Beyond The Natural



Dear friends,


I am adding this section to introduce you to another aspect of dealing with debt. This is the realm of the "spiritual". I am a firm believer of the Word of God and in what it has to say about managing the resources God has given us, including money.


So in this section, I will be posting articles from well know Christian authors and teachers as well as my own experiences with God in the area of finances.


I hope you will be blessed.


To your debt-free life,
Jimmy


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August 31, 2011
As I told you before, I am very happy to post a very good article from the Christian Personal Finance (CPF). This is a timeless principle taken from the Word of God and written by JOHN FRAINEE on MARCH 23, 2011. I hope you will learn from it. Enjoy reading.



3 Timeless Principles For Wealth Creation


Every once in a while we run across a set of rules or guidelines that lead us to a deeper fundamental principle. Over the past few years of studying personal finance, I’ve found three principles that I believe help people create wealth. While there are certainly other rules, principles, tips, and more suggestions out there that can help people become wealthy, these three are a few of my favorites.
I’m by no means a wealthy person. However, our (my wife and I) rate of savings and debt reduction over the past few years has been significant – a gift from God no doubt. I’ve thought long and hard about these principles, and wanted to share them with you today. They’re not revolutionary – simply timeless. What do you think?

1. Keep money in perspective – God comes first.

To a Christian, there are often three forces at work in creating wealth: God, ourselves, and circumstance. The three combine in ways that are difficult to comprehend. Does God create the circumstances we need in order to help ourselves create wealth? Do we ultimately decide our financial goals and hope that they are in alignment with God’s will? How much of our wealth building depends on God, ourselves, or our circumstances? These are all questions we wrestle with, and I’m hoping some of you will respond in the comments.
One thing I do know for certain is that we must – as Christians – keep money in perspective. Money should not be our master. We must overcome the temptation to build wealth for all the wrong reasons. Instead, we must build wealth to be able to use it as God intends. The best way to think of “our” money is to know “whose” money it actually is: God’s, of course.
When I sit down to do my finances, I ask myself how God might cash flow this or that expense. I ask myself how God might give to others. I ask myself how I might live more economically for the benefit of my family. What do you do?
2. Don’t make a decision about something you don’t fully understand – go slowly.
Sometimes we want a microwave solution. You know what I’m talking about! Just add water, plop it in the microwave, and press start. Building wealth means taking it slow. No, you probably won’t win the lottery. No, you probably won’t receive a massive inheritance. These things don’t happen to most people!
Slow and steady is the way to go. Before you make any decision, ask yourself if you’ve given yourself adequate time to think it over. The last thing you want to do is make a hasty investment, pay off debt in the wrong timing, or skip crucial steps to building wealth.

3. Work hard – really, really, hard!

That’s how you do it folks. You WORK! Work HARD! Really, really, really hard! Have you ever lifted weights? One of the best ways to build endurance and muscle is to go slowly and pour on the weight. You’ll have to work harder, but you’ll have better results. The same is true in wealth building. Most millionaires don’t stumble into their pile of cash (wouldn’t that be nice), they work HARD for it! There are many extra jobs you can take on to bring in extra money!
Not only do you need to work hard, you need to continuously work hard. Never give up. You must keep going and never lose your endurance. Rest is important, but be careful that it doesn’t turn into laziness. Get up and use what God blessed you with – your skills, strength, and knowledge – to get the job done.
So, are you ready to create wealth? What are some key principles you have for building wealth?

Let’s hear from you! Whether you are just starting out on your road to financial freedom or have already found success, what works well for you?
Source: http://christianpf.com/3-timeless-principles-for-wealth-creation/


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Sept. 21, 2011


Whenever Dani Johnson talks, people listen. She always tell people that she was pregrant at 18, homeless at 21.  Instead of accepting what life had scripted for her, Dani rewrote her own playbook, chapter by chapter – and by 23 she was a millionaire. In the years since, Dani Johnson has become a multi-millionaire many times over, owns five companies with her husband Hans, is a best-selling author, internationally sought-after speaker and radio show host. What a testimony! Let's listen and apply her words of wisdom.

Don’t Let Debt Ruin Your Marriage

Published September 16, 2011
| FOXBusiness

Debt can be crippling and stressful, but it doesn't have to ruin personal relationships. While it may be easy to project stress onto spouses and family members, it’s important to remain focused on paying down the debt as fast as possible and reshaping the financial future.
Personal finance expert Dani Johnson, author of First Steps to Wealth, says financial complications are a leading factor in divorces and failed relationships today. This debt that Americans are drowning in is also impacting children, and serving as a poor lesson to them about how to best manage their own finances.


