Ask Chuck: Stewardship Through The Generations
I’m concerned about young couples I know who rely heavily upon credit cards. They appear to have no concern for the future. I don’t sense a desire to be good stewards in their approach to finances.
Dear Concerned Boomer,
It is not only a perceived concern but a real one and not just for millenials, but for millions of Americans across the board regarding poor financial management habits.
Experian released research on our nation’s consumer credit card debt in May 2019. It reveals a link between a perceived healthy economy/low unemployment rate and Americans’ confidence in spending. Total credit card debt has increased 29% over the past five years, reaching $807 billion for first quarter 2019. Debt levels increased 6% in the past year alone.
An article in USA Today reveals concerns as well. Consider the following facts from their recent exclusive report, based on a survey by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
The economy appears to be booming.
- We’re a month short of the longest economic expansion ever
- Unemployment is at 50-year low
- Stocks hit the longest bull market last year and are nearing new highs
- Home values hit a record high in first quarter 2019
It’s not all bad news.
- Only 1 in 5 had a decrease in income
- Half can comfortably pay their monthly bills
Yet, Americans are financially stressed.
- Only 58% have a retirement account
- 1 in 4 have past-due medical bills
- 37% say they have too much debt
- Half wish they’d gone to a cheaper college, didn’t understand how much they would owe, worry they won’t ever be able to pay off their loans.
- Nearly half have not set aside money to cover expenses for 3 months
Gerry Walsh, president of FINRA, was quoted in the same USA Today article:
I give our nation’s financial capability a solid C, leaning toward a C-minus. While some Americans feel better about their finances now compared with 10 years ago, too many face obstacles that will likely keep us as a nation from acing financial capability any time soon.
Regardless of how well an economy is doing, true financial freedom is a journey that takes some people longer than others. It’s a condition of the heart, not just the condition of the finances.
Many people were not taught Biblical financial principles, so their decision-making is out of ignorance. Others fail to obey truth that they already know.
It starts with giving first. God’s Word teaches us that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Yet, far too many Christians make giving an act of tipping what is left over, not making it their first priority.
Discipline and self control are required to change bad habits. Spending less than one makes can be challenging. But, it is essential to build savings and pay down debt. It will require time and dedication and may require radical lifestyle changes.
It is an opportunity to depend on God. Full surrender of any self-reliance will grant recognition of His daily provision.
As Hebrews 12:11 says, For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (ESV)
Satan desires to waylay people on the path to stewardship, especially robbing them of joy in the journey. That’s why it is vital that people commit themselves to the Lord and depend on Him, no matter what they encounter along the way.
There will be setbacks; there will be discouragement. Prayer, mentors, accountability partners, and trusted friends can strengthen young and old along the way. They can warn of dangers and celebrate victories. Both offense and defense are needed as people learn to steward wisely.
Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians are just as important to us today: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
Those who are financially stable can make great strides at this time. They can set aside emergency funds, save, invest, and give generously.
Consider an Ironing Board
For the single, single parent, or widow, many financial decisions are made in a vacuum. They often feel embarrassed or vulnerable so they avoid seeking professional advice or wise counsel. A friend of mine suggests forming an “ironing board.” This is a small group of friends or advisors who volunteer to meet with you to help you iron out any financial challenges you have or give input when making a big decision. I think it is a great idea so long as your board does not have anything to gain from offering you advice. Avoid those who are simply trying to sell you something or charge a fee for their time. Most churches have godly people full of financial wisdom who would be great candidates to help.
Get Out of Debt Tips
If you or a loved one are struggling with overwhelming credit card debt, I’d encourage you to contact our friends at Christian Credit Counselors. We’ve worked with them for years because we share the same biblical values and trust them to help those struggling. You can start with a free debt analysis by clicking here.
Originally posted on the Christian Post, June 28, 2019