Read an Excerpt
The New Master Your Money Workbook
A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining and Enjoying Financial Freedom
By Ron Blue, Jeremy White
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Ron Blue
All rights reserved.
Will I Ever Have Enough?
At the age of twenty-four, I had every ingredient needed for success—an MBA degree, my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certificate, a well-paying job with the world's largest CPA firm in their New York City office, a driving ambition to be a success, and a supportive and very intelligent wife.
For the next eight years, I proved to myself that anyone could succeed by really putting everything into it. By the time I was thirty-two years old, I had achieved every financial and success goal I had set:
* I had moved rapidly up the corporate ladder.
* I had founded the fastest growing CPA firm in Indiana, and it became one of the fifty largest firms in the United States.
* I, along with others, owned two small banks in Indiana.
* I had a lovely wife and three young daughters.
* I had all of the trappings of success: a new home, new cars, country club memberships, and the like.
I had also just committed my life to Jesus Christ—a commitment that began to change my perspective and my priorities.
It was during the early 1970s, and for the first time in the nation's history, Americans began experiencing "tremendous" inflation rates of 4 percent and 5 percent. The prime rate hit an unbelievable high of 10 percent and then even went to 12 percent. The dollar was taken off the gold standard, and for the first time in recent history, the United States began running a trade deficit.
In the midst of personal affluence, I began to experience the fear that comes from wondering, Will I ever have enough? Or, If I do have enough now, will it be enough when I retire? And, By the way, how much is enough? I believe that everyone, rich and poor, asks himself these underlying questions more frequently than he would like to admit. These questions are constantly in our subconscious, and therefore we all deal with them somehow in our decision making. Either we tend to hoard our resources or we tend to live out the philosophy of "get all the gusto you can—you only go around once."
The Christian, additionally, is confronted with the question, what is the appropriate Christian lifestyle? This book, by the grace of God, will attempt to answer each of these questions by providing a framework of financial planning that is both biblical and relevant in our unique society.
Through the mid-1970s, I dealt with these questions both personally and as an advisor to a largely wealthy, secular clientele. In 1977, my wife, Judy, and I experienced God's call to leave the businesses I was involved in and join a new ministry in Atlanta, Georgia. For two years, as our family grew to five children, I helped to develop seminar materials in the areas of decision making, time management, faith planning, and problem solving. During this time, I traveled to Africa eleven times, assisting a large Christian organization to apply the principles that we were teaching.
I observed during all of this that the same financial questions that my former clients and I had been asking were being asked by others as well: missionaries, affluent Africans, poor Africans, full-time Christian workers, successful American executives, pastors, and friends. The questions transcended cultures as well as classes. These questions were:
* Will I ever have enough?
* Will it continue to be enough?
* How much is enough, particularly in view of my Christian convictions and understanding of Scripture?
In 1979 at the encouragement of Dr. Howard Hendricks, I began a financial planning career with the objective to remove the fear and frustration that Christians experience when they deal with money. The need for this type of counsel and advice is, I believe, pervasive. Christian teaching and application go from the extreme of sharing personal income in communal living to the "name it, claim it" approach. Both extremes are an attempt to reach God in the way we handle our money, when all the time He is attempting to reach out to us with His wisdom, counsel, and principles. I believe so strongly that American Christians need godly counsel for their finances that I now serve as president of Christian Financial Professionals Network.
Whatever your personal circumstance, something has made finances a pressing issue for you. Otherwise, you would not be holding this workbook, seeking to make changes in your financial affairs. Perhaps you're having problems repaying a debt. Perhaps you're worried about not having an adequate retirement income. Perhaps you're concerned about providing college educations for your children. Whatever the questions, problems, or concerns, you're doing the right thing by seeking to address your financial situation.
My wife and I began a journey, just as you are beginning one now, to "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9). We attempted to answer the questions: Will we ever have enough? How much is enough? What is the appropriate lifestyle for a Christian? We've found that biblical principles for personal money management are timeless—regardless of changing economic conditions, regardless of our personal situations. The New Master Your Money Workbook outlines our journey, a journey toward financial freedom, sound stewardship, and responsible money management.
