Between The Red Lines

Although I am typing this session of Money Matters on a laptop in the Denver airport, I grew up in an era when this was not always as practical as it is now.  When I was in high school, my English assignments were not typed, but they were written out on notebook paper (yeah, we actually were required to know how to write).  Do you remember standard or college rule notebook paper with the blue horizontal lines and the red vertical line down the side?  I understand the purpose of the blue horizontal lines.  They were there to make sure the writing was straight on the paper.  Without those blue lines, everybody’s writing would have an angle, a slant, or an arc which would make it completely frustrating to read.   But those red lines; are they really necessary?  I had a problem with this.  These lines were to provide margins.  The standard margins on notebook paper are 1 inch on each side and you were to only write between the margins.  Why was I being restricted from writing from one edge of the paper to the other?  I didn’t need margins.  I could do more without them. If I was able to use the whole sheet of notebook paper, I could get more done with less paper.  I would be more efficient, right?

I used to think I would be better off without margins.  I see things a little differently now.  Margins are a good thing.  Yes, they are restricting, but they are meant to be.  Margins provide structure, and structures introduce order where there is chaos.  The structure margins create to bring a sense of “alignment” that is badly needed but is missing.  Think about someone you know whose finances are a wreck.  I would be willing to bet (and I live in Vegas) that they spend without margins or their margins are a way to close to the edges.  I know, everybody thinks more money would fix their money problems, but, although popular, more often than not, it just isn’t true.  Everybody wants more money, but what are they doing with the money they already have?

Financial margins are a must if you plan to be successful with money.  How else will you know who much you spend on the essentials?  How will you know who much you can save?  How will you know how much you can afford to invest?  How can you ever expect to be consistent with anything if you don’t have defined boundaries?  You need a plan. A plan that is built on systems and defined by structures or margins.  And these margins are created in a budget.  That’s right, the dreaded “B” word rears its ugly head again. I get it, just the word “budget” is draining and brings up thoughts of mind-numbing pointless boredom.  While I admit, it can be that way, it doesn’t have to be.  Budgeting allows you to see, on paper, where your money is going.  They allow you to tangibly see what you are actually doing with your money on paper.  Now, you might not like what you see, but sometimes the truth is ugly.  But you still need to see it.  There is a simple test you can perform to give you an idea of how well you are doing handle money.  Ask yourself, some simple questions. How much money do you spend on food?  How much do you spend on bills?  How much do you spend on paying off debt?  Now, you may be able to answer those questions easily, but here come two or three questions that most people with money issues cannot answer.  Ask yourself, where is all this written down?  Can you account for all the money you earn?  Is there any money that is wasted or unaccounted for?  At your current rate, what is the exact date you will be debt-free? Uh-oh.  I heard a hush come over the readers.  Those are the tough questions to answer because an honest answer demands a different level of stewardship and greater attention to detail.  But those are the questions you need to be able to answer if you want to win.  A written budget gives you a picture, albeit in numbers, to answer these tough questions.

A life lived without margins is surprisingly unfruitful and often ends in tragedy.  The same is so with our finances.  Our spending habits need structure, and this structure actually turns out to be more enabling than restrictive.  A structured plan, or budget, helps bring clarity to a financial situation.  And with clarity, financial progress can be made.  Haven’t you compassed this mountain long enough? (A reference to Deut. 2:3 for you bible scholars).  It’s time to move forward.  It’s time to take your dreams and turn them into goals (goals are nothing more than dreams with a deadline).  It can be done, but it will take introducing a different level of order and discipline to your finances.  We serve a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33), and he expects us to do everything decently in order (1 Cor. 14:40).  Shouldn’t this apply to our finances too?  It’s time.  It’s time to make financial progress.  It’s time to break down and do the uncomfortable things we dread to get the results we want.  Are you willing to make that sacrifice?  Are you willing to do it God’s way?  God Bless.

