August 2014 Truths That Transform

(by Andrew Wheeler)
War had never been his plan, least of all war against the very rulers whose country he had left several years previously. But on hearing of his nephew’s capture at the fall of Sodom, Abram had gathered his men and, allied with three of his friends, had taken off after the four kings who had won the battle of Siddim Valley. 

From a human standpoint, it was a foolish move. Going after the powerful army from the East with only a few hundred men was a death wish. But Abram’s thought was not for his own safety. He considered that he was responsible to God for his nephew, and acted rather on faith than on rational thought. 

And now, God had given him victory! As he returned from the battle with his allies, Abram assessed the condition of his forces. To his astonishment, he realized that God had not only given him victory, but also kept his force intact. His men and the men of his three allies emerged virtually unscathed. 

On the way back, Abram was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem and a priest of God. Amazed to encounter another God-fearer in this land of strange gods, Abram instantly identified with Melchizedek’s pronouncement: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” 

Abram now had first-hand evidence of God’s faithfulness to his promise when he had initially called Abram to leave his country. Overcome with gratitude and joy that somehow had to find expression, he gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils from the battle. 

This is the first tithe in the Bible. Over 500 years later, God would give Moses detailed instructions for God’s people that included a regular tithe, and tithing would become a mark of obedience. But before it was a matter of obedience, the tithe was a response of joy and gratitude to God for his faithful provision. 

The same is true today. Giving is a response of obedience to God. But first and foremost, it is the response of a joyful heart out of gratitude for God’s blessings. This is the kind of giving that Paul exhorts us to in 2 Corinthians 9:7 – giving that recognizes the blessings of God Most High and flows not out of obligation, but out of joy and gratitude. 


Time of Renewal

August 2014 Newsletter Image

August 2014 Good $ense Newsletter: Time of Renewal

Dear friends and colleagues, 

I have recently returned from my annual canoe trip into the Quetico Wilderness Area in Ontario. It’s a yearly physical, emotional and spiritual time of renewal and on this occasion I was accompanied by two grandsons and a college friend of theirs. Life doesn’t get much better than that! 

The trip involves a significant amount of portaging – that is, carrying overland between lakes the canoe and everything else you have with you to sustain life in the wilderness for a week or more. Since portages are sometimes long and almost always over rough terrain, the objective is to have with you only what is really needed. Life becomes very simple. As one author puts it:
“Surplus, the engine that drives civilization, gains little traction in the wilds…Life defined by simple needs promotes equally simple wants. When a mere tent satisfies the need for shelter, the desire is for a flat space. When an open fire provides the element of heat, the desire is for a sturdy hearth and dry wood. When a canoe and paddle are the primary means of transport, the desire is for smooth water and favorable winds. When feet are drenched in mud and water, the desire is for socks that are dry.”

Simplicity begets peace and contentment. Time becomes available to satisfy the desire for reflection on the deeper matters of life and God. Thankfulness focuses on things I take for granted – the ability to breath, to move, to see… for life itself. 

Back home I contemplate how different that experience is to the materialism and pervasive emphasis on more that characterize our world. And my thoughts invariably turn to why stewardship ministry is so incredibly important. I hope the following list will put fire in your bones and be an encouragement regarding your stewardship calling. 

Stewardship ministry is important because:

  • First and foremost, a proper relationship to money is a prerequisite for a proper relationship to God (Matt 6:21 & 24)
  • Good stewardship provides resources that enable the local church to accomplish its God-given mission.
  • Agreement over handling money strengthens relationships, marriages, and families.
  • Wise financial decisions bring respect, honor, and peace.
  • Good stewardship bolsters contentment with God’s provision and imparts the joy of generosity.
  • Good stewardship frees the believer from the hold of materialism.
  • Good stewardship places trust in God who is eternal rather than in money and possessions which are temporary.

For more than 30 years, Good $ense has been committed to providing resources that transform not just a person’s finances but their life with God. Biblical truths and practical action steps are integrated in a grace –filled manner that leads to joy, peace and freedom. We hope they will be of help in your ministry. 

Let us know if we can serve you in any way. 

Your colleague in the struggle, 

Dick Towner
Good Sense Movement
Transforming Finances! Transforming Lives!


Why Credit Cards Trump Debit Cards

News You Can Use: Why Credit Cards Trump Debit Cards

(by Matt Bell from his blog – www.soundmindinvesting.com)

For many years, popular personal finance teaching, especially in churches, has steered people away from credit cards and toward debit cards. But recent credit and debit card data breaches, such as the massive one experienced by Target shoppers, shows why credit cards may be the better way to pay with plastic. 

