Archives For March 2010

Frugal Fatigue

Corey —  March 11, 2010 — Leave a comment

This article has been reprinted with permission from Gary Foreman of The Dollar Stretcher. You can find the original article here: Frugal Fatigue

       Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

       A reporter, doing a story on people who were tired of the effort that it takes to control spending, approached me recently. She wanted suggestions for people who were struggling and thinking of just giving up. What makes some people continue when the easiest course was to quit? And, how can you become that person?

       The first suggestion is to make a decision and stick with it. Unless you have significant new information, you have no reason to rethink your decision.

       Breaking big goals into smaller pieces is the second suggestion. Dividing a big goal into smaller goals allows you to savor successes along the way. Each one helps to motivate you to strive for the next small goal until you’ve accomplished the big goal.

       Giving yourself rewards along the way is another great way to accomplish financial goals. If you’re paying off a credit card, treat yourself to a small reward at predetermined points along the way. Take your mind off of the struggle by looking forward to the reward.

       Stay motivated with reminders. If you’re saving for a vacation, you’ll find that a picture of your desired destination can be a great motivation. Some people put a card in their wallet to remind them of their commitment to reduce debt. When they reach for cash or a credit card, it helps them resist needless purchases.

       Finally, it’s helpful to have friends to encourage you and share experiences. A long journey is always easier if you have someone to share it with. Find a frugal partner at work or in your neighborhood. Or join an online discussion group. Not only will you find help, but also you’ll become stronger when you encourage others. In fact, we have one specifically on Frugal Fatigue.

       So don’t be discouraged by the length of the journey. What’s important is that you stay on track for today. And, that’s something that all of us can do.

_________

Gary Foreman is the founder of The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters including Financial Independence a step-by-step approach to achieving your financial goals.

       I don’t ask this question in order to set strict guidelines for how all Christians should live out their final years. I ask it to prompt us all to examine how we will live out our faith during retirement. I’ve talked about why I was rethinking my views on retirement and whether or not Christians should even retire. What I want to look at today are the things we should be considering when we’re planning what we’ll do in retirement and how much income we’ll need in retirement. Then, I want your help. (Oh, and this isn’t just for retired people. Young Christians should be thinking about this too because it will affect how much they should be saving for retirement.)

What Should We Do?

       Assuming we agree that God does not call Christians to a leisurely, luxurious retirement where we sit around and do nothing all day, we have to start looking at what we should be doing during retirement. Let’s compare and contrast with typical retirement goals:

  • Pursuing Hobbies – Many people plan to pick up new hobbies or spend more time on their favorite hobbies in retirement. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, Christians must be looking at how much time they’re spending focused on themselves and how much of their money they’re putting toward their own wants. We must look for a balance – and we must look to God to find that balance.
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  • Travel – This is a major goal for many retirees. As Christians, we need to look at recreational travel versus missional travel. I’m not saying vacations are sinful, but we have to consider two things. First, our desires to spend on ourselves while others are in desperate need. And second, we must listen to God’s unique call for our lives. For some Christians, this will mean limiting travel in retirement so they can give more or spend more time volunteering. For other Christians, this may mean allocating more than they would have to travel so they can take or fund mission trips. (This is not to say that you should ignore God’s call for you to be a missionary until retirement. If He’s calling you now, you should go now.)
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  • Volunteering – Volunteering is a great way for both Christians and non-Christians alike to spend their time in retirement. Besides transportation costs, volunteering requires little money but can provide great rewards. The caution here is to avoid volunteering to every cause or postponing volunteer activities until retirement. Seek God’s will for where you should serve now and in retirement.
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  • Entertainment – It’s easy to spend more on entertainment during retirement because you’ve got so much free time. But for Christians, again, we must look at how we’re using the money God has entrusted to us. Some entertainment is fine, but we need to seek God’s guidance for what we should plan on in this category.
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  • Spending Time with Family – Another noble pursuit regardless of whether you’re a follower of Christ or not. However, we still must seek God’s will and be sure to balance this activity against the other things God wants us to be doing. Strong families are encouraged by the Bible, but we must not become so focused on our own families that we ignore God’s family.


