I play many different roles in life probably like you, but my role as a financial steward is probably one of the most important of them. Money is involved in all aspects of life. It doesn’t matter our background or income level. We all have to make personal financial decisions every day. I wrote this manifesto to share my beliefs and opinions about money so that you can get to know the guy behind this blog and understand the underlying principles I follow here.
What is One Money Design?
If you haven’t followed the blog very long or read the about page you might be wondering what One Money Design means. When I first created the website in 2009 I tried to find a unique name that reflected my beliefs about money. In hindsight, this wasn’t exactly the best idea because other than money, new visitors probably don’t understand what this blog is about just by reading the title. Since then, I’ve learned many website building 101 lessons and I guess I failed on creating a user friendly domain name that is easily understood.
But, oh well. I did achieve my original goal and came up with a unique name that reflects my belief in biblical stewardship -
- One – One owner of money – God
- Money – A resource provided by God to be managed for His purposes (not our purposes)
- Design – Biblical design for managing money (there are over 2000 scriptures in the Bible that are related to money)
I recently elaborated on the biblical principles of stewardship with the tag line: Prove Faithful. Prove faithful is what I believe is God’s call to action for people when managing money. It motivates me to do something about my core beliefs as a steward. It helps me become action oriented and not stagnant in my faith. Prove faithful is what I hope can also be a reminder and call to action to all who visit and read this blog. Our finances may not be perfect and that’s okay, but are we doing our best to prove faithful as God’s financial stewards? God expects this from us.
I recently came across a quote from Howard Dayton that shares the characteristics of a faithful steward – “A faithful steward is completely honest, works hard, gives generously, spends wisely, saves regularly, avoids debt, invests steadily and trains children.” – Howard Dayton
This quote influences and motivates me greatly. It helps me understand some of the practical things I can be doing as a steward to prove faithful. These things also serve as some of the topics I cover in this manifesto. As with One Money Design, I hope you’ll find my words here to reflect biblical financial stewardship principles, some practical financial tips and ideas, and my own experience with money and personal finance.
To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. – Deuteronomy 10:14
One of the eye opening things I learned after studying God’s word about money is that God is the owner of everything. Most people would say that’s obvious and as Christian I guess I would have said the same thing too, but I never really stopped to think about it until I focused on the scripture.
I think there is a natural instinct we have that makes us want to protect our possessions. I know this because I have two young children. They constantly fuss over what is theirs, especially when they get into each other’s territory. But we do this as adults too. We say it’s my house, my car, my clothes and my money! Truthfully, it’s all God’s and we have to learn that we only have things because they’ve been entrusted into our care.
I won’t get into why some people have more than others. I don’t really know and I suppose that’s up to God. But, I do know what I have is His and it’s only because of Him that I have it. I tend to look at pay raises and my job in the same way. If I get the promotion, well, it’s because God figured I could manage more. If I get the pay raise, He figured I could manage more money for His purposes.
Understanding the real owner of everything and keeping that in mind when we think about money, possessions and other things can really change our outlook. Personally, it helps me trust God more and to be at peace knowing He is ultimately in control and the provider of my needs.
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:2
I also learned that I have an important job when it comes to money and possessions. God may be the owner but he’s entrusted things to me to manage for His purposes. I think that is where many people get on the wrong track when it comes to money. Money, when placed number one in priority, will lead to selfishness.
Before I understood my role as a steward, I wanted to manage my money, my way. This included big plans for an early retirement. It meant doing the things I enjoyed and living a life of leisure. There was one wrong thing with this plan. It was all about me!
Thankfully, I learned about God’s purpose for money. God isn’t interested in giving us more money to do all the things we want to do with it. His purpose for money isn’t selfishness. I’m convinced He is interested in us having more money so that we can give more and do more for others and His ministry.
That perspective really excited me. In fact, it got more excited than just focusing on working hard to make more money for me. That’s not very uplifting and it left me with an empty feeling much of the time. We all know money doesn’t buy happiness – studies have shown this!
But this perspective doesn’t mean I won’t be blessed with a lot of money or resources. It also doesn’t mean I have to live in poverty to please God as a steward. God’s principles of stewardship call for faithfulness. It means that I have to be a good steward of the money He has entrusted to me. I’m mistaken the moment I think money and other resources are for my plan and purposes.