"Struggles don’t have to contaminate the marriage, whether you are one year into it or one month into it," Johnson says. "Debt can be shameful and embarrassing, but there's nothing like a couple coming together to punch out the debt that has been punching them."
Here are Johnson's five tips to help couples avoid letting finances ruin their relationship.

No. 1: Remember the enemy. Debt can surely pit spouses against one another, Johnson warns, so it is important to stay united at battling the real problem. "Stop destroying each other, and start fighting the real fight—the war on debt." Your energy and time are better spent digging out of debt than fighting with your partner.

No. 2: Live within your means. Making a lot of money doesn't make them rich, says Johnson. "If you make $5 million a year and spend $5 million a year, that is a poverty mentality. We must mature as individuals to live within and below our means, even when your income grows." She suggests simple steps like cutting back on food shopping and finishing what’s already in the pantries can really help build a savings cushion.

No. 3: Quit the blame game. Placing blame on others like your boss, the economy, politicians, and of course, your spouse, will not dig you out of debt. "You need to govern wisely to grow in your financial territory," she said. 

No. 4: Step away from work. Working on your relationships is just as important as working on your career and managing your debt. Be sure to take time out to spend with your family, it will help relationships recharge and will reenergize you for work and increase productivity.

No. 5: Resist financial infidelity. Lying to your spouse about money is a gateway to be untruthful about other things, says Johnson. "This is the fastest way to sabotage your relationship.” Sit down together and realistically and honestly outline your goals for the future. Trust will help you overcome your debt.


Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/09/16/dont-let-debt-ruin-your-marriage/#ixzz1YZqBw6Iy

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I like Chuck Bentley's approach in dealing with debt. Here, he goes back to the most important part of managing our finances, a key ingredient to dealing with debt. The most important investment one can make is to invest their money in the Kingdom of God through giving to God's causes. You will be introduce to a spiritual dimension when you read his article below. Be blessed. 

Financial Lessons Learned in Asia

by Chuck Bentley
I received great response from my last article, “England Hits the Panic Button,” even though some complained that it came across as “doom and gloom.” Like the Bible, I try to be realistic about problems. Because of the hope we have in Christ, we can face reality squarely and maintain our joy. God never promised we would be exempt from problems, only that He would be there with us through them, even unto death.

It’s only prudent to be concerned about the systemic problems we face and our failure thus far to acknowledge that we need God and His wisdom now more than ever. My hope is that Christians will recognize the economic dangers we face and be motivated to take action before we experience another major crisis.

Others are already preparing. Here are some things I observed on my recent trip to Asia that provide a new perspective on the way we tend to manage money in America:

  • The average savings rate among older Asian families ranges from a low of 20% to a high of around 40% of annual gross income. This high savings rate is driven by a “survival mentality”—meaning they have no expectation that someone else will take care of them, i.e., social or government programs. (For a look at how other nations rank on the basis of personal savings, see chart at the end of the article.)