How Should We Spend in Retirement?

       The decisions we make in the “What Should We Do?” category will greatly impact how much income we’ll need in retirement. But there are a few other areas we should consider as well:

  • Housing – Will you stay where you are now, move to a larger place, or choose to downsize? Also, will you buy a second home (vacation home)? Again, I challenge you to pray for God’s will on this matter. Many retirees dream of owning a vacation home in the Bahamas, but Christians must be looking at how such a decision fits in with God’s call to care for the poor. Should we be building a larger house or buying a vacation home while people are starving? Maybe that sounds ascetic, but it’s a legitimate and serious question for those who wish to follow Christ.
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  • Shopping – Shopping for the sake of shopping excites some people. How should we approach this issue? Again, I’m not advocating an ascetic lifestyle where you never buy anything for yourself. But we must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Should we deny some of our wants so we can give more? I feel like that’s a definite yes. But where we draw that line can only be determined through communion with God. He calls some to deny many or all of their wants while others only a few. (Personally, I think that call to deny yourself increases more as our faith and maturity increase.)
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  • Insurance – Overinsurance can indicate that we are placing our trust in money and not God. Underinsurance can be a sign of folly. We must seek God’s will on this matter, as all others, and perhaps help from others. Health insurance is likely a necessity, but what about life insurance, long-term care insurance, homeowner’s/renter’s insurance, etc. There can be legitimate needs for these during retirement, but we can also buy them out of fear or ignorance.
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  • Health Care – While some or most of this may be covered by health insurance, there’s another aspect I want us to think about as Christians. Where do we draw the line between pursuing health within God’s will and pursuing longevity for fear of death? Should we fear death as much as our society does? Indeed, part of the reason health care costs so much is because we try so hard to stay alive. I’m not saying we should kill ourselves, but it is something we should think and pray about (even when we’re young). The world seeks after eternal life but will not find it. We (Christians) already have it promised to us in Heaven – so why do we seek it so much on Earth?


What’s Your Take???

       What did I miss? What did you think about my thoughts? What do you think a Christian retirement should look like? What are your plans? Please, please, please share your thoughts in the comments. I’m hoping we can all help each other think about these issues from a Biblical and eternal viewpoint rather than the American/worldly ideals.

Should a Christian Retire?

Corey —  March 9, 2010 — 4 Comments

       In preparation for an article I’ll be posting on Wednesday about Christian retirement, I’m pulling out a couple of my older posts about retirement to give some perspective to my thoughts. Let me know what you think, and be sure to come back Wednesday to discuss what a Christian retirement should look like.

       A while back, I wrote about an article I read at Oblivious Investor that prompted me to rethink retirement. I had been contemplating how retirement, especially early retirement and the retirement marketed by the media and financial companies, could be congruent with a Christian’s faith. The Bible says nothing of retirement as we think of it today. There’s only a passing mention of the idea that the older generation should stop working full-time when the Bible discusses how the Levites should stop doing their regular service and work and only assist their younger brothers in the work (Numbers 8:23-26).

       Beyond that, there’s absolutely no mention of retirement in the Bible. The best case you can make for retirement in the Bible is the elders who sat at the city gates. As far as we know, they didn’t work or do manual labor. But they didn’t just sit around either. They were involved in the leadership and administration of justice in the towns and villages they lived in. We could equate this today to older people who are actively involved in volunteering, mentoring, sharing the Gospel, and serving the Lord in many other ways.

What Kind of Retirement Are You Planning?

       A retirement focused on owning your dream home on the beach, or spending countless days golfing, or traveling the world purely for pleasure, or any other of the numerous “goals” people set for their retirements does not glorify God at all. On the other hand, a retirement that revolves around spending more time ministering to the needs of others and finding ways to serve God can and will glorify God.

