Financial Peace Classes

fpuTen years ago exactly this month, Noelle and I opened the credit card statements from Christmas and realized we owed over $7,000 on those two charge cards. We also owned a condo that wasn’t rented, had a car loan on a sweet Mustang GT convertible, and one more student loan for old times sake.

That week I was playing basketball on a Monday night at Smoky Hill Vineyard church and saw a sign there for a class: Financial Peace University. We had missed week one, but the next night – week two of the class on a Tuesday in January, we were there.

It didn’t happen overnight, but we sold the condo, sold the mustang, lived on “beans and rice”, and paid off all of that within the year.

It isn’t a coincidence that these classes start this time of year. January is a time of new year resolutions and new beginnings. If you’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired”, now is a great time to push the reset button.

You can find a class at a local church. CLICK HERE FOR LIST OF LOCAL CLASSES.  

Feel free to reach out to me for more on our experiences and what we’ve done in the 10 years since.

Vampire Problems

draculaWhat kind of problems require faith?

David Brooks has highlighted a problem he calls a Vampire Problem. Say you are thinking about becoming a vampire, but you’re on the fence. The drinking blood, sleeping in a coffin, no playing golf during the day…it’s a tough decision. Adding to the problem, once you become a vampire there isn’t any going back. Brook’s point is that the most important decisions in life, who to marry, when and how many kids to have, what job to take, these types of problems are ‘vampire problems’ – they have two main characteristics:

1.) There isn’t any way to fully know what life will be like if you make that decision.

2.) Once you make the decision, you can’t go back.

These type of problems can’t be solved with logic, knowledge, analytics, research, or education. As the article points out: “’You shouldn’t fool yourself…You have no idea what you are getting into.’” These type of problems require faith.

Following Jesus is certainly this type of problem. He promises that (1.) You’re spiritually dead right now and you can’t know what it’s like to be alive but (2.) you can be alive with a life that’s better than you can ever imagine and once you are alive you won’t ever be the same.

A lot of financial problems are like this as well. There isn’t any way to fully know the outcome of a decision you need to make. Can I afford to have a child right now? If I take this 2nd job, will I have enough time and energy for my friends and family? If I commit to paying off debt will I still be able to have fun? Will this investment pan out? Which of these two jobs should I take? Is it worth it to move to a new city to go to grad school? Should I fix this old car or buy a new one?

The good news is that faith isn’t blind. It’s an action in the direction of my hope. That’s why all my financial (and life) choices need to start with an act of the will. I need to have hope in my heart that I can be debt free and that it will be worth it before I can start taking actions in that direction.

Faith is the action toward the thing I’m hopeful for. What are your financial hopes for 2017? How about 5 years and 10 years from now? Let’s write those down as we head into a new year. Do you hope to be debt free? To pay off your student loans? To have a fully funded emergency fund? To pay for graduate school? To land a specific job? To start a business?

Do Rich People Stuff

The_millioner_mind_bookcoverDave Ramsey is fond of saying “If you want to be rich, do what rich people do. If you want to be broke, do what broke people do.

I was reminded of this on a couple different occasions recently. One friend posted a dumb picture on Facebook and another ordered a “Dewars on the rocks”.

Thomas Stanley in his incredible book “Stop Acting Rich” tried to differentiate between the “Glittering Rich” and the actual wealthy – the “Millionaire Next Door” type.  Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of wealthy people don’t drink expensive liquor or own extravagant things.  Perhaps the fastest way out of debt is to stop buying stuff we don’t need.

If you want to “Fake it until you make it” with money, you can start right now by living frugally.

Non-Owning

20160917_114549There is an old joke that the best two days of boat ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. I spent this last weekend playing 54 holes of golf and hanging with some cool dudes. This picture is me drilling an 8 iron over water to make a key par.

We were blessed that a family member of one of the players has a large vacation home in the mountains and they let us use it for the weekend. As I was sitting in the hot tub that night, I reflected on this thought: Though I’m not a millionaire, for this weekend I was experiencing all the enjoyment of this huge mountain chalet.

For some reason, I am hardwired to think I need to own something to enjoy it. Maybe this is a result of thousands of advertisements or perhaps it’s just my nature to want to control. I do think there is a strong movement toward Lyft, VRBO, community gardens, bike sharing, and more peer-to-peer.

We have a guest bedroom in our house, so for the past few months we’ve had a young person living with us. It hasn’t been a burden, it’s actually made life better. I wonder if this is what the early church believers were hoping for when they “shared all things in common”.

