No. 8: Money Talks – Stewarding Wealth, Debt, Retirement, and More

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No. 08: Money Talks – Stewarding Wealth, Debt, Retirement, and More

Listen to this episode from One Degree Podcast on Spotify. Is all debt bad? How do I make a budget? What does the Bible really say about money? How do I steward my personal finances well? When and how should I start thinking about retirement? How much money should I have before getting married?

This week on the One Degree Podcast, we talk about all things money! We answer questions like:

  • Is all debt bad?
  • How do I make a budget?
  • What does the Bible really say about money?
  • How do I steward my personal finances well?
  • When and how should I start thinking about retirement?
  • How much money should I have before getting married?

This is a topic that Nathaniel is really passionate about- we’re actually both Econ & Finance Majors! Let’s dive in…

Starting with a Story

We’re going to start with a story about a man named David Lee Edwards. He was a former criminal who had spent nearly a third of his life in person. However, his luck changed in 2001 when he won the Kentucky lottery for $27 million dollars. He gave an inspiring speech when he accepted the winnings, owning up to the mistakes he had made in his past but said that winning the lottery would allow him to start a brand new life.

In the following years, David went on extravagant trips, bought numerous houses for himself, hosted numerous parties with lots of illicit drugs, and bought luxury cars and even a private jet. By 2006 (only five years later) he was completely broke. 

Unfortunately, David Lee Edwards died in 2013 in hospice, all alone and completely broke, only 12 years after winning what could have been a life-changing $27 million. In reality, the money he won was life-changing, just not in the way he expected.

A few sobering facts about money

57% of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover an unexpected $500 expense. Of that 57%, 21% would rely on a credit card, 11% on family and friends, and 20% on cutting back other expenses.

45% of U.S. families carry some sort of credit card debt and the average family has credit card debt of over $6000 dollars

56% of millennials don’t have any money saved in a retirement account. 39% of both Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers have nothing put away for retirement.

Only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy. Basic financial literacy is understanding how credit cards work, how to budget, personal finances, etc…

Approximately half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

The reason we’re highlighting these statistics and discussing this topic isn’t to shame anyone. We’re passionate about people utilizing the resources that God has given them to the best of their ability. This includes stewarding the money that they have well, but a lot of people don’t even know where to begin. We want to empower and educate you, not shame you!

But if I made more money…

Many people would argue that they don’t make enough money. And this could be true- the minimum wage hasn’t increased in a while and the cost of living has significantly increased. These arguments are valid, but most likely, the issue isn’t a lack of enough money.

  • 20% of people making more than $100,000 live paycheck to paycheck.
  • While it is hard to get a completely accurate picture, anywhere between 35 – 70% of lottery winners go broke and end up filing for bankruptcy (most within 3-5 years of winning).
  • A 2009 Sports Illustrated report estimated that 78% of National Football League (NFL) players file for bankruptcy or are experiencing financial stress only two years after retiring, and 60% of National Basketball Association (NBA) players suffer the same fate after five years of retirement. The National Bureau of Economic Research found in a 2015 study that close to 16% of NFL players filed for bankruptcy within just 12 years of retirement.

If you are poor at managing money when you don’t have much of it, you will be poor at managing your money when you have a lot of it. Now, just like with any situation, there are definitely exceptions and some people truly are in a difficult situation, due to no fault of their own. However, if you are listening to this podcast, that is most likely (statistically speaking) not the case for you.

The Biblical Perspective on Money

1. Money as an Idol

When we talk about money we have to be extremely careful. It is one of the big three most common idols: money, sex, and power. It can be very easy to justify the idolatry of money based on the good you can do with it. “I wanna be rich so that I can help people….” while this might sound like good intentions, what are they doing now with their current resources to help others? If you aren’t doing it now, you likely won’t be doing much when you have more. How are you sacrificing the little that you do have?

