Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

Flocks in a Nutshell

Close-up view of an accounting spreadsheet on a computer

image credit: microsoft.com

I talk quite a bit about “getting more involved in finances,” but what does that mean exactly?  How do we get a good picture of our “flocks?”  Are we all supposed to become financial experts?  That sounds pretty impossible for those of us who aren’t naturally inclined money managers.

But we can probably learn something from those who are naturally inclined, who prepare financial summaries for a living.  And maybe if we reduce personal finances into some manageable concepts, we can break those down further into bite-sized portions that people like me can deal with.  Over at the SBA and SEC websites, I found all kinds of information about notes receivable and accrued expenses. But there are four elements that probably apply to most households. They are, in layman’s terms:

1. What you own
2. What you owe
3. What comes in
4. What goes out

My thinking is that, if we have a good understanding of these four things, we’ll know pretty well the state of our flocks. In this post I’ll talk about the first two—what you own and what you owe—and I’ll talk about the other two next week.

What You Own (Assets)—These are anything of value that you have. Examples include:

Home, if you own it
Car(s)
Checking and savings accounts
Investments and retirement savings

What You Owe (Liabilities)—The SBA site calls these, “obligations to creditors,” and examples would be:

Mortgage
Car, student, and other loans
Credit cards
Federal and state taxes

OK, I know I said that breaking down finances would make them easier to manage, but I feel overwhelmed after typing that. 🙂 To make matters worse (or better, depending on your situation), here is another accounting term: “net worth.” That is what’s left after you sell all your assets and pay all your debts. But as always, Jesus gives us the right perspective on it all:

~~Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) ~~

So if we know that our true value is not based on our net worth, what does it matter? Why bother learning these (possibly painful) facts and figures, especially if your husband is already handling them just fine?  

Well, as I talked about during the 5-5-5 Series, it might help a relationship (I said might) if both the husband and wife understand their financial situation. It may help the finances, as well.  Either way, each one of us is responsible for the stewardship of what God has given us.  So, as agonizing as it may be, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.   I do know that it’s not easy.  As I’ve said before, I don’t particularly enjoy talking or thinking about money.  And even though I have a good handle on our bills and expenses, only recently did I myself write down everything on the list above.  For you, the first step could be getting an index card and writing “Own” on one side and “Owe” on the other, then putting it away for a while. You might look up your home value online. Or order your credit report.  You could download one of the worksheets below, and then, little by little, add the information as you learn it.

Personal Net Worth Worksheet (Charles Schwab)
Personal Financial Statement Spreadsheet (SCORE)
Personal Net Worth Spreadsheet (Microsoft Templates)

The 5-5-5 Series had more tips for foraying into flocks, including praying for peace and wisdom.   It might seem impossible, but be encouraged.  You know what the Bible says about impossible.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan 

4 Comments »

Where is Your Treasure (Re-post)

[On this last day of the blogiversary month, let’s take one more stroll down memory lane and search the depths of our hearts.]

Map:  X marks the spot

image credit: happilyeverafterinvesting.com

Last week, I suggested keeping track of your spending as a possible first step to becoming more involved in managing the family’s finances. And I am taking this step myself, since I know I need to be more conscious of my spending, especially on food, which is what I buy most. Sure, food is important. Food is essential. It is a blessing from God to be enjoyed. But it’s a little embarrassing to see how many times some purveyor or another of French fries appears on my bank statement. What does that say about me? I have heard more than one pastor say that you can tell a person’s priorities by looking at his or her checkbook. This seems to be supported by Scripture.

~~But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21-22, NASB)~~

Maybe that’s why it can be so difficult to discuss finances with our spouses. Maybe these conversations reveal the true conditions of our hearts, and who wants to talk about the true condition of our hearts?? It’s quite possible that when there are unresolved heart issues, money arguments aren’t really about money. One spouse wants to discuss a budget, the other one fears being controlled. Four little words like, “We’re short this month,” can really mean:

You don’t make enough.
You spend too much.
You shouldn’t have taken (or quit) that job.
It’s because you wanted to buy this house that we can’t afford.