Paul told Timothy to teach the wealthy (most of us) to “be willing to share”. What things can we share with each other? What do you need that perhaps you could get by with just borrowing? If we reorient our thinking around this, I think it would tremendously reduce our overall debt levels.

Quick Thought

jason dayI taught a small group this morning on “The Long Defeat”. It’s a quote from Tolkien that I came across this week via Wesley’s wonderful essay (which links this from Alan Jacobs) and I think pairs perfectly with this beautiful poem and reflection by Richard Rohr.

One connection I’ll make here: If I’m results driven, bitterness will eventually become the defining characteristic of my life. Instead, I submit the outcome (including the possibility of defeat in my life, my relationships, my projects, my country, all my needs and hopes and dreams) to God and I learn to ‘practice’ living.

This is true of budgeting and raising children. It’s true for world number one Jason Day: “I got addicted to the process of getting better.” It’s equally true for every non-famous person that does their taxes, serves a client, prepares a meal, teaches a child math, or pays off a debt.

Income Inequality

Rio Opening CeremoniesMy wife loves the Olympics so we’ve been watching a lot of them this week. Yesterday I saw some stunning images like the one on the right accompanying several articles like these.

On a recent Malcolm Gladwell podcast he raised an interesting question about how to solve problems. Is a particular problem a ‘basketball problem’ where teams need to improve the best player or is it a ‘soccer problem’ where improvement comes by improving the worst player?

His point was that some problems have top down solutions and other problems have bottom up solutions.

The image above really provides a stunning portrait of income inequality. When it comes to Income Inequality, almost all the articles talk about it like a ‘basketball problem’. That is they focus on the top .01%. That’s understandable because broke people are always at zero. When the .01% get even more money the Inequality goes up. The reality is that the top 1% of income earners receiving 20% of the pre-tax income is a problem.

But assuming you are not in the 1%, I would suggest that the best use of your and my time is not trying to tear down the 1% but rather work on lifting up from the bottom. Specifically what do I need to do to lift myself and others up from the bottom?

I believe that creating opportunities and paths out of zero is the key. It’s a soccer solution. I can’t lift everyone up, but it’s a lot more impactful to move from destitution to the middle then to move from the middle up or from up to slightly less up.

In today’s world, there are a lot of opportunities, but the traditional paths are no longer clear. Instead, we need to really get creative on how to create and find opportunities to help myself and others into financial stability. I think it starts with a lot of questions:

 

How can I create a financially stable environment to raise my children?

How can I pull one friend out of instability and into financial peace?

How can I create an emergency fund that will take the crisis out of my financial life?

How can I prepare my children for life so they won’t be financially burdened for decades into the future?

How can I help one impoverished person start a business?

How can I avoid and payoff debt?

Do I need to work more or at a different employer?

Are substance abuse issues causing me to stay in poverty?

How can I pay my house off and take back my income?

How would a small business I start create future financial freedom?

If I could earn an extra $500 a month as a freelance employee at night or on the weekends how would that change my life?

If I could cut my lifestyle expenses by $200 a month, what would I do with an extra million dollars in 40 years?

Would something as simple as access to clean water enable a poor person to start working and producing something of value they could sell?

How would personal financial margin create opportunities for myself and others?

What do I need to change to create a path to financial stability?

Do I have a plan?

In what ways to I put a higher value on luxury then on stability?

How do I evaluate needs versus wants?

 

If I am drowning, it’s really difficult to save another drowning person. It takes personal capacity;  savings and extra cash flow to be able to give and be generous. I believe lifting myself out of poverty is step one in helping others do the same and creating greater income equality.

Faith?

Faith imageYou gotta have faith!

What does this mean?

God will provide” is another variant of this idea. The idea that “faith” is a fix-all for what we don’t know and understand or a green light to pursue any desire we can dream up.

Where does the role of faith fit into a healthy understanding of my finances?

While I’m not a theologian, I have heard a lot of people using ‘faith’ language around financial matters for a long time. We’ve discussed that some people use ‘faith’ as a reason for pursing a theological education – sometimes used correctly and sometimes used as an argument for non-logical actions. Prosperity gospel teachers have also used ‘faith’ language to create an entire theological worldview where one’s physical blessings and hardships can be the result of their faith or lack thereof.