Often, in the business and entrepreneurial world, we can hear this phrase a lot: “Money in the hands of good people is a good thing.” This is meant to be empowering and remove shame around having money, and that would be true if we were inherently good people. But we’re not- we’re inherently sinful and so we’re always going to be tempted to use money for selfish and impure things.

2. The Danger of the Prosperity Gospel

On the flip side, we don’t want you to take on a poverty gospel. You don’t have to be poor in order to be a true believer. This idea comes from the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27. But Jesus doesn’t give the command that he gave to the rich young ruler to all believers. People take this passage out of context and in a desire to avoid the danger and temptation of money, they get rid of their possessions and believe that they must be poor. However, we must recognize that Jesus calls both poor people and rich people to repent and believe in the gospel. Both Zacchaeus and Lydia were well off financially and were commended for their faith. We don’t have to be impoverished in order to be true followers of Christ.

1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. You can be either rich or poor and fall into this category. Ironically, some rich people use this to justify why their wealth is okay.

John Piper writes: “He (Paul) meant that all the evils in the world come from a certain kind of heart, namely, the kind of heart that loves money….. the heart that loves money is a heart that pins its hopes, and pursues its pleasures, and puts its trust in what human resources can offer…. So, the love of money is virtually the same as faith in money — belief (trust, confidence, assurance) that money will meet your needs and make you happy.”


3. God does not desire for all of his children to be rich

In this era of the prosperity gospel, it is important to make this clear: God does not desire all of his children to be rich. Some of the most faithful believers throughout history have been poor. Jesus and his apostles worked with their hands and were not wealthy. Jesus talks more about the danger of money than the benefit of it.

Matthew 6:19-31: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth….. You cannot serve God and money.” 

Are you trying to serve both God and money?

A final note before we move on: if you are listening to this podcast, you are wealthier than 99% of people throughout history. Realize that when the Bible talks about the rich of this world, we likely fall into this category.

How to fight against the love of money

Before we get into the practicals of how to wisely manage your money, let’s talk about how to practically fight against the love of money. Where do you start?

1. Tithe Regularly!

Scripture talks about giving 10% of your income to your local church. This was a command in the Old Testament and an upheld expectation in the New Testament. Giving from your wealth is one of the best ways to fight against the love of it.

“But what if I’m a broke college student and if I give away 10%, I might not have enough for my next meal?” We’ve heard this a lot and want to point you to the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44. She gave more than everyone else because she gave what she had- two copper coins. She gave out of her poverty- all that she had. The habits and practices you make while young will stick with you…. Even if you can’t give 10%, give something. Get in the habit of tithing and it hurting a little bit. Giving should be sacrificial.

2. Give Generously Beyond Your Tithe

There should be people that are financially blessed by you that only you and them know about. It’s okay if literally, nobody else knows. Matthew 6:3-4 talks about giving in secret.

This brought up a question in our discussion: is it wrong to give because you want the eternal blessing/reward that God promises in this passage? Is this a type of spiritual prosperity gospel? To answer it on the fly: you have to be very careful with this, but it’s not necessarily wrong to desire this. However, the eternal reward should not be our primary motivation. Rather our motivation should be our joy in the gospel and what Christ has done! 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 talks about this idea of heavenly reward as well as this John Piper article if you want to read more about this question.

3. Give Sacrificially

Your giving should hurt a little bit. If Bill gates gave away $1 to a charity, is he being generous? Nope. But, if a homeless person gave $1 to a charity, is he being generous? Yes! This goes back to the story of the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44.

We hesitate to say this because we don’t want to brag or be boastful in any way, but we want to give this as an example. A year ago, our giving to our church was more than what we had in checking and savings combined. This is not to brag, but to say we truly strived to give generously…. And we definitely felt it. This will not always be the case, but it happened to be where we were in that season of life.

4. Have People that Hold You Accountable

Jonathan Pokluda, a pastor, talks about how his small group keeps each other accountable when it comes to finances. Anytime they make a purchase over $500 they have to run in by their small group first. Ask others (who are willing to call it as it is) if you are lusting after money! Be willing to have honest and likely difficult conversations where the people in your life feel comfortable confronting you.