       There will come a time when you cannot earn all of the income you need from your usual work because you are either unable (physically) or you are replaced or some other reason outside of your control. When that day comes, there is no reason you shouldn’t retire and live off of your savings. However, until that day comes there is no Biblical reason why you should seek an early retirement either. The only possible reason I can think of is a Spirit-led decision to pursue something other than paid work that is related to spreading the Gospel, sharing God’s love, and bringing people to Christ. Pursuing early retirement because you’re sick of your job or because you just don’t want to work anymore is purely selfish and does not honor God or reflect well on your witness as a Christian.

       With all the starving, sick, and homeless people in the world, how can we as Christians be focused on retiring early just so we can relax? If that’s our goal, the love of God is not in us and we are not truly following Christ. The same can be said of a regular retirement. Even if we can no longer work because of some reason outside of our control, our actions still reflect our beliefs about Jesus and His message. If we wish to truly do what He taught, we won’t plan for a retirement that’s all about leisure and pleasure. We’ll look for ways we can help others and glorify His name with our extra time.

Live Out Your Faith in Retirement

       A Christian can prepare for and enjoy retirement, but it’s how we prepare, what we plan to do, and what we actually do in retirement that matter. Your choices can make your retirement honorable to God or a stumbling block to others. Plan for a moderate retirement that allows you to serve God more fully with your time than you did while you were working. Just as true followers of Christ wouldn’t live extravagantly and wastefully while they’re working, don’t plan for an extravagant or wasteful retirement either. Seek God’s wisdom on how you should prepare for the day when you won’t be able to work any more. Ask the Spirit to help you plan a retirement that will glorify God and accomplish His will on earth. Don’t let retirement be a time where Satan can distract you with the leisure and rest “you deserve”. Live out your faith during retirement, and let it be a testament to God’s goodness the and glorious gift He gave us in His Son!

Rethinking Retirement

Corey —  March 8, 2010 — 4 Comments

       Mike at The Oblivious Investor had a thought-provoking article titled Don’t Retire., which was inspired by Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine’s book Die Broke: A Radical Four-Part Financial Plan. Mike discusses why retirement as we imagine it today is probably an unreachable goal for most Baby Boomers and subsequent generations. Given the fact that many workers no longer receive pensions and don’t seem to be very good at saving on their own, I’d have to agree.


The History of Retirement

       The idea of retiring when you’re older is relatively new. It only seems to have become popular in the last century. There are several possible explanations for this, but the most likely ones are higher incomes (we enjoy a standard of living about eight times higher than Americans a century ago) and the creation of Social Security and pension programs (though the future of Social Security is unclear, and pensions are largely a thing of the past). If you’d like to read more about the history of retirement, I suggest these articles:

Economic History of Retirement in the United States (a more academic article)
The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P. (not quite as dry as the first)

       The truth is retirement was never really an option for our earlier ancestors. They didn’t have very long lives or the economic systems we have today. We also find no discussion of retirement in the Bible as we think of it today. There is one reference to the priests (Levites) retiring at age 50 from temple service, but they were to stay on to help the younger men (probably in giving advice and guidance). The only other semblance of retirement we see in the Bible is old men sitting at the city gate. The city gate was a place of honor, and those who sat there offered advice and counsel to those in the city. Again, the older people didn’t really retire but found other ways to serve their communities. Instead of working, they lived with their children and received support from them. But that’s rare today (unless you’re Amish).


How Should Christians View Retirement Today?

       Given the nature of the labor force today and the interaction of families, we do need to be saving for a time when we won’t be able to produce as much income as we can when we’re younger. Children are moving farther away from their parents for jobs or other reasons than they did in the past (or in the Bible). Several generations of a family living in the same house or very close to each other is no longer the norm. And the complication of health problems and other issues when you’re older can definitely impact your ability to earn income.

       However, the American view of retirement is far from God’s ideal for His followers. How does spending every day on the golf course, or sipping sweet tea on the back porch every day, or traveling the world for pleasure glorify God? The work of the kingdom of God is never ending. By focusing our entire lives on a retirement where we sit around, do whatever we want, and relax, we miss the picture of what God could be calling us to do when we no longer have to work as much to earn all of our money. On the other hand, a Christian retirement focused on contentment and serving God can allow for some leisure (just as during your working years) without neglecting the valuable work we can do to further God’s kingdom and show His love to the world.

