The Recession was Good for You

Having the right attitudes to money and a stewardship mindset is important for financial success.  The Bible contains a lot of wisdom related to this.  Recently it was reported in Time (Moneyland) that the Charles Schwab 2011 Teens & Money Survey (Please download survey PDF report) suggested, if only in some small way, the recession may have changed attitudes and knowledge about money management in young people who experienced recession in one way or another. Attitudes are more positive and constructive than it was prior to the Recession.

Highlights from the data, from the online survey of 1,132 American teens between ages of 16-18:

  • “93% say their family was impacted by the recession
  • “64% say they are more grateful now for what they have.”
  • “58% say they are less likely to ask for things they want.”
  • “73% say it’s important to have enough emergency savings in case times get tough.”
  • “77% describe themselves as “super savers,” and only 23% say they’re “big spenders.”

Psalm 119[67]  Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.

There are consequences for doing things our way, this includes entering cycles of loss and ultimately the demise of all hope as crashes produce anger and more rebellion – even while grace still cries out that there is a way back.   We can still find our path back to God, the Owner, who is ever seeking good stewards.  A few more words to reiterate on stewardship.

1.God supplies our needs and will not have us hungry.  He does not supply our carnal wants or wasteful excesses.

2.Covetousness is trying to be someone God has not gifted us to be and without the grace and abilities.  This produces bitterness and anguish of spirit and much zeal without knowledge.

3.Remember, we do not own the gifts and wealth but we can have power with God to make wealth.  God does not seek our permission to give or take that which belongs to Him.  There are direct unfortunate consequences for seeking independence from God in managing His resources rather than depending on Him.

I will have you attempt solving the following puzzle.  Three frogs were lounging on a fence facing a pond. Then suddenly there appeared a big fat insect. As the three frogs watched it strut towards the pond, one of them decided to jump down and go after it. Now, how many frogs were left on the fence?

Was your answer 2, 3, 1 or none? The correct answer is three.  There were three left. One only decided to jump but he did not. It is not enough for you to decide to be blessed you need to act.

It is our doing and obedience that saves us and not our decisions. Doing is always costly and often painful. Perhaps the lessons from this Recession will lead to more than decisions.

Count yourself blessed O stricken and afflicted.  I have encountered few who justified continued sin in their lives even with scriptures (as is common today) until mercifully struck down with financial or moral crisis and they found grace to cry and return to God for help.  It was easier to appreciate the gravity of misdeeds before God and seek repentance. Today, they have corrected many ethical situations that previously plagued their finances, marriage and life in general. Crisis (though not the preferred instructor we wish God to appoint) also teaches vital disciplines of prayer, humility and obedience that are not as well assimilated in today’s user-driven word environment.  Perhaps if we surveyed this aspect of the impact of the Recession, we may be able to establish improvements in our devotional life and like David also say…

Psalm 119 [71]  It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

The Recession that did the most good was the affliction of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary that we might be saved and receive eternal life… Surrender your life to Him.

Now you are better armed to manage the windfall soon coming your way.

(Originally published in The Christian Post)

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Financial advice for Christians in 2011

Many were bullish at early signs of recovery in 2010 … but these may only be a reflection of weaker prior years and conservative projections.  It is still to be seen if 2011 will see these jumps in incomes sustained …more likely there will be a flattening for the most cases. There will be a few winners.

The outlook is positive though fears of a future dip again into recession still persist and though companies are richer than in prior years – they will not be spending as generously as they used to.  The best tips for success could be as follows:

  1. Know/perfect what you are good at and remain in your area of strength – find where you excel/add value to others (where you can differentiate your product offering) and have developed cost advantages and continue to compete based on a lower cost excellent value strategy … moderation will remain the king of values in 2011. Frills will not sell.
  2. Stock prices are coming up … but these are yet to be proven as sustainable jumps.  Look beyond the numbers to understand why prices are coming up.  Well run companies with nimble structures that understand how to flex their costs to adjust to seasons are probably going to be winners.  Spot and stick to the winners and invest prudently.  Use simple investment plans you understand with a low-risk grow-rich-slowly vision.
  3. Many still project that real estate prices will still go further down before they rebound again. If you have spare cash you will not need in the medium term…it may be a good time to get an excellent deal on Real estate but be careful and get professional help.  Do not borrow to purchase real-estate …though banks will be more generous to target good credit customers.
  4. Online web-based creativity will continue to be rewarded although more charlatans will flock to this arena. Increase in expendable income will push a lot of expenditure into this space.  This is a no-brainer…web-based services are cheap and positioned for the mass-market with little barriers to entry and almost limitless reach even as infrastructure for the internet continues to improve globally.  The greatest gains in 2011 will perhaps be in this sector as a new army of internet entrepreneur warriors emerge.
  5. Maintain personal prudence –i.e.  Putting off purchases, eschew debt, save more…and watch your eating and physical habits to enhance health.  Spend much less than you earn.  Consolidate new financial habits and disciplines you imbibed in 2010…such as using a financial worksheet to project and plan expenditures and track net worth movements over the short/medium term.

Following are some of my favourite finance scriptures for meditation and some balance …so please be prayerful and watchful.

Psalm 37[16]  A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.

Deuterenomy 28[12]  The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.

Ecclesiastes 5[12]  The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. [13]  There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely , riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

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