Newsflash: “You are Rich”

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In the flurry of the capitalistic America we live in, it’s easy to lose perspective of how “rich” we actually are.  Consider these statistics:

  • To be considered in the top half of the wealthy in our world, you would need to have $2,200 (US) in assets – yep, that’s about a laptop, IPhone, TV, and the spare change jug in the corner of your bedroom.  (Source: World Institute for Development Economic Research)
  • The poorest 5% of Americans are wealthier than approximately 68% of the rest of the world- Great post here summarizing a section from the book “The Haves and Have Nots” by Branko Milanovic
  • The average square footage of a US home has increased from 1974 (1695 square feet) to 2380 square feet today.  Even with the potential size of home dropping down a tad to 2150 square feet (National Association of Home Builder’s)- this represents a 26.8% increase in the size of the home while the number of people in the home has decreased from 3.1 people to 2.6.

Go ahead, say it.  I am rich.  When over 2/3 of the world would trade spots with your in a heartbeat, we need to keep it real….   So what’s our problem?

While I love several aspects of our free capitalistic society (hard work, ingenuity, pursuing a dream, and literally thousands of opportunities to explore), we’re also in a kayak of a strong rushing river being bombarded by 2000-5000 advertising messages a day hammering us with discontentThe truth is, we’ve taken the bait whether we like to admit it or not.  The average US household wastes $8,000 a year.

We have a choice, we can keep running the rat race where we live with the tension of “if I just made a little bit more…”  Studies have shown that most Americans say they would be happy if they made 10% more than what they currently make.  The problem is, this continues no matter what your income…

What are the potential consequences of a life of discontentment and drive to simply make more?  Increased stress, health issues, time away from kids, depression, cynicism, greed, diminished character choices, and simply missing life as it happens before our eyes.

How do we dump this ridiculous cycle?

  • Shift your focus.  Turn your eyes from those who have more than you to those who are much less fortunate.  Meditate on what you DO have, your health, the food you have, the access to health care, clean water, and most importantly, the people in your life.
  • Shift your thinking.  What we think affects the way we feel, what we feel affects the way we act.  Stop thinking that you “don’t have” or that “you’re not rich”-  Think, “I’m blessed, I’m wealthier than over 70% of the world, I don’t need more…”
  • Tune out the bombardment and pressure of keeping up, the ads you see, the people that pull you into “stuff” thinking.  Quit being a sucker to the messages you hear on a daily basis.  They are lies.
  • Give and serve to those in need in an sector you are passionate about.  You may only have $16 left at the end of a month, but invest in something you really care about.  (Helping young kids learning how to read, homeless, food pantries, high school kids, your local church).  But more than simply writing a check, dive in- be all in to something to make another life better and to help someone else feel loved.  Giving and serving breaks the spell of “more”, the lies of “discontent”, and our whining. :)

Is money evil? No.  Is hard work and wanting to build a great business bad?  Of course not.  The question to ask is Why?  Why are you doing it?

A dollar applied to yourself is only a dollar.  A dollar applied to others can have returns of twenty, fifty, and a hundred fold in your life.  Which will you choose?

Philippians 4:12

New International Version (NIV)

12 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.

How to be "Real" Rich

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I can’t believe I’m going to repeat this, but my Dad always said…”Be rich in the things money can’t buy”… I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes at that growing up (the last time was probably a few weeks ago.. :) but… OK… uh… it’s true.

I was reminded by this from a new blog I read by Larry Jones. He is a maximizer and is right on… If we’re told “money is the root of all evil” then we better know how to root out that evil… Check out his site… no sense for me to ramble about it’s already been said…

As Christ-followers, if we’re fretting around like everyone else in these crazy economic times… We’re missing a phenominal opportunity to step-up and step-in….

"Open Letter to Mr. Wealthy Banker"

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Mr. or Mrs. Banker:

You’ve been receiving an increasing amount of bad press for the millions you’ve earned in salaries and bonuses despite the meltdown of the very entity you led. Millions of us who are part of the “have much less” masses don’t understand the lifestyle afforded to you while “Main Street” is suffering, losing their homes, their jobs, and their retirement accounts.