While there are many definitions of faith, I believe there is one definition of faith that will change your entire financial worldview. Let’s walk through it:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…”

One way I believe Paul helped explain the world was dividing it into multiple “realms”. The physical universe (your skin, bones, DNA, cells, etc.), the spiritual world (the heart, the Spirit, Faith, hope, love, peace, etc.), and the mind or your thoughts.  There are a number of examples of this (Romans 12:1, Romans 7:21-24, Romans 8:5-15, Galatians 5:16-18).

I believe when the author of Hebrews 11 (probably not Paul) is saying that faith is the SUBSTANCE, what they are saying is that it is physical thing – an action in the physical world.  This would echo what James says in the second chapter of his book that faith without deeds isn’t actually a real thing. It’s ‘dead’. Faith is itself an action based on your HOPE. Jesus said calling me “Lord” is pretty worthless if you don’t actually take my teaching and put it into “practice”.  Walt Henrichsen says we take risks in the direction of our hope. Where is our hope? Where are we taking risks?

For example, I think this definition works well with understanding salvation itself. Paul in Romans outlines a process:  Though sinful (Romans 1-3), we have justification for sins by faith (chapter 4). Hope isn’t a wish, but an eager expectation that doesn’t disappoint (chapter 5). Our hope is in Jesus (Rom 5:1-2) who is the Hope of Glory (Eph 1:11-14 and Col 1:27), saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus (Eph 2:8-9). Salvation comes through the physical actions taken in the direction of our hope. Thus in Romans 10:9 Paul says if you take a physical action in the direction of your hope – confess with your mouth what you believe in your heart – you will be saved. Another way of saying the same thing?  Follow Jesus. Believe he is who he says he is and actually do what he teaches (John 14:15-24).

Back to finances….I believe it’s critical to articulate what I’m hoping for. This will greatly clarify my faith statements. It’s really how the scientific process works. I set an eager expectation when I construct a hypothesis. Then I take a step of faith into the unknown and begin testing (“method”) in the direction of my hope. This is quite literally gathering ‘evidence of things not seen’.

What am I hoping for in my finances?

Having more than $400 for an emergency?

Being a responsible steward of all I’ve been given?

Raising my children without endemic poverty?

Being completely debt free someday?

Going to Seminary without debt?

Paying my student loans off within 5 years?

Sending my children to college without debt?

Allowing my spouse to be able to be a homemaker?

Giving 20% of my income?

Taking a year off of work when I turn 40 to serve the hurting?

 

This can’t be hope as a ‘wish and a dream’, but rather an eager expectation. What Peter called a “living hope”.  Romans 15 calls God the “God of Hope” whom through the Holy Spirit we may “abound in hope”. Peter described hope as something we can “set fully on”. Paul described it as a product of suffering, perseverance, and character. Solomon said without it the heart grows sick.

We need to land on a specific goal, a firmly embedded hope in our heart. Then we can start by taking actions in the direction of our hope. This is an act of faith – a risk in the direction of my hope.

It can be extremely unglamorous. I have a strong hope that raising children in a stable home and remaining married to my wife will be worth it in the long run. The reality is that this isn’t the easiest or most self-gratifying way to go through life. The reality is that I don’t know what life will be like in 20 or 30 years. But I have an ever present earnest hope that my life will be better in the future if I love my wife and serve my children in the present. And so in an ACT OF FAITH, I change diapers and go to work each morning. It is an act of faith – an action believing that it will be worth it.

It’s not an exaggeration to say doing the dishes is an extraordinary act of faithfulness. This is the kind of faith that breaks down generational cycles of fatherlessness, poverty, alcoholism, and abuse.

What is my financial hope? Do I want my spouse to be able to stay home with our children? I understand it isn’t possible right now. Step one: Set my hope on that outcome. Step two: Take a physical step of faith in that direction. What can I sell? Can I work a 2nd job? Can I downsize our house or car? Can I cut our food or entertainment budget in half? Can we payoff a credit card in the next 60 days if we live on nothing?

Do you feel called to go to Seminary without incurring a crushing debt burden? That is a noble goal. Set your hope in that direction. Next, start taking steps in the direction of your hope. Have you applied to Seminary? Have you applied for scholarships? Have you applied to 10 better jobs then you have now? Have you tried doing fundraising? Have you shared your vision with 20 people?  They all won’t work, but that’s ok. We don’t know what act of faith will work unless we try. Finding out what will work or watching God reshape our hope in another direction all together – that is the miracle of the divine crashing into my finite time and place. And it will be your unique story of how God provided and your faith will be strengthened because you will have your own personal “evidence”.  “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” It always starts with an action in the direction of your hope.