5. An Honest Evaluation

Our final point is likely the toughest. Genuinely ask yourself and wrestle with this question: if Jesus asked me to do what he asked the young rich ruler to do, would I be willing to do it? Would I be willing to sell everything, give all I had to the poor, and move to a third-world country to preach the gospel?

Practically Managing Money

1. Budgeting

The first step towards fiscal responsibility is knowing where you spend your money. So many people are shocked when they first start budgeting at how much money they spend and where they spend it.

Check out this budgeting app by Dave Ramsey called Every Dollar! A side note on Ramsey: he has some good stuff, but I would be cautious of treating everything he says as gospel. Some of his stuff is out of date in our opinion, plus he makes it seem like Jesus desires you to be upper middle class. However, overall he’s has some great financial resources.

Helpful strategies for budgeting

A lot of these come from Ramsey, so take these strategies with a grain of salt.

  • Start with your goals
    • Knowing your why helps you stay consistent. Are you trying to save, get out of debt, see where your expenses coming from, etc?
  • You cannot spend more than you make.
  • Give it at least four months to really get the hang of this process.

Ramsey’s Five Steps for Budgeting:

  1. List your income
    • If your income is varied, start with your average or lowest projected income, you can always add it later if you make more.
  2. List your expenses
    • For expenses start with your necessities (housing, food, utilities,transportation  etc). These are things that no matter what, you will have to pay for (we would also include tithing).
    • Side notes:
      • The cost of your rent/mortgage/housing should be no more than 35% of what you make.
      • Some expenses are fixed (they stay the same) others are variable (gas, food, etc.) 
    • After necessities include nonessentials like eating out, entertainment, etc.
    • Always include a miscellaneous line for unexpected expenses. We would suggest 10% of your overall income if possible.
    • Try to save at least 10% of income if possible.
    • If you’ve done the math we’re already at 65%! You have to budget wisely, because it will go by fast.
  3. After taking into account income and expenses, subtract expenses from income.
    • If you end up with a negative amount, you need to cut expenses.
    • If you end up with a positive amount-yay! Decide what you want to do with that money.
    • Ramsey says you should always end at zero, decide what you’re going to do with EVERY Dollar. You can save it, spend it, invest it, etc… Have every dollar allocated in advance.
  4. Keep track of your expenses throughout the month
    • You can do this by hand or through a paid app (we use Ramsey’s Every Dollar app). We recommend using an app or else you really have to be on top of your expenses and there is the temptation to not include expenses.
    • Side note: whichever is harder for you to spend money on (cash vs. card) is the method you should use to spend money.
  5. Make a new budget before next month
    • Before you spend the money, know where it is going.

Big Expenses

What do you do with big expenses that happen once a year or so that don’t routinely fit on your monthly budget (car stuff, vacation, etc.)?

Save in advance! 

We have an app called Smarty Pig which is a free online piggy bank backed federally by Sallie Mae with relatively high interest rates. It looks sketch but is totally legit! You can set up different “funds” to help you save for various big expenses such as: car, vacation, bathroom renovation, emergency fund, retirement, a big purchase, etc…

It takes a little bit to save. Give yourself about six months to save up a base, but once you have it you’re all set. Have a budget line each month that you take out of your paycheck to go towards saving for these bigger expenses.

2. Credit Card and Other Debt

Outside of mortgage and in some cases a car loan, it is vital that you eliminate all of your debt as quickly as you can. Interest rates (which are increasing right now) will cause your balance to balloon and pretty soon you could find yourself owing more than your original balance. Have a budget line for paying off debt- make sure you are doing everything in your power to pay off debts quickly! A lot of credit cards have interest rates higher than 20% and if you just pay the minimum each month it will only grow.

