Monthly Archives: November 2013

Black Friday- Humanity Lost

You’ve had a day’s fill of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, some unidentified…thing… your aunt brought over, wine, champagne and anything else that wasn’t moving. You’ve, hopefully, taken time to thank God for your blessings and thanked those around you for how they’ve blessed your life or been there for you in some way or another.

 

Thanksgiving is a time when we set aside materialism, lift our eyes to Heaven and just say, Thank You!

 

(insert calming breath of gratitude here)

 

The day following this yearly day of thanks has become a dark day in this bloggers opinion. Instead of relaxing with family, continuing to be thankful and enjoying time off to relax and rejuvinate, it’s been replaced with the tention that comes with freezing in long lines outside our favorite retail stores in an effort to be the first to grab the latest products. Folks are sacrificing over a day and a half away from family and friends, sitting in folding chairs, drinking hot chocolate & sleeping in shifts just to grab the newest phones, games, game console, designer clothing, flat TV or some other product that will be “outdated” by the time they gather next year to repeat this greed-based ritual.

 

Then comes the loss of human dignity and respect once the doors are opened allowing access to the so-called must-not-miss deals.

 

People are willing to trample over each other like animals if it means grabbing the last X-Box or PS3. Normally respectful individuals are so caught up in not “missing out” that thay miss out on the opportunity to show love to their fellow shoppers. The cut-throat focus is on getting, getting more and me, me, me!

 

(so much for that calming breath)

 

There are some Biblical principles that, if applied to these shopping frenzies, would result in a much more humane experience.

 

Matthew 6:19-21

 

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

 

Imagine a crowd of folks, mowing each other down over the latest gadget. Then suddenly they all remembering this verse. They’d realize that the stuff they’re so eager to posess is not only temporary but completely unnecessary.  The truly important things are those that last eternally, the things of Heaven.

 

This verse doesn’t say that we are to never posess anything on earth, it is reminding us that we are to keep things in propper perspective.

 

Instead of dad running frantic through Toys R Us, feeling pressured to get little Janine that new doll AND get that particular game for young Jason, he would be of the mindset that his children have more than enough and that they should be content with the many things they already have.

 

Mrs. Jones (trying to stay ahead of those trying to keep up with her) would realize how futile it is to spend so much energy and time on the limited edition, top-designer perfume while missing out on time with her grandchildren.

 

Matthew 6:33

 

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

 

Man, I love this verse! Can you imagine what this world would look like if we all sought after the things of God first and let everything else fall where they may? We’d all want to please Him by loving Him and keeping His commandments which includes the golden rule found in Matthew 7:12:

 

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

 

I’d love to see a black Friday where this is practiced- patient people, lovingly letting others go infront of them, letting the other person grab the last of the hottest item off the shelf, polite excuse me’s, smiles & harmony.

 

Imagine that!!

 

As I write this blog on Friday November 27th, 2013, there are folks out there commiting these acts of greed and selfishness. My honest prayer is that as they treat each other with such disrespect, enslaved by the advertizing of retailers, that these verses and the peace of Christ will overwhelm them and bring them back into the realization that Thanksgiving is not a day on the calendar, it’s a way of life!

As it stands Black Friday just reminds me of Humanity Lost. I pray the Black Fridays of the future are characterized by more humane, compassionate and thankful human hearts.

Skip the ‘Thank You’, Bring On the #Presents!!

Over the last few years I have noticed a trend I consider very sad. It is something that has developed over time, almost unnoticed, and now it is blatantly set before us. We walk by it in malls and shopping centers and are exposed to it on internet and TV ads. Unfortunately, most are unaware of this ungodly happening because it was so subtly conceived, silently encouraged, nurtured and allowed to mature.

Traditionally speaking, early November is the time of year malls would feature harvest scenery, fall colors and early American pilgrims praying over their stuffed turkeys. This is normally when we’d pause to thank God for the blessings of the last year. We’d go around the Thanksgiving dinner table sharing our many reasons for being thankful and we’d do our best to remember to be more thankful throughout the next year.

(It’s ok…I sometimes forget that yearly resolution too)

As I write this article the date is November 19th, 2013- nine days before Thanksgiving. A few days back I took the picture featured here inside a popular grocery store chain. Do you see the turkey, fall colors and reminders to be thankful? No? That’s because they aren’t there. They’ve been skipped over for the sake of starting the Christmas shopping season early. The ever-important dollar has taken precedence over the attitude of thanks for all we have been blessed with over the last year or so. Instead of department’s stores reminding us to appreciate what we already have, we are being steered towards the “What can I get next?” attitude.

