gambling in the strict sense, day trading is certainly more akin to it than investing.

The Bible warns: “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (TLB)

My friend, Tim Macready, former Chief Investment Officer at Christian Super, a pension fund located in Australia, says: “At a personal level, investing represents an opportunity to provide for our future needs by setting aside money today and growing it for the future. At a societal level, the assets we invest can be used for productive purposes—to support the creation of goods, services, and jobs that support human flourishing.”

People fail to recognize that investing is ownership in a company. Robin John, CEO of Eventide, says “The real issue that we face today is that investors are divorced from their investing.”

Investing is willingly placing your funds into a business, commodity, or other assets to allow it time to grow and increase in value. This takes patience, knowledge, and wisdom.

Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV) says, “By wisdom, a house is built, and through understanding, it is established; through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

To apply this proverb to investing, we must read, learn, research, study, and understand what we are investing in to create lasting wealth. While many may claim the same approach to day trading, it is difficult to defend rapid trading as a wise approach.

Jonny Wills at FaithDrivenInvestor.org says, “An influx of novice investors is blurring the line between investing and gambling….How should I view the resources God has put in my hands? Is money a toy or is it a tool?”

Invest According to God’s Principles 

Vince Birley, CEO of Vident Financial, says, “Christians should see financial markets as a great test to ensure that their love and security stay with God and are not misplaced with money.”

Unfortunately, day trading is often driven by greed. Combine that with overconfidence, and you’ve got a dangerous situation. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus told the parable of the rich fool. He said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Encourage your son to be a good steward of what God provides. Suggest that he takes a Crown course to learn more of God’s economic principles, as a foundation for how he approaches his finances. At Crown, we have many resources on learning God’s principles of investing.

I also recommend that he begins to read and learn from some of the great investors before making any trades or investments. Many resources are available, starting with works by Benjamin Graham, Peter Lynch, Sir John Templeton, or Warren Buffet. They offer experienced insights into becoming a serious investor. Young people desire to make a difference in society. Perhaps he would also be interested in learning about impact investing.

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Budgeting, Credit Cards, Debt, Money Management

Ask Chuck: My Spouse is an Impulsive Spender

By: Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

Do you have any advice for someone married to an impulsive spender?

Cautious Budgeter 

Dear Cautious Budgeter, 

Sounds like you may be married to an opposite financial personality; my wife and I can relate! 

Most of us have made an impulsive purchase at some point in time. Others struggle with it more frequently. Or they are married to one who does. I was the impulse spender in our marriage for many years. To be clear, impulse spenders buy what they want without considering the consequences. Their behavior negatively impacts others, and the financial stress can be terrible. 

It can be difficult to determine if someone is impulsive, compulsive, or materialistic. Some definitions will help here: 

Materialistic describes one who is excessively concerned with physical comforts or the acquisition of wealth and material possessions. This is an issue of the heart that drives the behavior. Often, people live ignorant of or in denial of this spiritual deception. 

Impulse buying is often related to anxiety or depression. Those who struggle with their self-image desire acceptance, respect, or attention. They shop whether they can afford to or not, in an attempt to meet those needs or boost their mood. Some call this “retail therapy.”   

Compulsive spending, on the other hand, is an uncontrollable desire to shop. It results in spending large amounts of time and money and tends to escalate over time. Mental Health America gives 4 stages of compulsive spending: anticipation, preparation, shopping, then spending. If impulse buying impacts budgets, compulsive spending can destroy them! 

Symptoms of Compulsive Spending:

  • Spending a significant portion of income on discretionary purchases
  • Accumulating a large amount of consumer debt
  • Spending continually, despite resolutions to stop
  • Hiding purchases from loved ones 
  • Experiencing more excitement in purchasing than owning 
  • Feeling let down or shame after buying something
  • Buying things not needed, not using what’s bought
  • Suffering relationship problems due to spending
  • Feeling ashamed of the spending problem
  • Getting agitated or excited when shopping
  • Feeling that the next big purchase will improve life 
  • Shopping is the primary or only means to cope with stress

A Change of Heart 

To help your spouse identify if he/she is struggling with materialism, consider doing an online Crown study together. Typically, the behavior will not change until the heart is transformed. In my own experience, I had to repent of the control money had over my life. I surrendered my life to the Lord’s control in order to escape my double-mindedness. 

Practical Tips 

Ask your spouse to consider some of the steps that will bring impulsive buying or compulsive spending under control. 

Pick a stress-free time and environment to set goals. Write them down, and post them in a visible place. Then, create a budget. Honor God and one another by staying within the spending limits for each expense category. Learn to give first, and then, pay your bills; use automatic transfers to specific savings accounts. Discover what the Bible says about money, and ask the Lord to work in your situation. 

Track shopping sprees. Discover the triggers, and note what is purchased.

Avoid shopping—period. Find a healthier activity to substitute for the rush. If you must make a purchase, determine your needs, make a list, use cash, then exit immediately. Take a spouse or trustworthy friend with you. 

Stop using credit cards. Put them in a very, very inconvenient location. Unsubscribe from store emails, and avoid online shopping. Professional counseling may be necessary. Just remember, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10: 13 ESV) 

Aim to be humble and transparent, committing to honesty in all transactions. This removes distrust in relationships. Seek accountability with your spouse and the wisdom of an older couple. Learn good communication skills. (Check out the numerous resources available at RightNowMedia.org.) 