Alright, so God is the owner and I’m the manager. What does being a faithful steward mean? In other words, how do I prove faithful with my responsibilities?
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:20
God taught me and my wife a big lesson on generosity a few years ago. We were in one of those stages of life where we were managing our money, our way. This basically looked like a larger house payment and not enough extra money to give everything we knew we should be giving to God. My wife and I had some painful discussions about money then and ultimately were led to take a step of faith and give more to God.
By taking this important step of faith we put our finances in God’s hands. We no longer were managing our money, our way. From that moment forward, we began managing God’s money, His way and no longer focused on ourselves. Can you say “financial peace”?
While this was a step of faith because we had no idea how we were going to cover all our expenses that year, we forced ourselves into trusting God. As a Christian, this made perfect sense. I’ll trust God with every other part of my life…job, health, etc., but not my finances? Giving bridged our finances and God together and opened the door for me to ask God to provide so that I could manage His resources for His purposes.
But how do we determine how much to give? There is ongoing debate over whether or not to tithe (10% from gross) since the Old Testament law has been replaced by Christ’s grace. But I remember reading that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. For us, and it’s what I recommend Christians pray about, 10% made a lot of sense. First, it was a number in which we could build into our budget and use to get started. But, it would not be the final number God has laid on our hearts. I liked 10% because it wasn’t easy. 10% on gross is a giant step of faith for most people and I believe it’s a great place to get started.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:31-33
One of the best parts of inviting God into my financial life is having the confidence that God will provide for my family’s needs. While easier said than done sometimes, I have to believe that God will provide me income to put food on the table.
I was laid off from work in a previous job situation and I knew at that moment I could trust God to provide or panic. Thinking through these two options, I figured it would be easier on me and my family if I just trusted. All I could do was my part which included getting my resume together, sending it to recruiters and contacts and do my best to network with others. Ultimately, God would have to provide if He wanted my family to eat! And God did provide. I was blessed with a new job without missing a paycheck. I had a new job within 6 weeks which looking back could have only been an act of God.
Now I know there are plenty of faithful Christians who have been out of work much longer and still looking. All I can say is that God will provide. But we must know it’s not always according to our plan and how we envision in it. God could have easily delayed this new job and I could have been without work for a year or more. We would have probably lost our house and had other financial impacts, but I would have still had to remain faithful and know that God would eventually provide in His way and His timing and take care of us.
Our job through such trials is again, to prove ourselves faithful. Trust God and have faith. His plan is bigger than a job or any financial issue. I believe it’s a long faith journey and there will be ups and downs, but we must do our best to prove faithful along the way.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24
I’ve always believed in the importance of having a strong work ethic. I think that’s because I saw how hard my dad worked when I was growing up. He worked his day job and some overtime at times to earn money for our family. I probably saw him working the hardest around the house. He always had a project he was undertaking or was maintaining our house himself to save us money.
Working hard is clearly a part of financial stewardship. I believe God has blessed me with a job and it’s my responsibility to perform my work to the best of my abilities. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of dreading another day at work or the mundane tasks that we sometimes have to perform for our employer. Honestly, this isn’t easy for me. I have good weeks and challenging weeks, but I can find joy and comfort knowing that God is my real employer.
Working hard can lead to bigger responsibilities as we learn from the principles of stewardship. It could certainly lead to promotion if we’re willing to work hard and have a good attitude. Along these lines, I don’t think there is any room for complaining or being negative minded at work. We should consider our work a blessing and do everything we can within the time we’re there to prove faithful in our duties. Again and most importantly, we should keep in mind that our real employer is God.
That being said, I don’t think God expects me to work so much that it impacts my time for Him and my family. Sure, there are times when I have to work extra to get the job done, or travel away from my family because of work responsibilities. This is understood and just part of carrying my load at work. But working hard should never mean that we work so many hours it impacts our physical and mental health as well as other important priorities in our personal life. There must be work-life-balance and I believe it’s primarily up to us, not our employers, to draw those lines.
The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him. – Proverbs 20:23
I’m sure you’ve always been told that honesty is the best policy from a young age. Always take the high road! Honest will keep you out of trouble! Of course we should be honest in all matters and that’s what many parents stress to their children growing up. I’ve learned that along with managing God’s resources faithfully, financial stewards have an important responsibility to be honest.
