Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Monday, November 16, 2009

When making major financial decisions, look for the unexpected

During a time of major decision making in our personal finances, we have too often become conditioned to seek out the easiest (and usually most expensive) path to solve our need.

Here are some various decision scenarios and possible solutions:
  1. Car breakdown. The easy fix for a lot of people goes something like this: "Oh, no! My car broke down and I need a dependable vehicle to get me back and forth to work. It's an older car anyway and I deserve something new and shiny. I know brand new cars are expensive and will depreciate like a rock, but I'm in a jam here and I need something!" So people go into thousands of dollars of debt and they didn't even seek the Lord's direction! Here are some possibly better alternatives. First and foremost, PRAY! Go before the throne and ask the Lord to give you wisdom and knowledge to make the best financial decision possible. Second, think outside the box on a possible solution. Make your need known to your church through your small group or other avenues. Sometimes, just letting your network of Christian friends know your situation might lead to a great mechanic that could fix your car at a lower cost, or someone let's you borrow their car until you repair yours or you are able find a suitable, less expensive replacement.
  2. Weddings. Why so many people go into thousands of dollars in debt to get married is beyond me. With the divorce rate above 50% even in Christian circles, it seems that it would make more sense to have a very small wedding and invest a lot of money in premarital as well as marriage counseling/coaching throughout the marriage. Get ideas and referrals in your personal network.
  3. Renting vs. Owning. Dave Ramsey always cracks me up when he makes the sarcastic statement "All renters go to hell..." In the past, the conventional wisdom has been that people should get into home ownership as quickly as possible because when you rent, you are just throwing money away. While that may have been true for the last several years, the current collapse of the housing market has really made people rethink homeownership. Owning a home is a huge expense. If you're broke, you are much better off financially to rent a small cheap apartment, pile up as much cash for an emergency fund and home down payment, then go out and purchase an affordable home.
  4. Growing Family. I have seen (and have personally experienced) this scenario too many times. When a young couple gets pregnant with their first child, they believe that they need to immediately rush out and buy a bigger house and vehicle. Unless you are Jon and Kate Gosselin or the Duggar Family ,who have a small tribe for a family, you can probably get by for now until you are in a better financial situation. Just sit tight, be content for now, and research like crazy. Most people run into big financial problems when they rush into a home or automobile purchase that is way over their heads.
  5. College. I believe that more and more people are beginning to wake up to the fact that college is way too expensive. Going into thousands of dollars of debt to attend the best colleges is no guarantee that you will land your dream job. A better plan would be to get a bachelor and master's degree at a decent university, cash flowing the whole process. While getting your degrees as cheeply as possible, network with as many people as possible. Also, you should consider doing an internship in an area of career interest. The "Power of Who" is what is going to help you land you your dream job or launch your business, not a degree from an Ivy League school!
Here's the mental progression you should consider when faced with a major financial decision:
  1. Pray. So many believer's underestimate the power of prayer in their lives. God wants to provide for your needs, but we never go to the Father and ask for help! A prayer that I started praying recently comes directly from John 14:13-14, and the prayer goes something like this, "Father, in the name of Your Son Jesus, I'm asking that you would bring glory to Your name through working a mighty miracle in [insert your request]. Your Son has told His followers that He would do anything for us if we simply ask in His name, and I'm doing that right now. If what I am asking for lines up with Your perfect will and Your Word, I'm trusting that You will answer my request. In His name I pray, Amen."
  2. Keep Giving. Don't allow your financial decision to be an excuse to stop giving at least at the level of the tithe (10%). God has claimed that money as His. God is not going to bless your decision-making process if you are stealing from Him. Everything you have comes from Him, anyway! Prove to the Lord that you are a wise and shrewd manager of His resources.
  3. Look around you. Find out what inexpensive resources are readily available to you at this moment.
  4. Wait. Too many people can't wait anymore. Since we live in a "microwave" society, everybody wants what they desire right now! Be unique. Be different in your decision making process when it comes to your finances. Be a crock-pot, not a microwave. Take your time. Let the entire process "simmer" for a time while you investigate all of the possibilities. There is a much better chance that you will make a wiser decision.
  5. Talk to people. Use your unique "Who Network" to explain your situation and the decision you are facing. Other people have been where you are at right now, and they can give you advice on a possible direction to follow. One word of caution, however. Get a variety of advice from various sources and sift it all through the wisdom of God's Word.
  6. Get Creative. Think outside the box when you need to solve a financial issue. If you need a car, maybe someone in your personal network would be willing to donate a vehicle to you. If you need to get more education, maybe you could get what you really need through a mentoring/internship relationship. Time, relationships, and bartering are all great tools in your arsenal of compensation.
  7. Research all of the possibilities. The internet is an incredible tool at your immediate disposal to obtain information, advice, and special deals. Invest time and energy in searching out this valuable resource.
  8. Use the Power of Cash. Debt is dumb. Cash is a much better negotiating tool to get what you need at a lower cost.
Here are some real-life examples from the life of Jesus Christ:
  1. He used what was currently available to Him. On two separate occasions in Matthew 14 and 15, Jesus was in a situation when thousands of people needed to be fed. In both the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, His disciples only had just a few loaves of bread and a few fish in order to feed the multitudes. Through God's power working through Him, He was able to stretch out these limited resources in order to feed thousands of people!
  2. He saw resources that His disciples knew nothing about. In Matthew 21, Jesus was preparing for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As He approached the city, He knew about a colt that was tied up in a nearby village. He didn't need to go to the nearest "rent a colt" store to get what He needed. He just asked His disciples to go get it for Him and to let the owner know that the Lord needed to borrow it! In Matthew 26, we see Jesus preparing for His last supper with the disciples. Jesus knew of the perfect upper room, completely furnished, to use for this special meal. He asked His disciples to simply go to the owner and ask him to use it.
Have you ever faced a major financial decision similar to those above? Did you end up making good choices or bad choices? What was your result? I'd love to hear your story, just leave me a comment below.

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