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BFN Advance Book Review: Faith & Finances – In God We Trust

May 19, 2010 · Filed Under Book Reviews · 1 Comment 

If you noticed my “Currently Reading” widget recently, you might have seen a book there you maybe hadn’t heard of previously.  I recently received a review copy of Faith & Finances In God We Trust and have started reading it.  Though I haven’t finished it yet, I’d like to share a preview of the book with you.

A Journey To Financial Dependence

Wait a minute, you say, don’t you mean financial independence?  So much of what is done in the personal finance world is geared toward taking a person to that big goal of “financial independence.”  But no, you read that correctly, this is a book about financial dependence.  It makes perfect sense, actually, if you stop to think about it.  In a world of such uncertainty amidst wild stock market swings, failing banks, and unscrupulous CEOs, why strive to rely on yourself when you can achieve dependence on the one truly solid foundation – God Himself?

This small book has a interesting layout.  It is mostly a devotional book.  Various authors have contributed short writings (1-2 pages) that are to be read as independent devotions.  Interwoven among the entries, though, is a fictionalized and modernized retelling of the “Rich Young Ruler” story from the Luke 18 of the Bible.  The devotions are actually presented as journal entries that the main character in  the story is reading.  Thus you read a few short chapters of the story and then there are a number of journal entries before the next few chapters.

I like the format actually; it works for me.  I haven’t finished reading the book but I do find myself interested in its conclusion.  The main meat of the book, the devotions, are written first person by each author and include some real world stories that I find inspirational.  The main focus, of course, is dependence on God so there are a number of anecdotes about how God provided for needs in just the right amount at just the right time – I love reading those accounts!

Building Blocks of Faith

Each devotional includes a short prayer and a blurb titled Building Blocks of Faith.  I’ve found a few of those to be quite compelling as well.  The most interesting to me is “Our lack of money is just as much an answer from God as His abundance.”  Another thought-provoking one is “It’s not a matter of how much you posses, but how much your possessions matter to you.”  I found those to be two good thoughts to ponder.

To summarize, here is some information from the book’s website that I found very interesting:

The story of the rich young ruler was the perfect example of how God asks us to allow Him control over all we have. Faith and FINANCES: In God We Trust – A Journey of Financial Dependence isn’t your typical wealth-management book. It’s NOT how to build your 401K. Rather it was meant to be an example of trust—of knowing how to trust God with for and with your daily provision. God seemed to saying, “If you won’t trust me with your finances how will you ever trust me with your life?”

This was the seed for Faith and FINANCES: In God We Trust. The book is designed to allow churches to minister to congregations and encourage them to make God their financial advisor.
God instructed us, not to worry and yet when times are tight, we recoil, retreat and hide our wealth from God and each other. Financial dependence on God releases us from the burden of worry.

Little faith is hoping that God will do what He says.
Big faith is believing that God will do what He says.

But great faith, is knowing God has already done what He said He’d do.

We invite you to learn more about Faith and Finances during April and May while they tour cyberspace. To find other tour stops, visit http://bookpromotionservices.com/2010/03/02/faith-finances/ . For other details about the book or to get more information about Christian Devotions visit http://www.faithandfinances.us/. The book is for sale at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0982206542

That’s good stuff right there – the difference between little, big, and great faith.  Remember, it takes so much to achieve “financial independence” which is such a wary foothold anyway.  So many different things in our world can wipe out even great wealth in the blink of an eye.  Instead, focus on the solid foundation that is God – besides He owns everything anyway.  This is a lesson I certainly struggle with and I have been trying to move my focus from accumulating all that I can to create my own security to relying on God for His peace and security.

Monthly Net Worth Update – May 2010

May 18, 2010 · Filed Under Net Worth · Add a Comment 
Cash + Money by Terence Chang

Thud! That’s the sound of our net worth crashing back down to earth after two strong and unexpected months of increase.

Our assets decreased 3.3%

For those who were not paying attention at the time, there was quite an interesting day in the stock market a few weeks ago. Unfortunately for me, that happened to fall on the day that I took our net worth snap-shot for the month! Our cash dropped significantly (almost 6%) again this month but our other accounts did not increase to offset that drop. As a result, things got ugly net-worth-wise this month. We are finally (for the most part) finished with the transition of adjusting withholding and savings to go to a single salary. Unfortunately, we are still finishing the bills from our daughter’s birth and I think it all finally caught up to us this month. We simply must decrease our expenditures to stop these significant monthly drops in our cash account balances. It’s gotten to the point that we are going to go to actual cash for more expenses next month.

Our liabilities decreased 0.12%

Our mortgage dropped the standard 0.12% again this month. I mentioned last month that our mortgage payment is by far our largest payment each month. We are in the process of evaluating whether something drastic has to be done about it over the next couple months. If you asked me right now, I’d have to say that, “yes,” we need to change the mortgage somehow. We are spending too much money on the mortgage and as a result are not able to do other things that we’d like to do. The final decision won’t be made until July though, so I won’t get ahead of myself.

Our net worth dropped more than 6%

Last month I mentioned that our net worth had reached its highest level ever….well, that’s no longer true! After this month’s significant drop, we’re well below that. It’s acted like a yo-yo this entire year. I’m not concerned about our stock market accounts, though, as I expect them to bounce around. I am concerned that our cash balances continue to drop and drop at a much higher rate that I anticipated. I’m trying to increase our income but we really should do something about our expenses as well…hence the decision to actually try the cash thing next month – I guess we’ll see if all the hype for using cash is justified!

