As Christians, we often talk about the importance of nurturing our spiritual lives, tending to our relationships, and serving our communities. But how often do we consider the necessity of nurturing our financial health? Whether your parents had a proactive approach to money matters or not, the modern financial landscape can often seem daunting, complex, and unfamiliar. That’s why it’s more crucial than ever to navigate these uncharted waters with wisdom, frugality, and faith.
Our conversation with Clint Hodgens, the wise sage at the helm of Thrivent, shed light on the intertwining nature of our spiritual and financial lives and the new norms of saving money. Our enlightening chat covered a spectrum of financial goals, practical tips, and the significance of adopting a healthy perspective toward money.
A critical first question for many of us is – how much should we be saving and what are we saving for? Clint advises that while it’s always crucial to save, understanding that every situation is unique is just as important. The amount you save is likely influenced by your debt levels. A good guideline is to allocate 20% of your income towards savings and paying down debt.
Your savings journey can start modestly. Begin by setting aside $1,000 for an emergency fund – a safety net that can shield you from sudden unexpected expenses. If you’re fortunate to work for a company that matches your contributions, don’t pass up the opportunity for this “free money.” Simultaneously, work on reducing any high-interest debt like credit cards.
Struggling with student loans and feeling overwhelmed with just getting by? It’s easy to feel like saving is a pipe dream. But remember, every significant journey starts with one small step. Begin by truly assessing your financial state. Sometimes a closer look at your loans and expenses can reveal opportunities to save. Refinancing your loans to get a lower rate, tracking your expenses, and trimming the excess can create room for savings. And remember, creating additional income streams through side hustles can help lighten the burden.
If you’re in your thirties and are only just starting to save, don’t let your current situation discourage you. Reflect on your blessings and realign your spending to allow for 20% of your income to go towards savings and debt repayment. With every pay raise, increase your savings – remember, time is on your side!
The conundrum of whether to prioritize savings or pay off debt can be tricky. Clint recommends a balanced approach, with 20% of your income dedicated to both. While you should focus on eliminating high-interest debts, you should also put away a portion of your savings. Find a strategy that works for you and stick to it. Remember to factor in your emotional well-being. If being in debt causes stress, make paying it down a priority. If the thought of having no savings worries you, then concentrate on building your nest egg.
The notion of saving money might spark a debate for some, considering it a sign of lacking faith in God’s provision. However, Clint affirms that managing our resources wisely and saving for the future is a part of our duty to take care of our families and communities.
When it comes to giving to the church or charities, the key is to incorporate it into your budget from the outset, not as an afterthought. Develop a giving plan and align it with your essential needs. This approach aligns your spending with your values and provides a realistic view of your disposable income.
Finally, how can one stay disciplined with their budget? Sticking to a budget can be challenging due to several factors including our upbringing, spiritual beliefs, and many more. Recognizing these influences can provide insights into why you might be having trouble. Regularly reviewing your budget, starting small, planning for challenges, and not going it alone are strategies to help you remain steadfast.
In the end, nurturing your financial garden is a journey, not a destination. It requires understanding, discipline, and faith, just like any other aspect of our lives. So let’s begin this journey with prayer, wisdom, and action. After all, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5).