This workbook is designed to address the nagging anxiety surrounding financial affairs. By providing a framework of financial planning that is both biblical and relevant in our society, this ten-week program will enable you to live your life free from the worry, fear, and frustration created by financial uncertainty. By committing to work through this ten-week program, you will:
* Gain an understanding of biblical principles of personal finances;
* Learn the tools to make "order out of chaos";
* Know the criteria for making sound financial decisions;
* Learn to take advantage of economic uncertainty;
* Develop a plan for getting (and staying) out of debt;
* Identify your long-term and short-term goals;
* Be able to tell when you are on track in meeting your goals;
* Overcome the pitfalls of consumptive spending; and
* Learn to live free from financial worry and anxiety.
If these sound like strong promises, you're right. We serve a mighty God, and He wants us to be free from financial concerns. If we are preoccupied about financial affairs, we are not free to serve Him. Listening to God's leading in the midst of worry and anxiety is a very difficult, if not impossible, task. When we commit our lives to Christ, we commit our finances as well. No matter what your personal circumstances, the New Master Your Money Workbook will provide you with the teaching, the tools, and the techniques to bring order to your finances and peace of mind to your concerns.
As you begin this ten-week program, keep in mind that you are beginning a process—a process that takes time, homework, and commitment. You have spent years getting to where you are now financially—ten weeks is a minimal investment for lifetime results.
Most people don't arbitrarily decide to seek financial counsel. Developing a financial plan or a family budget is not usually included on someone's list of ten favorite leisure activities! Something prompts their action: a death, a sudden increase or decrease in income, or financial difficulties, to name a few. Whatever serves as the catalyst for your decision, I've found it is usually helpful to take a look inward before looking outward. In answering the following questions, try to be as specific as you can without jumping ahead to "solutions."
What in your personal circumstances is causing you the greatest financial anxiety right now?
If you will be working through this process with your spouse (which I highly recommend if you are married), does your spouse have a differing view of the situation or problem?
What financial obligations do you expect in the future for which you have no idea how you will provide? (College education, debt repayment, major home repairs, etc.)
Do I Need This Program?
"I have no money! No matter how much I earn, I never seem to have enough."
"My husband and I get along great. We don't argue about kids, in-laws, sex—but money—now that's another thing altogether. Money always seems to be a tense subject, so we just avoid talking about it."
"We begin to feel like we're making some progress or getting ahead, then—boom—something unexpected comes up, like major car repairs or having to replace the furnace. It's always something."
"We feel like we're doing okay financially until I begin to think about braces for the kids, college, weddings, retirement. I just don't know how we'll come up with the money when the time comes."
"I know we should give more to our church, but with raising two kids, increasing our tithe just isn't realistic."
"We never use a budget. When we put it all down on paper, we're always in the hole. But somehow, it all seems to work out."
Any of these statements sound familiar? I've heard comments such as these from hundreds of individuals and couples. Despite the fact that money is merely a means to an end, money is a stressful, highly emotional issue.
Whether trying to make investment decisions or struggling to make ends meet, chances are your decisions about what and how to spend money are shrouded in anxiety, frustration, guilt, or worry. Unfortunately, most of us are lousy money managers, not because we don't want to be good money managers, but because we've never been taught.
True, False, or Exaggerated?
Read through the following financial facts, and indicate if you think these statements are true (T), false (F), or exaggerated overstatement (E).
The staggering reality is that all these statements are true. Since 1945 our country has experienced tremendous economic growth, yet these financial statistics for individuals are sobering. What a tragedy to spend your entire working life and accumulate basically nothing. Yet that is exactly what the majority of Americans are doing.
Too many of us wait to plan until it's too late to plan. And if we don't plan, we are, by default, planning to fail. In light of these statistics, we know that the vast majority of women will become widows and will be managing inadequate resources. We are setting ourselves up for financial bondage. Let me make this point emphatically: Failing to plan is, in reality, planning to fail.