The Importance of Being Thankful

1 Chronicles 16: 8- Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.

God commands us to thank Him for the things He’s given. This is not an option, it’s a command we should take seriously.

Can you imagine a former victim of sexual slavery not thanking her rescuers? Just the thought of it seems absurd, doesn’t it? She has been brought from a life of misery, abuse, hopelessness and sadness. Her gratitude should last a lifetime. She would owe her freedom to those who risked their lives to free her. Every latte’ she enjoyed, every sunset she viewed from the time of her freedom to her last breath would be owed to the ones who considered her so important they could not leave her in bondage. A lifetime of thankfulness is the very least she should show. The same is true for us who have received so much from the Creator.

Not only do we owe thankfulness to the Lord but our thankful attitude will “…make known among the nations what He has done”. Hello! Is that not a great reason to speak about how thankful you are? I know when I hear someone thank their parents for raising them and putting up with their bad attitude it makes me appreciate those parents even though I have never met them.

Who doesn’t get all warm and gooey when they hear of a single dad who raised three girls, encouraging them, made sure homework was completed, worked two jobs while attending night classes, fought off the teenaged hormonal boys and was a living example of manhood to his princesses?

That image sticks in your head.

Our heart goes out to this extraordinary man because his loving sacrifice was so huge and because he did it to benefit the ones he loves. Without even thinking about it we tell our co-workers at lunch, “Hey did you hear about that single father on the news?” Social media eventually picks up the story and it spreads like wildfire.

Now, imagine this happening when we explain how thankful we are to God-the Son- for His sacrifice on the cross. He gave all He could give for us. He rescued us from the consequence of sin- which is an eternity without His presence while in eternal torment.

Should we be thankful? Most assuredly! Because we owe it to Him and because others should know of all He has done.

Mixed Up Priorities

As I mentioned, corporate America has skipped over Thanksgiving so they can offer what they consider to be ‘great deals’ a bit earlier, thus lining their collective pockets with consumers’ hard-earned cash. Money is their priority; we’ve come to expect that from them.

But, where are your priorities?

Are you on the bandwagon, preparing for Black Friday, Cyber Monday (& possibly Tuesday), sales, discounts, upgrades and other ‘can’t miss’ opportunities to accumulate and collect? Or are you taking the Christ-like approach, refusing to skip over Thanksgiving so you can dedicate time to being thankful?

Your choice is a reflection of where your priorities are. Matthew 6:33 reminds us to seek God’s Kingdom first.

Q: Is it possible to seek His Kingdom, His Will, His desires for your life, while skipping over thankfulness?

A: Absolutely not!

Part of God’s Will for our lives is that you give Him thanks as 1 Chronicles 16: 8 tells us. Passing up the act of Thanksgiving for the sake of grabbing onto more stuff is the same as looking at your rescuer, remembering what He rescued you from and reaching the conclusion that there is no need to show gratitude! It’s absolutely absurd, disrespectful and ridiculous!

Now, if retail store owners wanted to skip over Thanksgiving because they were excited to celebrate the virgin birth of Jesus, I might be a bit more understanding. But, even if that were the case, it would still be against God’s commandment to have a thankful heart.

So, let’s wait on the Christmas carols, presents, manger scenes and Santa Clause for a few more days. Wait till after you’ve shown proper thanks to the Creator before we move onto celebrating His birthday.

#Biblical Money Smarts- Part Six: Setting Goals

Writing this 6-part Biblical Money Smarts series has been challenging, not because of a lack of content-it’s abundant- but deciding the order in which the topics should be placed. Goal Setting would seem to be the first thing we’d need to discuss but I decided to leave it for last so that I could emphasize exactly how important it is.

Young newlyweds especially, need to begin their unified journey with set, definite, agreed-upon goals. It’s important to discuss what you both want to save for; things like having babies, retirement, a new home and its maintainance, travel, vehicle repair, etc. The goals of both man & wife must be discussed and worked into the family budget from the very beginning.

These goals may include remaining debt free or getting out of debt, paying off family vehicles by a certain date, buying a vehicle without financing or building your dream home.