  • Some younger Asians have not adopted this approach and are becoming caught up in materialism and living beyond their means using a variety of methods. Many Asians view credit cards as an “import from the West” that will be bad in the long term.
  • All employees in Singapore are required to save 20% of their salary and employers add 16%. This essentially means that 36% of the employees’ income is put into a personal account called the Provident Fund. This government backed savings account pays either 2.5% or 4% guaranteed. Of the 36% total contribution, 6% is set aside as a medical saving account. The rest of the money is for retirement, a down payment to buy a house, or could also be used to take care of elderly parents.
  • Investors we met shared their view that investing in emerging markets is no longer viewed as “riskier” than developed markets. This is a significant shift and does not bode well for Europe and America.
  • Singapore has a fiscal accountability policy for its elected officials. 1) No corruption will be tolerated. They want Singapore to be viewed as the Zurich of Asia, a safe investment due to high levels of earned trust. 2) Each new term, the government is required to “live within its means.” Officials cannot reach back into the reserves built by previous administrations to close current budget deficits. How simple is that?
  • Asian investors we interviewed see two conflicting approaches to solving the debt problem in Europe and America. America’s plan is to “borrow and spend” its way out of the debt crisis; Europe’s plan is to “cut and save” its way out.
  • What do Asian investors think? Both strategies cannot be correct. When one of these approaches fails, it will bring about a sudden downturn in global markets. They see this as a problem that should be apparent to any observer. The current crisis is not like the crash in 2008 that took most people by surprise. Therefore, they are cautious and preparing.
I promised you practical steps that you need to take now. Please note I will not take a position on a specific stock or investment nor will I tell you to make rash decisions like pulling all of your money out of a long-term investment. I recommend that you consult with professional advisors who share a biblical worldview before making any investment decisions.
Practical Steps
  • Increase your giving to God’s causes to lay up for yourself treasures that do not lose value and will return the highest satisfaction.
  • Begin saving as much as you can in liquid accounts. A good goal is 20% of your gross income.
  • Pay off all of your debt as quickly as possible. Do not incur more debt.
  • Increase your financial margin—the difference between your income and expenses. Begin simplifying your lifestyle with the goal of reducing your expenses. It costs money to maintain possessions. Don’t keep more things than you need. Sell or give away stuff that you no longer use.
  • Keep your investments diversified in different asset classes. Mutual funds are good, but don’t keep everything in funds tied to the same asset sector—that is not diversification. If you don’t understand an investment, don’t put your money there.
  • It’s perfectly okay to own some gold as a hedge against inflation, but like anything else, it should be viewed as a risky investment. Think of it more as insurance against the dollar (or all other assets) losing value. Don’t assume that you can predict the future price of gold (or any other investment).
  • There are several ways to own gold. Many prefer taking possession of the actual bullion. If you go that route, experts recommend the South African Krugerrand because it does not carry a face value like other gold coins. These coins are sold in 1 oz, 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz and 1/10 oz sizes. Be careful to avoid counterfeits.
  • Another method is to own stocks tied to gold. Rusty Leonard, a professional investment advisor, prefers owning stock tied to gold in an ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) to ensure that you have an available market should you need to liquidate.
  • If you decide to buy gold, like any other investment, it should be no more than 12-15% of your portfolio. Consider it a long-term “insurance policy.”
  • Professional investors are experiencing great challenges navigating this market. Even some of the best minds in the business say they have never seen it this challenging. They do not know whether it is time to be “Risk On” or “Risk Off.” So be cautious and seek the Lord’s wisdom on every decision.

I know you were blessed after reading this very timely article for Asians. 
Jimmy


Article source:http://blog.crown.org/
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November 12, 2011

 

A farmer always keeps a portion of each harvest as seed stock to be planted the next season. If he didn't, he would not be able to grow another crop. As Christians, our tithe is our seed stock (2 Corinthians 9:10).

Proverbs 3:9-10 says that we need to honor God by giving Him the first fruits of our produce (income or compensation). Therefore the first portion of our income belongs to God.

It doesn't belong to anyone else—not even creditors.

A vow
God's Word makes it clear, however, that a vow (promise) of any kind is not to be taken lightly. Once someone has given his or her word, it becomes a binding contract.

So, before agreeing to any terms, it is assumed that an individual has carefully considered the consequences.

For the current generation, it appears that this concept is infrequently taught and seldom applied. A vow in today's world is often deemed to be something made under one set of circumstances and broken under another.

For example, a vow to pay a creditor is ignored when the purchased product loses its usefulness.

However, Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.”

Therefore, Christians must commit to pay back whatever they've borrowed, regardless of circumstances or how long it takes.

It really makes no difference whether it's a personal note or a business note. Solomon said, “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).

If you make a vow to pay—you must pay. If debts are made—debts must be paid.

So, if Christians feel that they can either pay their tithe or pay their debts—not both—what does God expect them to do?

A matter of the heart
The principle of tithing is just that—a principle. God is looking for the right attitude in a person's giving.

If there is not a true heart-felt willingness to give back to the Lord a portion of what He has entrusted to us, giving tithes upon tithes would be without purpose.

An option
For people who feel that they cannot afford to give the full tithe because they have too much debt, yet they are willing and want to tithe, perhaps there is an option that can satisfy both situations.

Because God expects us to remain true to biblical principles, if we have made prior vows (in the form of taking on a debt) to man before making a vow to tithe to God, God directs that the vow be maintained in order to present a good witness (see Proverbs 22:1).

In such cases, the tithe should come from the money not already pledged to creditors, but available to disperse.

However, a commitment to give to God would certainly take precedence over any payment to creditors for debts contracted after a pledge was made to tithe.

Conclusion
It is a matter of the heart in giving to God.

Christians should be looking for reasons to give rather than looking for ways not to give.

Even though they may feel that they cannot afford to pay the full tithe, they need to commit to give something to the Lord. Under no circumstances should they refuse to give anything to the Lord.

Perhaps those in debt could start with a smaller amount than 10 percent and remain faithful to that commitment, increasing it as God provides.