Even if the speaker is not (knowingly) holding a secret grudge, the hearer could be filtering the words through insecurities about his/her earning potential, or lingering regret or shame over a financial mistake for which the family is still paying. Rather than churn up all these issues, it is easier (in the short-term) to avoid talking about money, or to just ignore it altogether.

My husband and I have both had to admit money-related mistakes, and confess resentment we’ve held for the other’s actions or inaction. Some things were acknowledged long ago and now we laugh about them, others have been revealed only in recent months. These feelings were not easy to admit. But even after we have received the Lord’s forgiveness, sometimes we need to “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another so that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16a, NASB).

Then again, if money is a difficult topic, maybe it’s not because of unconfessed bitterness against our spouses. The conflict and tension could reveal an even deeper issue. Just between us and God.

If we sought the Lord for comfort, would we call out to Him instead of trying to eat or spend our way out of sadness?
If we truly trusted God as our source, would we be less tempted to try to control our spouse’s behavior?
If we were content with what He’s already given us, would we put less pressure on our spouses or ourselves to earn more?

May the Lord help us see what is truly at the heart of these issues, and may the Psalmist’s prayer be ours:

~~Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24, NASB)~~

3 Comments »

5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances

5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances

In the first installment of the 5-5-5 of Finances Series, I talked about reasons why some wives may avoid learning the details of their financial situations. You may have more of your own. But there are at least five reasons why it is worthwhile to “learn the state of your flocks.”

Your Husband
~~The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:11-12)~~
Relationship dynamics and division of labor are different for every married couple. But whether you both bring in an income, or one of you does all of the earning, you are partners in life. Even if your husband writes all of the checks, managing the family’s finances doesn’t have to be a burden that he bears entirely alone. He may not even view this task as a burden, but there may be many ways that your talents and abilities could bless your husband in this area. If you have a careful eye for detail, you can catch erroneous charges on your bank statement. If you are an organizing maven, you could put those powers to use on the stack of bills (but maybe don’t “surprise” your husband with a brand new filing system without discussing it). Or you might have great ideas for saving money, bringing some in, or getting out of debt.

There may not be a need for you to do anything differently.  After all, there only has to be one bookkeeper.  But simply understanding the details your financial situation could help you gain your husband’s perspective on things. Now, it’s true that you two could look at the same set of numbers and draw different conclusions (as is sometimes the case in my house). But such knowledge may help you better appreciate your husband’s efforts to care for the family. In other words, knowing the financial score may help you to be a better cheerleader.

Furthermore, your husband might find comfort in knowing that if he were unable to manage the finances, either temporarily (due to illness or military deployment, for example) or permanently (may you both have long healthy lives!), you would know what to do.

Getting involved is not about whether you trust your husband’s ability or integrity; may they be above reproach. But don’t discount your own ability to provide moral support, practical support, or both.

Your Children
~~Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).~~
Having more money doesn’t make you a better parent, but your children would be the beneficiaries if your involvement improved your financial situation. And they would benefit from your ability to handle the bills if you ever had to do that alone.  You also have an opportunity to model good stewardship for your sons and your daughters. As they watch you, they can learn precious lessons about careful saving, thoughtful spending, generous giving, living on a budget, and being content—lessons for a lifetime. And if your children are anything like mine, they will turn right around and start teaching you! It happened in our family when we became more conscious of our food spending. The kids went from wanting a treat every time we got in the car, to reminding the parents about the budget when we wanted to order pizza. The nerve!  (Don’t worry, they still ask for treats 🙂 ).

To me, the most vital lesson my children are learning is that it’s never too late to change. We ought to continue learning and growing no matter how old we get.

Your Neighbor
~~John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry” (John 3:11).~~
Do you wish your family were able to give more to your local church? Are there missionaries or causes that you’d like to support more generously? Do you have big dreams for serving, but don’t think your family can afford them?