Once these goals have been clearly defined there MUST be a date attached to each one. A dream is something you “wish to have” at some arbitrary point in the future. A goal is something you “plan to achieve” by a certain date. Plan is the operative word here. Attending a birthday party or a graduation requires that you plan ahead. You set the day and time aside in you calender. You may set an alarm on your smart phone to remind you of the event a few weeks in advance. A “graduate debt-free” goal for your children, for example, obviously requires very in-depth planning. This is why such goals should be discussed asap! There is no time to waste!

Goals are the foundation of your financial success!! Everything else rests on them.

Consider the goal of Christ. He desired to reconcile us to Himself. His plan included a virgin birth, living a perfect life for 33 years, teaching others to live a Godly life and then taking the burden of the Father’s wrath on the cross. If God Himself had a goal and also a plan to acheive it, then it seems a good idea to follow His lead.

1 Corinthians 14:33 states God is “…not a God of disorder”. Looking at the world around us confirms this.  Trees pull water from the ground, up thier trunks, into thier leaves in an orderly way. Days pass by as we circle the globe without colliding with other planets. There is order to the universe because that is His nature.

We must be just as orderly in our financial planning if we are to achieve financial success and this orderly harmony must begin with goals in mind.

Goals serve as a jumping off point. The second you identify a goal, you have also pin-pointed two things: where you are and where you desire to be. As of that point your brain can start construct a road map of sorts. Think of where your job or favorite hang-out is located. Picture it in your mind. How do I get there from where you are right now? See what happened? Your brain immediately went to work constructing a path from your present location to that location.
This is precisely why setting a goal is important. You need to develope that road map towards financial success. If this isn’t accomplished you’ll remain stationary, inactive, unproductive and therefore unsuccessful.

Pray about what your five most important goals should be. Once God has made them clear, write them down, pray about them, asking God’s guidance. Ask Him when these goals should be accomplished.

With His guidence youll be able to Reduce your spending, create Assets and Stay Out of Debt while Educating yourself on finances and Ignoring the Hype created by materialistic advertizing.

Your goals, and God’s loving guidance, will serve as guard rails, keeping you on the straight and narrow path of Biblical Money Smarts!

The “Tiny House” Option

Here at B.B.M. we believe strongly in exploring all avenues of income, investing, saving and creating assets. Through this exploration we insist on seeking God’s direction concerning the information we find.

 For the past couple years I have been very impressed with a relatively new movement sweeping across our country- Tiny and Small houses. The phrase Tiny House may cause you to think of a doll house, a cramped space that’s hard to move around in, or a shack in the woods only fit for housing an old hermit. However, the truth is far from such images.

While researching the Tiny House phenomenon I found that these fully-functioning, scaled-down houses are really spacious, equipped with amenities, and really well-designed. Honestly, there were many times I asked, “How’d they fit the outside around the inside?” The designers were able to take a small space and create a very roomy interior.

Another great thing about them is they are so much more affordable than the traditional houses we are used to in America. From a financial perspective Small and Tiny houses are a really great investment and a great money-saving tool for those seeking to buy their first home.

My wife and I know a couple who have recently purchased a large three bedroom house complete with formal dining room, large living room, game room and several extra rooms which are not necessary for a young couple who has yet to have their first child. They are only a few months into their home-ownership and the financial obligation is already causing significant strain on their wallets which then is causing strain on their marriage.

Now, imagine this same couple but with a shift in their mindset. Instead of the big, fancy house they invest in a Tiny House. The square footage is much less but so is the monthly mortgage payment. In fact, instead of stressing over money, they are able to put an extra 1,200 dollars a month into their savings. Also, the term of their mortgage is only fifteen years, not thirty.

Let’s do some math: Let’s say the mortgage on our friends’ traditional house is only $1,500 for thirty years. That’s a total of $540,000. The payments on the Tiny House are $300 per month for fifteen years. That’s a total of $54,000. This couple would have saved $486,000 by purchasing a Tiny or Small House instead of the traditional house that is now causing major problems in their life together. Can you imagine what they could have done with an additional $486,000?

Imagine that they got pregnant the same day they purchased the smaller house. Let’s say they took $600 (of the extra 1200) a month and placed it in a savings account for the child’s higher education. In eighteen years they’d have $129,600 dollars BEFORE INTEREST IS ADDED!!

Isn’t that a much better situation than being stressed over a mortgage, trying to find a second job, refinancing and maybe still losing their home after all their hard work?