A significant part of the problem behind these financial statistics is debt. More Americans owe more than they own. Quite simply, if you added up all their assets and all their liabilities, they'd have more liabilities than assets. Repayment of debt consumes a large percentage of all incomes today, not including mortgage debt. When you add mortgage debt to that figure, as much as a staggering 50 percent of all income goes toward indebtedness. Most people don't realize where they stand financially and, therefore, don't know they're headed for trouble.
Time for Honesty with Myself
Enough said about these statistics. What about your situation? Ask yourself the following questions and circle your answer.
If you find yourself answering yes to more than three, you are taking the right step by choosing to work through this planning process. If you answered yes to more than half of these questions, this planning process is critical to your long-term and short-term financial stability. The sooner you address your financial situation, the better. I'll say again, failing to plan is planning to fail. Using the principles, tools, and techniques outlined in this workbook, you will change your financial situation significantly in the next ten weeks.
Commit to Success
The first step in the financial planning process, and possibly the most important step, is your commitment to work the program. If you commit to the program and faithfully work the plan, you can trust the results to God. No matter what your present situation is, God is bigger than your financial concerns.
I encourage you to make a commitment to God, your spouse, and yourself to work through this ten-week process. If your spouse is unwilling or unable to participate with you or if you are single, you may find it helpful to ask a friend of the same gender to "partner" with you in this process. You will find a partnership with a friend or trusted confidant to be a source of support and encouragement as well as an effective technique for maintaining personal accountability.
Another helpful technique is to establish a specific time each week for financial planning. If you were to enroll in a college course or seminar, you probably wouldn't schedule a conflicting engagement during the class time. So, too, with this program—make a commitment to yourself to hold this time for only that. Initially, during this ten-week program, your weekly sessions will require one to two hours. However, once your financial plan is in place, no more than twenty to thirty minutes will be required. Eventually, you will be spending no more than an hour or so a month to keep on track with your financial plan. The initial ten-week investment will pay off long-term dividends, both financially and emotionally. You owe it to yourself (and your family) to make this a priority.
A Commitment to Plan
I, ____________________________, recognize that if I don't begin a process of financial planning, I am, by default, planning to fail. I also recognize that the time is now—I can no longer allow other obligations and commitments to take priority over addressing my financial situation. By God's grace and with His guidance, I commit to following the New Master Your Money financial planning process.
My weekly financial planning session will be on (day) _____________ at (time) _______. If an unavoidable emergency arises which preempts this time, I will arrange an alternate time for that week as a "makeup" session.
I will ask _____________________ to partner with me in this process. I will schedule my first planning session for _____________________, and I will conclude the workbook planning sessions on ______________________.
Three Keys to Guaranteed Success: What Not to Do
First, remember you are beginning a process, not a project. As you work through the process, don't strive for perfection—there is no such thing. Shoot for 80 percent accuracy.
Second, in financial planning, don't focus on the past. Isaiah 43:18 says, "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old." Focusing on the past tends to limit our thinking to our past experiences and our past failures. More importantly, focusing on the past leaves God out of the process. "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (Ephesians 3:20). God is never limited by what has gone on in the past. He wants to do something beyond what we can even think or imagine.
Third, don't try to "fix" your financial situation overnight. Give yourself time—working through the entire process is critical to achieving long-term changes in your financial situation.
You Can Have Enough
From a financial standpoint, you can have enough. If you plan, using the principles and techniques presented in this workbook, you will have enough. However, most of us have difficulty believing this is possible because our security comes from money. If our security comes from money, we'll never have enough. I don't care how much money we have; it will never be enough. This is the reason the New Master Your Money process is founded on biblical principles. Without an understanding of our scriptural foundation, of what God is calling us to do and where our security truly lies, the financial planning process is of no more value than arithmetic gymnastics. The first week of this program will focus on four biblical principles.
Excerpted from The New Master Your Money Workbook by Ron Blue, Jeremy White. Copyright © 2004 Ron Blue. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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