When it comes to finances, I’ve often had someone tell me “you can’t do that”. The truth they are telling me is probably “I can’t do that.” I understand these are wildly taken out of context, but there are instances of Jesus being amazed by unbelief. He is saying “Why aren’t you actually doing anything?” We say “Well, because we can’t control the wind and the waves.” Apparently that isn’t a good enough reason.

Conversely, Jesus was amazed by the faith of an outsider who took action when his servant fell ill. I believe a lack of faith is refusing to take steps into the unknown in the direction of my hope. You might believe it’s impossible to pay cash for your next car. Have you considered selling your expensive car that currently has payments? Have you read any books or articles on how to do it? Have you considered driving a crappy car for 6-12 months? Have you considered what you could sell to raise the money? Have you considered driving a car with hail damage? Have you considered going with one car for a significant period of time? Have you bought a car with significantly less features for a lot less money?

I know you can because my wife and I have done all of these things. I’m happy to say we have two beautiful, paid for cars. It took my wife and me a couple of years, a string of ugly cars, several breakdowns, a few arguments when we only had one car, and an ’04 Kia with hail damage I bought for less money than I was making per week, but we did it and we’ll never go back.

I have had people use spiritual language around a financial event that causes me to wonder. They say God “blessed” them with a new car (and car loan) or God “provided” the financing for the house of their dreams.  The reality is I don’t know, maybe He did. But I do believe “The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow to it.” I wouldn’t want the blessing of your car if it came with your car payment.  My deepest desire is a greater Hope for you. I want a greater faith in the direction of that hope.

The message for me, as well as you, is that we wouldn’t settle for good enough. The good news of the gospel is that we can participate in the Kingdom – how the world ought to be. Let’s set forth with Kingdom hope and then take audacious actions in that direction.  When someone says “You gotta have faith”, I trust they have survived suffering, produced perseverance, developed character, and nurtured a hope that is deserving of that faith.

And I hope they have enough faith to take courageous action in that direction.

Do you have Millionaire Myths?

The_millioner_mind_bookcoverThomas Stanley was one of the most important myth busters in America. His original Millionaire Next Door changed the way we understand wealth building in America. His book Stop Acting Rich is probably my favorite, but his book Millionaire Mind tried to address the mindset (as opposed to the practical – cut spending, investing, etc.) of the most financially successful.

Since Dr. Stanley passed away last year, Dave Ramsey has started doing a Millionaire theme hour every few months where he brings on real life average millionaires and asks them a few questions. What becomes apparent listening to a few of these is that there are a number of popular myths around those that have accumulated wealth:

MYTHS:

  1. Wealthy inherited their money
  2. Wealthy are famous
  3. The wealthy did something unethical to gain their wealth
  4. The wealthy are workaholics without families
  5. The wealthy went to a top college or university
  6. The wealthy are smarter or more intelligent
  7. The wealthy started with money (It takes money to make money)
  8. The wealthy live extravagantly (new cars, expensive jeans, etc.)

The reality – both statistically and anecdotally – is that that these just aren’t true. The vast majority are first generation millionaires (88%) that live very inconspicuous lives (1% are famous musicians or athletes), acquired their wealth slowly by saving over a long period of time, have long stable marriages, and graduated in the middle of their class with average GPAs.

Instead, in the Millionaire Mind, Stanley ranked the most important attributes:

  1. Being Honest – Integrity
  2. Being Disciplined
  3. Getting along with people
  4. Having a supportive spouse
  5. Working hard

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?

You might be wondering how this applies if you’re in Seminary or a graduate school. First, it’s amazing the wisdom of scripture (especially Proverbs) that bleeds through:

  1. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by duplicity.”
  2. “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
  3. “The prudent hold their tongues.” “Blessed are the peacemakers”
  4. “A wife of noble character….more precious than rubies. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
  5. Hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

If you’ve chosen to spend your life studying and teaching the scriptures, rest assured that if you practically apply what you’ve learned to your own life you are on the road to “all these things being added unto you.”

Second, critically analyze any negative thinking you may have around going into ministry. “I’m going into ministry, so I’ll never be financially stable.” “I’ll never be able to go to Seminary without debt.” Is that true? Maybe. But maybe not. God calls different people into different circumstances, but we do know that “The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” I believe the key to that verse isn’t “rich”, it’s “no sorrow”. You can have a rich ministry with no financial sorrow. You can have a rich marriage, with no sorrow. A rich friendship without drama is a blessing from the LORD.

