Matt About Money Simple. Meaningful. Success. Tue, 22 Jan 2019 14:30:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 9092505 ‘I Play Like It’s The Last Day of My Life’ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 14:30:20 +0000

As much as I love the game of golf, I can honestly say that I’ve never read a golf-related article that brought tears to my eyes. Until last week. That’s when I came across the incredible story of 37-year-old PGA tour rookie, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez (even if you’re not a golfer, I think you’ll be glad you read the article).

Whereas many of today’s tour pros grew up on golf courses, Rodriguez grew up picking corn next to a golf course in Irapuato, Mexico.

Whereas many of today’s tour pros were on full-ride scholarships at Division I universities, Rodriguez dropped out of school at age 12 to help his family make money.

Whereas many of today’s tour pros were raised by at least middle class families, Rodriguez grew up in a house with dirt floors and no running water. Many days, he didn’t have enough to eat.

With all of the many advantages given to today’s young athletes, it’s completely unthinkable that someone with all of Rodriguez’ disadvantages could have risen so far. It just doesn’t happen. 

Which probably goes a long way toward explaining why he lives with such a profound sense of gratitude and a determination to make the most of his opportunities.

As he put it, “I play like it’s the last day of my life.”

I love that. Oh, that we would do the same.

When I was doing a lot of speaking, I often thought about putting a portion of Luke 12:20 somewhere on my computer where only I could see it: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.”

When I glanced at the computer to see what slide was coming up next, or when we were on a break in a workshop, I wanted the reminder.

That it wasn’t about me.

That many of the people I was speaking to were dealing with significant financial issues and that the opportunity to speak into those issues should never ever be taken lightly.

That I should give everything I’ve got toward trying to help people.

There was something about such a harsh warning that appealed to me. I’m certainly not saying this is right, but on the grace/truth scale, my tendencies lean toward truth. 

Ultimately, I never did tape those words to my computer. I thought it was a bit melodramatic. And besides, that wasn’t the proper context of the verse.

But I’ve thought about those words many times since then, and the story of Jose de Jesus Rodriguez reminded me about them. The older I get, the more aware I am of how short and precious this life is. I want to make the most of it, to not waste any of it. Don’t you?

What if we “played” like Rodriguez? What if we took that spirit into our work? Our marriage. Our parenting. Every day.

What if we finally got serious about our finances? Stopped messing around with debt. Started giving with passion and joy. 

What if we dropped the excuses? And the complaints. What if we just got after it as if every day was a gift? As if it’s the last day of our life?

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” – Colosians 3:23-24

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Profitable Ideas: Declutter Your Finances, Build ‘Rich Habits,’ and More. Fri, 18 Jan 2019 14:30:42 +0000

A weekly roundup of some of the best personal finance articles from around the web.

6 ways to apply decluttering principles to your finances (Becoming Minimalist). It adds peace of mind when your finances are simplified and well organized.

Rich habits: Ask for what you want (Four Pillar Freedom). Couldn’t agree more. It’s amazing what you can get if you just ask.

Here’s why you shouldn’t wash dishes by hand (Reader’s Digest). Ah, but should you rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?

Ready, set, file: Everything you need to know about completing your 2018 return (CNBC). Apparently, even with the government shutdown, IRS workers are on the job, ready to process your refund.

Costco tire center: 7 things to know before getting new tires (Clark Howard). The warehouse club store may not actually have the best prices on some of their food items, but apparently it does have good prices on tires.

The spare button represents all the ways we fail to be good consumers (Vox). A good read, despite the oxymoron in the title — “good consumer.”

‘I wanted the unreasonable’ (The Simple Path to Wealth). A compelling vision of living incredibly well without making a ton of money.

Leave behind more than your money (Kiplinger). Good estate planning is about more than the forms you fill out.

What are your thoughts on any of the above? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Interested in more ideas and encouragement for using money well? If you haven’t done so already, why not sign up for a free subscription to this blog?  