If God gave me the choice in my son’s future I’d definitely choose the Tiny House option for him. In fact, my 14 year old son, my wife and I did have that conversation and I’m proud to say he is completely ok with the idea of us building a Tiny House for him to use during his college years so that he can save for his own financial future. Of course he’ll be getting a job to pay for a portion of it. I do believe in teaching our children they must work for what they desire. My wife and I also have no problem with eventually turning over the deed to this Tiny House to our son so that he can rent it for income if he chooses.

Are Tiny Houses for everyone? No, absolutely not. Neither is the stock market, business ownership or mutual funds. However, it is an option worth exploring. I strongly advise you take a couple minutes here and there to look into the cost of building or buying a Tiny or Small house. You may be in a position where downsizing is a smart financial decision. Maybe you’re able to invest in a few of these smaller dwellings as a means of creating Real estate asset. Either way, seek God’s direction in all financial matters!!

How To Shop Frugally

Proverbs 22:3 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.In today’s world it seems that danger is always close. Financial woes are only one accident away. It makes sense to put aside money for those unexpected and inevitable events. Let’s dive into ways that will allow you to put aside as much as God’s money as possible.If you are determined to live a frugal lifestyle it is essential that you learn the art of purchasing items at the lowest possible prices. Doing so allows you to keep a higher percentage of your paycheck; therefore, allowing more for paying off debt, saving, and investing.

How do you accomplish frugal spending?

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First, pawn shops.  These stores are very underrated.  My wife and I frequently shop at a pawn shop next to our apartment. Since we both love buying movies we were thrilled that this shop sells DVDs & Blue-rays for less than $5. We can buy three movies for the price of one brand new movie at popular store chains. The movies haven’t been shortened, altered, or otherwise made any less great just because they are priced lower than their brand-new counterparts. Also, we love knowing we are getting the most bang for our hard-earned bucks.
Second, thrift stores. Along with pawn shops, these stores are a great resource for clothing, furniture, electronics, and power tools. There is a thrift store in my neighborhood where I can buy a jacket, tie, slacks, and dress shirt for less than $5. Yes, all those items for less than $5! You may be thinking these items are off brand, unimpressive rags that I would not wear in public. You would be wrong. I’m talking about brands like Perry Ellis, Liz Claiborne, and many others. Of course, off brands are also available. However, if you are dedicated to living frugally, the brand’s name should not matter at all.Thrift: noun \’thrift\ prudent use of money and goods: the sensible and cautious management of money and good in order to waste as little as possible and obtain maximum value.

Imagine that you have $50 set aside for clothes. You can go to a famous chain store and purchase one, maybe two outfits. Conversely, you can go to a thrift store and spend $10 for similar items. That is the art of Frugal Shopping! And of course you cannot get any more frugal than free. I like to browse the free section of Craigslist every now and then. Over the years I have acquired things like glass shelves, vases, a mattress, indoor plants, clothes, shoes, couches, a TV, and many more. It would be difficult to add up the monetary savings I have achieved over the years. Also, the barter section of Craigslist is very helpful. Why not exchange something you are willing to get rid of for something you want or need? Bartering allows you to acquire items without taking away from your bank account.

If you want to keep more of your paycheck and become a frugal shopper, the first step is to search for thrift stores and pawn shops in your area; and pay them a visit.  Happy, frugal shopping!

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Living Frugally Through The Struggle- Part Two

After selling a lot of my possessions and reducing my expenses, I suddenly felt stuck. What else could I do in order to keep increasing my meager savings and get ahead financially? Then it hit me; I could use my talents. I had always been told I should be a teacher, so I decided to teach what I knew – martial arts and hip hop dance. I put a low-cost ad in the paper and before long, my phone was ringing, with future students on the other end on the line. While this didn’t bring home a ton of money, it was enough that I started paying off some of the debt caused by the identity thief. I got a secured Visa in order to start rebuilding my credit and I started a savings account with around $300…and at that point, $300 was a lot of money in my world! I finally felt like things were looking up.

One very important event helped me tremendously.  A friend told me about a monthly plan that would allow me access to attorneys who could advise me on my situation.  Only five minutes into the DVD presentation I hit pause, got online, and signed up.  As mentioned in part one of this blog, I was arrested multiple times for crimes I never committed, each time paying bail to be released.  The law firm was able to refund my bail on four of the six occasions.  I then repaid family and friends from whom the bail money had come. The attorneys also spoke to the IRS on my behalf and proved that I didn’t owe the taxes they were seeking. I was very impressed with everything the attorneys did for me. That fact led to my next frugal decision…network marketing. I asked my friend how to make money with the company. She explained, I signed up, and within three months I earned three promotions and three raises. Enter massive sigh of relief and a sense of accomplishment.