Legacy Group

Financial Empowerment

The Magic Lottery Ticket

In an effort to raise money, many states have adopted a clever, but legal, plan that tantalizes people to pay just a little amount of money for the chance to win a lot of money in return. In common cases, the winner of the prize money must produce a specific combination (which is usually a numbers combination) to claim the prize money. But if no one comes forward with the winning numbers, more and more people continue to invest with the hopes that they will be the winner and pot grows. Just recently, in California, the pot to be claimed reached over $1.6 billion (that’s with a “B”). Amazing isn’t it? With no effort, no work, and no skill, you can instantly become a billionaire!

People who are having money issues may see this as a chance for them to get back on their feet. I mean, they don’t have to win the whole lottery; just winning a small portion can be life-changing. Well, if you don’t know, buying lottery tickets is a terrible, terrible idea. It is so bad; I don’t think it can even qualify to be considered an investment. The ticket buyer has absolutely NO control over the outcome and the chances of winning are almost zero. It is an absolute waste and a sure guarantee to lose your money.

But, do you know what is even worse than losing money in the lottery; developing a mindset that causes one to chase after the “winning lottery ticket”. What do I mean? Well, in the case of the lottery, I’m speaking of a mindset that starts with desperate people thinking the right combination of numbers, will instantly make their money problems disappear like magic. They think the right combination will be the “quick fix” to all their money problems. It’s just a matter of finding the right combination. So they forgo good judgment and Godly stewardship principles in search of the quick-fix magic lottery ticket.

I’ve noticed, as people, we love the spontaneous and the sensational. It’s exhilarating! Think about it. In sports, the most exciting plays are the big plays that change the momentum of the game in a few seconds. In baseball, everyone loves the home run. The tide of a game can be changed with one swing of the bat. In football, it is the long run or deep pass for a touchdown. It gets everyone out of their seats. Well, the same goes for money situations. We are drawn the lure of the immediate; even us Christians. We Christians do the same thing except we tend to use more “holy” words. For example, instead of searching for a combination of inputs or numbers for a winning lottery ticket, we will try a different combination of prayers. But a fallacy is a fallacy, irrespective of the language in which it is spoken.

If we want the blessings of God, we have to be willing to do it God’s way. And His way is outlined in His Word. When it comes to honoring God we cannot rob Him of what is His (Mal. 3:6-10, Proverbs 3:9-10). When it comes to our debt, we should try to get out of debt ASAP (Proverbs 6:2-6), and plan carefully to avoid debt (Luke 14:28-30) because we become servants to our creditors (Proverbs 22:7). When it comes to managing our money, we have to pay our bills (Romans 13:7), save for that proverbial “rainy day” (Proverbs 21:20), and carefully plan our next money move (Proverbs 21:5). And when we are ready, when we have paid our debts, we can then invest (Ecclesiastes 11:2-4). It’s not enough to just tithe and expect God’s blessing to dwell over our finances; there is so much more to God’s financial plan for our lives than just tithing. If you want ALL His blessings, you have to follow ALL His instructions. And I can guess what some of you are thinking. You are saying to yourself, “It will take me years to get where I want to be financially. I don’t have time to do it that way!” Well, it may take you years. But when are you going to trust what God has outlined in His Word? His way is better than you praying for the magic lottery ticket. Your way isn’t working. Aren’t you tired of doing the same things and seeing no results (Deuteronomy 2:3)? If you want to see a change, you have to change. It may take time. But you need that time. Why? Because the financial character you need to manage the wealth God has for you is forged in time. Time is expensive, so the process is not cheap. But nothing of any real value is cheap. It will cost you more time and probably some frustration as you break some bad money habits, but it’s worth it. Take God at His Word and do it His way. Your blessings are on the other side of your obedience. God Bless.

Money Matter-What Do You Mean by Traditional and Roth?