First, stewards are not managing money and our personal finances according to the typical financial guru out there. Faith is involved. There is no reason to take shortcuts when we know we’re in God’s hands. Seriously, why take short cuts on income tax returns and in other matters? If we go back to the ownership principle, God is the owner and He will provide what is needed.
Second, as Christian stewards, we must set good examples for others. A small shortcut can have tremendous negative impact. There are many people mentioned in the media and press, some whom are Christians, who have chosen to take dishonest steps that led to them being removed from their positions and responsibilities. Dishonesty results in loss of responsibility, trust and can set bad examples for children and others around us.
One of the examples of honesty I read about once was to be honest in matters as small as office supplies. I know some will roll their eyes at this example, but as steward’s we should be responsible for managing things that belong to others as well. Many of us could easily bring work supplies home for use. However, when we’re honest in such matters and ask first, it shows a lot about our character and others will take notice. And setting good examples provide opportunities to share why we do so when asked.
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. – Proverbs 21:20
Out of all the wise things to do with money, I think saving is the most challenging for me. It’s not that I can’t find money to save. My wife and I work hard to make sure we have around 3-5% (not including retirement investing) to save after giving and before we budget spending. The problem for us has been keeping the money in our savings account. It seems like every time I turn around a car needs repair, the vacuum cleaner breaks, or my air conditioning stops working. I’ve come to understand that’s part of life and why it’s important to save some amount of money every month!
Someone once told me that I could forget having savings while my kids were still young and living at home. I laughed because I could understand where he was coming from, but I also disagree with that statement. I may not have 6 months of emergency savings today like all the financial gurus tell me we need, but I’m not letting that discourage me either. I’m also not letting the fact that things happen and that we’re in an expensive part of life discourage me. Actually, I’m sure all parts are expensive.
What I am smiling about is the fact that I know that God has told his steward to save regularly because he’ll need it. Therefore, my job as His steward is to make sure we’ve carved out a portion of our budget for savings and do to save consistently. It’s not a lot today, but I’m confident someday I’ll have all those living expenses covered for months and months. Until then, I’ll have to continue doing my part each month and trust that God will do His part too!
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs – 21:5
As with saving, we invest because we know we’ll need the money in the future. However, our investing is for the long term whereas saving is for money we might need tomorrow. Saving is more liquid, meaning it’s in a savings account and I can turn it into cash quickly if needed. Our investments include my work 401K and some IRAs. All that being said my goal as a steward with investing is as it is with saving. It’s to be consistent. It’s the consistency of investing that pays off because the money will grow overtime.
So, those are the basics but why do we invest for the long term? Let me first share my view of retirement. I’ve come to learn that retirement isn’t exactly a biblical principle. Society will tell you to invest so you can retire and be free to do what you want to do. The perspective is invest early and really well and you can be wealthy and retire young! However, the Bible talks a lot more about work. Since my perspective about money has changed to one of stewardship and selflessness, I’m no longer pursuing the American retire, young, rich and happy dream. I’m pursuing the work until I can’t work anymore plan.
I should explain further, or you might think I’ve lost my mind. It sounds like I want to continue my current job the rest of my life. Not exactly. I’m investing based on God’s guidance so that I can be financially free to give more of my time and money away. The ultimate goal for me is to retire from my current job because I don’t have to have that job to provide income for my family. Rather, I could live from my investments and other ways God desires me to serve others. This could be as a full-time financial coach, serving in ministry or wherever led. That’s the definition of true financial freedom in my mind – God’s retirement plan! Until then, I’m content with investing steadily and seeing where God’s plan takes me.
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15
Spending is always a difficult and what can be an emotionally charged area of money. People are all over the board when it comes to spending management. You have those who pinch pennies until it hurts, those who spend themselves carelessly into debt, those who are cautious and afraid to spend thinking it might damage their relationship with the Lord as stewards and so on.
My thoughts around spending are simply to keep it balanced. What I mean by that is to find a place where you can freely spend money according to your plan and not so much that it gets you into financial trouble. Being a financial steward doesn’t mean you can’t spend money on nice furniture, cars, vacations or going to the movies. A steward is a manager of God’s resources, so it really boils down, at least for me, whether or not I’m being a faithful manager of His money or not.
Being faithful for me means having a plan so I can make sure my spending is again, in balance. Call it a budget if you want, but it’s really just a spending plan and doesn’t mean I’m on a financial diet. Someone once said to another friend in front of me: “they’re on a budget.” I giggled inside because it sounded like we had some sort of spending issue we were trying to get under control with our budget. In reality, we were trying to stay on plan and avoid spending too much money.