I continued shopping at thrift stores and clearance racks while marketing the legal plan. I still bought the lowest-priced fuel and went to free – or almost free – events with my son.  I only used my secured Visa after sending a payment in the amount I planned to spend and I saved as much as possible.  I still ran into setbacks but I pushed forward.  Eventually I reached an income level that allowed me to get an apartment and purchase a used vehicle, 100% cash. I’d like to say that was the end of the story but it was not. However, I had reached a point where I could relax and felt zero financial anxiety. There would be many more years of suffering the consequences of the thief’s actions. But through it all, Living Frugally played an important role in helping me bounce back and rise above!

Thinking back to this traumatic event, throughout which I spent less than I made, reminds me of Proverbs 21: 20— The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

PS: When I started this ministry I intended to never mention where a person could get the legal plan I mentioned in this blog. I made this decision because it seemed very self-serving because I am now an associate of the company, selling the legal plan products. However, i know it helped me out of a serious financial bind. And, isn’t what this blog site and my ministry are a ll about? So, here is a link to my site. Look around, check out the videos and write to me if you have questions. let God- not me- be your guide when it comes to deciding if the membership is right for you and your loved ones.

http://www.ebright.legalshield.com

Biblical Money Smarts- Part Five: Ignore The Hype

So, you’ve reduced your spending, created assets and learned to manage debt while educating yourself about money….wonderful! What’s next on the road to financial freedom? The answer is more of a mindset than an actual action to take, however, it is ultimately integral to your financial goals.

IGNORE THE HYPE

What do I mean by that?

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Easy, ignore commercials, the next “must have” item, the easy payments and the advice of using “other people’s money”. It’s ALL hype. It’s designed to make you feel that you MUST buy into their sales pitch. But, guess what…..you don’t need the item, the sale, the update or the newest version. You need food, clothing, shelter and most importantly, God. Everything else is not neccessary.

This is the mindset associated with Matthew 6:20 & 21 which says, “Store your treasures in Heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and theives do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

You know the cable package you’re paying for with tons of channels you dont watch? You know why you don’t watch them? Because you DON’T NEED THEM. Human civilization thrived without cable, internet, smart phones and smart cars.

And, yes, I know….many of you will have a heartattack at the idea of cancelling your cable or downgrading to a cell phone plan without internet access. But, consider this: In the not-too-distant past there were some very well-off upper middle class folks living in California. They were making over 200, 000 dollars a year. They had the fancy cars in the best neighborhoods, their kids had the expensive cell phones with a ton of bells and whistles. They had country club memberships and prestigue. Then, one day, it was all gone. Cars were repossessed, the houses was forclosed on and families were living in “tent villages”. Lavish lifestyles became a thing of the past in a short period of time.

I’m sure you’re wondering why this happenned to such affluent families.

Well, they bought into the hype. They believed they were “supposed” to have the bigger house once dad got his raise. And when mom’s business started bringing in significantly more money they strongly believed that they were entitled to a higher credit card limit which then, of course, meant they could spend more on those great sales at the mall and the Home Shopping Network.
What they didn’t know was that behind the hype was a sinister plot to get as much of their money as possible, not caring if they ended up in financial hell. The plot went like this…

First the banker down the street sold a house to the Jones family knowing they couldn’t afford it. This didn’t matter to the banker because her plan was to sell the loan to Big Time investments. This way the bank receives the entire amount of the loan right away instead of over the next 30 years. The Jones family continues paying their mortgage as usual, not to the bank but to Big Time. Again Big Time is not concerned about the Jones Family’s financial future because they have collected hundreds of loans just like the Jones’. They sell these large clumps of loans to an even larger investor, Prime Time.

Second, the Jones family runs into a problem, their transmission on the Audi goes out. This is not a massive problem in itself for such an affluent family because they put the entire charge on a credit card with a newly increased limit. After all, they’ll pay it off easily- they’re affluent! The problem is that their daughter broke an ankle playing softball a few weeks later, mom’s business is in a seasonal lull and the roof of their house starts leaking due to a recent storm.

In this situation the sellers of those must have items don’t run to the rescue. Prime Time wasn’t sympathetic, they didn’t arrive at Mr. Jones’ doorstep with a new contract reducing his monthly mortage payments. Nor, did the credit card company voluntarily deffer payments till after they are back on their feet.