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Got Debt? Get Out Of It Slowly Tue, 15 Jan 2019 14:30:43 +0000

When I woke up to the reality of having $20,000 of credit card debt, I had to face this hard truth: I didn’t get into debt overnight, so I’m probably not going to get out of debt overnight.

In fact, it took me four and a half years to pay off my debt. There were plenty of times throughout that journey when I wished for an easy way to just wipe it all out. But there was no easy way. I don’t recall ever considering bankruptcy. I racked up all that debt. I needed to pay it all off.

So I did. Slowly. Month after month, I sent big checks to creditors, paying dearly for trips I had taken long ago and restaurant meals I no longer remembered.

Today, with the perspective that time brings, and with lots of experience helping others struggling with debt, I honestly believe that the slow and steady way out of debt is the best way.

For many people buried under a mountain of debt, bankruptcy looks appealing. A quick way to end the pain.

However, past studies have shown that one year after filing for bankruptcy, many filers were struggling to pay routine bills, and some said their overall financial situation was similar to or worse than when they filed.

Instantly wiping out your debt may feel good for the moment. However, for many people, ditching debt without addressing the underlying causes often turns out to provide only short-term relief.

Lasting Changes Require Changes of the Heart

When I was blindly digging my way into debt, I saw buying stuff as the route to feeling good about myself. I bought things I couldn’t afford in order to tell the world I was somebody.

I also saw carrying a balance on credit cards as normal behavior. It seemed like something everyone did.

I probably could have learned some helpful new behaviors around money without changing my attitudes about money — how to use a budget, how to set up an emergency fund, and the like. But without a serious attitude adjustment, especially seeing things from a biblical perspective, I doubt I would have been interested. Or, if I did start dabbling in new habits, they probably wouldn’t have lasted very long. 

A friend who’s a psychiatrist tells me that attitudes and behaviors work in circular fashion to bring about change. Behavioral changes tend to alter our attitudes, and attitudinal changes tend to alter our behavior. However, they don’t usually happen on the same schedule. While we may be able to force ourselves into some short-term behavioral changes, attitudinal changes take time. You can’t just slap on a new conviction like cologne.

Getting on the Slow Track

To be sure, getting out of debt requires behavioral changes. You need to stop going any further into debt. You also need to gather the facts. How much debt do you have? Write it all down, and add it all up. Create a cash flow plan (AKA, a budget). Then set a debt freedom day and start moving toward it.

However, getting and staying out of debt also requires the slower work of heart change. Start by taking a close look at your financial attitudes. Are there any ways of thinking that have contributed to your debt? Have you been buying things you can’t afford in order to feel better about yourself, like I did?

Acknowledging those attitudes is the first step toward changing them.

One of the key attitudinal factors that helped me turn things around was accepting responsibility for my debts. The credit card companies didn’t manipulate me into carrying balances on my cards. My parents didn’t fail me in some way. 

It wasn’t about beating myself up about my debts; it was about acknowledging the truth. I was responsible for my debts.

To be sure, some people with debt problems have gotten into financial trouble by way of horrendous life circumstances. A divorce, an extended period of unemployment, catastrophic medical bills. I don’t mean to be insensitive to any of that. But it’s been my experience that when a person with debt owns their role in the debt — and most people with debt played at least some role — they have a far greater chance of getting and staying out of debt.

If you have a lot of debt and you’re just beginning the process of getting out from under, I’m sure the idea that it may take several years doesn’t sound the least bit appealing. However, I’m thankful to have taken the long way out. It took time to change my money-related attitudes and cultivate some healthy financial habits.

I firmly believe that taking the slow road was the key to making changes that have stuck.

If you have worked your way out from under a heavy load of debt, what lessons could you share that may be of help to others?

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Profitable Ideas: A Powerful Example For Teaching Kids About Money, January Christmas Planning, and More. Fri, 11 Jan 2019 14:30:12 +0000

A weekly roundup of some of the best personal finance articles from around the web.

