Guest Post by Terry Davis
In our recent Equip night Paralyzed, financial stress was identified as one of the top stressors for those who responded to a survey at the event. This is not a surprising revelation. A poll by the American Psychological Association in 2017 revealed similar results with the future of our nation just edging out money as the two top sources of stress on one’s life.
Why is money one of the top stressors and how do we deal with the financial stress?
Let’s look at making sense of our financial stress.
What is it about Money and Stress?
An age-old quote derived from a misquote of a well-known Bible verse is that “Money is the root of all evil”. The fact of the matter is that the verse actually says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1st Timothy 6:10a KJV) and the rest of the verse provides insight as to why when it states “which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1st Timothy 6:10b KJV).
Money is a necessary commodity of life to the extent that the Bible has more references to money related matters than even heaven. As such, the Bible uses money or money related topics to teach us about life, grow us spiritually, and test our faith and stewardship. For example, in Matthew 25:14- 29, Jesus shares the parable of the talents to teach us that God owns everything, that we each are given our own “talents” to steward over in our lives, and that we are accountable to Him for how we manage what He has given to us.
Much of the stress in life with money and typically a short supply of it, therefore, revolves around how we manage money and how prepared we are when the unexpected happens. Let’s consider some steps to help in these two areas of money management and planning.
How Did I Get to Where I Am?
The first step in dealing with financial stress is to determine specifically what is causing the financial stress. This involves a two-step process. One is a self - examination, a look in the mirror, if you will. Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover states, “Winning at money is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge”. In other words, own up to the fact that you are in the financial hardship that you are in due to your own financial behavior or an unexpected event, commit to develop a plan with God’s help to address the situation, and commit to change the behavior that got you there in the first place. A second step is the financial accounting or number crunching of determining what income sources are available compared to what the monthly expenditures are. In other words, what is my income verses my outgo. This can be a sobering exercise as one thing that you may determine through this exercise is that your outgo exceeds or nearly consumes the income. With this information, however, you can begin to build a strategy to work through the financial stress that plagues you by following a definitive plan, step two in the process of dealing with financial stress.
Step two in dealing with financial stress is dictated by the results of what you determined in step one. What is causing the financial stress? Is it excessive debt? Is it unexpected expenses? Is it simply living above your means? Is it the absence of any reserves, living paycheck to paycheck? With this determination, an appropriate strategy can then be created, fueled by a commitment to change the behavior that brought about stress, to help alleviate the financial hardship. For example, if excessive debt is the issue, a plan to reduce the debt could include a prioritization to pay off debt, smaller balances first, so that you can celebrate quick wins as the debt burden is eliminated. As the smaller balances are paid off, then the money used to apply toward these accounts can be applied to the debts with the higher balances to accelerate the payoff of these debts.
A key to this strategy is two commitments:
One is to resist the urge for impulse spending as cash flow is freed up due to the absence of a monthly payment.
Two is the temptation to incur additional debt as, once again, there is a sense of more cash flow since a monthly debt has been eliminated. Another quick victory over the stress of debt is the establishment of reserves, or emergency funds, a third step in dealing with financial stress.
When the Unexpected Happens
Establishing a reserve or emergency fund can provide you with some quick relief from the anxiety of financial stress. A recent report published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve revealed that 40% of adults could not cover an unexpected expense of $400 without either borrowing the money or selling something to cover the expense. Dave Ramsey suggests that everyone should have $1,000.00 in cash available to them at all times to handle those unexpected emergencies that tend to crop up on all of us. The question is, How do I save this $1000.00? The short, quick answer is $1.00 at a time!! Seriously, it is $1.00 at a time or maybe $10.00 at a time. You simply must start and be committed that this money will not be used for impulse spending. A good mechanism to establish this emergency fund is an auto-draft transfer from a checking account to a dedicated, emergency fund savings account at your financial institution. Time these transfers with the deposit of your payroll check and eventually, believe it or not, you will get accustomed to this “paying yourself first” strategy and your living expense will adjust to the fact that the money being transferred is not available for routine living expense. This brings us to a fourth step in the dealing with financial stress process, budgeting.
I Know Why and I Have Prepared for the Unexpected, Now What?
Budgeting involves taking the financial accounting that you completed in step one (the determination of your monthly income and outgo) and estimating how much is reasonable to spend, on average each month in each necessary expense category. (The word “necessary” is included here as your examination of your monthly expenses may uncover expenses that, at least for a period of time, could be discontinued until financial soundness is achieved). Include in this budgeting list, an estimate for establishing your $1,000.00 emergency fund and your monthly tithe (Tithing to God first is Biblical – Malachi 3:8-10 and then paying yourself through a disciplined savings routine is always a best practice). Once this budget is developed, then begin tracking each month how your actual expenses align with your budgeting amount.
Two good tools to track spending and budgeting are the Quicken software program, and the Every Dollar App. Remember that the objective here is not to exceed your budget in a category and to not reallocate funds from one budget item to another if you have underspent in a category that month. Avoiding this temptation is another way to build the emergency/reserve funds that everyone needs. This means that the budgeting process includes a high degree of self-control and commitment. The results, however, are worth the sacrifice as you begin to experience freedom from the burden of financial stress.
Bringing It All Together
Everyone’s financial situation is unique, and each require personal evaluation and examination. The key, therefore, is that the cause of the financial stress is identified and that, through prayer, Godly counsel, and personal financial analysis, a plan can be put into place that provides for a systematic approach to work through the situation.
Additionally, we must recognize that God can use the experience of financial hardship to grow and mold us in such a way that our experience can be used for personal, spiritual growth and ultimate kingdom purposes.
Finally, we must trust that God “helps the fallen and lifts up those bent beneath their loads” (Psalms 145:14). Resolve today to take these steps for achieving a more financially stable life. The first step is always the hardest.
This is a follow-up post to our second Equip night: Stress, Fear, and Anxiety. Join us March 6th for our 3rd night: Epidemic. For more information and to register go to www.brookstonechurch.org/epidemic
1” What is Stress”, The American Institute of Stress, https://www.stress.org/daily-life
2Ramsey, Dave, The Total Money Makeover, (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2013) Page 3.
3“Report on Well-being of American Households in 2017”, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2017-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201805.pdf, May, 2018
4Ramsey, Pages 88-103.