For far too many people, by the time they start having serious discussions about retirement, they are already behind.  They haven’t saved properly, or there is no solid plan forward, or they just haven’t executed the plan they have in place.  And getting behind (because you know, time waits for no one) causes people to try to “make up for lost time” and they become more susceptible to “get rich schemes”.  Well, if get rich schemes worked, everyone would be rich! That is why the last two articles have focused on the two most popular retirement planning vehicles of our time, 401ks and IRAs.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but here we explore and contrast the two major options that may be available to you and try to help you determine which one is best of you.  We are going to compare traditional 401ks and IRAs with Roth 401ks and Roth IRAs.

The traditional 401ks and IRAs allow a person to pay into their retirement without paying taxes on the money they contributed into the plan.  Sometimes, these types of contributions are called, “before-tax” dollars or “pre-tax” funds.  Not being liable for the taxes on the contributions reduces the amount of taxable income to the person pays less in taxes for a given year.   This translates to less taken out of your employment checks and more spending money in your pocket.  These contributions are invested in an account gaining interest (hopefully for years) and can grow to a substantial amount of money!  Meanwhile, thousands are saved in taxes during the contribution years.  But there is a catch, and it’s a big catch.  When the money is withdrawn from the account, it is taxable.  All the money is taxable, the contributions and growth!  So, those years of contributing without paying taxes are made up on the back end; at retirement.

Roth 401ks and Roth IRAs allow a person to pay into their retirement, without any immediate tax breaks.  These contributions are commonly referred to as “after-tax” dollars or “post-tax” monies because the taxes have already paid on their contributions being put into the plans.  And just as before, the money is invested and over years, it can grow to be a sizeable nest egg to be used at retirement.  But here is a nice advantage; when the money is withdrawn for the account, there are no taxes due!  Because the account was funded with Roth, or “after-tax” dollars, the contributions and the growth are tax exempt at retirement.

So which option is better?  Traditional plans? Or Roth plans?  Well, ask yourself the following:  Would you rather pay taxes ONLY on the contributions to the retirement plan, or would you rather pay taxes on the contributions AND the growth?  That’s a silly question! Everybody wants to pay as little in taxes as possible.  Who wants to pay more!  Besides, nobody knows what the tax rates will be in the future and I don’t want to have to worry about it when I am retiring.  That is when I’m going to need the money I saved.  And remember, after years of consistent investing, the majority of the money in a retirement plan will be growth from the investments, not contributions.  So why would I want to taxes on all that growth if I don’t have to?  These points make Roth plans so popular and my personal preference!  But, for some, the advantage of larger “take-home” checks is too good to pass up!

Retirement plans with Roth options look better for long-term investing, but traditional options are not bad and should not be ignored if Roths are not a viable option.  The important thing is to do something!  Start early, it’s never too early.  I tell my younger co-workers they should have started thinking about retirement their first day on the job.  Why?  Well, because according to an article the Business Insider [1], most Americans spend more time planning vacations than retirement.  And separately, true wealth, the kind of wealth espoused in the Bible, takes many years to build.  And most going into retirement, have worked hard enough to have a nice nest egg for their years after leaving the workforce, but if it is not properly planned, there will be a lack the funds to enjoy the golden years as they are envisioned.  Hard work and poor planning don’t translate to riches; in the game of life, you don’t get an “A” for effort.  So take some time now to plan your retirement strategy so you can maximize the opportunities God has given you.  Isn’t that what a good steward would do?  God Bless.

[1] Americans Spend More Time Planning Vacations Than Retirement

Libby Kane –

401ks for Dummies

I have been working for the same company for over 15 years. On the first day of starting my new job, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork I was asked to sign and choices to make. I felt ignorant because I knew what I was doing was supposed to be important, but I didn’t know what I was doing. It was a lot! There were so many options; dental plans, vision plans, insurance plans, beneficiary choice. I remember being offered the option of participating in the company 401k pension plan. Once again, I knew it was a good thing, but I didn’t know who good it can be! Well, as I matured and became more educated on 401ks, I’m glad I started when I did.

