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Good Financial Lessons From Bad Mistakes

Click here to ask Chuck your money question

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Chuck Bentley
Chuck Bentley

Dear Chuck,

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I've made many mistakes with money over the years. I live in regret of how I squandered so much and failed to prepare for the future. My wife is insecure and concerned that we don't have enough saved or invested for retirement. We need to move forward but are making zero progress. Can you help me/us over the hurdle?

Painfully Stuck

Dear Stuck,

You are not alone. The truth is that we all mishandle money at some point in our lives. Few of us were taught what God says about money in the Bible and as a result, we flounder around trying to do the best we can. The good news is, that once we realize the Truth, we can identify our mistakes and learn from them to avoid making the same mistake over and over again. God's mercy far outweighs any financial loss and we can trust in His unfailing love to guide our decisions in the remaining years of our lives.

Don't despair. Only 20% of American adults claim they have no financial regrets, while the rest admit to making their share of financial mistakes. Of the 80% who have financial regrets, here's what they regret most:

  • Not saving for retirement early enough - 20%
  • Not saving for emergencies - 16%
  • Too much credit card debt - 9%
  • Too much student loan debt - 9%
  • Not saving enough for children's education - 8%
  • Buying more house than they could afford - 2%
  • Something else - 7%

The solution does not lie in reliving the past or dwelling on the negative feelings. It rests in the forgiveness of God and the knowledge that He promises to work all things together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

It is never too late to begin to work together and make a fresh start. Financial mistakes can be a severe mercy God uses to reveal the idols, self-indulgence, or wrong attitudes about money that we have allowed to control our lives. It's how He got my attention!

My wife and I were in much the same boat that you describe when we turned forty. It was then that we attended a Crown Bible Study and united our hearts to fight the financial problems instead of each other. We made a plan to align our marriage and our finances with God's Word. We changed from the inside out: what we believed about money, how we communicated with each other and how we looked to the Lord to show us His ways to become better stewards. We have made great progress over the past 21 years and you can, too!

My Advice

In our marriage, we discovered that we have different strengths. My wife is VERY good at financial defense. She watches our budget, carefully shops for good deals, pays our bills on time and protects our money to ensure we are always making progress towards our goals. I am better at financial offense. I take on the responsibility to earn our household income, invest it wisely and help it to grow. We have united as a couple around these roles for managing money and it has worked very well for us. Of course, we talk about each other's role and seek counsel as needed but we try not to get in each other's way.

I'd encourage you to believe that you do not have to do this alone. Invite your wife to help you in this journey and use her strengths plus your strengths to make progress. It will require total transparency, humility, and sacrifice, but it will bless your finances and your marriage. Talk about who can play offense and defense with your finances and start practicing.

Make a Plan

Once you have agreed on how your dynamic will work, start putting things into place. The best financial advice I can give you is to honor God with the first of all your income. (Proverbs 3:9) Begin giving to God as your top financial priority. If you and your wife can agree on this, it will begin to help you align on many other financial decisions you will make together.

It's also vital you establish a budget and start using it immediately. We have free tools and resources to get you started.

The first goal of your budget should be to establish an emergency savings fund. Start with $1,000 and put it somewhere you aren't going to touch it. That money is to be set aside for true emergencies only.

Once you have your emergency fund, start attacking your debt. I find both the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods to be extremely helpful. You can learn more by watching our 5 Steps to Debt-Free Living mini video series. If you're dealing with overwhelming credit card debt, get in touch with Christian Credit Counselors.

After that, invest wisely for retirement. You do have some catching up to do and won't have the luxury of decades of compound interest working on your side. But you CAN do it! Don't allow what the world says you need for retirement scare you. Start to save aggressively now. Trust God and work as unto Him. He's more than capable to bless your efforts and guide your decisions.

Don't Listen to the World

The ability to save and invest quickly may be determined by how much you can increase your earnings and decrease your expenses. Retirement is a decision about lifestyle - it will dictate the amount of money you have available to put to work for you. The habits you develop now can carry you through retirement. Learn to be faithful in little so you will be faithful in much. (Luke 16:10)

By prioritizing giving in your budget, you protect yourself from the infectious disease of greed and pride. It's a directive close to the heart of God and one that blesses both giver and receiver.

Learn to be content with what you have by being thankful in all things and fully depending on God.

Ask God to reveal the root of your fear that has gripped your heart so that you can experience freedom from regret and doubt. Align your desires with God's and He will teach you to speak and act in accordance with the truth.

Make all financial decisions with the desire to please God as your foremost goal. Recognize His majesty and power. He wants you to acknowledge that He is your Provider, Sustainer, Redeemer and Friend. Identify your fears and concerns, give them to God, and you will find peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.Let your reasonableness[d]be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, 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, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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