by Mark Biller for Sound Mind Investing
For many people, the biggest obstacle to becoming a successful investor is the belief that investing is too difficult for them to handle. Because that misconception is so prevalent, SMI devotes a lot of coverage to the complexity-busting power of establishing a personal investing plan and sticking with it regardless of what’s happening in the markets.
With all the emphasis on planning, it’s easy to start thinking that investing success or failure depends solely on you. What a relief that isn’t the case! Surely God expects each of us to do the best we can faithfully, but ultimately, He has promised to provide for every need, whether or not we pick all the right mutual funds along the way (Matthew 6:25-33).
Still, the pitfall of faulty perspective remains a danger for any investor who is focusing years into the future. Imbalance often results when an investing plan is being applied too rigidly, and these two areas seem especially vulnerable:
* Keeping a generous spirit. Despite the many reassurances given to us in Scripture that we come out ahead by being generous (Proverbs 11:24-25, Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6), the idea is so counter-intuitive that it remains a battle for many people.
If meeting our saving and investing goals is a struggle to begin with, it sure seems strange to consider giving more money away. Yet that often seems to be how God works, perhaps as a gentle reminder that “my ways are higher than your ways” (Isaiah 55:9) and that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
* Focusing on what really matters. As Scott Houser pointed out in an article about family vacations, sometimes it does make sense to bust the budget temporarily or borrow from the emergency fund. Naturally it would be even better to incorporate these relationship-building activities into the budget, but the point remains valid—accomplishing financial goals isn’t worth it if you look back after their completion and have deep regrets.
Although the ad is blatantly manipulative, I feel it right in the heart every time the radio implores me with a little girl voice to “Take me fishing, because my wedding day will be sooner than you think.” Ouch. I don’t fish, but I get the point. My retirement will probably still be okay even if our family spends some money building loving memories.
Like most things in life, your investing plan requires balance to be effective. If it’s too loose, you’ll never hit your goals. But if it’s too tight, you can miss the prompting of the Holy Spirit, or sacrifice the things in life that ultimately prove most important. If you’re like me and lean to the “too tight” side with your plan, consider this true story.
Years ago, my parents felt led by God to give away the small sum they were planning to use as investment capital to start college funds for their three young children. While they didn’t know where the money for college would come from if they did, they were obedient and gave it cheerfully.
The years went by, and right up through the time that the youngest went away to school, it was never clear where the money would come from. Now and then events would allow them to save a little, and like many families, they took out a few small loans to make it work.
As the youngest prepared to graduate, Dad totaled all the items that had come up to help pay for college costs: taking a voluntary layoff and finding another good job quickly, scholarships, and so on. The final tally confirmed God’s faithfulness.
The total amount of unexpected college “help” was almost exactly one hundred times the original sum given away over 20 years before. Despite the change in plans that God orchestrated, everything worked out. God is faithful.
Having an investment plan is essential to meeting long-term financial goals. But we need to allow some flexibility within that investment plan. Sometimes God helps us reach our destinations using a different path than we’d naturally choose. That may be because He’s not as interested in the destinations themselves as the journeys we take to get there.
If you trust God and try to follow His lead, there’s no need to worry—He will provide.
Published since 1990, Sound Mind Investing is America’s best-selling financial newsletter written from a biblical perspective.
Originally posted 6/16/2012.
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