How I saved a small fortune and taught my kids to be independent (Kiplinger). How one parent is teaching his kids about money, and succeeding.

Resolve to beat the odds (Real Smartica). Getting after some of the most important financial goals for the new year.

Balancing inexpensive cooking at home and family time (The Simple Dollar). Cooking at home is usually the healthy and los-cost option, and it doesn’t have to take away from family time.

Should you change your kids’ lifestyle when you have a financial emergency? Or not? (Bible Money Matters). Some real life examples.

Why my financially stress-free Christmas starts now (She Picks Up Pennies). Some steps you can take now to improve your overall Christmas experience in December.

How long could YOU survive a job shutdown? (The Simple Dollar). Unfortunately, a lot of government workers are really hurting right now. How well prepared are you for a sudden loss of income?

It’s easy to file your taxes online for free in 2019. Here’s how (Money). You can thank the new simplified tax code and improvements in tax prep software.

Should you make a free will online? (US News). Some guidance to help you see if this is a viable option for you. Personally, I still prefer working with a lawyer. The peace of mind is worth the cost. 

What are your thoughts on any of the above? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Interested in more ideas and encouragement for using money well? If you haven’t done so already, why not sign up for a free subscription to this blog?  

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New Year, New Plan Tue, 08 Jan 2019 14:30:44 +0000

The start of a new year means it’s time to look back on your cash flow plan (aka budget) from 2018 and create a new plan for 2019.

A good place to start a review of last year’s cash flow is to see which, if any, categories came in over budget. Of course, I hope you don’t just wait until the end of the year to do this. Throughout the year, it’s best to be proactive in managing to the numbers in your plan. But still, some categories may have come in higher than planned. 

That means one of two things. Either you were unrealistic in setting the budgeted amount and need to allocate more to the category in the new year, or you need to be more proactive about managing your spending in that category.

For us, one category where we overspent was gifts. One step that has helped us in this area is that we require our kids to pay for a portion of the gifts that are bought for their friends’ birthdays. Another helpful step is that we’ve divided our gift budget into two budgets—one that’s for gift-giving that happens throughout the year for birthdays, our kids’ teachers, etc., and one for Christmas gifts. With that second one, we transfer one-twelfth of our annual Christmas gift budget into a dedicated savings account each month. That way, when December rolls around, we have gift money already set aside. 

But still, this is a category I’d like to see us manage more proactively, like buying gifts further in advance when we see items we know someone on our gift list would like that are on sale.

Another category that seems to creep up each year is groceries. But with three growing kids, that’s not surprising, nor is there much we can do about it since we’re already really proactive about our grocery shopping. So, we need to allocate a bit more to groceries in 2019. 

Another step is to consider categories where you may have hit your numbers last year, but they’re likely to cost you more in 2019. For example, we already know our health insurance premium will be higher, so we’ve plugged in the new number. And we can expect to pay more this year for auto and homeowner’s insurance, although we pay those bills toward the end of the year so we’ll have to take an educated guess at the increases. 

I generally think it’s a good idea to shop your insurance every few years. How long has it been since you’ve gotten estimates from other insurance companies?

Be sure to review your generosity from the past year as well. The historical biblical starting point of giving 10% is a good benchmark for such a review, but remember that it’s not intended to be a stopping point. Prayerfully consider what next step God is prompting you to take on your journey of generosity. Pray as well about where you’re giving. I believe your local church is an appropriate focal point for your generosity dollars. Beyond that, see what Christ-centered causes and ministries God puts on your heart.  

Another step I Iike to encourage is thinking about which categories generated the greatest experiences for your family. For us, vacations are at the top of that list. We’re mindful that our kids will be grown and on their own in no time, and we highly value opportunities to make memories together. So we’re willing to do things like drive older vehicles in order to afford to travel.

