God and money--Don't worry, plan
Just calm down
A road map to go somewhere
The economy has dragged on for two years now, up a little one day, down a little the next. If you follow every little uptick and downtick of the stock market it can be a real drain on you. Overall, things are getting better, however slowly. But you have to live from one day to the next and the prophets of gloom and doom on the news and in financial investment columns are not much help. The personal finance blogs are a little more optimistic.
Worrying and fretting, blaming and complaining about the state of the economy in general or your finances in particular are not productive ways of handling the situation. They give the illusion of doing something but nothing is really being done. Jesus taught that worrying was a waste of time. Creating and following a plan is the only productive way of approach.
Creating a plan comes down to three steps:
1. Figuring out where you are
2. Figuring out where you want to be
3. Figuring out how to get from #1 to #2
For example, if you are in a debt situation, the first thing to figure out is how deeply in debt you are. Here we are talking actual numbers. Rather than say, "It's bad," you add up all the amounts and say, "OK, I am $10,000 in debt." No matter how bad it is, at least you know 'where you are'. Sometimes people have nothing more than a vague sense that they are in trouble and they don't have any idea what the real picture is in dollars and cents. Jesus instructed people to "count the cost before you build". This means you have to know what you are working with and what you will need. No amount of walking the floor at night can help you like sitting down with all the bills and a pencil and paper or calculator or computer software and adding it all up. You may find that the amount is not as bad as you thought. Or you might find it is more than you thought, but you will know where you are. Your starting point will often determine what methods you will need to use to get to your goal. If you are in Virginia and you want to go to Florida, you can drive down I-95. But if you are in Nevada and you want to go to Florida, you may prefer to fly. Not only do you need to know how big the debt is, you also need to know what resources you have to pay it. Figure out how much money you have in savings, checking, CDs, Savings bonds, etc. Put that down as well.
If you are in debt, the first plan should be to get out. This is 'where you want to be', out of debt. In the example above, if you are $10,000 in debt, the place you want to be is $0 debt. Other plans may call for a more elaborate description of your goals but this one is pretty simple.
Then you have to figure out how to get from point A to point B, from $10,000 debt to $0 debt. There are a lot of ways to approach this. You can look first to the money you have. Although it can be hard to part with your savings when you start thinking about how you worked hard to save the money up, you have to realize the banks aren't paying you what the creditors are charging you. You can take what resources you have and pay off as much of the debt as you can. You can also call the creditors and see if they will lower the interest rate on the loan or work out a payment plan you can handle. Be careful here, though, because you want to pay this off as fast as you can, and longer payment terms defeat the purpose. You may have to sell some of your stuff to get some extra money, or take on part-time work. Just as I said in my hub about savings, you can pray for unexpected income. Then when money you didn't expect comes to you, you can use it to pay the debt. There are ladder strategies, where you pay off your biggest debt first then the next biggest and so on. There are reverse ladder strategies, starting with the smallest debt and working your way up. People argue about which is best but I think you should use what works for you. You may think of other ways to solve this problem. The point is that when you look at where you are and you look at where you want to go, then you start planning how to get there, ideas come to you.
Debt elimination is priority one. When you are out of debt, savings should be the next priority. Save for your emergency fund. Save for retirement. Save for the children's college education or your own college education. Save for those Manolo Blahniks you always wanted. Save for whatever else you want. Whatever you are trying to do you can get there, one step at a time. You just have to know where you are and where you want to go. Your plan is your road map. Some journeys are long and difficult. Getting out of debt, for example, is a long climb that takes time. Some journeys are smoother and easier. But the method is the same.
The Bible teaches a lot about preparation and planning. We are told to 'write the vision, make it plain.' Write down your goals and how you plan to get there. A plan can always be modified if your circumstances change but you have to have one first. God is all over preparation and planning. He planned and prepared the Garden of Eden before he even made Adam and Eve. He created the salvation plan at the beginning of time. So if you are a Christian, trying to be like Jesus, you need to learn how to create a plan. This is as good a place as any and it will help you get some sleep at night.
I know there are plenty of financial help blogs on the internet. I know that there are books you can read and articles in magazines. I read these things, and I am aware of the good advice they can offer. Yet, I keep meeting people who don't know what to do about their financial situation and they are paralyzed with worry. So this hub is written to encourage someone: Don't worry, plan. A plan will move you from pain to peace.