Or, until they have relieved themselves of some of their encumbering debt, they could provide some sort of volunteer service to the church or to people in need within the body of Christ. 
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December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas to all. As I write this introduction to a very good article, I can only imagine the number of people I saw that have gone to the cashier counters of the big, super malls in Manila to pay the items they bought using their credit cards. The store owners must be happy about this. The don't care or ask you if you can afford to pay the bills. They are just glad you've bought items from them, period.

I would like to post this very practical article of the do's and don'ts of credit cards for our referral, just in case we or anybody we know needs help on how to use our credit cards.

Dos and Don’ts of credit cards 
 

There is a legend -- whether urban, suburban or rural -- about credit cards. It's brief and goes like this: A person must have one.

The short-version response to the legend is this: Don't establish credit unless you have a specific purpose for it, and you know how to use it wisely.

Lenders say that you should establish credit early, in case you need it. What they don't tell you is that the longer you can go without credit, the less you will depend on it later. The Bible tells us: "A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3).

Is it wrong for Christians to use credit cards? No. Credit and credit cards do not cause financial problems. It is the misuse of credit and credit cards that create financial problems. Through discipline, any consumer can enjoy the convenience of credit cards without falling into the debt trap often associated with the use of credit cards.

The following suggestions will help you control the use of credit cards.

-- Ask your bank for an extra checkbook register (usually they are free) to keep track of credit card purchases and payments -- just as you would record checking account transactions.

-- Use credit cards for budgeted purchases only.

-- Just because you might be able to afford something, does not mean you have to buy it.

-- Carry a credit card with you only if you have a zero or near zero balance. If you have a credit card balance, put the card in a safe inconvenient place and don't carry it with you.

-- Retain only one all-purpose, no-fee credit card. Cancel all others. Accept a credit limit that you can easily pay in full on your present income, and reject all credit limit increases.

-- If stores add a surcharge to your bill for paying with a credit card, you can refuse to pay it. Most credit card companies don't allow vendors to add surcharges to credit card purchases.

Credit card interest represents a very large waste of money, so pay your bill off every month during the grace period so you don't pay interest charges. If your credit card company charges you a fee for not carrying a balance, cancel the card.

The first time that you have a credit card bill you cannot pay in full, charge no more and then pay the balance as soon as possible. Make the payments as early in the billing month as you can or else make two smaller payments a month if you can't pay early. Most banks calculate interest on the average daily balance, so the larger the payment and the sooner in the month you make it, the more will apply to the principal.

To steer clear of financial problems, avoid the traps that cause those problems -- for most families that means the misuse and abuse of credit cards. If you can function without credit cards, it's to your advantage. If you really need a credit card, discipline your use and pay off the balance monthly; that will ensure that your credit card privilege will not be abused.

If you must have a credit card, try using a debit card. A debit card works like a check and it debits your checking account the amount you charged. If you need a credit card in order to confirm hotel and car rental reservations and they will not accept a debit card, store the credit card in a difficult-to-access place so you will not be tempted to use it for other things.

Before making application for a credit card, shop around and compare interest rates, annual fees and services of different credit card companies. Be aware of finance charges and the expected monthly payments. Check to be sure there will be no hidden charges that can be applied to the bill. It is also advisable to get a credit card that is widely accepted.

However, before you commit, be sure to read all of that fine print on the credit application contract -- and read it carefully. Creditors are required to state the cost of borrowing in common language so that the customer can figure out exactly what the charges for borrowing will be.

The difficulty people encounter when they attempt to reestablish credit reinforces the importance of keeping your bills paid and up-to-date. Remember, it takes a long time to build up a good reputation but very little time to destroy it.

The fact is that credit cards don't ruin a person's financial reputation -- the person ruins his or her own reputation through the misuse or abuse of credit cards. And, that sort of abuse can damage more than your financial reputation.

God's Word offers us an important truth in Proverbs 22:1: "A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold." 
Finally, if you are not interested in those unsolicited or pre-approved credit applications you receive in the mail, don't throw them in the trash. A thief may find them and take out an account in your name and begin charging. Destroy these applications, cut them up and dispose of the pieces in different waste receptacles. Or, mark through the application and mail it back to the sender in the postpaid envelope that came with the offer and note on the application that you want to be removed from their mailing list.
I have applied the suggestion to maintain only one all-purpose credit card. It helps me a lot in terms of monitoring and knowing how much limit I have. I also use it whenever I have cash to pay the item I want to buy. I charge it to my credit card for points and then pay it off right away so that I can not use the money for other purpose.
I always refer to Crown Ministries for my Biblical perspective on life and issues including debt.
To our debt-free life,
Jimmy
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January 21, 2012
Beyond the natural attempts to discover solutions that will free us from debt. Indeed there are principles that are found in the Word of God that if applied to our lives, will produce results that sets us free. I pray that we all benefit from God's idea of financial freedom. 


