How about another poem, huh?


That Sink Full of Dishes

Twas the day after Christmas
And all through your pockets,
Are the receipts for the toys,
The rings and the lockets.

With much trash at the curb
And food under the table,
You’ll get to those dishes
Just as soon as you’re able.

But for now, you will rest.
For the couch you were meant.
With but one thought in your head,
“Just how much have I spent?”

With the swipe of your card
And the stroke of your pen,
That balance is rising
Toward the limit – again.

Off the couch do you spring!
With the thoughts of a budget.
But you’re unsure of the numbers…
So maybe you’ll...fudge it?

First things first, my friend.
And this step may be hard:
Focus more on good stewardship
And less on your card.

Take stock in your cash flow
The coming in, the going out,
And if headed the wrong way
Then quickly – come about!

Don’t have it, then don’t spend it.
Yes, it’s so easy to say,
But for control of your finances
There is no better way.

Know where you’re starting
And know where you’re going,
Give, save and then spend
And let margin start growing.

For margin is good
In every area of life.
It’s a guardrail of sorts
Keeping loved ones from strife.

So make a plan and begin
To get back in the black,
And chip, chip away
At that credit card stack.

And use this new budget
To help sort out your wishes,
And get back to your life
And that sink full of dishes.

It won’t happen overnight
But soon you will see,
That the plan you have made
Just might set you free.

Free from the worry
The stress and the strife,
And may give you more time
With your husband or wife.

And if you have neither a husband or wife, then you’ll have more time for yourself. See? You can’t lose. Make a plan. Make a budget. Start now.

And from my family to yours,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The rub with old people

imagesM0DT5P5GYou can teach an old dog new tricks, it’s just harder. But why? Why is it harder? Are older folks incapable of learning? Of course not. I be old, and I still getting smarter. So what else? Maybe age has a way of hard wiring your brain into certain patterns of thought? As Dr. Kathleen Taylor from St. Mary’s College in California states, “…continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you bump up against people and ideas that are different.” Okay. Let’s rub up against a few different ideas and people from the news this week. The different idea: Starbucks is anti-Christian because its cups are a different shade of red, and the tree print is no longer there. The different person: Donald Trump is the GOP’s leading candidate for the presidency OF THE UNITED STATES. Let’s see…uh…nope. No continued brain development here. In fact, I think I’m less developed now. While I could write plenty on each of those ridiculous statements, I’ll summarize both with one word: A sad state of affairs. But there’s hope for us all in a new segment I’m calling:

My Kids are Smarter than Me:
This week’s edition comes from Charles Henry, age 7, a Leo from Nashville, TN. (The fact that he’s a Leo has about as much relevance to this story – or to anything for that matter- as a red cup has to Christianity. But I digress.) Upon returning from the store, his mom asked him to help put up the groceries. Charles Henry was given eight rolls of toilet paper, with instructions to put two rolls in each bathroom. He paused momentarily, then asked, “Mom…can I have one for the woods?” Mom was stunned. Dad was beaming with pride! He’s making a plan. His experience with such matters made quite an impression on him, apparently, and drove him to action. As the old saying goes, “Soil me once, shame on food. Soil me twice, shame on me.” Okay, maybe no one says that. But here’s the point: He’s been caught once; he won’t be caught again. Quick learner. So why can’t adults be quick learners? As the aforementioned research would suggest, we’ve obviously been rubbing up against the wrong ideas and people.

So let’s try a different idea or two:

You don’t all of the sudden find yourself in large amounts of debt. Well, you might, but you shouldn’t. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve made the decision, lots of times, apparently, to pay later for something you want now. Debt is like aging. Left unchecked, it’s going to hurt.

It’s okay not to always have what you want. I know that hurts, but wouldn’t you rather go to bed wanting than owing? Don’t let income drive your spending. And don’t habitually spend more than you have. Create breathing room between what you earn and what you spend. It’s called margin. Life is better with it.

How about a different person:

You. Young or old, you can change. While you may have deeply rutted paths in your synapses – blah blah blah – behaviors can change. “You don’t get it,” you say. ”My situation’s different.” Nope. It’s not. All of us have limited amounts of time, talents and resources. And with those limits, comes the responsibility to manage them. And while you don’t have to go it alone, you do have to take the first step. Rub up against someone who’s qualified to help and just ask.

It starts with a question. Charles Henry knew his. What’s yours? Call us. We can help.

The Shadows of High Noon

images0HDDLSXCSunday mornings are great. Waking before the sun, baking a pan of chocolate-chip muffins to go with freshly ground coffee, and catching up on a little Syfy Channel. Outside, shadows are being cast across the yard, though short lived, for the rising sun is certain to reel them in. A bit dramatic for a financial advisor’s blog? Maybe. Truth be told, though, I’m a big fan of metaphors, hyperbole, an occasional dash of sarcasm, and onomatopoeia.