So, what is a 401k? A 401k is a retirement saving plan like an IRA, but the 401k is offered by an employer, but not all employers offer this option. The name “401k” actually comes from the section of the tax code in the IRS regulation that gave birth to these plans which began to take their familiar form in 1978. At first, 401ks were looked upon as “poor substitutes” for the traditional pension plan Americans were accustomed to having. But now, they are the preferred source of retirement savings for most Americans.

401k plans came to usurp pension plans as the most popular retirement plan for a simple reason. Pension plans are generally expensive for an employer because traditional pension plans often pay out guarantee amounts to a qualified employee-sometimes these payouts are for life. And employee wouldn’t have to be very involved as the employer would handle most, if not all, of the investment choices. Today’s 401ks place the burden of saving for retirement on the employee. The employees are responsible for choosing their own investments from a selection of investments offered by their employer. The employee also has the power to change investments, increase, decrease, or cease contributing to the plan at their discretion. Today’s employee needs to be more aware to be as successful as the pension holder of yesterday.

401ks have some excellent benefits that contribute to their fame. To name a few:
First, just like IRAs, there are tax benefits with 401ks. The money within a 401k can grow tax-deferred (meaning the taxes are to be paid at a later date) or tax-free depending on options made available by an employer. But, in either case, both are advantageous to the investor.
Secondly, there is a lot of potentials to put money away from retirement and the limit keeps rising. The federal limit for 401ks in 2019 has risen to $19,000 a year! That’s a lot of money!
Thirdly, like an IRA, there is no limit to the value of a 401k, nor is there any limit to the number of 401ks a single individual can own. However, an individual is limited to one 401k per employer but may have multiple 401ks through multiple employers.
Fourthly, unlike pensions, 401ks are not managed by the employer, but they are operated by large financial custodians such as Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab, etc. This means, that if the company offering the 401k plan goes bankrupt, your investment is protected.
And lastly, many employers offer an “employee match” with their 401k plans. An employee match is where the company agrees to contributes to your 401k. Yep, that’s right. Some companies give their employees free money for their retirement.

As great as 401ks are, they do have their restrictions. Some of the major ones are:
401ks have limited investment choices that only include stocks, mutual funds, and bonds (yuck!).
401k plans vary drastically between employers. One company may offer an “employee match”, while another may not. One company may offer great performing stocks or funds, while another may not. It really is up to the company.
Similar to IRAs, the investments in 401ks ARE NOT TO BE USED until the investor is at least 59 ½ years old. Investments withdrawn before 59 ½ are subject to a penalty for early withdrawing.

401ks are one of the best ways to get a good start on planning for retirement; especially if a company offers an employee match. Other than excessive debt which needs to be rectified, I don’t know why someone would not take advantage of their employer’s 401k matching plan. It’s literally free money! I was listening to the Dave Ramsey radio show when Chris Hogan, one of the hosts, claimed that a survey of over 10,000 millionaires revealed that about 78% of those surveyed have retirement plans such as 401ks. Even millionaires (who are thought to be wise with their money) take advantage of these government-sponsored retirement plans. Why would you not?

IRAs for Dummies

Whether you love or hate your job, there is one certainty when it comes to your employment; it will end. That’s right, at some point, sooner or later, everyone will retire. But, did you know, nearly half of Americans are worried about not having enough money when they retire? That’s disheartening. But one of the things you can do to prepare for the inevitable is to take advantage of tax-favored, government sanctioned, saving arrangements such as IRAs.

What exactly is an IRA? Well, its an acronym for Individual Retirement Arrangement (the “a” does not stand for account) and they are tax-favored personal savings arrangements, which allow an investor to set aside money for retirement. When Congress passed the provisions for IRAs into law in 1974, they instantly became popular, and over the years IRAs have become a viable investment strategy that has enormous potential for building wealth to be used in retirement. Now there are different variants such as traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SD-IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, and SEP IRAs, that allow virtually anyone who earns an income to start preparing for retirement.