No, the Jones family found themselves in a tent with many others from their upper-middle-class neighborhood. They were all in the same situation because they all believed the hype associated with collecting stuff, stuff and more stuff.

The words of the verse I mentioned earlier would have served them well and saved them a lot of heartache and loss. With this verse in mind they would have taken the extra money from dad’s raise and invested a portion, saved some for emergencies or donated some to charity. With savings and investments they would have been prepared to deal with a leaking roof, a broken ankle and a business going through a seasonal lull.

Another verse that helps keep us in the right mindset is Proverbs 31: 10-18. This passage speaks about the wife of Noble Character. It talks about how she wakes up early, makes breakfast, buys a field and plants a vineyard. Why is that important? Because of what it goes on to say in verse 18, ” She makes sure her dealings are profitable, her lamp burns late into the night”. This is the picture of a smart woman who is not captivated by materialism. She thinks far into the future and works hard to not only maintain but thrive in any economy.

So, now that you’re on the path to financial freedom you must develope a long-term, anti-hype mindset. Heed the words of the Bible and concentrate on Heavenly treasures more than the material stuff that can be lost in a moment. Don’t assist in stuffing the pockets of businessess that don’t give one iota about your financial future. Be like the shrewd woman of Proverbs, work hard, save and be sure that every financial decision helps get you and your family closer to financial independence!!

Biblical #Money Smarts- Part Four: Education

If in Real Estate it’s Location, Location, Location…then in financial wisdom it must be Education, Education, Education!! Think about it. Can you name anyone extraordinarily skilled at their craft who didn’t educate themselves in that craft in some way? Mother Teresa and Ghandi learned the art of self sacrifice. Robert Kiyosaki, Donald Trump and Zig Ziglar learned about money, finances, creating wealth, public speaking and real estate. These individuals didn’t wake up one day with years of knowledge and wisdom downloaded into their brains. It was even said of Christ that He “grew in wisdom and stature”, (Luke 2:52) meaning He displayed more and more of His wisdom as He got older. Now, of course, Christ had all wisdom within Him because He was God wrapped in human flesh but if we are to follow in His footsteps by growing in wisdom then we need to start plugging our brains into wisdom-rich sources. Put down that extention cord…it was a metaphore. You may be tempted to tell me you can’t carve out twenty minutes each day to educate yourselves. To be totally honest, I’M NOT BUYING IT & here are a few reasons why. Drive Time University: In my network marketing business I’ve gotten to know the writings and teachings of a very successful businessman named Jeff Olson. One concept I learned from him is something he called Drive-Time University- listening to audio books, podcasts, etc. while driving from one destinatiin to another. Imagine being stuck in rush-hour traffic while listening to Zig Ziglar speak on patience, endurance, overcoming adversity or other empowering topics. Think of all the places you drive to: Church, work, school, children’s sporting events, visiting family and friends, the grocery store, etc. If you choose to forgo what’s offered on the car radio (which generally has little positives to offer) you’ll have plenty of time to listen to several books per month. I say this from experience!! You can also use your PS3, Xbox or DVD player to play your audio books while doing chores around the house. Yes, you can mop while learning stock options, do the dishes while gaining investment knowledge or learn what a Balance sheet is while folding laundry. So, your “I don’t have time ” excuse can no longer serve as your fall-back, sorry.

Free education? The temptation right now is to move onto popular excuse number two which is, “Financial Education costs too much”. My response to this false statement is: “Does your local library charge an entry fee? You see, most people forget all about the library down the street when they think about how to gain an education. But in today’s world of high-cost colleges and universities, doesn’t it make sense to learn-for free- from successful people like Bob Hopkins, Larry Burkett and Chuck Bentley? There are litterally thousands of books at your library and libraries in neighboring towns from which you can fill your brain with the exact same information you’d get at an Ivy Leauge institution. (I realize that may not be a popular or readily-accepted statement, but I’m here to speak the truth….not win a popularity contest)

