Question: “Reverend Louder, our only daughter is engaged to a great young Christian man who is going to soon graduate from Bible school and become a juvenile counselor at a local church. As you might expect, he won’t be making much money. My wife believes that we should help them buy a home and a car and supplement their monthly budget. I’m not so sure. What are your thoughts?” Bob’s Response: Keep in mind that the Bible says that when a man gets married, he should leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife. Regarding supplementing their monthly income: I suggest not. My concern would be that you may be encouraging them to depend on you rather than God and each other. Regarding helping them buy a home: yes, possibly. I would prayerfully suggest that they spend a year or so learning how to live with each other and learning how to live on a budget. That way they will have a better idea how they each are wired to work with money plus by that time they will also have good ideal of how much house they can afford on a monthly basis. At that point perhaps you can help them with the down payment. Absolutely do not co-sign for a home loan. Finally, helping your newlyweds with a car (late model, not new) is a great idea. However, make sure you title the car in their name and make sure that they know the car is theirs not hers. That way the car can’t become a threat during any argument. The bottom line is that it’s great to help young folks get started financially. However you need to prayerfully make sure that you are not encouraging them to live beyond their means. God can provide for them just as He has for you. Allow them the opportunity to trust Him in their finances. One final thought, don’t do anything until you and your wife agree on what you will and will not do.
November 26 Question: “Do I tithe before or after I pay my bills? Or, even more basically, should I tithe before I pay my bills even if after I tithe I won’t have enough to pay my bills?” Bob’s Response: Here are five things to prayerfully consider: (1) I‘m sure you know that most times a farmer will keep part of his harvest as seed stock for the next planting season. Right? Well, as a Christian, your tithe is your seed stock (2 Corinthians 9:10)! (2) Then you have Proverbs 3:9-10 that tells you to honor God from your “first fruits.” Therefore, the first portion of everything you receive belongs to God, not to anyone or anything else to include your creditors or even the IRS. (3) Now, I have had some folks tell me that they don’t think it very honoring to God to tithe while they still owe their creditors. Well, try to tell that to the IRS. What do you suppose the IRS would say or do if you sent them a letter saying, “Sorry, I can’t pay my taxes because I’m in debt–I’ll pay my taxes as soon as I’m out of debt.” Why do most folks pay their taxes? Because they fear the IRS. Well, I contend you should “fear” (honor, respect, obey, etc.) the Lord more than you “fear” your creditors to include the IRS. (4) For example, how could you handle your creditors (including the IRS) if you can’t pay some or all of what you owe because you choose to honor the tithe? One way would be to share with them the principle of the tithe—that it’s your commitment to your God, not to your church. You can also share that data shows that most of those who tithe are almost always better money handlers, and that as a result of their commitment to God, they honor the commitments to their creditors. My experience is that few creditors will object after you write them a letter with those or similar words—they will likely offer to negotiate a temporary repayment schedule. In fact, almost everyone—including your creditors—respects that commitment, even through most may not be Christians themselves (not so sure that would include the IRS). God’s Word says that if you tithe, God will give you His wisdom (Deut. 14:23). If there were ever anyone in the world who needs God’s wisdom in finances, it would have to be anyone who happens to be in debt. (5) On the other hand, if after you write those or similar words to your creditor (IRS) be prepared for some negative consequences if they choose not to honor your request. Then you will need to prayerfully follow the conviction of your heart. If you decide to tithe—then cut everything else you can to pay as much of your debt as possible. If you can’t cut enough to pay your debts after tithing then send what you can to your creditors with a written explanation of your biblical conviction, a copy of your budget, and a promise to pay the balance or get back on schedule as quickly as you can. That may result in an offer set up an adjusted repayment plan. WARNING: If you choose not to pay so you can tithe you may face some negative consequences—so don’t be surprised and don’t complain when those negative consequences show up. Remember, the “borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
November 14 Question: Hi Bob! My wife and I have about $20,000 in credit debt. I am 44 and my wife is 37. We have some retirement income in the form of a Roth and my wife’s 403B from work. As Christ followers we want to be good stewards. Should we pay off any of our credit debt using our ret income? What about consolidating it into our mortgage through a refi? We both work part-time right now. I do Personal fitness training and my wife is a Ped. RN. My income fluctuates throughout the year which makes it tricky to budget. I should be bringing in some better income soon as I have acquired a service to assist me in getting more clients. My credit score is too low to do the refi right now, so another idea was to bring my higher than 50% of the limit balances down below 50% to help get my credit in better shape. I appreciate any wisdom you can share with my wife and I as we have three young children we are trying to raise during this time of financial struggle for us. Bob’s Response: I would suggest you first set up a budget then allocate as much as you can to get rid of your credit card debt. BUT, you also have to see why you have that credit card debt–medical emergency, daily living, etc. It won’t do you any good to pay off your credit cards if you are living above your income therefore requiring the use of credit. Best idea: go to www.daveramsey.com and get involved with his “Financial Peace University” as quickly as possible. Then sign up for our next “Your Finances in Perilous Times” Seminar set to start right after the start of the year. Why both? Because you need both spiritual (our Seminar) and practical tools (Financial Peace University)–one without the other won’t work for the long term.
