Recall that according to the Bible, God-honoring investing is a critical element of good stewardship. You are absolutely accountable to God for the way in which you manage the resources He gives you, including saving and investing resources. Therefore, part of God's plan for you life is to clearly understand why, when, where, and how to invest as one tool to help multiply the resources He gives you.
During out times together we'll prayerfully consider the following "Seven Steps to Christian Saving and Investing":
1. Prayerfully Set Your Goals
2. Prayerfully Make a Plan
3. Prayerfully Determine Your Risk Tolerance
4. Prayerfully Choose a Financial Professional
5. Prayerfully Limit Potential Problems
6. Prayerfully Begin to Act on Your Plan
This time we are dealing with Step One, "Prayerfully Set Your Goals." Let's get started.
First, please stop right now and pray, asking God to give you wisdom.
Then, prayerfully answer this question before you go any further: "Why is it absolutely critical that you start your saving and investing program by setting specific goals?"
Prayed for wisdom? Prayerfully considered the question?
STEP ONE: PRAYERFULLY SET YOUR GOALS
According to the Bible, and as verified throughout history, there is one thing more than anything else that will keep you from glorifying God through good stewardship including your saving and investing.
The biggest, single most destructive saving and investing mistake you can make is to rely on worldly wisdom rather than Biblical principles and applications.
Godly Goal Setting will keep you from making this mistake.
Let's be clear. God doesn't guarantee you any specific return when you choose to save and invest in ways pleasing to Him. He doesn't even promise you that He will return to you in-kind what you invest ("money in, money out," etc.). He does promise that if you save and invest His way, He will bless you. He gets to choose the blessing. And His choices are always best.
If you want God to bless your savings and investing, then you MUST do it His way. Prayerfully setting and writing down your goals is the single best way to make sure your saving and investing attitude is pleasing to God.
"Wrong" Saving and Investing Attitudes
Here are several saving and investing attitudes that are NOT pleasing to God.
1. Because others encourage you to save or invest. There are lots of financial planners out there who want to help you plan for the future—this is a good thing. However, there are some who want to direct your plans for the future.
Remember this: the role of any counselor (religious, financial or otherwise) is to offer you well-informed choices. It should always be up to you to act on the choices. You only act after you have prayerfully weighed your choices against God's Word. You never blindly follow another's council. (Proverbs 14:7, Ephesians 4:14)
2. You already know that envy is not an attitude that pleases God. (Luke 12:15)
3. Guard against thinking saving and investing is a game. It's only a game if you have no accountability. According to the Bible, wealth is more than money. It also includes your time, talents, abilities, family, salvation, health, work, etc. The Bible also tells you that all wealth belongs to God (Psalms 24:1). If He is the "owner" of all wealth, and He is, then you by definition are a manager of all His wealth that He places into your spiritual trust account. Managers are accountable to the Owner. You are accountable. Saving and investing cannot be a game.
4. If you save and invest for self-esteem—watch out! Your self-esteem as a Christian must be solidly based on your position as a child of God, a joint heir with Christ Who has direct access to the throne room of God. It just doesn't get any better that this. No amount of money or anything else here can compare to the eternal riches that are ours.
5. Loving money is not what God wants for you (Hebrews 13:5).
6. Another indefensible attitude is for you to look to money for protection. There is absolutely no protection in this life apart from God. No amount of money is ever enough. To build a large "fence" around your estate won't do it. There is only the protection available to you in your position as a child of God.
These are some of the reason NOT to save or invest. But what about the other side of the coin? What are some "right" reasons, some "right" attitudes to save and invest?
"Right" Reasons to Save and Invest"
1. You save and invest to exercise the spiritual gift of giving (Romans 12:8).
2. You save and invest to help meet the needs within your own family (1 Timothy 5:8).
It's time for another question. If your income were to double, would you take the initiative to prayerfully consider the needs of others? Or, like the "foolish farmer," would you simply assume that God gave you an increase to spend on yourself?
In 2 Chronicles 16:9 you are told, "the eyes of the Lord range over the earth seeking those who are fully committed to Him that He may bless them."
The ONLY way for God to bless your savings and investing is to make sure your attitudes and goals are pleasing to Him (Proverbs 10:22).
OK. Now that your attitude is squared away, now that you know why you need to set saving and investing goals, lets set some saving and investing goals.
PERSONAL GOAL-SETTING EXERCISE
To end up where God wants you to be when He wants you to be there, you need to prayerfully begin to consider some short-term and long-term reasons to save and invest. Here are some thoughts:
2. Family needs
3. Emergency fund
6. Care for your parents
To start, list some of your most important saving and investing goals.
Save and invest for: Date Needed
1. _______________________________________ ___________
2. _______________________________________ ___________
3. _______________________________________ ___________
4. _______________________________________ ___________
5. _______________________________________ ___________
6. _______________________________________ ___________
Now, begin to get an idea of approximately how much you will need by when.
There are lots of great tools to help you with this. NOTE: I'm giving you the links to these sites. You will need to remember to return to this report in order to continue.
1. The American Savings Education Council offers a one-page worksheet and some great electronic calculators to help you see how much you need to save and invest each year for retirement (www.choosetosave.org/ballpark/).
2. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a great college savings calculator (http://apps.finra.org/investor_Information/Calculators/1/collegecalc.aspx).
3. The Social Security Administration has a benefits calculator to estimate your potential benefit amounts (www.ssa.gov/planners/calculators.htm).
Well, there you have it. Step One of the "Seven Steps to Christian Saving and Investing." Now you know that saving and investing must start with Godly attitudes and prayerfully considered, written goals. Next time we'll talk about how to make a written plan.