The importance of financially educating ourselves cannot be emphasized enough. As stated in the book Where Did My Money Go? by Bob Hopkins: It is enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be revolution before tomorrow morning. – Henry Ford. When I first read that statement I was both annoyed and intrigued. I was annoyed because it was made clear to me that the few, mega-rich who control our economies are counting on us remaining ignorant of how the economy really works. Does that not bother you? It should!! Your continued ignorance helps line the pockets of the few while many of us struggle, barely get by and more of us join the ranks of those below the poverty line. Once I was done being annoyed, intrigue took over and I kept wondering 1. What is it they know and I don’t? 2. What am I missing from my financial knowledge? & 3. What am I doing to keep them in power over me? My eyes would never have been opened the truth that there are a few who want us to remain enslaved; without reading Where did My Money Go? by Bob Hopkins. I would have remained ignorant of what Balance Sheets and Income Statements were if I had not opened the pages of Money Came by The House The Other Day. Digging Out the Money Pit helped remind me of the Biblical truths concerning money management. Stock Investing for Dummies provided a clearer understanding of how the stock market works and of the terms used in the investing/trading world. The list could go on for quite a while. Thanks to my goodreads.com account I know I’ve read over 104 books in my life- not all were financial, but a lot of them were- and I’m sure you have better things to do than read a list of books I’ve read. Did you know stock brokers offer free online and in-person classes? Visit stock broker sites like scottrade.comtdameritrade.com and tradeking.com, search through their education sections and sign up for their free webinars and seminars. Most of the time they’ll ask you to create a profile but that is also free.

So we all agree that education is important. Your “I don’t have time” and “it costs too much” excuses have been laid to rest. (I hear tapps playing in the background) Now all you have to do is begin to educate yourselves. Visit your libraries and community centers, check out stock broker sites, search the internet for free and low-cost financial seminars and workshops, get a hold of audio books, browse amazon & Barnes and Noble for low cost books; whatever it takes to start populating your brain with money-based wisdom. Remember, there are a few at the top of the financial foodchain who are COUNTING ON US REMAINING IGNORANT AND THEREFORE ENSLAVED! Fight against the ignorance, rise above a corrupted system that has been set in place to feed on our lack of wisdom. Your excuses are moot, cost is no longer an issue. It’s all up to you- remain ignorant or get smarter, period!

Biblical Money Smarts- Part Three: Getting Out of Debt

I hope you have read the two previous articles in this series. In them I covered two financial disciplines I think are essential for financial success- Over-spending and Creating Assets. 
So if you have followed the advice contained in them- reduced your spending and created assets- Great job!!
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Why are those two concepts important? Easy answer: It leads to part three of the series–Getting (and Staying) Out of Debt!

Teens, newly-engaged and newly married couples are in the forefront of my mind when I consider the topic of debt. Why? Because I greatly desire that they are fully educated on the dangers of debt and the many horrible experiences that being in debt can cause. The number one argument couples experience is on the topic of money. Debt makes home life tense- like trying to walk thru field of well-hidden land mines.

Therefore it is imperative that we avoid debt as much as possible and if we are in it we need to aggressively move towards freeing ourselves from its clutches. Proverbs 22:7 tells us that- The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Do you want to be a slave to credit card companies, lien holders, banks and other lending institutions, or would you rather be free and able to put your money to work for you?

 Of course you’d rather be debt free, so let’s look at how to do so. These tips will work for anyone willing to

*Sacrifice

*Remain disciplined

*Keep future goals in mind &

*Trust Biblical principles- they work!

My first piece of advice is cut up your credit cards.

(wait, wait, wait, don’t leave….stick with me for a bit)

Here’s food for thought from the book Where Did My Money Go? By Bob Hopkins:

” Most credit card companies do not want you to pay off your monthly bills. They want you maxed out. They can’t make obscene profits on interest alone…” Mr. Hopkins goes on to explain that those credit card holders who pay off their bill on a monthly basis are referred to as “deadbeat clients”.

(Yeah, I didn’t appreciate the term either)

I can attest to the truth of this. My wife and I used to work in a call center taking in-coming calls for a giant credit card company. Many times clients would ask for a credit limit increase and end up confused as to why they were denied. They’d say things like, “I’ve been with you guys for a really long time. I pay off my bill every month. Why can’t I get an increase?”

The question was legitimate and so was their confusion. They were managing their money well. It makes sense that this type of client would be allowed to borrow more money because they have shown they will pay it back in a timely manner. But, the credit card companies are not interested in you being responsible or Godly. They are interested in charging you late fees, interest, membership fees, etc. It’s all about THEM making money. 

Consider this: Why should you continue giving more and more of your hard earned cash to people who do not support your positive, wealth-building actions?

 Also, if you don’t cut up those credit cards you’ll keep using them. 