November 5: Dr. Bob, My husband believes it best to tithe on our after-tax income because the taxes are not ours to spend–I believe we should tithe on our total income before taxes or any other deductions He also doesn’t believe we should tithe 10%–I believe the 10% is just the starting place to tithe. Who is right? Bob’s Response: First of all, please take a look at 2 Corinthians 9:7 again, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” I don’t believe God is concerned with the percentage you give. However, I don’t find that He ever asks for any less than 10% as a tithe–more sometimes but not less. Also, according to Proverbs 3:9, you are to honor God from the first fruits of your harvest. To me this means that you would give based on your before-tax income. But honestly, what I believe is best is not the question here. Yes, you and your husband need to come into agreement on this. Assuming that both you and your husband have prayed to ask Jesus Christ into your hearts, then I suggest you both go before the Lord in the spirit of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” I suggest both of you agree not to pray for the minimum tithe you must give but for the maximum you can joyfully tithe. As the matter of fact, whatever you two think you can joyfully tithe (as a team) stretch your faith and give just a little more, and then see how God will bless you as a result. Recall 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever gives generously will also reap generously.” The key is this: whatever you do, do together. And remember also that your husband is the spiritual leader of your family. If after you lovingly share God’s Word and your heart on this matter he decides to tithe less or in a different way that you believe best, I suggest you prayerfully go along with what he wants to tithe the way he wants to tithe it–and do it willingly with a smile on your face. According to the Bible, God will honor your heart to tithe AND your commitment to submit to your husband. (Not politically correct I realize, but biblical none-the-less.)
Question for the week of 25 October: My name is Mark I am 20 years old I recently just got married 4 months ago. Together we make 1600 a month. Our bills consist of: Car loan $ 225 personal loan 1 $ 75.00 personal loan 2 $ 50.00 Rent $ 595 Car insurance $ 320 Power $ 120 then plus gas and food. Please help us our bills are getting behind and we just need some kind of plan or budget so we can live victorious for Christ in this area. How do we pay our debt off and get and stay on the right track? thank you for you help Mark Bob’s Response: Wow, I see what you mean about getting behind on your bills. My friend, I can share with you a few things. The first is something you already know–Jesus Christ loves the both of you more than you can imagine. Nothing, NOTHING is ever going to change that. Second is something I’m sure you have figured out by now–you need to immediately increase your income, cut your expenses, or both. A third thing to prayerfully consider is to be open with your creditors–let them know you are struggling. Show them your budget and ask if you can cut your payment (in half ?) for six months until you and your bride can get more income coming in. Finally, I don’t see a tithe on your list. Yes Jesus love you but do you trust Him? I strongly suggest you prayerfully learn about and act on what God has to say about the tithe. I’m attaching a copy of our e-book so you can better understand what God has to say about money. But you need immediate help in budgeting so I suggest you contact either Crown Financial Ministries (www.crown.org) or the Dave Ramsey organization (www.daveramsey.com). Prayerfully they will have someone in your area you can sit down with the both of you to develop a specific plan of action.
