DH = Dear Husband
Red flags and Kay’s comment
Every once in a while, I read something in the personal finance blogosphere that sends red flags shooting up in my brain. Despite my best efforts to be open-minded, I think, “Warning! There’s something misguided here!” One such red-flag moment occurred this week on my own site, where I chronicle the journey out of debt DH and I have been trekking for over three years now. My weekly post had been about the first financial planning event that DH and I had ever attended, and how it had the effect (only briefly as it turns out) of taking us off the same page in terms of the plan we’re following to become debt-free and financially free.
I wish I could help, but we don’t invest in worldly anything . . .
Two basic rules I try to follow in responding to people’s posts and comments are “be respectful” and “be honest”. So I couldn’t NOT express my concern to Kay. I hoped I was being respectful:
. . . I’m worried about you. If you haven’t been investing, and if you have no plans to invest, aren’t you setting yourselves up for abject poverty in your old age?
Dave Ramsey & money myths
My concern was that Kay and her husband were being naive in thinking “our finances in retirement will sort themselves out.” I’ll confess here that I used to have these kinds of naive thoughts about personal finance – in my case, in relation to marriage. I had a subconscious but strong dose of Cinderella faith, despite my professed feminism. “My husband will look after everything,” was my belief, “I don’t need to do a thing about it.” Life taught me, in no uncertain terms, that I had to be proactively engaged in our mutual finances.
Like the Cinderalla complex, the notion that we’ll all be looked after in our retirement and eventually in our old age is prevalent in our society. It’s one of the “money myths” that Dave Ramsey addresses in chapter 4 of his book, The Total Money Makeover:
Myth: Everything will be fine when I retire. I know I’m not saving yet, but it will be okay.
Truth: The Cavalry isn’t coming.
How can I put this delicately? There is no shining knight headed your way on a white horse to save the day. Wake up! This is the real world where sad old people eat Alpo! Please don’t be under the illusion that this government . . . is going to take care of you in your golden years. That is your job! This is an emergency! The house is on fire! You have to save! You have to invest in your future. You won’t be FINE!
I first read Ramsey’s book in the spring of 2012, just before DH and I started out on our journey out of debt. And that “Alpo” bit is one that has stuck with me. I do not want anyone, least of all Kay, to be headed for such dire circumstances.
Faith and finance
Kay and I back-and-forthed a bit in the comments section, and she quoted this scripture from Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I could see that these verses were in line with her practice.
But other verses came to my mind. Like Luke 14:28 – “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” Here, Jesus refers to the necessity of financial planning and saving for goals.
Quoting single verses of scripture, however, is rarely effective in convincing anyone of anything. What it CAN do is to express how an individual feels led in his or her faith journey. Faith doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all way of living.
Specific, radical calls on individual lives
I know a man named Paul who felt led to sell his business, his house, all of his possessions, and to give profits from the sales to the poor, trusting in God for provision. He was married and had four young children. The verse he referred to when explaining his radical lifestyle change was Luke 18:22, in which Jesus tells the rich young ruler “. . . Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The rich young ruler did not heed that call. But Paul and his wife Amy did. Over ten years later, I can tell you that they and their children have never had to eat Alpo. Their lives haven’t been free of struggle or disappointment, but the best word I can think of to describe their experience overall is “rich.”
I believe there is great value in the radical decisions people make based upon their faith and the specific calls that God has upon their individual lives. Although I feel no call to do as Paul and Amy have done, I am inspired by their example to be less materialistic and more trusting. In the same way, I have no call to invest as Kay and her husband do, exclusively in “treasures in heaven.” But their example inspires me to be more giving.
“I wasn’t trying to say that no one should invest by conventional methods.”
I sent Kay an e-mail before deciding to write this post. In it, I said I would like to write “about the whole issue of faith and finances and preparing for old age – and I’d like to include our back-and-forth comments from Prudence Debtfree. Are you OK with that? I ask because, as you might guess, I don’t subscribe to your way of applying the scripture you quoted.”
Kay was quick to respond. “Hey, you’re totally welcome to use my comments. Sorry for gobbling up so much room in your post. I hope you understand that I wasn’t trying to say that no one should invest by conventional methods. I was just saying that, for various reasons that are kind of private, we choose to only invest in the Kingdom of God.”
I was relieved to see that Kay and her husband consider the call on their lives to be specific. To know that they’re not saying, “Forget investing everyone! It’s a sign of a lack of faith!”
Ramsey’s words spoke right to me 3.5 years ago when I read his message to “Wake up!” DH and I woke up with a start, and we’ve been putting our financial household in order ever since. As for a specific call on our lives? So far, it’s been to humble ourselves, to get real, to share our story, and to extend hope. Is it possible that we’ll be called to something more radical in the future? I think it is. And I hope that if that happens, we’ll respond with an eager and faith-filled “Yes!” But I’m not looking for radical. I’m looking at the terrain directly in front of us as we navigate our total money makeover. And now that I think of it, perhaps that’s radical enough.
Do you think faith plays into finances? Does it have a “flakey” influence? Or is it foundational? Your comments are welcome.
Image courtesy of Vortix.