Having a plan is just a smart thing to do when it comes to money and a lot of other things in life. A balanced plan has room for giving, saving, investing and spending. Within spending you can designate money to different categories and we like to include money for entertainment as well as some blow money too. There is budgeted blow money for my wife and me to do with it as we wish. No questions asked. This works out great and gives us each some freedom and room for extra fun.
I couldn’t find any biblical financial principles in the bible that told me not to spend money on a luxury car or buy my wife a nice purse. However, this just comes back to a financial stewardship decision for me. It doesn’t make sense for me to buy a luxury car if I really can’t afford it. That would impact my ability to become financially free for God’s purposes. If true financial freedom to give more of my time and money away is the goal, then my spending decisions must take into account whether the type of car I choose to buy is going to set me back on this journey. If I have enough money to buy a nice car and continue moving forward, I might very well choose to enjoy a nicer car. If however, it creates a car payment that stresses my ability to give, save, invest more and live each month, I need to make a better decision as a financial steward.
Credit Card Spending
There is much to say about spending money and credit cards. Credit cards are such a discussed topic that I felt I would address them. To get to the point, we have a few credit cards. We have one we use for some spending each month that we ALWAYS pay off at the end of the month. We also have some store based credit cards that pretty much sit in the drawer. I don’t subscribe to the credit cards are evil financial advice that’s out there today. I see them as another financial tool, if managed wisely can be convenient and provide benefits such as rewards. I recently took my wife on our 10 year anniversary with two free airline tickets thanks to reward miles we earned on our MasterCard.
All that being said, I’m not saying everyone should use a credit card. There are clearly people that have no business using a credit card because they spend without a plan. The only way I’m able to pay off our card every month is because I manage it within our spending plan. It really doesn’t matter if we use our debit card or credit card. Both are tied to our budget.
Still, there might be incentive to spend more than you can pay off each month with a credit card. This is a dangerous game to play and if too tempting or this is consistently occurring, I don’t think having a credit card in your wallet is a smart choice. Once the credit card debt comes things can get nasty. It’s tough to cut back on spending to pay overspending off and enormous interest charges or late fees dig the hole deeper.
These are the reasons why much advice says to avoid them. No matter how you look at it, you’re spending future money today even if you plan to pay it off at the end of the month. Proceed with caution and never have a card unless spending on it is tied to your budget or spending plan. If you find you carry a balance each month then it’s time to cut up the card or put it somewhere it will be out of sight and out of mind.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:11-13
Spending plans are important but the root of a lot of spending issues is in being discontent. You might agree it’s easy to be discontent in society today. For one, we’re constantly facing commercials, magazine ads and all types of marketing that are created to entice us to spend money. There are all sorts of tricks, but the main one is for advertising to make us feel like you have a void in your life. Life would be so much better if [fill in the blank]. It’s easy to find ourselves making emotional spending decisions based on this advertising or even because a friend purchased something and we now feel like we have to have it too. People also sometimes reason they deserve to purchase something because, well, it’s just been a tough week.
I’ve fallen into all these traps. I wish I could say it wasn’t true or that I’ve risen above them, but I’ve fallen into every one of them. However, I know today that the underlying problem is letting myself become discontent. The trick that we play on ourselves (with the help of advertisers) is that we’ll be content or happy if we have certain things. It can be as small as a package of gum all the way up to having the biggest house on the block. It really doesn’t matter because discontentment is the root problem and it can spread like wild fire.
The good news is that I’m learning how to be more content. I recently felt frustrated because I hadn’t bought any new clothes in a long time. I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a new shirt. I was feeling discontent and thinking all my clothes are too old. So, I decided to clean out my closet. My goal was to set everything aside that I hadn’t worn for at least a year, or had visible wear and tear on it. I found a lot of clothes that I could donate. However, I also found that I had a lot of clothes left. In fact, I have so many dress shirts that I could easily wear a different one for each work day of the month (that’s 20+ dress shirts). Yet, I felt like I needed some new clothes. Why? I know it was because I hadn’t purchased anything new in a while. Yet, my existing clothes were just fine. At that point, I was able to find contentment in the clothes I had because I found out I had more than enough to meet my needs and it really would have been foolish to go buy more.