Ultimately, a cash flow plan should be a tool that helps you accomplish your financial goals and gives you peace of mind. It shouldn’t be a burden. If the process of putting together your cash flow plan for the year feels like stitching together your own straight jacket, then something’s wrong. 

Take a step back and think about what you’d like to accomplish in 2019. What goals are you most excited about pursuing? Do you want to take a special trip, begin supporting a certain ministry, or “just” experience the freedom that a little margin would bring? Let those goals be what motivates you to put together and follow a cash flow plan in 2019. 

If you do, I’m confident you’ll see for yourself that a budget isn’t about less. It’s about more—more knowledge about where your money is going so you can be more proactive in managing money so you end up having more for what matters most.

Do you conduct an annual cash flow review? If so, how do you go about it?

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Profitable Ideas: The Lessons of 2018, Toward More Ethical Uses of Money, and More. Fri, 04 Jan 2019 14:30:05 +0000

A weekly roundup of some of the best personal finance articles from around the web.

The 10 most valuable financial lessons I learned in 2018 (The Simple Dollar). There are some good lessons for all of us on this list.

The 10 best financial resolutions for 2019 (Forbes). I like these resolutions a lot (although I don’t agree with the advice to use Robinhood for investments). Feel free to adopt some of them as your own.

Mindless resolutions (A Wealth of Common Sense). Point well taken about the importance of prioritizing systems over goals, process over outcomes, and philosophy over tactics.

6 ways we’re looking to cut expenses in 2019 (Three Thrifty Guys). Good money-saving recommendations.

You should freeze your child’s credit. It’s not hard. Here’s how. (NY Times). In this day and age, it’s really important for parents to do this.

8 simple, inexpensive ways to be a more ethical consumer in 2019 (Fast Company). Some good ideas for doing less harm to the world through the products we buy.

Monopoly for a new generation (Kiplinger). As the classic money game tries to connect with a new audience, it may have missed the mark.

The true cost of homeownership is higher than you think (Rockstar Finance). Good words of warning for future first-time home buyers.

What are your thoughts on any of the above? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Interested in more ideas and encouragement for using money well? If you haven’t done so already, why not sign up for a free subscription to this blog?  

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Top 10 List for 2018 (Plus a Few Extras) Mon, 31 Dec 2018 14:30:29 +0000

As I look back on 2018, I’m grateful for many things, one of which is that you’ve chosen to subscribe to this blog. In case you missed any of these, here are the 10 most-read posts from the year, along with a few others that I especially enjoyed writing. 

1) The absolute best way to teach kids about money. The best way to teach kids about money is to make it real. Here’s how.

2) How NOT to invest. Are you making any of these mistakes with your investments?

3) The happiest uses of money. How to connect your use of money to what matters most.

4) How much should I spend on a house? Some practical guidelines that’ll give you one of the most wonderful financial benefits of all — margin.

5) Are you using one of your credit card’s most valuable benefits? Your credit card may hold the secret to getting the absolute best price on the things you buy.

6) A TV cheapskate’s guide to paying for cable TV. How we do TV in our household.

7) Life’s biggest financial decisions — the later years. Ideas for navigating late-stage career management, retirement planning, healthcare, Social Security, and more.

8) One habit that will greatly improve your finances. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

9) Life’s biggest financial decisions — the early years. Ideas about paying for college, buying a car, buying a house, marriage, and more. 

10) How I found financial freedom. I didn’t start learning how to manage money until I had mismanaged a lot of money.

Here are a few extras—some posts I especially enjoyed writing.

An investor’s got to know his (or her) limitations. What climbing some mountains taught me about fear — and investing.

Where are you setting your hope? Financial lessons from the best non-financial book I read in 2018.

The importance of being known, financially and otherwise. Reflections on a couple of shocking celebrity deaths.

Blessings to you as you reflect back on 2018 and pray about the year ahead.  

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Profitable Ideas: 7 Financial Concepts You Should Know, A New Way to Recycle Your Christmas Tree, and More Fri, 28 Dec 2018 14:30:53 +0000

A weekly roundup of some of the best personal finance articles from around the web.