Weekly Bible Verse – Preparing for Blessing

May 17, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 1 Comment 

And he said, “This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches.  For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. 2 Kings 3:16-17 (NIV)

The armies of Judah and Israel were out in the middle of the desert with no water and they were getting scared.  They were on their way to Moab but now they were concerned that they were not even going to make it to the battle.  They inquired of Elisha the prophet and this was the word passed to them from God through Elisha. Obediently, they dug the trenches and one morning they looked and mysteriously saw water coming from Edom and filling up their trenches such that they and their animals had plenty of water to drink.

And just what does this verse have to do with personal finances, you ask?  It’s a verse about “blessing” so bear with me here!  The armies needed to be blessed by God and they were, miraculously.  I’d venture that each of us would welcome a blessing from God (I know I would) whether it be in the area of finances or whatever.  So, let’s examine this passage in more detail.

First we see that the armies were concerned.  They had a big problem and didn’t know how to solve it.  Plus this problem was spilling over into other areas of their lives as they were worried they would be unsuccessful in their battle with their enemy.  Are they any big problems in your life that you don’t know how to solve? Let’s look at the steps they followed in this story:

1. Go to God: Note what they did with their problem – they went down to a prophet of God, Elisha, to find out what God was going to do in this situation.  I think that was definitely the correct decision.  If you’re facing a giant of a problem, remember that God is the biggest giant of them all.

2. Prepare for the blessing: Now the prophet told them to do something strange; he told them to dig a bunch of ditches in the middle of the desert.  This might seem like a pointless exercise to you and it might have seen pointless to them, too….but they did it.  They were obedient to God and dug the ditches.  They had to believe that God was going to give them the blessing and they had to put in some hard work to prepare for it.

The armies dug the ditches and the water came.  There is a bit more to the story though.  When the Moabites woke up they saw reflections off of the water from the early morning sun.  It reflected red so they thought they armies of Judah and Israel and Edom had attacked and killed each other.  The Moabites then rushed out to take the spoil only to be surprised and quickly defeated by the armies.

If you think about it, their biggest concern of having no water and thus losing the battle to Moab actually led to their victory!  They went to God and were obedient to Him.  As a result, their immediate need for water was taken care of and their ultimate need for victory was facilitated through the blessing.  Amazing!

So what exactly does this mean for each of us?  How exactly should we prepare for the blessing from God?  Well, that’s a hard question to answer.  I would guess it would be a very individualized answer for each one of us.  What I do know is that we need to take our concerns to God with the assurance that he cares for us and will bless us.

God bless (prepare for it!) and have a great week…

Guest Post: How To Avoid Donating to a Fake Charity

May 13, 2010 · Filed Under Giving · 1 Comment 
This guest post comes from Michael, a contributing editor of the Dough Roller, a personal finance and investing blog, and Credit Card Offers IQ, a credit card review site.

In the wake of one of the largest earthquakes the world has ever seen, donations continue to come in by the thousands to help Haiti rebuild. While the outpouring of support has been tremendous, a tragedy like this is also an excellent opportunity for someone to take advantage. Charities continue to do excellent work in helping those that cannot afford to help themselves but for every legitimate organization, there seem to be two illegitimate ones.

Pinpointing a fraudulent charity can be difficult at times and it is certainly not an exact science, but knowing what to look for and how to handle your donations in the future, should ensure that the money you are donating goes to the people that need your help. The next time you are courted to make a donation, follow the tips below to avoid donating to scammers.

  1. Never Make a Donation Over the Phone (Unless You Initiated the Call) – Legitimate charities do have a habit of cold calling for donations so many of the calls you receive could be real, however there is no way of knowing with a simple phone call if the person on the other line is who they say they are. If you are interested in their cause, ask them for the website information and offer to mail in a donation. Giving your credit card information over the phone is never a smart idea.
  2. Never Make a Donation In Cash – The easiest way to lose your donation to fraud is to give them something that cannot be traced. If the organization has a booth set up, feel free to write a personal check from your online checking account. If you’re mailing in your donation, provide a money order or check written in the name of the charity. Being asked to make the donation payable to “Reggie” is an automatic no-no. For tax purposes, keeping a paper record of your donation is important. If you’re unlucky enough to donate to a scam, the IRS may audit your tax return, which is definitely something you want to avoid.
  3. Never Make a Donation Through Email – Charities are fearful of being labeled as spam, so sending out mass-emails looking for donations doesn’t happen. If you ever see an email from someone stating to be a charity looking for a donation, there is an extreme amount of high-risk involved. Email is extremely un-secure and the link you click on to make your donation can take you absolutely anywhere.
  4. Gather As Much Information As You Can – Before making a final decision, make sure you have gathered all of the available information there is on your charity of choice. Finding information can be easy, and doing any of the following should put your mind at ease:

Ask to see the organizations tax-exempt letter from the IRS. If they do not have one, or are unwilling to provide it, think twice about why.

Visit the charities website and look for things such as good grammar, a permanent street address, success stories, an outline of what the charities goals are, financial statements that tell you where the money goes and a board of directors. If you see that they are lacking many of the things above, it’s another sign that they might not be who they say they are.

Visit the IRS’s website and look them up. The IRS lists over 1.5 million charitable organizations that they recognize and if your charity isn’t on the list, time to move on.

If you think that you’ve been taken, you should immediately call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a complaint. 1-877-FTC-HELP begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-877-FTC-HELP      end_of_the_skype_highlighting (382-4357). Hopefully though, after reading the steps above to protect yourself, you never have a need for this phone number.

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