Reasons for Becoming Debt-Free

Do you think debt is dangerous? Here are some reasons why you should treat it with extreme caution.

Why debt is dangerous? 
Christians today are generally polarized into two opposite groups. One feels that the Word of God forbids any and all kinds of debt at all times (see Romans 13:8). Some of these even feel that debt is a sin. The other group assumes that debt is an acceptable and normal way of life that God often uses to meet the needs of His people. Neither of these viewpoints is totally accurate. Although debt is not a sin, it also is not a normal way of life, according to Scripture. Rather, debt is a dangerous tool that must be used, if at all, with extreme caution and much prayer due to its potential for enslaving people in financial bondage (see Proverbs 22:7).
The following are reasons why debt needs to be treated with extreme caution.
  • Debt presumes on the future. When people commit themselves to payments over a period of time, they are presuming that there will be no pay reductions, no loss of job, and no unexpected expenses. That is an improbable assumption (see Proverbs 27:1).
  • Debt lowers future standards of living. Money that is borrowed today must be repaid over time along with interest, which means that those things purchased with credit will cost more “tomorrow” than they did today. Therefore, the standard of living will have to be adjusted to compensate for the added expense.
  • Debt focuses on fa├žade decisions rather than real-life decisions. Debt encourages people to make decisions based on whether they can afford a monthly payment, rather than on whether they can afford the total cost (purchase price, operational expenses, and finance charges) of the item. Debt makes it too easy to say yes to low monthly payments while ignoring the real cost of items.
  • Debt leaves people at the mercy of the power of compound interest. If consumers pay the minimum monthly payment on a $1,000 debt at 19.8 percent rate of interest and never charge anything else on that account, it will take eight (8) years to pay back the $1,000 and they will pay $2,023 for the privilege of charging $1,000. In some cases, items charged on nationally accepted bank credit cards can cost upwards to eight times the original purchase price of the item by the time the bill is paid off.
  • Debt could delay God’s plan. God said that He would provide for His people’s needs. Debt allows needs to be met now, from a means other than through God’s provision. Debt provides instant gratification, at the expense of financial freedom, rather than waiting on God’s perfect plan and His perfect timing.
  • Debt clouds the line that separates wants, desires, and needs. Needs are necessary purchases such as food, clothing, shelter, medical coverage, transportation, and others. Wants involve choices about quality of goods. Discount shopping versus specialty shopping, lobster versus chicken, or a new car versus a good used car, and so on. Desires are those things that can be purchased only after all other obligations are met and only if there are surplus funds available to purchase them. Debt allows desires to become wants and wants to become needs.
  • Debt encourages impulse buying and overspending. The chief financial officer of a national credit card company said that consumers spend on the average of 25 to 30 percent more when they charge than if they purchase with a check or cash and that a great majority of those extra purchases are the result of impulse buying. Unrestricted debt assumption and credit cards have allowed people to buy immediately beyond the means to repay, without sacrificing needs and necessities.
  • Debt stifles resourcefulness. In a society that lives by the premise of “I want, what I want, when I want it,” the need to be resourceful—mending clothing, resoling shoes, and changing oil—in order to save money is no longer relevant. It is more convenient to purchase new or to charge services simply by “putting it on plastic,” and then paying for it later, regardless of interest or finance charges.
  • Debt eliminates family financial planning. Rather than planning for the future and allowing for a margin of errors, overruns, and changes to dictate future financial development, debt eliminates the necessity for future planning because the course for the financial future of the family will have already been set: pay the debt that has been accumulated.
  • Debt teaches children that the world’s method of managing money is normal. Debt causes children to have a casual regard for using credit cards, obtaining loans and mortgages, and keeping vows to pay the bills. For this reason, we have children who have graduated from college by borrowing for education expenses and living to the limit of their credit cards. They have never considered paying cash for transportation or anything else and have begun adult life with so much debt that they have to work for years just to pay for the debt accumulated during their college years.

Conclusion

Debt-free living is still God’s plan for His people today. The blessings of becoming debt free go far beyond the financial area. They extend to the spiritual and material realms as well. No one who is financially bound can be spiritually free. The effects of financial bondage on a marriage relationship are devastating. Currently 50 percent of all first-time marriages fail, and the primary reason for the failure is financial incompatibility. Therefore, it is to all Christians’ advantage to strive to become debt free.

Be free from debt,
Jimmy


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