Talking about ways to handle money can strike many folks as too forward and unbecoming. Yet money is no less crucial a topic to address in times like these when rates of homelessness, divorce, and indebtedness are still incredibly high.
As of June 2016, an estimated 564,708 US residents were homeless. In 2018, researchers estimate far too many marriages end in divorce—41% of first marriages, 60% of second marriages, and 73% of all third marriages. As far as debt goes, it is hair raising to hear “the total pool of consumer debt [in America] has surpassed $1.3 trillion,” according to a recent NerdWallet report—no need to further drive the point by including student loans and other forms of debt enslaving Americans.
True, factors beyond the scope of this blogpost contribute to the woes of homelessness, divorce, and debt. All the same, I would be remiss to forgo connecting disproportionate money usage to the ills befalling humanity.
In my own marriage, I can honestly say (and regrettably so) the hardest and most heart wrenching seasons have been due to my poor handling of our money. When time-tested rules of money are ignored, it is only by divine grace one can escape homelessness, divorce, and so much more.
Helping me improve in the area of finance, money tutors (the Bible, individuals, classes, books, articles, and podcasts) have supplied me with fireproof money rules to keep my financial house and marriage in order. And I cannot keep such good news to myself.
So, below are some simple money rules that continue to change my life, my marriage, and my family. Trust me, they will do the same for you.
1) Give generously. By far, the best way to find enjoyment and fulfillment in/with money is to prioritize generosity. Decide to always start by giving away a portion of the money that comes your way. (Spoiler alert: my very next post will cover giving in depth)
2) Save diligently. Always, always set aside a portion of your income. The practice of saving money is the surest pillar in your financial house upon which you can rely. It is the vehicle that will offset future costs, fund big hairy audacious dreams, and allow you to approach your waning years with peace of mind.
3) Invest regularly. If you merely save, your money will not keep pace with nor stay ahead of inflation. So, make it a goal as soon as your savings reach two digits (literally $10) to invest half of it and make it grow until you double your money. Keep multiplying (investing) until your money reaches 3 digits. Rinse and repeat until it reaches 4, 5, 6 digits ad infinitum. (You’re welcome!)
4) Mind Uncle Sam always. Taxes are as sure as death. Just as the Grimm Reaper wants his share, the IRS will tax your income. Stay informed and act accordingly in order to contribute well to the welfare of the country without unnecessarily emptying your nest every single time you’re paid.
5) Differentiate needs from wants and preferences. Money has wings and is free spirited; it likes to move around. That’s a good thing in investing but when it comes to actual living expenses, you need to realize some things are needs and others are merely wants and preferences. Spend money on legitimate needs (water, food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc.) but keep a tight rein on your wallet when wants/preferences come knocking (especially when you had not already saved for that purpose).
- tap water versus Evian water bottle
- a nice generic pair of jeans versus a high end designer brand to impress your friends
- bringing home prepared sandwiches to work versus going out to lunch every single day
- a 2008 Toyota Camry versus a 2019 luxury model
- buying a home within your true price range instead of getting a mortgage that is way more than twice your total annual realized (net) income
6) Avoid debt. People think it’s impossible to function without debt; I say it’s difficult to exercise self-control over desires that are much bigger and much more convincing than our funds. If you desire to bid financial slavery adieu, avoid debt like the plague. Otherwise, it would be like a leaky boat trying to cross the Atlantic. Don’t buy on credit if the money is not in your account to cover it in full.
7) Know your SO’s financial orientation. If you’re in a lifelong relationship (marriage), talk to your spouse about the money that goes through both of your hands. Be sure to discuss each other’s tendencies and make big financial decisions together. That will strengthen both your marriage and your impact on potential/actual children you have.
8) Accumulate surplus funds to help others. I began the list with giving and I am closing it with giving as well. The point of having any amount of money is to meet your own needs and the needs of others. Take the time to research, befriend, and know the people in your circle of influence. Find a need and meet it. Don’t encourage lazy opportunists who prey on givers but lend a helping hand to hard workers in true need.
I have found immense joy this past year in particular as I have sought to obey the above rules. It will take a lifetime to optimize each one but I look forward to embracing the future with a smile on my face.