IRAs act as investment accounts for individuals, but they are held by custodians such as Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab, Edward Jones, etc. (you get the picture). These custodians are legally obligated to manage an investor’s account although they have no decision-making power. Custodians also help to ensure that all investment actions are in accordance with the law and, they provide the proper paper work to be filled with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). In other words, custodians work to make sure investors stay out of trouble!

IRAs have a lot of advantages that make them extremely popular. To list a few:

* For starter, IRAs have tax benefits. The investments within an IRA may grow tax-deferred (meaning the taxes are to be paid at a later date) or tax-free depending on the type of IRA. But, in either case, both are advantageous to the investor.

* Secondly, IRAs can be used to hold many different types of investments. Cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and even some types of real estate are also qualified investments according to the IRS which gives investors options (and options are always a good thing) and the potential to reduce the amount of taxes owed in many areas. But other items like life insurance plans, antiques, collectibles, and coins cannot be held in an IRA.

* Thirdly, there is no limit to the value an IRA nor is there any limit to the number of IRAs a single individual can own. A individual can have one IRA that grows to be work worth billions, or several small IRAs.

* Fourthly, there are a number of ways to fund an IRA. An IRA can be funded with cash contributions or other qualifying plans such as 401ks and other IRAs can be “rolled over” into a single IRA for consolidation purposes.

* And lastly, there are no income limits for anyone who wants to contribute to an IRA. Whether you make $20,000/year or $2 billion/year in earned income, this is an investment option for you!

As great as IRAs are, they also have some limitations. Some being:

* The annual allowable cash contributions are relatively low. The federal limit is $5,500 annually for people under 50 and only $6,500 for those 50 and older.

* The investments inside IRAs CANNOT be used before the owner is 59 ½ years old. Investments withdrawn before 59 ½ are subject to taxes and a penalty for early withdrawing. In other words, the investments that are being grown for retirement (remember what the “r” stand for in IRA), MUST stay in the IRA.

* Only the owner of an IRA can contribute to an IRA.

This Money Matters article is not meant to be a “Complete D.I.Y. (Do-It-Yourself) Guide to IRAs”, but more like a “IRAs for Dummies” article. There is more to know, and I highly recommend you learn more in your quest for financial freedom.

In Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, Solomon, the author says, “cast your bread upon the waters: for thou shall find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” As it relates to investments, Solomon is speaking to the wisdom of diversification. In other words, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. IRAs are very popular and are an effective method for preparing for retirement. They also offer some diversity to a retirement portfolio. With retirement coming, wouldn’t you want to be as well prepared as possible? An IRA could be another stream of income in your golden years! I encourage you to use Godly wisdom and prepare for retirement. Do some investigating, and see if an IRA makes sense for you. God Bless

An Introduction to the Stock Market

Did you know the stock market has been around for over 400 years?  The first stock market was established in 1602 in Amsterdam, and the first American stock exchange was formed in Philadelphia in 1790.  And being stock exchanges are such a large part of the American economy, I figured it was worth mentioning.

To understand stock exchanges, you, first, have to understand stocks.  Stocks, or shares, are simply small piercing a company.  When companies such as Walmart, or Home Depot, issue shares or stock, they are in a sense, are selling part of their business.  They, in turn, take the money they raised from selling shares and use it to build their business.  As their business grows, the company hopefully becomes more valuable.  And as the company’s value grows, the value of each share increases.  Thus, the possessors of the stock have the shares have the potential to make money from the increasing value of the company.

You might be asking, ‘How do the investors, those who have the stock or shares, make money?’  The answer is simple.  As the value of a company increases or decreases, the demand for stock in the company, or a piece of that company, follows.  A company that is doing well, or is anticipated to do well, will generate “excitement” and the shares of stock can be traded or sold for a higher price.  This trading usually takes place at a designated location called an exchange or a market; like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the NASDAQ.  And to make sure there is no cheating by companies and investors, there are lots of government agencies like the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) that provide ground rules to regulate trading.

