If your family lost all your income, how much money does your family need to pay all your bills? This is an important number. This is your “Survival Budget Number.” This can give you hope or a target to shoot for in a downturn.
Let me illustrate, for a family of three that I have worked a budget with, their simplified budget is about $3,500 per month. That is taking out all the fluff, such as eating out, concert tickets, etc… If they had to really tighten their belts, they could probably cut another $500 a month before selling houses and cars. Continue reading “Curb Spending in a Crisis”
I am a thinker. Or at least I think I am. Descartes says, “I think therefore I am”, so I guess I am. I am an engineer at heart, my degree is in computer science engineering (linear thinker, problem solver, logical and sequential). But I am also a bit of a philosopher (love to engage with the abstract and essential life questions like- who am I, where did I come from, where am I going). That combination of engineering and philosophy puts me in a spot to ponder a variety of issues and then come up with some practical solutions.
I love the Bible and theology because it holds real insight to the real issues of the world. I always find it amusing when people discount the Bible as relevant because in my experience it is the only thing that makes sense in real life. I am a self-proclaimed practical theologian which basically means that the part of theology I enjoy is the application of our theological studies in the real world.
But when a problem gets beyond my ability to solve (and that happens more than I care to admit) I begin to freeze. My thoughts become cloudy and even though I keep pondering the situation, if I am unable to come up with a solution my mind begins to panic. My strength of thinking transitions to be my worst nightmare. I now begin to think through the consequences (real and imagined). Unless I begin to focus on truth, I can allow my mind to take me to places that I have no business going. And I begin to lose the battle.
The key to winning the battle for the mind has to do with what we allow our minds to focus on. If we focus on our problems, then we will plant seeds of anxiety that will grow into a real sense of hopelessness. If we focus on what God can do, then our minds will begin to experience contentment. Now I know that our thoughts may not pay the light bill or get us that promotion or fix that fractured relationship. But thinking about the right things keeps our hearts with the right perspective, which affects our attitudes, which allows us to struggle well in times of adversity.
Trouble shows up in a variety of way. Every kind of trial has it’s own unique set of challenges. Coronavirus is not only scary because of the obvious threats to our health. But, it also has the potential to effect our financial situation. As our leaders scramble to figure out what the next step is, it is important to remember that God still sits on His throne and that He loves and cares for us.
The long and the short of it is simply an issue of trust. Can you and I trust God? Can you trust Him to make all things work out for good in your life? This is the essence of the faith walk: trust. Without faith (trust) it is impossible to please Him and faith (trust) is in its very nature a belief in things we cannot see. If you and I must walk by sight we will struggle in the faith walk. And if I am honest, it is at this point that I struggle. Can I trust Him?
I don’t think she even understood how desperate our plight had become. Not just in terms of money but more importantly morale. Hundreds of prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling and as they say in Arkansas “my dauber was in the dirt.” And then the check came. The check from one of our partners is normally $100 a month but this one was $300. I called my buddy to thank him for the extra and he quickly deflected to his wife (whom I haven’t met yet). Seems she felt impressed of the Lord to send some extra money. I live in Arkansas and God led someone in Mississippi to meet a need that I have been petitioning Him about privately. God moved another person to generosity on my behalf. When I talked to my buddy his comment was classic, “don’t thank us, it’s not our money anyway, we just manage the Lord’s money”. I have just been refreshed by generosity.
God is great, beer is good and people are crazy. This is the chorus to one of my favorite country songs. The story line of the song is about two guys who meet in a bar and hit it off and talk into the wee hours of the morning about all kinds of things especially how to navigate life. Turns out that one of the guys is a millionaire who ends up cutting his kids out of his will and leaving his fortune to this guy he barely knew. The song goes on to say, “His kids were mad as hell, but me… I’m doing well. God is great beer is good and people are crazy.”
When it comes to inheritances people are indeed crazy. So many families are torn to shreds based on how they respond to the loss of a loved one. In our business of helping families with their finances, we engage with people in their estate planning. Without a good estate plan many a parent has sent their household into a pretty predictable outcome of chaos as the children fight over the stuff. A good will and trust plan helps to define what each child should expect as their portion of the estate.