Seven ideas (Humble Dollar). Personal finance knowledge everyone should have.

Dismantling my dreams, one brick at a time (Slate). All those home renovation shows make it look so easy. But one couple found out it’s much tougher than it looks to flip a house.

5 budgeting myths you should ignore to succeed (The Balance). Are any of these myths holding you back from using the single most powerful personal finance tool available?

50 ways to improve your finances in 2019 (US News). You’re bound to find at least a few ideas on this list that’ll be helpful to you.

Recycle your Christmas tree by feeding it to a goat (USA Today). Check with your local zoo. You might just start a whole new family tradition.

The way American parents think about chores is bizarre (The Atlantic). A surprisingly controversial—and very touchy—subject. How are you doing the whole chores thing in your household?

How to return and exchange your unwanted holiday gifts (Wired). How to return gifts responsibly.

10 money mistakes everyone makes at the beginning of the year (Magnify Money). Stated more positively, here are some more ways to get the new year off to a good financial start.

What are your thoughts on any of the above? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Interested in more ideas and encouragement for using money well? If you haven’t done so already, why not sign up for a free subscription to this blog?  

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A Peace That Transcends Understanding Mon, 24 Dec 2018 14:30:01 +0000

Each Christmas season when our kids were younger, we would change their bedtime routine to include singing some traditional Christmas carols like Silent Night and O Holy Night. The songs made for a soothing transition from playtime to bedtime.

Silent night, holy night.

They’re still two of my favorite Christmas songs. Maybe it’s because this season can feel so busy. Those songs have a way of quieting my soul.

All is calm, all is bright.

Where does this Christmas find you? What are the circumstances of your life? If you’re out of work, grappling with a broken relationship, or worried about your finances, it may be difficult to sing those words, or even to hear them. Those sentiments may not ring true.

But consider this: Seven centuries before Jesus was born, the prophet Micah expressed very similar sentiments as he described a Savior who would provide his followers with a sense of security and peace that transcends their circumstances.

“He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.” – Micah 5:4-5

Perhaps this year, with all that’s going on in our broken, fallen world, we need to approach Christmas—we need to approach Christ—with a renewed sense of wonder. And to rest in the reassurance that security and peace can be found—in fact, true security and peace can only be found—in the One whose birth we celebrate.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Behold your King, Behold your King.

Whatever your circumstances this year, I pray you’ll be able to drink in the miracle of Christmas with a deep sense of gratitude toward God, who so loved the world—who so loved you—that He gave his only Son.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

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Profitable Ideas: Put Market Panic in Perspective, Build a Blessing Budget, and More. Fri, 21 Dec 2018 14:40:29 +0000

A weekly roundup of some of the best personal finance articles from around the web.

Putting panic in perspective ( If you’re feeling a little worried about the stock market, this piece may help put you at ease.

Best resume template: 9 ways to update your resume for 2019 (Clark Howard). Is finding a new job one of your goals for the new year?

The best places to buy organic food online to save money (Mindful Momma). I haven’t tried any of these sites, but I plan to.

Building a blessing budget to radically give all year long (Bible Money Matters). Lots of fun ideas here for being more intentional with your generosity.

Raising our children to be givers in a culture infected with affluence (Randy Alcorn). Tagging off the last article, this one will help you instill a passion for generosity in your kids.

29 Scriptures on finances (from financial experts) (Seed Time). Do you have a favorite verse about money?

How the value of your home could affect the cost of your kids’ college education (MarketWatch). How much equity you have in your home factors into different colleges’ financial aid equations in different ways.

Counting on a tax refund? You may owe this year, IRS says (CBS Money Watch). It’s good to try to estimate your taxes well before April 15th.

What are your thoughts on any of the above? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Interested in more ideas and encouragement for using money well? If you haven’t done so already, why not sign up for a free subscription to this blog?