Question for the week of 19 October: I am courting a man who is very intentional in pursuing marriage. Although he has many qualities, the fact is that he has a high debt ($80,000). He is a very hard worker and monthly puts money in his debt fund. HOWEVER, he often gives money away to people in need and goes on mission trips using the money from his debt fund. I disagree with these choices because I don’t believe God calls us to give what we don’t have or live in slavery to lenders at the excuse of doing ministry. BUT, I have a very hard time standing for my point of few because if feels like he is being godly and I am not… I am wrong? Is he right? How can I go about this in an honoring way for God, for him and also for a possible future family? Help me understand! Bob’s Response: First the good news! It appears that you are talking about money issues BEFORE you decide to get married. Now the hard news! You need to talk more about money before you decide to get married. For example, what caused the $80k in debt? If it was credit cards or the like then watch out. However, it could have been for medical reasons, perhaps student loans, car loans… Another question: does he/do you tithe? Now, I agree that God asks you to give based on what you have an not on what you don’t have or have to borrow. I also agree that debt should be eliminated as quickly as possible. So, if he takes money from his debt repayment fund to give away or go on mission trips does he still repay his creditors as agreed? if so, that’s great. If not–watch out. The bottom line is this. You need to prayerfully have more “money” conversations. However, more than that, you need to make sure you get some great pre-engagement spiritual and financial counseling/coaching. Remember, money is never a problem. Money is always a symptom of a spiritual problem. The good news is that with every spiritual problem there is always, ALWAYS a spiritual solution. So, I suggest to stay away from who is “right” or “wrong” and seek some help to prayerfully come together on these issues. If you are wise you will share your wisdom with him. If he is wise he will listen. If you both are wise, you’ll come together on how to handle these money situations. If you do, then coming together to handle other money and non-money situations will be a whole lot easier. I also suggest both of you immediately sign up for Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” (www.daveramsey.com).
Question for the week of 12 October:“Bob, my wife and I own several investment properties as well as several homes. I’ve been told that because all our properties are jointly owned, we don’t need a will–that if one of us dies the properties will automatically go to the other. Your thoughts?” Bob’s Response: Yes, it’s true that if you and your wife hold all your property in “joint ownership” then when one of you dies, the properties will be owned by the survivor. HOWEVER, without good estate planning the “survivor” may end up paying a lot of unnecessary taxes. I’m not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice; but wisdom says that having a will is just a part of proper estate planning. For example, if you both are killed at the same time, then both of you will have died “intestate”–that is without a will. In this case all the property you jointly own would be settled by the state, probably not to your liking. I strongly encourage each of you get a will, and a financial power of attorney, and a living will…it’s just good stewardship! If all your properties are in one state and if neither of you have been previously married and have no children outside your current marriage, then you can consider some of the on-line estate planning resources. Otherwise, you need to talk with a lawyer.
Question for the week of 5 October:“My husband and I are setting up a budget to get rid of all our debt. Part of that budget includes a new repayment schedule we have worked out with our credit card companies–it’s a reduced repayment schedule, less than what we agreed to pay at the start. Here’s my question: Is it biblical to save while we still owe money and make payments that are less than originally agreed?” Bob’s Response: The Bible encourages you to save. The Bible tells you that you MUST repay your debts. Your question is can you do both at the same time. YES, so long as your new repayment schedule is approved by your creditors! Part of your budget should include a specific savings amount each each pay period. Your savings account eventually will help you do several things to include fixing or replacing household items that break or wear out (cars, washer, dryer, refrigerator, etc.) without having to borrow more money. But here’s the key to your question, and it has to do with your attitude. If you are absolutely committed to spend less than you make (the difference being savings) then I believe you are headed down the right road. If you are not absolutely committed to spend less than you make then over time you will slide deeper and deeper into debt. Make sure your “commitment” is to God and to each other remembering that financial difficulties are always symptoms of spiritual problems.