Maybe you can afford them. Perhaps, with some adjustments to the food budget, you could set aside some of your weekly groceries for a local food pantry. Maybe you can be the one to find some extra money each month to sponsor a child in need.  And every dollar that no longer goes to repaying debt is a dollar that can potentially bless someone else.  Is it possible that through your prayers, changes that you could initiate and encourage, your family could give more generously?

Yourself
~~Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds (Proverbs 27:23).~~
You are a great reason to take an interest in the family finances. After all, it’s your money, too! Regardless of who earns it. And it’s not selfish to take care of your stuff and plan for the future. Actually, it’s God’s stuff, entrusted to us for faithful stewardship, which includes knowing what’s going on with it. And, the commandments for stewardship apply to the single and married, male and female. Besides, anything with your name on it—tax returns, mortgage, lines of credit, etc.—is yours as far as the creditors are concerned. They do not care how little you know, only how much you owe.

And believe it or not, setting a budget can be liberating in a way. Once you have agreed on how much to spend on particular categories (granted, that is the hard part), you don’t have to wonder whether you’re spending too much on clothes for the kids, or whether you can afford to splurge on groceries this week. If it’s in the budget (and the Lord isn’t telling you otherwise), then you can!

Jesus
~~So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58).~~
Becoming more aware of your financial situation might improve communication and promote understanding in your marriage. It could lead to more generous giving, or setting aside more for retirement, or your kids’ education.

Or not.

None of those things are guaranteed.

But where we do have assurance, is that if we seek wisdom in faith, the Lord will supply it generously (James 1:5). If we trust Him, He will direct us (Proverbs 3:5-6). If we seek first His righteousness—in all areas—He will take care of the rest (Matthew 6:33). And if our motivation in managing our money is to serve our families, bless our neighbors, and faithfully steward His blessings, our efforts will not be wasted.

Stewardship may not look the same for every wife, but if we ask the Lord how to do it, He will show us. And I will have a few suggestions next week, in the final installment of the 5-5-5 series.

Thank you for stopping by,
Susan

4 Comments »

5 Reasons to Stay Out of Finances

5 Reasons to Avoid Finances

Believe it or not, money is not my favorite topic.

But money can have such a big impact in marriage, which is a topic that is dear to my heart. That is why I write about it, and that’s the motivation behind the 5-5-5 Series on Marriage and Money (or the 5-5-5 of Finances for short). So let’s jump right in to the first installment, which discusses some reasons for avoiding the subject of money:

1. “It’s my husband’s job, and he’s great at it!”
It’s a fact—the Bible even says so—we all have different skills and abilities. And money management just comes more easily to some people. So if you were a serial check-bouncer who had the good fortune of marrying a CPA, you may have been very happy to hand over your checkbook on your wedding day. Even if the skill differential isn’t that extreme, what’s wrong with leaving all of the bill paying to your husband, especially if he’s good at it and maybe even enjoys it? Why on earth would you want to rock that boat??

2. “What’s there to know?”
The house is paid off. The cars are paid off. Most or all of the bills are paid automatically, and you stay within budget for discretionary spending. You have at least 6 months of a cash reserve. You make regular contributions to the kids’ college and your own retirement accounts. You also give frequently and generously. After years of careful saving and frugal spending, you have achieved that to which many of us aspire—true financial freedom. There’s not really anything to be involved in!

3. “It always leads to a fight.”
One of you mails checks and the other prefers online bill paying. He thinks you paid the electric bill and you think he did—so the lights get turned off. But the water bill was paid twice. Even when you have a good system for tracking and communicating about the bills, you can forget, make mistakes, and miss messages.
Aside from the logistical challenges of managing money together, it’s hard for many couples just to talk about money (as I discussed here and here). These conversations can stir up all kinds of emotions, from fear and worry to anger and bitterness. They can evoke painful childhood memories of hunger and lack, or of your own parents’ conflicts about finances. On the other hand, you might be frustrated that your spouse approaches money differently than your parents did. With so many issues wrapped up in this one topic, it’s no wonder that many wives (and husbands for that matter) avoid talking about it.