The Argument For Debit Cards

Debit card proponents come from a “save yourself from yourself” perspective. They point out that you can’t get too reckless with a debit card since its pulling real money from your checking account. With credit cards in your wallet, they worry that you may head to the store for milk and eggs only to come home with a new bass boat! 

With a credit limit far exceeding the balance most people keep in their checking account, they argue that carrying a credit card is like walking around with a stick of dynamite in your wallet. There’s no telling when that thing might go off, blowing up your financial life and probably taking your marriage with it. 

The Argument for Credit Cards

The Target mess, and similar ones at other retailers, made a lot of people rethink their use of plastic. Hopefully, it reminded people of one very important difference between debit and credit cards. 

By contrast, if someone buys something fraudulently with your credit card, that money has not been pulled from your checking account. Instead, it shows up on your bill, giving you time to contact your card issuer and make sure you don’t have to pay for that item. 

Credit Card Rules of the Road

To be sure, there are some people who would be better off not using credit cards. The temptation to overspend really is too much. However, I believe many people (and most SMI readers) are capable of using credit cards responsibly. Here are four “rules” that help.

First, use a credit card only for pre-planned purchases. If your cash flow plan (a.k.a. your “budget”) says you can spend $100 on clothing each month, you are free to use a credit card to buy $100 of clothing each month. Of course, this assumes you have a cash flow plan. I would go so far as saying if you don’t use a cash flow plan, don’t use credit cards.

Second, record your credit card spending right away. If you’re using an electronic cash flow tracking system, such as Mint.com, it’ll do this for you. If you’re using a paper & pencil tracking system or some other manual process, record your spending on the day you make each credit card purchase, even though the bill won’t show up for several weeks. Today’s credit card purchase counts against this month’s budget. This is one of the most important ways to avoid overspending with a credit card. Too many people wait until the bill arrives, which often prompts them to think the credit card company made a mistake (“I couldn’t possibly have spent that much!”), only to find out they really did make all those purchases.

Third, pay your bill in full each month.

And last, if you can’t follow rules one through three, don’t use credit cards.

Heretical Teaching?

In our household, we only use a debit card when depositing checks or getting cash. For all other plastic-related transactions, we use credit cards. Saying that feels like revealing a deep, dark secret. The teaching against credit cards and in favor of debit cards, especially in church circles, has become so visible and impassioned that it’s easy to assume it must come straight from the pages of Scripture. But it doesn’t. God’s Word teaches us to be wise.

In today’s environment of frequent data thefts, if you’re going to use plastic, I believe using credit cards is wiser than using debit cards. What about you? Which form of plastic do you prefer and why?


Wealth Building Secrets of the Millionaire Next Door

News You Can Use: Wealth Building Secrets of the Millionaire Next Door

(by the editors of Kiplinger Finance)

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/wealth-building-secrets-millionaire-next-140818123.html

We all know somebody like Mitch, your mass-commuting, brown-bagging coworker who has toiled in accounting for as long as you can remember. Did you know he owns a vacation house at the beach? 

Or the McGillicuddy family, who live down the street in a house just like yours. Would you believe they didn’t have to borrow a dime to send their kids to college? 

Or Steve, your fellow baritone in the church choir. He just donated how much to help fund the city symphony?! 

Call them the invisible rich. How do they do it? Sure, money like that sometimes comes from an inheritance or another fortuitous break, but more likely it’s the result of diligence, smart choices and, well, deferred gratification. The tenets they follow can also put you on the path to financial prosperity and security. Discover how.

They Don’t Spend Beyond Their Means

Yes, this is obvious, but it’s ignored as often as it’s repeated. In the words of Knight Kiplinger, editor in chief of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and Kiplinger.com, “discretionary spending — the chic apartment, frequent travel and restaurant meals, consumer electronics, fancy clothes and cars — crowds out the saving that will enable you to be rich someday.” This is what makes the invisible rich, well, invisible: They’re not conspicuous about their consumption. They’re value shoppers, whether it’s for a car or college or anything else. And they’ll buy used, putting items to use for as long as they still do the job. Meanwhile, they put the money they saved instead of buying shiny new objects to work earning interest and dividends.

They Educate Themselves

The first investment of the invisible rich? Themselves. Education is still a prime driver of lifetime income, and it’s never too late to learn. 

Your own earning power — rooted in your education and job skills — is the most valuable asset you’ll ever own, and it can’t be wiped out in a market crash. But it can erode. Keep pushing up your earning power through continuous education, training and personal development. This could mean going back to school, adding a needed certification on the weekends or serving in work-related fields that will build your network — and increase your salary.

They Pick the Right Field

There’s a ton of difference in salaries out there, even among jobs that require similar amounts of training and education. The wealth builders look at lifetime earning potential. What jobs are they choosing? Some top payers we’ve identified are personal financial adviser, app developer and management consultant. Learn more from our 10 of the Best Jobs for the Future slide show (and learn what fields to avoid, or consider leaving, in 10 of the Worst Jobs for the Future.) Some wealth builders might work in one of these high-risk fields that pay big bucks.