It is Mother Day weekend in Rogers and I just spent an hour or so with my Mother-in-law in the rest home. She has a bad case of Alzheimer’s and she remembers me most of the time. Betty and I have been friends from the first time I met her over 28 years ago. The first time Terri took me home to meet her parents; Betty killed the fatted calf as they say. In her case, she prepared Betty’s Spaghetti and German chocolate cake. We have tried to copy her recipe over the years, but nobody does spaghetti like her. And her German chocolate cake is to die for. Well, 2 plates in and 2 pieces of cake and I am stuffed to say the least. And then it hits me: I need a nap in the worst way. But, I am there to impress them. Betty reads the look on my face and tells me to go take a nap on the couch. This is right down my alley: genuine hospitality. To Terri’s horror I take her up on her offer and the rest is history.
But, this Lady that I love dearly has a degenerative disease that has rendered her in a very lovely childlike state where my Father-in-law feeds her dinner twice a day. And she walks incessantly down a short locked hallway with 8 of her closest friends who also have forgotten most of their lives and families. Is that God’s will for her life? Continue reading “Chapter Six …but is He Willing?”
I am not sure how you manage your difficult financial times but I have a tendency to check the mailbox a lot. Gone are the days of God providing manna from heaven but occasionally we have experienced a little mailbox manna. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I am a firm believer that we should do everything that we can to be responsible. But, when you get past that point what do you do? When you get to the place that God has to show up or you are sunk. Some people really have to be beat down to rock bottom before they will admit that there is a place where we depend on God for our very next breath.
I remember the Christmas where things were so tight that I wasn’t sure if we would be able to buy gifts. My family was in prayer about it and we were waiting to see what the Lord would do. I can still remember someone coming by our house and dropping off a Christmas card. When they left we opened the envelope to find almost to the penny what we needed for our Christmas budget. My son, who had been praying with us about this, immediately recognized that God had answered our prayers. As I write this I am a little embarrassed that we were in that spot. But let’s be transparent for a moment. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who are in just that predicament from time to time. It may not be at Christmas, but there are times when you are looking to God to land that deal, sell that car, turn your sales around or make that bonus check materialize.
My Dad calls it a flesh break. I call it the tirades of a crazy man. The Lord calls it sin. I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the string of expletives coming out of my mouth. Even though I whispered my displeasure toward the Lord, I think my heart screamed inside. And to my chagrin there is no doubt that He heard me. It has been a long time since I had been that upset. Before I became a believer I had a pretty foul mouth but that was one of the things that I really hadn’t struggled with afterward. That is till I hit the wall: the financial stress wall.
The Scripture says that anxiety in the heart of man weighs it down. Said another way anxiety in the heart of man wears him out. Just like a marathoner hits the physical wall, a person who is dealing with ongoing financial struggles hits the emotional wall from time to time. Growing up in a chronically poor family, I saw it first hand with my Mom who must have had the patience of Job. But, ever so often she would lose it and have to work through her emotions. I would like to think of myself as strong, but the reality is that in challenging financial times my heart is full of anxiety and that little boy who was so self-conscious about being poor reappears with all his insecurities. I know that I am to focus on daily bread, but I am concerned that the bakery may break down in the future. Managing our emotions in the face of financial adversity is a key to managing yourself.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me now but when I was a kid I used to be pretty fast. I was not blazing by any stretch, but I ran a respectable quarter mile (54.5 was my best time, which by the way would be the record at my son’s middle school). The quarter mile is the race that separates the men from the boys. One time around the track as fast as your little legs will carry you. It tests a lot of things but especially your will power.
The first part of the race is navigating the opening curve. Your legs are fresh and your adrenaline is pumping so it’s pretty easy. The backstretch is pretty boring and even though you are not tired, you are tempted to step off the track and walk straight out to the bus. By the last curve, you are starting to feel it but there is something about being almost done and the curvature of the track that makes this part of the race kind of fun. Then you find yourself staring down the final straightaway. You can finally see the finish line and out of nowhere a 100 pound gorilla jumps on your back. Your legs are burning. Your lungs are exploding. And your mind screams at you to stop. By this phase of the race I used to look down occasionally at my legs to make sure they were still moving. The only thing that moves you forward is the will to finish what you started and the fear of your track coach who will help you learn to persevere to the end at the next track practice. The key to managing the will in the quarter mile is to not look at the track, the crowd, your coach or even your own physical capabilities, but you must look at the finish line. Continue reading “Chapter Three- Managing our Will in Tough Financial Times”