There are literally thousands and thousands of companies that issue stock to raise money; some are very large and some are smaller.  Very large companies like Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, and Exxon-Mobil are very influential to the economy, and the values of these companies are tracked and monitored through what is called an index.  Although an index such as the Dow Jones, or the S&P 500, or the NASDAQ, is often used to portend the trend of the nation’s economy as a whole, they are quite different.  For example, the Dow Jones only tracks 30 different companies!  It includes entities such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, Walmart and a host of other mega-companies.  The S&P 500 is different.  The S&P tracks 500 different companies!  It will also track companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, but will include businesses Apple, Facebook, Macy’s, Netflix and many more.  Being the S&P monitors so many different companies that span so many different segments of the American economy, it is often thought to be a better indicator of the nation’s economy over the Dow Jones.  The NASDAQ index is even broader.  It tracks over 3,300 different companies, funds, and stocks.  The NASDAQ is not limited to US-based companies, which makes it more of an indicator of the global economy.


Money Matters-High Interest Rates on Investments

Very few people save their way to becoming wealthy. Instead, people who have gained a measurable amount of wealth tend to invest their money into appreciating assets that, over time, are worth more. Appreciating assets such as real estate, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, CDs (certificate of deposits), annuities, and a whole host of other opportunities are purchased with the expectation that their value will grow and increase the buying power of the money invested. With so many different options, it can be quite overwhelming when attempting to grasp all the information available for each investment opportunity to know which is right for you. So how do you know what a “good” investment is?

Any investing advisor worth their salt would advise any investor to consider a few factors such as the risk, volatility, liquidity, and history of the investment to evaluate the quality of an opportunity. But, of all the metrics used, one of the most popular is the interest rate or the “return rate” of the investment.

When it comes to investments and their earnings, interest rates can be simply be defined as the rate of increase of the value of an investment. Basically, it’s a measure of how hard your money is working to make more money! The higher the interest rate, the harder the investment is working, and the more money the investment is making. If an investment has a negative interest rate for a period of time, it actually lost value over that period. Inflation is a great example. Inflation can simply be defined as the rate at which money loses value over time. As time passes, money is worthless and it cost more money to buy the same items. Money loses its buying power. I know nobody likes to lose money! But the reality is all investments are subject to inflation and all investments will have times where they have negative returns. It’s just something that happens.

What is a good interest rate for an investment? It depends on your goals. Consider the following information in an example to demonstrate the power of high investment return rates.
• CDs have averaged 3.73% returns in the last 30 years.
• Bonds have averaged 4.3% returns in the last 30 years.
• Stocks have averaged 11.5% returns in the last 30 years.
• Inflation has averaged 2.6% over the last 30 years.

Assume a $10,000 investment in made in either CDs, bonds, or stocks 30 years ago.
• A $10,000 investment in CDs would grow to almost $28,922 today.
• A $10,000 investment in bonds would grow to almost $33,904 today.
• A $10,000 investment in stocks would grow to almost $234,948 today.

All three investments look fantastic, right? Well, maybe until you consider inflation. Remember, inflation devalues money and reduces buying power. Inflation has averaged -2.6% for the last 30 years. Because of inflation, the $10,000 invested has been devalued. So now, 30 years later, it takes more than $21,111 to have the same buying power as the $10,000 had 30 years ago. So, $21,111 has to be subtracted from the investment returns as an adjustment because of inflation.

• The buying power of the investment in CDs is reduced by $21,111 to $7,811.
• The buying power of the investment in bonds is reduced by $21,111 to $12,793.
• The buying power of the investment in stocks is reduced by $21,111 to $213,837.