They Save (and Invest) Early

As soon as they earn money, the get-rich-slowly crowd starts saving — and letting their money work for them over time. When they got their first jobs, the invisible rich surely took advantage of tax-advantaged retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, also making sure to capture any free money their employers offered as a match. When they gave birth to their first children, they maximized college savings via tax-advantaged 529 plans. 

If saving on a starting salary (or even now) seems daunting in the face of monthly bills, consider paying your future self first. That is, when budgeting, your first line item should be a transfer — ideally, an automatic one that you don’t even think about — to your savings account, money market fund, IRA, brokerage account or other savings vehicle. Then budget for what’s left of your income, with, say, the cable bill last. If there’s not enough income to cover your expenses, trim your discretionary spending.

They Don’t Swing for the Fences

.Just as the invisible rich take a pass on flashy accoutrements, they keep things simple when investing, avoiding risky options, such as initial public offerings, structured notes and hedge funds, even when their higher net worth opens the doors to such investments. 

That’s not just because of the greater risk of losing principal; it’s also because of the fees the more complex investments often bring with them. That’s money you’re guaranteed to lose, and money that won’t be around to grow your wealth over the long term.

They Keep Themselves Covered

Insurance is not one of the discretionary items your stealthy wealthy friend has cut back on. It doesn’t do you much good to diligently work at getting rich slowly only to lose it all to illness, disability or someone tripping over the rosebushes at the end of your front walk. 

Disability insurance above and beyond what might be available from your employer will ensure that your earnings don’t take a hit if you become too ill or injured to work. And as your tangible and liquid assets grow thanks to your smart investing and everyday savings, a personal liability umbrella policy that extends the coverage of your auto and homeowner’s insurance will protect you from the legal fees (and potential judgments) of a civil lawsuit.

They’re Wise About Windfalls

When financial rewards arrive, whether in the form of a raise, a bonus, an inheritance or a lucky break of any sort, the invisible rich see that as a chance to shore up their position, not to party. And even if a windfall does allow them to upgrade their living situation, they act slowly and deliberately. Learn more in 5 Smart Steps to Manage a Financial Windfall. (In case you’re wondering, we’re not talking about lottery winnings here. The invisible rich definitely don’t play the lottery.)

They Hang Onto Their Cars (and Houses)

Yes, this falls under spending within your means. But because cars and houses are such big-ticket items for most people, they’re worth a closer look. In fact, the authors of the 1999 book The Millionaire Next Door devote an entire chapter (“You Are Not What You Drive”) to the perils of spending too much on a car. Remember this: When you drive a new car off a dealer’s lot, it loses value immediately. So as you cruise by in the new ride, the invisible rich onlooker isn’t impressed. He just thinks you’re an idiot for tearing up thousands of dollars. 

New houses, on the other hand, can appreciate in value. But the hazard of trading in and trading up remains, with the frictional costs (such as broker fees, transfer taxes and mortgage origination fees) that come along with it. Stay put if you can, making modest but wise upgrades along the way. An extreme example of someone who could afford to move but keeps it simple: Warren Buffett, who has lived in the same Omaha, Neb., house for more than 50 years.

They Avoid Debt

You can’t be rich if you owe. Use credit only to purchase things of lasting value: a home, an education, maybe a car. Pay cash for everything else. To quote Knight Kiplinger again, “Do you know anyone who got into big financial trouble because they didn’t borrow enough money?”


Year-round Stewardship Ministry and the Good $ense “Freed-Up Resource Calendar”

News You Can Use: Year-round Stewardship Ministry and the Good $ense “Freed-Up Resource Calendar”

Good $ense has put together an informational and planning tool to assist you with scheduling financial stewardship teaching and training events through the coming year. The Freed-Up Resource Calendar briefly describes four different workshops and classes that are designed to meet the financial stewardship needs of your congregation, and shows the optimal times to offer them during the year. This calendar is something you might want to share with your ministry class and event scheduling decision makers.

Freed-Up Resources are DVD driven, biblically based, practical and easy to use. They have flexible presentation formats and are very affordable. Participants leave Freed-Up Resource offerings with a plan and/or action steps in their hands. Importantly, Freed-Up, like all Good $ense developed resources, integrates biblical truth into all teaching and training, emphasizing that our attitude toward and relationship with money and possessions is a spiritual issue.

Just click here to access the Freed-Up Resource Calendar. If you have questions or need more information click here.

Grace and peace,

Sid Yeomans
President, Good $ense Movement


Stories of Transformation