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Ask Chuck: Starting off new career on the right financial path

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

I am a recent college graduate embarking on a career in a new city. I am a believer desiring to pay off debt and use my income wisely. I have some old friends here but always spend too much money when we do things together. What realistic goals should I try to achieve?

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Setting My Financial Goals

Dear Setting My Financial Goals,

Getty Images/designer491
Getty Images/designer491

Congratulations! I will help you with a few goals to get your finances off on the right start, but I want to address the issue of peer influence on your finances first.

Sometimes we have to let go of friendships that are dangerous to our financial well-being. People who do not respect our desire to live beneath our means, abide by a budget, or save for the future can be far more of an influence than we may realize. Always spending money or going into debt when with them is not conducive to good financial health. Those who criticize your decisions can negatively affect your emotional health. If you have to defend yourself or are intimidated by people like this, I highly recommend that you address the issue or limit your time with these friends. 

Not all big spenders are bad people. They may just not understand where you are financially. Try to winsomely communicate why you choose to live frugally: it enables you to give more, save more, and stress less. Speaking this in a spirit of love creates opportunities to help others who may be living far beyond their means or those who are unaware of a different lifestyle. Insecure people tend to overspend to prove themselves. Be the conduit to offer a different way of living. This may open the door to sharing the Gospel or the opportunity to explain financial stewardship — managing well what God provides. 

When planning things with friends, set clear financial boundaries so that all parties have a clear understanding of what is expected. Be prepared to offer less expensive options or other ways to experience healthy fellowship. 

Plugging in to the right community

Because there is true economic value in living in community, I encourage you to take steps to improve this part of your life. It’s important to find a trusted group where you can be transparent and not worry about being judged. It must be a place where you can give and accept from others the understanding that you are all serving Christ. This can be a small group, a Bible study, a ministry, or a charitable organization where you serve. You need real people — not just those on social media. I suggest plugging into a solid Bible-believing church as soon as you can.

At a very minimum, seek out several wise mentors who can give guidance, provide basic financial help, and much more. It is my experience that if they cannot, they probably know someone who can. Here are some practical helps that can come from wise stewards:

  • Encouragement and solid counsel
  • Accountability for sticking to a budget
  • Help moving, finding doctors, etc.
  • Advice on buying/selling a car or home
  • Drawing up a will.
  • Tax advice.
  • And more…

A community of like-minded individuals is where we learn to trust, love, serve, provide, and pray for one another. Your needs may grant someone else the opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose in his or her life. Your experiences in life may help someone else in need. It’s a win-win for all! So, step out in faith as you put down roots in your city.

Some financial goals to start right now

You mentioned paying off your debt and increasing your savings; those are good general targets, but let’s get specific:

  • Give first, save second — This is my favorite tip for wisely managing money. Make giving your first priority by giving regularly to support the Church and your favorite charities. After you have given, be sure to save a portion of all of your income. This establishes the correct priorities and should be practiced for the rest of your life.
  • Live beneath your means and create an emergency fund — The key to financial health is to always spend less than you earn and keep money set aside for emergencies. Your emergency fund should have a minimum of $1,000 in it at all times and preferably 3–6 months of living expenses at the maximum.
  • Pay down debt and save for major purchases — Once you have begun to practice Steps 1 and 2 above, use the Avalanche or Snowball Method to accelerate paying off all consumer debt. You should also establish a savings account for future needs like a car, furniture, or a down payment on a home.
  • Begin investing — Once Steps 1, 2, and 3 are in place, begin investing for the future through your employee plan or with professional advisors. Doing this over a long period of time will give you a great advantage over others who procrastinate and fail to invest early in life.

Hopefully, you can find a community that encourages you to achieve these goals.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23–25 ESV).

Crown offers a variety of Biblically-based online courses that can help you find freedom in your finances, career, and stewardship journey. May they be a blessing.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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