By investing in CDs and bonds, money was made, but it was not impressive considering it took 30 years. But if we look at stocks that have a higher return, the story is different. Even considering inflation, the buying power has still increased to almost $214,000! Now we are building some wealth! This is more than 27X better than the investment in CDs and more than 16X better than investing in bonds.

The whole point of this Money Matters article is to demonstrate the effect a high-interest rate has on the growth of an investment. But a high-interest rate is not the only factor that should be considered. You should think about risk. Although stocks offer high return rates, they also are at high risk. And, on the other side, CDs offer the very low returns, their return rate is guaranteed. I’m not saying investments that have low returns are “bad” investments, but you do have to curb your expectations. If you are looking to grow wealth, CDs and bonds are probably not going to get you to want to be.

A good investment portfolio will have a mixture of investments, and subsequently, the investments will have different return rates. Regardless of your investment mixture, it’s important to understand where, and how, your money is invested. There is no need to try this by yourself! It’s just not wise. If you want to invest, I highly, highly recommend getting a trained professional to explain your investment options and the consequences of each. The bible says, “Wisdom is found in a multitude of counsel” (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6), so get professional help and become the best steward you can be! God bless!

Money Matters-Ingredients in a Recipe of Financial Success

The best cooks use the right ingredients, with the right proportions, to make the best meals! They have mastered the art of getting all the ingredients to work in concert to bring out the most flavor in their dish. Each ingredient adds something extra, that when mixed with the other ingredients, enhances the entire meal. A strong financial plan is no different. Because money affects just about all aspects of our lives we need several different financial ingredients to address different financial needs throughout our lifetime.

Just as a chef knows what they want to make in the kitchen, you should know where you want to go financially. In other words, you should have a vision. The vision you have will give you a target to focus on and provide some directions to your finances. Your financial vision should be too great to just keep it in your head! Write it down! When it is on paper, it is tangible and you can be held accountable for it! And when it is on paper, you can make a budget, or a recipe to detail how you and God are going to accomplish your vision!

All good financial recipes have an element of savings. If you want to win with money, you MUST be a consistent saver. There is no way around it! According to a recent GoBankingRates survey, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, and 34% have no money whatsoever. Sporadically, putting money away from time to time is too unstructured and it makes hard to set goals and properly track progress; it throws your recipe off! Consequently, the amount of money you can save is directly related to the money you spend. You MUST get your spending under control and work to eliminate debt in your life. The less debt you have, the more you can save, and the more financially successful you will be!

Many times when financial plans are talked about, insurances are left out of the discussion. Insurances have only one job; to protect the insured. That’s it! They are not meant to be investments (meaning they are not meant to make you money). Insurances cost money, but they help protect your financial future. Did you know medical bills are reported to be the number cause for personal bankruptcies?! When you couple this with the fact that an estimated 40% of Americans rack up debt resulting in medical bills, it is easy to see how not enough money and inadequate insurance coverage can ruin your financial plan.

Every good and complete financial recipe has some form of investing. Although investing may not be an ingredient you add right now because of debt, it needs to be added to your recipe at some point if you ever hope to make progress financially. Investing is the best way to put your money to work. You work hard for your money. Investing allows your money to return the favor! There are many different types of investments with some of the more popular ones being stocks, mutual funds, real estate, and when you include retirement investing you have to consider 401ks, TSPs, IRAs, and the like. Investments create wealth and over time, these investments have proven to be worth more than they cost making them valuable assets in your financial plan.

And the final ingredient in our discussion is a transitioning plan. Building wealth can take a long time. It can even take generations. But all the hard work, saving, investing, and wise decision making can be wasted if it is not properly transferred to the intended beneficiary. This where wills and trust add value to your financial recipe. Wills and trusts allow an estate to be managed in your absence; they help transition your hard-earned wealth as you wish. They help eliminate family feud as they layout specific instructions on how to handle an estate.