       22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

       27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

       29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Luke 12:22-31 (NLT)



       We are not to seek a life that’s merely full of the pleasures of this world. God calls us to seek His kingdom first. When we put our focus on God and trust in Him, we no longer have to worry about our retirement accounts, government policies, economic disasters, or any other worries. When we have the glorious gift of Jesus Christ, we remain wealthy despite what happens to us in this life. We have riches that cannot fail, that cannot disappear, and that will never leave us—even after death.


A Different Retirement

       I’m not saying you should stop saving and investing for the future. There will most likely come a time when you will not be able to earn all the money necessary to cover your needs. It is prudent and wise to save for such a time, and the Bible commends and encourages such wisdom. But you should rethink your hopes of buying that second home, taking luxury cruises three times a year, or endless rounds of golf during retirement.

       A Christian can most definitely follow God’s teaching and will if they save up for retirement and reduce or eliminate their workload. But a Christian retirement should be focused on meeting your needs (not extravagant needs, but your daily bread—just enough) and then using your abundance of time to do God’s work. Minister to the needy, volunteer more, visit the sick and those in prison, comfort those in mourning, reach out to those on the margins of society, pray and study God’s Word—these are all wonderful activities to fill a Christian retirement. But seeking a permanent vacation, a time when you do little that is useful or glorifies God, is only a product of greed, selfishness, and the World—it is a tool used by Satan to distract you from furthering God’s kingdom. Flee from it, and seek God’s counsel for your older years. Ask Him to guide you and show you His ways so that you can continue to glorify Him.


The Results

       This new view of retirement has profound implications for your life—now and when you’re older.

  • You no longer need to be obsessed with saving and investing all of your money. You’re free to be extremely generous—following God’s teaching on giving. You won’t have to save as much, but you should still save prudently.
  • You will avoid the depression that often comes at retirement. Many workers realize they actually enjoyed the interaction with their coworkers or the public and feel lost after they retire.
  • You’re free to do work that you enjoy even though it may not pay well. You don’t have to run after the highest paying job just so you can secure the retirement you’re told to dream about.
  • You don’t need to be a workaholic. You can focus on family and serving God during your working years—glorifying God much more than if you spent 80+ hours a week working. This also leaves you with more time to develop your relationship with God.

       Seeking a retirement where you can glorify God even more than you did while you were working brings you much closer to God than a retirement where you spend every day out on the boat. I challenge you to reconsider your ideas about retirement. Rethink retirement, and pray for God to show you what His will is for the later years of your life. Let God transform and renew your mind—clearing out the messages the World and Satan have planted there and putting His teaching and will in your heart. Then plan and save for a retirement that glorifies God.

       Readers who know me personally may already be aware that I launched my financial planning firm in January but most of you probably aren’t. I didn’t announce it on here yet because I was busy with the trip to Haiti and a number of other things for a while. But I’ve finally launched a business website and I wanted to share it with you.

       The name of the business is Provident Planning, Inc. (just like this blog), and you can find out everything you might want to know about what I do and how I do it on Provident Planning’s business website (or you can click the green button at the top right of this page). Basically, I’m offering financial planning advice on a fee-only basis (hourly or flat fee). I also offer tax preparation at an hourly rate.

       I was trained as a financial planner and worked in wealth management before starting Provident Planning. But I was tired of only being able to serve the wealthy and not having the ability to fully incorporate my faith into my work. So I’ve set up Provident Planning so I can work with people from all backgrounds and can include faith discussions in my work.

       That’s the announcement to let you know I’ve officially launched my business. Now for the giveaway!

       In exchange for your feedback, I’m offering one hour of financial planning advice (a $100 value!!!) over the phone to one random winner. During the phone call, you’ll have the chance to ask me any questions you might have about personal finances. You won’t have to share any personal details (like SSN’s, account numbers, full name, etc.) if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. If you’re not sure what I can help with, then make sure you check out the “Services” page on Provident Planning’s business website. Here’s what you can do to enter:

  1. Visit Provident Planning’s business website. Then leave a useful comment on this post with a suggestion for improvement or a question you have about my business (that wasn’t answered on the FAQ page). – worth 3 entries
  2.  