Third, in The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren says God cares more about your Character than your Circumstances. You may have noticed that Stanley’s keys are all issues of character. In Seminary, you’re presented with an overwhelming amount of information – brain knowledge. But it’s important to remember that the hard work of discipleship is developing your inner life to be “the same as that of Christ Jesus”. Regardless of your and my future financial gain, we can agree that Jesus had great integrity, showed great diligence and discipline, worked well with others, and wasn’t lazy. This is why Paul said “godliness with contentment is great gain.”

The point of this post: If you’re struggling with financial matters, let’s look at:

Mind: Do I have Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) around money, the wealthy, my finances, my future? Are these true in light of scripture?

Body: Do I practically have financially destructive actions or habits in my income or outgo?

Spirit: Do I have character issues that I need to work through?

DISCLAIMER:

In reviewing this article I think it’s important to note that the scriptures don’t give a formula that teaches CHARACTER leads to WEALTH. The point of this article is that many believe that wealth and good character are incompatible or incongruent, and that certainly isn’t the case.

It’s also important to note that the point of our finances isn’t becoming a millionaire or independence – especially from God who provides all our needs (Pro 30:9, I Cor 4:7, Matt 6:11, 1 Tim 6:17, Phil 4:19). Instead I believe we can and should aspire towards ‘Freedom’, specifically from debt both current and future.

BOUNDARIES in Finances

BoundariesObviously God must guide us in a way that will develop spontaneity in us. Suppose a parent would dictate to the child minutely everything he is to do during the day. The child would be stunted under that regime. The parent must guide in such a manner, and to the degree, that autonomous character, capable of making right decisions for itself, is produced. God does the same. – E. Stanley Jones

In this summary of his transcendent book “Boundaries”, Henry Cloud outlines one of the most important principles in human development:

“Simply stated, it is this: people have a need to be in control of their own lives, and they have a need to know that God is behind that idea.”

Managing finances is a litmus test for our values. Understanding Cloud’s principle has implications for how and why we must develop financial skills.

Financially, many people confuse these two:

  1. God promises to meet all our needs (Philippians 4:19 and Matthew 6:25-34).
  2. God desires us to take responsibilities for our actions.

I believe the confusion surrounds our fixation with outcomes. It is assumed that an appropriate outcome either signifies appropriate actions or that the ‘ends justified the means’. The Bible goes to great lengths to separate the connection of SITUATION from ACTIONS: “Don’t worry about evil people who prosper”( Ps 37:7 and many others).

Money is a very outcome laden subject. For example, most people don’t realize that you can make good investment decisions that still lose money and BAD decisions that make money. The truth is that the quality of the decision making process is separate from the outcome of the decision.

In that vein, the Bible teaches us to separate our actions from God’s outcomes. We are responsible for our actions; God is responsible for our outcomes. The context is different, but this is the idea behind I Corinthians 3:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

See that the reward is for the LABOR not the growth or harvest. This is a vitally important financial concept because it releases us from the outcome and empowers us to focus on taking responsibility for our actions.

 TAKING OWNERSHIP

The vast majority of financial messes I see are caused by someone’s head being stuck in the sand. This ostrich mentality results from feeling overwhelmed by either the size or scale of the mess or the inability to navigate the complexity of it, so a person ignores the issue until it intersects with real life. Dallas Willard described this collision: “Sometimes reality is what you run into when you’re wrong.”

The unfortunate truth is that ignoring problems doesn’t lead us to less stress, worry, or increased happiness. The opposite is true – when you know you have a large financial burden, ignoring it creates inner stress and it weighs on our spirits. It ‘enslaves’ us.

Instead, as Dr. Cloud pointed out “freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.” We must take dominion over that which we have personal responsibility. This most certainly includes our finances.

Money is a little confusing for some because a critical Biblical concept of money says that “God owns it all.” This is true – what we are discussing here isn’t money but your and my DECISIONS about how to handle our money. We have to take ownership of our decisions. Again Dr. Cloud:

What ownership basically is about is the possession of what God has entrusted to us. Ownership says, “that is mine, and I am responsible for it.” It is what Jesus was calling us to in the commandment to “take the log out of our own eye first.” (Lk. 6:42) So, in order to take responsibility for our lives, we must own what is ours.

