Show Me the Money!

Benjamin Franklin once noted, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” While I don’t necessarily agree, his quote seems appropriate this week.

April 17th was a red-letter day…and not in a good way, unless perhaps you are receiving a tax refund. But even that isn’t really good news, since it means the government had use of your money all year, interest free.

This is the time of year when many of us reexamine our financial plans, that is, if we even had a financial plan. But financial issues have plagued us for centuries. In an essay first published in 1758, good ol’ Ben Franklin had a few bits of wisdom that still apply today…

Spending:

“What use is this pride of appearance, for which so much is suffered. It cannot promote health, nor ease pain: it hastens misfortune.”

Saving:

“If you would be wealthy, think of saving, as well as of getting. Away then, with your expensive follies, and you will not have then so much reason to complain of hard times.”

Debt:

“When you run into debt, you give to another power over your liberty.”

Managing our money includes learning how to receive it (working with integrity), how to give it (understanding God owns it all, anyway), and how to spend it (realizing we are merely stewards of our resources). Much like a three-legged stool, if any of the three are improper or missing, the result is instability or failure.

Tax-time is unpleasant, but if it motivates us to manage our finances in line with our spiritual identity in Christ, then it’s worth it!

For help managing finances, explore:

Crown Financial Ministries

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University 

Ron Blue’s Master Your Money

 

What tips can you suggest for biblical financial management?


More Bang for My Buck

The National Bureau of Economic Research has declared the recession to be over. According to their data, it ended in June, 2009. But don’t be surprised if fourteen million unemployed people disagree.

Still, even for those who have found jobs and are part of the economic recovery, life has changed. Surveys indicate that a new austerity governs spending habits as people struggle to decrease debt, increase savings, and protect themselves against the next downturn. Sales in discount stores such as Dollar Stores are growing as people seek greater value for their limited resources. They want more bang for their buck.

Obtaining more value is not limited to finances. As this new year speeds along, I’ve been thinking about other areas where my “spending” could result in a greater yield.  Some of these areas include:

Use of my time
I often complain about not having enough time, but I know time wasters often consume my days. I’m easily distracted, so even though I may have something I should be doing, I’ll look at Facebook, Twitter, or my email. I’ll check the snail-mailbox to see if something other than another bill was delivered. I’ll stop to play with the dog, or check the television listings to ensure I’m not missing something good.

It’s not that these things are bad, it’s just that I need to focus more on the task in front of me instead of flitting all over the place. A little more focus will definitely give me more bang for my buck in my use of time.

Physical health

The older I get, the more I am aware that my body “ain’t what it used to be.” It doesn’t help that I eat more of what I shouldn’t and exercise less than I should. Oh, I have great excuses: I don’t have much time to exercise, I have some lower back issues, and my metabolism has two speeds: slow and reverse. But that’s all they are—excuses.

If I want more bang for my health buck, then I need to make choices, not excuses.

Emotional investments
Cultivating relationships is hard work. Successful relationships require a commitment to invest in others, regardless of convenience. However, I know from past experience that a little investment now will yield high returns in the form of deep, abiding friendships.

While these relationships need investments of my time and behavior, they also require that I avoid investing in other ways. Rather than invest in emotional pity-parties or resentment at perceived slights, I need to redirect myself to extend forgiveness. If I don’t, how can I expect anyone to extend forgiveness to me? By doing so – even before I am asked – I am releasing myself from a prison of my own making. That’s more bang for the emotional buck!

Spiritual development
I’m a Bible teacher and an author for the Christian market. So, of course, I spend a great deal of time in the Bible, in prayer, and in writing that encourages others in their Christian walk. But it’s easy to depersonalize these activities – to go through the motions for the purpose of a lesson plan or research for a book, rather than for application to my own life.

But God is not interested in my ministry if it comes at the expense of my relationship with Him. If successful ministry activities crowd out intimate relationship, then everything I teach and write is a testament to hypocrisy, a stench rather than sweet-smelling incense that reaches God’s throne. More bang for my buck in my spiritual life comes not from more ministry, but from a more intimate walk with my Savior.

The economy has caused many to change their shopping habits. But the way I spend my money is just one of many areas where I would like to see more bang for my buck. How about you?

In what areas of your life do you want more bang for your buck this year?


Money CAN Buy You Happiness!

All my life I’ve heard people say money cannot buy happiness.
Are they wrong?

Two professors at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs set out to determine whether the saying is true. They analyzed 450,000 survey responses to learn if money can, indeed, buy happiness.

The research report defined “emotional well-being” as the emotional qualities of everyday experience, and “life evaluation” as the thoughts people have about their life. The study indicated that income and education are closely related to life evaluation, but factors such as health and loneliness are more strongly related to daily emotions.

So, can money buy happiness?

The researchers determined that emotional well-being was related to income, but the level of happiness did not increase beyond an annual income of $75,000. They concluded that “high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.” It seems that money can buy a type of happiness that involves satisfaction, but not necessarily pleasant emotions.

Even if money could buy happiness, is happiness what we really want?

The answer to this question seems like an obvious yes. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Certainly not me. And yet…if my happiness is dependent on my circumstances, what does that say about me? That my well-being hangs on temporary and shifting circumstances? That my happiness is controlled by the consequences of events and the influences of people who may not care about me or even know me? It’s a rollercoaster way of life. I know, I’ve tried living that way, and it’s no party!

If my emotional well-being is going to depend on anything, I want it to depend on something that won’t capriciously shift or on someone who is always faithful, dependable, and trustworthy.

Joy is what I’m after. The joy of knowing to whom I belong. The God of the universe calls me His child, and welcomes me to call Him Father. The joy of knowing He is sovereign. As Kay Arthur is fond of saying, nothing touches my life that hasn’t first been filtered through His fingers of love. This doesn’t mean I won’t have problems. Trust me, I’ve had my share, and then some! But it does mean I can rest in the knowledge that what God allows in my life is for His glory and my ultimate and eternal good.

Money may or may not buy happiness, but Jesus Christ has purchased my joy. It’s this joy that motivates me to teach and to write so others might have it as well.

How about you?
What or who is your source of happiness?
What or who is your source of joy?