  3. Tweet about this giveaway. Your tweet should say “Win a Chance for Free Financial Planning Advice by Giving Your Feedback on Provident Planning – http://bit.ly/aB8yQZ @providentplan” (link points to this post) – worth 2 entries



       You can only do each of those things once, but you can do both of them to get a total of 5 entries in this giveaway. Duplicate entries will not be counted (e.g., you leave more than one useful comment).

       All entries must be made by 5:00 P.M. Eastern Time on Monday, March 8, 2010. The winner will be chosen through a random drawing using the integer generator on random.org. I’ll update this post on Monday evening to announce the winner. The winner will also be contacted by e-mail to get their phone number and set up a time to talk, so be sure you use a valid e-mail address when you leave a comment. If the winner is via a Twitter entry, I’ll send a direct message to get your e-mail address. The winner must respond by 9:00 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, March 10th, or I’ll select another winner. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

Is Money Evil?

Corey —  March 4, 2010 — 5 Comments

This article has been reprinted with permission from Gary Foreman of The Dollar Stretcher. You can find the original article here: Is Money Evil?

       Is it virtuous to be poor? Many people think so. Holiness is partly accomplished, in many religions, by turning your back on material things. To appreciate the spiritual, you need to give up the material, and many people have taken vows of poverty in pursuit of holiness.

       I don’t think it’s that simple. Money is just a tool. In other words, it’s just a way that we have of exchanging things. Money has no value on its own. What makes money good or bad is what people do with it. The problem is with the way money is used and not the money itself.

       ”For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” found in 1 Timothy 6:10, is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. When you place your affection on money, you become vulnerable to troubles. The problem is not the mere fact that you have accumulated some wealth.

       So how can you maintain a right relationship to money? Is there a way to control money…instead of having money control you?

       First, we need to be careful not to fall in love with our money, or we will let money have too much influence in our lives. That also goes for the things that money can buy. We’re all aware that the things we care about tend to control us. The only way to avoid that control is to hold on to things loosely.

       Secondly, if you believe that money is bad, this thought process could sabotage your desire to build wealth. We’ll even push money away from us. Do you find it hard to do the things necessary to build a savings account or IRA? Always seem to pick the wrong investment? We can’t see our subconscious, but it can have a huge impact on us. Sometimes it even ruins our own plans.

       What do you think about money? Do you have a good relationship with it? Or is it time to reconsider what you believe?

________________

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters.

       Once you understand what an investment is, you can begin to learn about the different types of investments available. We’ll start by looking at the broadest types of investments first, and then later we’ll narrow it down by looking at more specific types of investments.

What Is a Security?

       There are two main types of investments – securities and property. We’re going to look at securities today.

       I’m sure you’ve read about the securities markets in the newspapers or heard about them on TV. But what does that mean exactly? A security is any kind of investment that represents debt, ownership, or the legal right to buy or sell a security.

       Bonds are an investment that represent debt. When you invest in a bond, you’re basically loaning money to the person who issued the bond.

       Stocks are investments that represent ownership. When you invest in a company’s stock, you are becoming an owner of that company.

       Finally, options are investments that represent a legal right to buy or sell a security. An option is basically a contract that you purchase to give you the right to buy or sell a certain amount of a security at a certain price for a certain amount of time (until the contract expires). The person who sells you the option is legally obligated to sell that security to you or buy that security from you at the specified price whenever you choose to use your rights.

       So when you hear someone talking about securities (or the securities market) they’re talking about stocks, bonds, and options. Securities would also include mutual funds, which are simply a portfolio (a collection) of securities. These are very basic things in the investment world, so it is important you understand what they mean.

       As I continue this series on investing basics, we’ll go into more depth about all of these types of investments so you’ll understand what they are and how they work. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you want to learn more! You can also enter your email address below to get free updates in your email: (Don’t worry, I’ll never share nor sell your email address.)

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