We own control over our financial decisions. When we refuse that control, , we are subjected to a life at the mercy of sales people, shiny stuff, collections callers, ‘rich people’, evil corporations, big government, debt, car payments, student loans, lower salaries, and financial emergencies. Dave Ramsey describes control over our financial decisions as ‘happening to your money’ instead of ‘wondering what happened to your money’.

POVERTY MENTALITY

Many (even those in occupational ministry) don’t understand this division of actions and outcomes and it leads to a couple of unhealthy perspectives:

“Rich people must have done something immoral to gain their wealth”

“Rich people stepped on people on their way to the top”

“I’ll never be wealthy because….”

“The system is set up so the average guy can’t win”

“The little guy can never get ahead”

“I’m not a finances nerd so I won’t ever have enough….”

“You have to have money to make money”

“The love of money is the root of all evil so I won’t ever be rich”

These perspectives connect ACTIONS and RESULTS to create false narratives. “I don’t” so “I won’t”. They have all come about because the situations described can and do occasionally occur. But correlation doesn’t imply causation.

Instead, if we come to the Biblical perspective of separating the actions from the results, we can conclude that there are some poor people whose actions we would LIKE to emulate and many rich people whose actions we would NOT like to emulate. In the same way we don’t need to envy or covet others’ wealth. Why they have it (RESULTS) isn’t our business; it belongs to God. Similarly, if you find yourself with wealth, you don’t need to feel guilty about it. The fact that you have it doesn’t validate you, your decisions, or anything else. It just is. It is the result of providence. What we do with our wealth (ACTIONS) is the more important matter over which we must take ownership.

Donald Miller on Personal Change

DonMillerFantastic author Donald Miller (www.storylineblog.com) has a great 20 page paper on how to change your life. If you don’t follow Donald, he delivers this advice from experience – his books chronicle his life journey over the years from the child of a broken home through weight issues, career success, struggling for meaning, and broken relationships toward a destination of a healthy adult.

His manifesto on change can be found here:

(LINK)

http://storylineblog.com/downloads/start-life-over.pdf

Read it as he walks through the five keys to ACTUAL change:

  1. You were designed to change.
  2. You are in a relationship with yourself – make it a healthy one.
  3. It’s ok to quit.
  4. You become like the people you hang out with.
  5. You can only do 3 big things a year. That’s it.

His advice really relates to all of life, but in the context of this blog its especially useful as a blueprint on how to change your financial future.

We are all born with and raised into tremendous impactful financial worldviews. If you were raised rich or poor, by spenders or misers, by over-talkers or hiders, by nerds or free spirits, by planners or panics – we are all carrying biases that impact our spending decisions. If you are willing to see them, own them, and embrace the first principle, you can own your future.

Second, Don makes the fantastic point that you respect yourself more if you make respectful decisions. This sounds obvious in retrospect but it never really clicked with me until he articulated it this clearly (Isn’t that what great authors do.). Build a habit of making decisions that you can be proud of.

Third, Miller gives an example of Bob Goff who tries to quit something every week. This can be a great speed bump that helps you change financial behavior. Can I cut up a credit card? Can I buy packets of oatmeal and give up eating out at breakfast? Can I quit watching TV 1 day a week and do a part time job? Can I quit procrastinating and write a check to a Scotrade account? Do one thing, no matter how small, each Thursday that leads toward a healthier financial future.

Fourth, hang around financially healthy people. Unhealthy financial people spread subconscious lies about money. “Only the rich can win nowadays”, “It takes money to make money”, “I’ll never be able to be debt free”, “I’ll be paying on these student loans the rest of my life”. These attitudes are contagious.

Lastly, don’t try to change your entire life this year. Let’s just focus on one financial decision that will change your entire future. Maybe decide to live on a written budget this year. Maybe decide to make it one year in school without taking out student loans. Maybe sign up for the 401k at work.

I broke my thumb around the time I graduated college and I didn’t have health insurance. I was able to skillfully avoid all the surgery and medical bill collectors for a couple years but eventually I made one big decision. I pulled my credit report, called all the collection agencies and started negotiating payoffs I had been avoiding for years. It took another 6 months or a year to get them paid, but that one decision paved a path for me to buy a home, start saving, start paying off student loans, and start living without guilt. I began to look at myself as someone who could handle complex problems, was responsible with money, and was willing to confront stressful situations.

That story illustrates those five points and I encourage you to read Donald Millers manifesto and take some time to think about practical applications.