4. “My husband won’t tell me what’s going on.”
If your husband is stressed about your financial situation, he may want to spare you from the worry that he is experiencing. And while he would not be justified in being unkind, he may feel angry or defensive when you ask about money. Or everything could be fine and he just might be busy. Sitting down to explain everything might seem like a chore to him, especially if he keeps the information in various different places (or all in his head). There could be any number of reasons. The point is, as hard as it is to discuss finances with your spouse, it’s almost impossible if one of you is unwilling. And there’s yet another barrier: if you have been uninterested in finances in the past, questions now may be met with skepticism. “Why the sudden concern?” he may wonder. You probably don’t want to give the impression that you doubt his ability (even if you really do).

5. “To be honest, I just don’t care.”
There is more to life than money, and more problems to think about than financial ones. Health problems. Kids’ behavior problems. Problems at work, with your parents, your siblings, and of course, with your spouse. Life can be overwhelming, and sometimes it feels like you don’t have an extra brain cell—or tears—to spare. Certainly not on something that, at best is in your husband’s capable hands, or at worst, seems so hopelessly beyond redemption that you might as well forget it altogether. What good does it do to spend any time thinking about your finances if you feel powerless to change them?

So if you weren’t before, are you now thoroughly convinced that trying to learn more about your finances is a terrible idea?? Do you never want to see a bank statement or 1040 form ever again? If so, or if you have other reasons that I didn’t mention, I hope you will read the next installment in the series: 5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances.

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan

9 Comments »

Where Is Your Treasure?

Map:  X marks the spot

image credit: happilyeverafterinvesting.com


Last week
, I suggested keeping track of your spending as a possible first step to becoming more involved in managing the family’s finances. And I am taking this step myself, since I know I need to be more conscious of my spending, especially on food, which is what I buy most. Sure, food is important. Food is essential. It is a blessing from God to be enjoyed. But it’s a little embarrassing to see how many times some purveyor or another of French fries appears on my bank statement. What does that say about me? I have heard more than one pastor say that you can tell a person’s priorities by looking at his or her checkbook. This seems to be supported by Scripture.

~~But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21-22, NASB)~~

Maybe that’s why it can be so difficult to discuss finances with our spouses. Maybe these conversations reveal the true conditions of our hearts, and who wants to talk about the true condition of our hearts?? It’s quite possible that when there are unresolved heart issues, money arguments aren’t really about money. One spouse wants to discuss a budget, the other one fears being controlled. Four little words like, “We’re short this month,” can really mean:

You don’t make enough.
You spend too much.
You shouldn’t have taken (or quit) that job.
It’s because you wanted to buy this house that we can’t afford.

Even if the speaker is not (knowingly) holding a secret grudge, the hearer could be filtering the words through insecurities about his/her earning potential, or lingering regret or shame over a financial mistake for which the family is still paying. Rather than churn up all these issues, it is easier (in the short-term) to avoid talking about money, or to just ignore it altogether.

My husband and I have both had to admit money-related mistakes, and confess resentment we’ve held for the other’s actions or inaction. Some things were acknowledged long ago and now we laugh about them, others have been revealed only in recent months. These feelings were not easy to admit. But even after we have received the Lord’s forgiveness, sometimes we need to “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another so that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16a, NASB).

Then again, if money is a difficult topic, maybe it’s not because of unconfessed bitterness against our spouses. The conflict and tension could reveal an even deeper issue. Just between us and God.

If we sought the Lord for comfort, would we call out to Him instead of trying to eat or spend our way out of sadness?
If we truly trusted God as our source, would we be less tempted to try to control our spouse’s behavior?
If we were content with what He’s already given us, would we put less pressure on our spouses or ourselves to earn more?

May the Lord help us see what is truly at the heart of these issues, and may the Psalmist’s prayer be ours:

~~Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24, NASB)~~

22 Comments »

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