As we put away the Christmas decorations and head into the New Year, we should remember that this is a great time to renew our commitment to the wise management of the resources that God has entrusted to us. As caretaker of God’s resources on this earth, “it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2). Even though you ultimately are looking to God to make the achievement of your goals possible, He expects you to make reasonable plans. Take a look at the seven suggestions below and consider their role in your life.
Give generously to the Lord
Proverbs 3:9 “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.”
Start the New Year by taking a fresh look at the characteristics of Biblical giving. Begin viewing a tithe of 10% as a starting point rather than an end goal, recognizing that God is faithful to provide when we’re faithful to give. Our giving is one of the most genuine ways that we can give back to God out of gratitude for the ultimate gift of eternal life through His Son. It is when we give that we reflect God’s character. And, it is through giving that we can experience such overwhelming joy in our lives as we give to the Lord’s work.
Set written, Biblically-inspired goals
Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”
This is a great time to review both your short-term and long-term financial goals. Many never take the time to identify and quantify their goals, and consequently, they are left without much direction in their financial lives. It’s like trying to build a house without blueprints. In his book Storm Shelter, Ron Blue offers five steps for setting good goals: list your goals, consolidate and refine them, prioritize them, make them measurable, and keep them visible. Goals keep you focused on what is really important in life and give you the motivation to persevere.
Establish a spending plan
Luke 14:28 “Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?”
Most families live beyond their means, simply because they don’t have a spending plan in place. If you can’t account for as much money going out each month as is coming in, you might want to begin by tracking everything you spend for five weeks. If you have never taken the time to track, I can guarantee you will be surprised at how quickly the little things can add up. I call it the “latte factor.” A $3.50 latte each work day will add up to $70 per month. Can you imagine if you invested that same amount every month? Just think of the money you would accumulate, not to mention the saved calories! Remember, if you don’t control money, money will control you.
Declare war on credit card debt
Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”
We live in a society that has mastered the card. The problem occurs when we use credit cards for non-budgeted items and we spend money that we don’t actually have. Renew your commitment to pay off your credit cards in 2010. You will truly be free to serve the Lord once the bondage of credit card debt is removed. You don’t get into debt overnight and you won’t get out of debt quickly either, but the reward is far greater than the pain. Stay focused!
Build your emergency reserves
Proverbs 21:20 “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.”
Make a commitment to set aside 3–6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund. This will prevent you from being forced to use credit for unexpected expenses or a loss of income. You can always have part of your pay sent directly to your savings or money market account if that will help you. The key is just to make sure that it gets done.
Review your retirement goals and take action
Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest.”
As many as 70% of Americans have no idea how much it will take to fund their retirement at their current lifestyle. Make a commitment to review your retirement plan with a professional to see if you are on track. Take full advantage of at least the matching portion of your 401(k) or 403(b). Also, look into starting a Roth IRA this year for tax-free growth of retirement funds. You also may want to reevaluate your investment selections in your retirement account, especially if you made some radical changes to your portfolio last year.
Establish a financial finish line
Deuteronomy 16:17 “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.”
What is the appropriate lifestyle for a Christian? God doesn’t define it in the Bible, so we are left to make it a matter of prayer. Make a point to ask God what lifestyle He has called you to. Then, pray about setting a financial finish line, meaning the point at which you cap your lifestyle and give everything else away. You can still include savings for short-term and long-term expenses, but determine in advance how much is enough. Rather than just accumulating as much as you possibly can, this strategy allows you to be intentional about being a “pipeline” rather than a “bucket” and moving resources back into the Kingdom.
Accepting our responsibility as stewards drastically changes the way we view our finances. Trust in the Lord, acknowledge His faithfulness, give thanks for your circumstances, and make plans to move toward your God-given financial goals in the New Year. Blessings!
Rob West is the Training and Communications Director for Kingdom Advisors, a non-profit Life that exists to equip and disciple Christian financial advisors to integrate their faith and profession. Please send questions and comments to [email protected].
The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.