The ingredients in this article are not an exhaustive list. There is a lot of details not mentioned that need to be vetted to ensure you are making the best choice for you and your family. Savings, eliminating debt, investing, and estate planning are good money management practices and, at some level, are part of a strong financial plan. So, it’s time to do some reflection on your own financial plan. And we can help you with that! Financial Peace University is being offered at the church again! It will be starting on August 8th (which is a Wednesday night) from 6pm-7pm and will run for 9 consecutive weeks. Registration is open now in the bookstore! If you have any questions, you can email us at Come on out and join us. Your financial future cannot wait any longer!

Money Matters-Crock Pots vs. Microwaves

Anybody that knows anything about cooking knows a crock pot is a must-have in the kitchen. A crockpot is a counter cooking kitchen appliance used to simmer and slow boil foods (the operative word here is, slow) at low temperatures. It is a great way to get the most flavor out of meats! Cooking with a crockpot is usually pretty simple. Just add water, the meat, the seasoning, and the vegetables. Put it all in the pot, turn it on, and wait. You should check on the meal from time to time, and make small adjustments, be there is not a lot to it.

Microwaves are very different from crock pots, but they are also a must-have in any modern kitchen. Microwaves heat up foods by using high-intensity radiation waves to excite the molecules in the food. As the molecules get excited, they move. And this movement creates heat which warms the food. Whole meals can be put together on a plate or in some plastic or ceramic container and the microwave can be used to heat them up; taking them from frozen to editable in just a few minutes.

Crock pots are slow and deliberate while microwaves are seen as the quick and easy option. When it comes to building wealth, we should be crock pots and not microwaves. Building wealth is not meant to be a fast process. God gives us directions as it relates to wealth building but they are not meant to be a formula that takes us from rags-to-riches overnight! Building wealth comes from consistently making smart decisions over a long period of time. I know there are examples in the bible where situations turn from the worst in a blink-of-an-eye, and that speaks to the awesomeness and omnipotence of God. And we take those stories, as we should, and use them for encouragement and as fuel to power through the tough, and often unpredictable, situations that happen in life. But we have to ask ourselves, ‘is that how it is supposed to be on a regular basis? Are we to live in a state of desperation our whole lives waiting for God to rescue us?’ Absolutely not. We are to live victoriously. And we can start to live victoriously by consistently making victorious decisions. Financially speaking, if we steadily save and invest and constantly avoid debt we will prosper. I guarantee it because the bible says so!

So, what does the bible say about “instant wealth”? Proverbs 13:11 says “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever will gain little by little, will prosper.” Proverbs 28:20 says, “A faithful man will abound in blessings, but whosoever rushes to be rich, will not go unpunished.” And Proverbs 20:21 says, “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed.” These are just a few but, nevertheless, strong warnings against “instant wealth”. But why is God so concerned about quick riches? It’s not the money that concerns Him! Money, in and of itself, is amoral; meaning it is neither good nor bad. Money is just a tool. The same money that is used to do something harmful, like buy drugs, can be used to do something good, like feed the homeless. The money doesn’t care! It is the character of the one who manages the money is what concerns God. Money in the hands of the immoral is spent immorally, and money in the hands of the responsible is spent responsibly. God wants his people to have good financial character, and good character does not come quickly or easily. It is forged over time through consistency.

Just as food that has been carefully prepared and slow cooked for hours is so much more flavorful than food that is cooked in the microwave, our financial future will so much more filling if we take the slow and steady approach vs the get-rich-over-night method. It just takes time to build wealth. I know we want it now, but God has warned us against the “quick buck”. The sooner we accept that obtaining wealth is a process and not an event, the sooner we can get started moving toward rightfully possessing what God has decreed as ours! I don’t know about you but I’m ready to get cooking. In next months article, we will discuss the ingredients we want to include our financial recipe. So, get your mind right and get over the fact that is going to take some time. We have work to do and wealth to build. Be blessed.