Contentment can be learned. Truthfully the only thing we really need is Jesus and we can again trust that God will provide all the things that we need.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. – Proverbs 22:7
Avoiding debt is a biblical principle and common advice you’ll hear from all the financial gurus. It sounds obvious, but it makes sense. My reasons to avoid debt differ from a lot of the commentary you find out there. Most people will tell you to avoid debt problems because of the stress, chances of it ruining your credit if you miss payments, lawsuits and bankruptcy. These are all bad things from a financial standpoint and ones I believe people need to be aware of when thinking about financing.
But, my biggest reason to avoid debt is because it slows down progress on the journey to true financial freedom. How can my wife and I become financially free to give more of our time and money if we’re tied up in debt payments? We can’t! An auto loan, mortgages, 0% financing…it’s all debt and it’s all money that is spent today with tomorrow’s money. It must be repaid to be free.
All that being said, I wish I were a better example. We’ve had car loans and paid them off and then had new car loans again. This is a cycle we’re currently in because we don’t have enough savings. As I write this, we don’t have any car payments. Unfortunately, our cars are getting old. Without adequate savings, we’ll be forced back into a car payment situation. Although, we’ll try to minimize the amount borrowed as much as possible, but it’s where we are today.
We’ve also used 0% financing a few times. While the overall financial impact has been minimal, we’re still servant to the lender. If we needed to be free for God’s purposes which could mean a new call to giving, we would be limited because of debt payments. It’s not that a 0% loan is a bad financial decision. After all you’re borrowing money for free. However, they aren’t very good stewardship decisions, in my opinion, because a steward manages money according to God’s purposes. Spending ahead could impact the plans God has for us.
I share my experience to be completely transparent. I’m no better than anyone else and I see myself on a faith journey of stewardship just like other Christians. The good news is that I recognize some of my mistakes and can work on them. We still have some work to do in this area to prove faithful.
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6
As a father of two young children I feel an enormous burden to teach them God’s financial principles and invite them on the journey to true financial freedom at a young age. I think there is so much we can do to plant seeds of financial wisdom in the conversations and in experiences we share with our children.
As we continue our walk as financial stewards, we have to share what we’re learning with our kids. I’m not always as conscience about such opportunities as I should be, but there are truly opportunities to teach around every corner whether your children are young or adults. For example, my wife and I are trying to teach our children why we give and make sure they know we are giving.
Another big lesson is helping kids understand the different things you can do with money. To keep it simple, we teach them three purposes for money: give, save and spend. As a practical step, we’ve provided them an allowance for a few small chores around the house. They get paid in cash and are responsible for managing the money by putting a portion in each of their give, save and spend banks. From a biblical standpoint, we’re trying to back these teachings up with scripture.
The decision to start our kids on an allowance has been great. My children can no longer ask me if I will buy them a toy at the store. I turn this question into a question for them: do you have enough money to buy the item? If the answer is no, there is an opportunity to discuss savings. Of course, my kids are impatient and want these things, much like adults, but it’s my responsibility to help train them. If I give in every time and buy them something just because they want it, I’ve missed out on all the opportunities to train them.
This is not to say I don’t reward my children every now and then. If they can prove faithful and save, I’ll help them with a match so they can buy a toy. Or, sometimes children need a special reward to encourage them. I have no problem buying them something from time to time. I just need to insure I’m doing my job. And my job is to teach and plant small seeds along the way.
Practical Tools and Tips
People ask me from time to time what tools I use to manage my personal finances. You’ll find a lot of these tools scattered throughout the blog in product review posts and mentioned elsewhere. I do think it’s helpful to find tools that work for you. For example, some people use pencil and paper to track their spending and others use money management software. I like finding good tools because they make managing money easier and also help spouses communicate better about spending. Rather than trying to summarize all the tools I use here in the manifesto, I’ve created a resource page that includes all my favorites.
I also have a newsletter that you can subscribe to below. I think the newsletter is the best way to stay connected to what’s going on here. Each week I send out a recap of the One Money Design articles and share articles and tips from other blogs and websites I think readers will find helpful. I also let subscribers know what’s going on in my own financial journey from time to time and what I’m learning.
I’m on the journey to true financial freedom just like many of you and I’m happy to share my failures and wins along the way! Overall, I hope you understand that proving faithful is the most important thing to me as a steward on this journey.