 I know, I know, some of you are saying, “I can just stop using it, no need to cut it up Taz, that’s a bit extreme.”

 If that were true you would not be in the debt situation that now has you shackled, worried, up at night, working overtime, arguing with your spouse, mad at the kids and unable to afford to send your kid to band camp much less college.

So keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your account open but cut up the cards and work on paying them off. Once you have a balance of zero dollars you can order new cards.

So now that you have cut them up, step two is pay more than the minimum balance. This is really important. While working at the call center I learned that even a medium sized credit card balance can take a while to pay off. 

 I called my credit card company the other day and asked, “How long would it take to pay off my current balance of $348.17 if I only paid the minimum due each month?” The agent asked for some personal information and came back with the answer of “One year and eight months”.

 I consider that a very long time considering the balance is not really all that big. Don’t you? Ya see, in this situation the credit card company (a.k.a. another big bank) charges me interest each month that I have a balance on my card. So my minimum payment reduces my debt but the interest is added in next month which brings the balance up a bit also. Each month this process is repeated there for dragging out the process of paying off the debt. In my case, instead of paying off a little over three hundred dollars I could end up paying over $500!! Yeah, that’s interest at work- cut up those cards and pay more than the minimum. 

 Call your credit card companies and ask them how much you’d have to pay each month in order to pay off your cards in six months. If the answer they give you is too much for your budget, don’t be ashamed, just ask, “How about if I  pay it off in a year?” Keep asking until you get a number that works with your income and budget.

You need to make sacrifices, period! One of the things I admire about my wife is her financial discipline. There was a time when she was out of work so- being the responsible person she is- she decided to cancel her satellite subscription and she signed up for Netflix instead. There were also other areas in her life where she cut back in order to survive while looking for employment.

Can you say the same about yourself? Are you willing to sacrifice in order to spread your money further and reduce your debt? 

 Consider your spending habits and add up the following monthly costs:

1. Eating out

2. Movies

3. Clothes

4. Video Games

5. Concerts

6. Cigarettes

7. Alcohol…….

…and all the other non-essentials.

 Now that you have that number in front of you, imagine sending those funds to your creditors each month. I am sure you see where I am going with this. That money, currently spent on non-essentials, could greatly reduce your debt. 

 You are literally spending away your financial freedom.

(let that sink in)

My next piece of advice is not something I hear in financial circles a lot and I think it’s a shame and that is; read books about how money really works.

John Adams said it really well when he uttered these words: “All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from deficits of the constitution or confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as down-right ignorance of coin, credit and circulation.”

I love that statement. I cannot tell you how empowering, freeing and eye-opening it is to soak up the wisdom in books like…

*Where Did My Money Go?

*Money Came by The House The Other Day

*Financial Peace

*Digging Out The Money Pit

*What Ever Happened To The American Dream?

*The Coming Economic Earthquake

*Rich Dad, Poor Dad (entire series)

*Why We Want You To Be Rich

*The Millionaire Mind  &

*The Millionaire Next Door

*The Automatic Millionaire

The knowledge shared by the wise folks if the financial industry yielded me a greater understanding of how money works and what money really is.

That’s right, money is not really what we think it is. What do I mean by that? Get those books I listed above and you’ll see.

 Also, the concept of having my money work for me was driven home by these books and the authors who have lived that concept.

In part two of this series I spoke about the necessity of Creating Assets. That is how you have money work for you! Imagine that you have an ATM machine in your bedroom and every time you put in $200 it spit out $275 back at you. I can imagine you’d spend a lot of time putting $200 into that machine, correct? Now imagine if you put in the 200 and when you got the 275 back you took the excess 75 and sent it to a creditor, reducing your debt by 75 dollars. Can you see how you’d become debt free if you were patient and disciplined enough? This is what an asset does for you. Not only does it increase your income it allows you to reduce and eventually eliminate your debt.

You might now be saying, “Taz, you said you were going to show us how to get out and stay out of debt.”

My only reply would be, “All the things that helped you get out of debt are the same things that will keep you out of it. Stay disciplined, spend less than you make, save, invest, pay off credit cards each month and keep creating assets.

There are tons more pieces of advice I could list but honestly, you have to dive into the books, DVDs, audio disks and websites for yourself. Take personal responsibility, take charge and don’t let Satan beat you down with financial negligence.

Remember Proverbs 22:7- The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Let’s not be slaves– let’s be Financially Free!!