I believe this is a time of great opportunity for you. Our expectation is that you know the “system” much better than any of us, that you’ll continue on in amassing piles of fortune for your years on this earth, and if you did participate in some type of wrong-doing, you’re going to get away with it. What an opportunity to do the unexpected.

Give 80% (or greater) of the earnings you’ve made over the past 5-10 years directly to the situation at hand. Too little of a step would risk being simply “trite” or even more insulting. If you’ve made $100 million in the past 5 years:

  • Purchase 500 homes that are listed in foreclosure or are upside down in value for $80 million, rent these homes to the original owners for a substantially discounted rate so they have the opportunity to get back on their feet.
  • Provide $4,000 in funds paid directly towards the mortgages for 20,000 homes from your institution to help people catch-up on their payments that are behind. 20,000 families could be helped!
  • Or some other alternative that would best help the situation, there would be several options. You could form a great team to come up with a creative plan.

Would this make sense financially for you? No. Might your lawyers warn against this concept as a potential for an appearance of guilt? Yes. In fact many or all of your closest advisors will tell you you’re crazy. Will there be millions of skeptics rolling their eyes at you thinking you’re “up to something” and it’s not enough? Unfortunately, yes.

But, you will be leading. Despite the naysayers, millions also will regain hope in people and will be forever inspired by your actions (myself included). Thousands of families will have a glimmer of hope rather than being faced with desperate, hopeless choices. You may inspire others to take similar actions which will only lead to more hope and changed lives. And while pundits may question, you will know your real story.

Will it be you? Will you take this courageous step? Your life forever will be changed and I would challenge to say it would be the greatest financial achievement in your life.

I am watching with anticipation.


Mark Meyer…. and I suspect thousands or millions of others….

"Looking out for #1"

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When our economy is imploding, stock market tumbles 2400 points, jobless claims are up, and I’m not excited about the vision of either of our two candidates for president…. every part of me is looking to be safe, conservative, pull-back, and create financial contingency plans.

Is that what we’re called to do? As both Kem and I are employed and haven’t had our circumstances change, scores of people around us are hurting with job loss and dire choices.

If we have an extra couple hundred bucks a month right now- do we put it in savings for our own security or do we try to help some people in need?

I’m simply struck by my natural instinct to look out for #1.

Yet… I get this “sense” that we should share our last piece of pie every month with someone else… What are we called to do? What are you doing in these turbulent times?

Churches, Money, & A Challenge…

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It’s been an interesting week with lots of discussions, web-sites, and chat about churches, money, tithing, and what to do as individuals… Here are some highlights and general thoughts..

  • There’s an active debate and discussion of the “validity” of the tithe (giving 10% of our income) and whether or not it’s a command of God in our lives today. Look here and here for some samplings…
  • Depending on the survey you look at, giving among church-goers in America appears to be around 2-3% of our gross incomes.
  • If the average family credit card debt is around $9,000, at 18% interest… that’s about $135 just on the credit card interest every month (or roughly 3% of the average household income in our area) that contributes to big bank buildings, Wall Street, etc…
  • I think it’s awesome that over 400 people signed up for the latest GCC Dave Ramsey class.
  • The more we give to well managed churches, the more the impact can be on our world.
  • I am one of the wealthiest people on this planet (if you live in America and have food in your cabinets, so are you.) Much is expected of me. All that I have has been given to me to “manage” and I won’t take it with me when I die.
  • Giving has changed me as a person. My heart truly does follow where my money goes…
  • If I don’t have a goal or a target to shoot for, I really don’t get much accomplished…

So here’s how I see it… Can we all increase our giving by 1% of our gross income this year? If you don’t give, start with 1%. If you give 10%, try to push to 11%. Now the fun part, you get to choose where… pick the best managed, God-ordained, life changing church or organization you’re led to…. and give there… One study suggests if church-goers would give 10%, annual giving would increase by over $190 billion dollars per year…. Look what that could do…. Whether you’re an Old Testament giver or New Testament giver…. I still believe that we the church can change our world, let’s see what God will do!

The MacGyver Plan- Giving March 9, 2008

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This weekend at Granger we finished up the “I Love the 80′s” series, here are my takaways from this weekend, “The MacGyver Plan”- Do a lot with a little…. You can watch it here….