The first step toward financial freedom is eliminating bad debt. Do everything in your power to eliminate debt as quickly as possible. Don’t eat out, cut cable, be disciplined and don’t go to entertainment- do what you can to eliminate your debt.

Your goal should be to have no debt outside of a mortgage and even then to pay it off quickly if possible. Be vigorous in your goal of eliminating debt. Not only does this affect financial health but it affects mental health as well.

Side Note on Credit Cards:

You need to judge for yourself how responsible you are. Credit cards can be extremely dangerous and some people like Ramsey suggest never having them.

We have two credit cards because if you are responsible, you can benefit from the lack of fiscal responsibility of others.

How credit cards work: You put an expense on a credit card and have between a month and two months to pay it off before it starts accruing interest. If you pay it off before then, great, you’re all set. If not, you are stuck paying interest rates of 20% or more on your balance and it can quickly balloon. And credit card companies make it really easy for you to only pay the minimum balance and let interest acrue.

So why have a credit card- the benefits and rewards. A lot of them offer cash back for every purchase made. We have been able to pay for vacations with our credit card rewards. We treat our credit card like a debit card. If we put an expense on the credit card and we pay off our credit card at least once a week, if not more. We do not put any expenses on our credit card if we do not have the money to pay for it immediately– this allows us to build up rewards without accruing interest.

But if you’re worried, the rewards are not worth the risk. Be honest with yourself on how responsible you are.

3. Retirement

We’re not going to get into employer matching, but if that is something your employer offers- do it. But let’s talk about personal retirement accounts. So many people our age have no retirement savings and no plans for retirement. Start early and be consistent!

There are two types of IRA’s: Roth and Traditional. Both are retirement accounts. Roth IRA is taxed when you put money into it, but not taxed when you take it out. Traditional IRA is not taxed when you put into it but is when you take money out of it.

  • For a Roth IRA, the most you can put into it is $6000 a year if under 50 years old and $7000 a year if over 50. If you make more than $144,000 individually or $214,000 married filed jointly you cannot contribute.
  • For a Traditional IRA, there are no income limits and the max contribution is $6000 a year if under 50, $7000 a year if over 50.
  • The minimum age to start withdrawing is 59 and a half… there are some exceptions that I won’t get into

For the vast majority of our listeners, we recommend going with a Roth IRA because you are most likely to get into higher income brackets during your lifetime. So, it’s much better to get taxed now rather than later. Plus to withdraw later on and not have to worry about paying taxes on your withdrawal is really nice.

The key is to start as early as you can. What you make is compounded over time! You make interest, and then your interest makes interest and so on. It doesn’t make a big difference initially, but overtime it makes a huge difference… it’s kind of like playing the long game! The difference of starting at age 25 vs 35 is the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time you’re 65! If you’re older and haven’t started yet, don’t fret. Starting today is better than starting tomorrow. Even if you can’t save that full $6000 a year, put in $500 or $1000… it adds up!

This is THE BIGGEST thing we try to impress upon people our age. Most people our age haven’t even started one yet- so start today!

So where do I start?

We use Vanguard– and it’s not just us! In The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins, he recommends Vanguard as well.

Vanguard was established in 1975 by Jack Bogle, who believed that a mutual fund company should not have outside owners. Instead, shareholders of the Vanguard Group own the company’s different funds. Thus, the shareholders are the actual owners of Vanguard. Because it does not have outside shareholders to please, Vanguard is only worried about satisfying its customers.

Again: start early!

How much money should I have before getting married?

It’s not about the money you have, it’s about the money habits you have. A lot of times getting married is actually the more financially feasible option (this is not a reason to rush into marriage). This isn’t a reason to get married, but it’s not a reason to not get married.

We’ve heard a college student say that they needed to have $30,000 saved before getting married. While this is a great goal, but we don’t think its a necessity at all. Don’t allow cultural expectations to supersede biblical expectations.

One Degree Shift

Start a budget or retirement account today- why not both?!

If you already have both, start a Smarty Pig today to save up for miscellaneous big expenses

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