Learn to appreciate things money can’t buy—like nature, health, and relationships. Ask God to remove the impulses so that you can fulfill His purposes in your life. He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us….” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV) 

Pray for an eternal perspective—that the things of this world would lose their luster. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)

Christian Credit Counselors may be able to provide more guidance, as they are a trusted source of help to free individuals and families from the burden of credit card debt. 

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Bankruptcy, Home & Mortgage, Money Management

Ask Chuck: How Can I Disaster Proof My Finances?

By Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

I have several friends who are in deep financial trouble in the early years of their marriage. I want to avoid the stress they’re experiencing. Do you have any helpful tips so that I can guard my home and marriage?

Avoiding Disaster

Dear Avoiding Disaster, 

Being under constant financial stress is terrible at any age, but it is especially dangerous in the “early years.” This is a time when most couples are vulnerable to separation and divorce. 

I assume your friends are struggling with debt due to being unprepared for their lifestyle. It usually occurs in a series of small mistakes, as a result of one huge accident, or because of the assumption that “this is just the way it’s done.” Since I don’t really know what happened to your friends, I will give you some financial advice and also some general principles so that you can avoid the five most common causes of debt.  

1. Allowing a Get-Rich-Quick Mentality to Govern Decisions
If people only invested in get-rich-quick schemes with available cash, they would be more cautious. Somehow, it is easier to risk borrowed money because it appears to be free money. Like purchasing consumer goods on a credit card, it is easy to justify borrowing money to invest, especially when you think your returns are “guaranteed.” Speculating on the future is a practice in surety, which the Bible warns against. It’s presumptuous since no one can rightly predict financial markets.

Believers are particularly vulnerable, trusting so-called “Christians” who claim to have a special revelation from God when selling their scheme. My advice: Stay with what you know. Thoroughly investigate the product, company, and person presenting the offer. Make no hasty decisions. Always wait 24 hours, and pray before investing a dime. Borrowing money to speculate is not investing. It is a high-risk gamble.

2. Ignoring the Primary God-Given Advisor: A Spouse
Since opposites tend to attract, couples will not agree on everything. Learn to communicate respectfully to reach reasonable compromises. Husbands are to love their wives. That includes seeking and listening to their advice before making any financial decisions. Wives are to honor their husbands and to respectfully give their opinions. God created a husband and wife to function as a single working unit. This enables them to capitalize on each other’s strengths and avoid errors in judgment.

3. Failing to Schedule All Expenses
Plan on financial disaster if you fail to plan for unexpected expenses. These are often things that have yet to come due or the unexpected costs of maintenance, repairs, or health issues. Anyone with a car, home, children, or pets understands this. Ignoring the inevitable or not working expenses into a budget creates credit card dependency. Adjust the budget to include setting aside money into an Emergency Account. Though temporarily uncomfortable, it is very wise long-term. It is best to have 3-6 months of your monthly expenses in an Emergency Fund.

If you are struggling with credit card debt now, contact our friends at Christian Credit Counselors. This should be done before you dig a deep hole.

4. Buying a Home You Cannot Afford
Purchasing a home too early in marriage or paying too much for one creates problems. A house payment for the average family’s budget should not exceed 40% of net spendable income after giving and taxes. Include the mortgage, utilities, HOA fees, property tax, maintenance, and repairs. Destroying the budget to get into a home is not logical. It restricts the ability to give, save, and invest. Only purchase if the numbers work, preferably based on one income only. If you cannot put 20% down before you take on a mortgage, it is best to rent and save until you can.

5. Buying a Car You Cannot Afford
Most people look at the monthly payments for a car instead of the overall price. Interest translates into paying significantly more than the asking price and being burdened by the debt for years. Unlike a house, a car depreciates in value the moment you drive it off the lot. So, do not finance something that will lose money. Save, and buy reliable used cars with cash.

Disaster Proofing the Marriage  

There is no silver bullet to protect “your home and marriage” from a disaster. Satan prowls around seeking to cause havoc in all relationships including the best marriages. Having your finances under God’s control is a sign of wisdom, and I highly recommend it. At the same time, let me give you a few tips that have helped us through the hard days.

Pray together, often. This took us years to get comfortable with, but it is now a way of life. Often, we take long walks and pray aloud together the entire time. 

Seek to grow as Christ’s disciples. When you are both pursuing this goal, you will experience the fruit of the Spirit which is a glue to make any marriage even better. 

Invite your spouse to be your most intimate, trusted advisor on all decisions. This trusting submission builds confidence and leads to better outcomes in all things as you work in unity. 

Be humble, gentle, and quick to apologize. Nobody escapes hurting their spouse in a marriage. We can escape becoming indifferent about it by showing mercy, kindness, and grace when we are offended. 

A good marriage is a financial benefit. A divorce is emotionally and financially devastating. My wife and I wrote an entire book on the topic of money and marriage, called Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. It is a step-by-step guide to growing in unity. You can get your copy here.

I made many of the mistakes that you are hoping to avoid. By God’s grace, He kept our marriage together, and we worked through the mistakes. Today, we are in a much better place and stronger because of our ability to work together. There is always hope when you fully trust Him and apply the principles of God’s economy.

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