  • The mission/vision God has for the church is huge- God’s plan for resourcing this mission is through the tithe (giving 10% of our income)
  • Mark answered 3 common questions, What is the tithe? Why would anyone tithe? What happens with the tithe?
  • Only 1 in 9 people at Granger tithe- I wonder… what would happen if 2 people in 9 tithed? How much more could continue to be done?
  • Favorite quote: “Casual anything won’t change anything”- If we’re casual in our faith, marriage, business/work, exercise/eating plan, etc… that won’t git’ er done
  • For kids, take 3 jars, put 10% in one for God, 10% in another to save, the rest to spend- start teaching them early… (I want to do this..)
  • The tithe is 10%- that’s literally what it means… (We need to look at our monthly number and make sure we’re not at 8 or 9%)
  • There’s always a part of me that “cringes” when sitting in a service like that- I’m so sensitive the stigma of churches asking for money- I want people to get it… I want them to know it truly does change one’s life to give…. I’m glad we shoot it straight… I just wonder how people process it….
  • I believe the church is the hope of the world- what if we did all give? What if governments world-wide didn’t need welfare programs because the church had is covered? I want to be part of that…
  • With the time change, I went to a service I rarely go to.. I slid in a row near the back only to realize I was sitting behind the very person my brother said to “look for” sometime at church only a few days earlier… hmmm… odd service, out of 1000 plus in the service I sat right behind them… we have a cool God….

Hmm…Give Money or Buy a Flat Screen TV??

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This weekend at church we had Dave Ramsey piped in from the 2007 Catalyst event to talk money and about giving. (Quick sidenote, Dave is the best communicator going on money in my opinion…. ) It makes me think of what’s really at the core of why people give or don’t? I had the privilege to serve with our Financial Freedom team for 4-5 years and met with scores of people struggling in the area of finances… I am strange…. but I love numbers and budgets and personal finance was a great match for me…

Kem and I made a decision in our worst financial state to start giving (tithing), we had done it sporadically but never methodically. At that time, we had over $15,000 in credit card debt, another $10K plus in a consolidation loan, creditors calling, $40K in my business debt, and a car payment around $250 per month. Additionally, we had to contact the church and let them know we wouldn’t be fulfilling our building campaign commitment.. (ugh…talk about feeling like dirt)…that was nearly ten years ago…

Since then some crazy things have happened and we would be a strong advocate for how “giving” will change your life…. God definitely showed up…

One comment made this weekend was “giving will make you less selfish, giving will make life more about others, giving people are more fun to be around…” Mark Beeson talked about his desire to give to God’s work is what motivates him to get his personal finances in order so than he CAN give… you can check it out this week at (usually the Monday after the weekend and it’s up for one week)

So here’s the challenge: “Giving 10% of your income away will positively change your life- your life will be richer, deeper, and have much more meaning”. True or false? If people truly, in their gut believed this, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Quick thoughts:

  • Manage (steward) your giving- know where & what it’s being used for… it will make you feel even better about your giving- Don’t trust what’s being done with your money? Skeptical? Find somewhere you CAN trust- don’t let that be a cop out-
  • Have your money automatically deducted from your account every week/month/year… it’s a lifetime/style decision- treat it like your investment account- it’s just better.
  • Put your hands and feet “in” wherever you’re giving- deliver food, volunteer, get involved- it’s great to know how you’re playing a part in changing the world and you-
  • Giving rarely gives “instant gratification”- unexpected bills may come the very next day- When you look in your rearview mirror a year, three years from now- you’ll see it…
  • Want that flat screen TV set instead? OK… I want one too.. But let’s try to squeeze it in the other 90% we get to manage…
  • On that note….”stuff” just seems to be less important the more I give..
  • Start somewhere… start at 1% with a plan to get to 10%… it’s not an all or nothing deal… with each bill that goes away or raise, try to bump it up a step..

For those who profess to be a Christian, here’s a quick link on Bible verses on money I found- God commands it- however, I like acknowledge the fact He wants what’s best for me… there must be something to it… (That’s a positive spin on it- He says to test Him in this..)

For those who could give a rip about what the Bible says-I still would consider: “Giving 10% of your income away will positively change your life- your life will be richer, deeper, and have much more meaning”. Test it for one year and see what happens…

So for me… I guess the flat-screen will wait… but I have a hunch it’s going to continue to be worth it…