But back to Sundays mornings. Our church is big on serving. Only through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers can Sunday morning take place. To that end, I lead a team of guys who serve in the parking lot. It’s our belief that it's there where the church experience really begins. Someone’s first Sunday could very well be influenced by the guys they meet in the lot. Whether it’s an umbrella in a downpour, or a kind word after a long week, it’s a role we take very seriously and an opportunity we take to heart. And it doesn’t hurt that we get to wear shorts. So, two weeks ago, I’m directing traffic at a fairly busy section of the parking lot, when I literally stumble over a black ceramic coffee mug sitting in the middle of the intersection.

Without missing a beat, I placed the potential hazard off to the side to be dealt with at a later time.

I’m busy, after all. Facilitating flow, greeting guests, and wondering just how much a car like that must cost. Ministry stuff. And after the mass influx subsides, with attenders safely indoors, I peruse the parking lot at a steady 14 mph in the church golf cart…white vinyl bench seat, fold-down windshield, New Testament pocket-edition, the works. All the while, keeping my watchful eye on the lot. My lot.

An hour later…Parking Lot

Souls once seeking spiritual nourishment are soon to be in mass exodus seeking nourishment found only from the buffet line. “Let my people go!” I bellow through the radio, and the team springs into action. And within minutes, the once-full lot is reduced to two kids passing through on bicycles and a smattering of cars temporarily abandoned for the sake of a carpool. The morning is ending just as it began. Serenely. And the shadows of high noon are reduced to nearly nothing.

A week later…

It’s overcast this Sunday, but the rain is waiting for the afternoon pool-goers and won’t be a threat for the morning. With school back in session, and routines the order of the day, we’re expecting a large crowd. And after a few (more) peanut M&Ms, I’m out the side door and into position. And then I see it. Or what’s left of it, rather. The coffee mug I set aside a week ago (out of harm’s way) is now in a hundred pieces and scattered about the lot. My intention was to deal with this potential hazard when I was able to focus on it, when I could step away from my other duties, when life wasn’t whizzing by me while applying eye liner. (Life, that is, not me. While life was applying eye liner. Though there was this season in college when…never mind.) It was an issue to be dealt with - later.

But it wasn’t dealt with later, and the potential threat to tires and flesh is now real. Instead of just throwing the mug away when I had the opportunity, I’m now sweeping up pieces with my hand. Lots of pieces in fact. Will there be flat tires and cut flesh? Hopefully not. Probably not.  But the chances for pain are exponentially higher now than they would have been, right? And that’s the point, really.

This was avoidable.

Where’s your coffee mug? Is it your budget? Your debt? Your over-spending spouse? Your over spending self? Or maybe it’s the will that you’ve yet to write? Hey, I get it. Sometimes life won’t slow down long enough for you to take care of the things you have to take care of, much less the things you want to take care. I. Am. Living. That. Now. Trust me. If you’re gonna be on your knees on a Sunday morning, great. I recommend it. Being on your knees on a Sunday morning picking up the pieces of a mess you could have easily avoided? Well, whatever gets you to your knees, I guess.

Deal with it now, before your cup runneth over. “Your cup runneth over.”
Brilliant. Who writes this?

"A waffle cone? Really?"

homeworkOne morning in June, a son of mine had this request of me, “Dad, when you get up for work tomorrow, try to keep it down, would ya. I’ll be asleep.” I don’t recall my response, exactly, but I’m almost certain it was understanding and kind. That’s okay. It was summer. It was his time to gloat. Summer vacation doesn’t last forever, after all. He should enjoy it while he can.

     tick, tock, tick, tock…

Time’s up! School started this week and you can guess who was on the receiving end of a little too early wake-up call. School’s in session, son, and here’s your first lesson: He who laughs last, laughs the loudest.

Routine: a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.

Some say that back-to-school routines give children a sense of security and predictability during an otherwise anxious time. Blah, blah, blah. While this may be true, back-to-school routines also get the kids to bed sooner so that you can focus on adult activities without interruption – like your finances. Exit summer, with your laissez-faire approach to financial stewardship. Enter fall, a great time to set new schedules, introduce new ideas and get your entire family into a financially savvy routine – one you’ll hopefully keep for years to come. Clear off the table and let's get to work:

1) Homework: While they do theirs, you do yours. Account for the dollars that have been spent and decide where the rest are going. Why not bring your kids into the process with questions like: “What do you guys want in your lunches this week? Where should we eat out this month? What’s our family outing for the month?” And within reason, allow them their indulgences but show them how their decisions have consequences. For example, “You guys wanted crème brulee for lunch - every day. As a result, there’s no money left in the budget for movie night – this month or next. Sorry.” You get the idea.

TAKE AWAY: You’re making the family’s finances a family matter. If they don’t learn financial stewardship from you, from whom will they?

2) Homework: Just because there’s homework to be done, doesn’t mean the work at home stops, right? Use this time to introduce (or reinforce) the idea that while some responsibilities are expected and just part of being in the family, others might come with compensation. Come up with a list of what’s to be done, when it’s to be done and make sure your expectations are clearly communicated and completely understood. You do it (and with the right attitude, hopefully), you get paid. You don’t, you won’t…at all. On the flip side: They go above and beyond? Reward them for it.

TAKE AWAY: A strong work ethic is worth whatever time and energy it takes to instill. Financial gain, as you can surely attest, does wonders for a young one’s sense of accomplishment. And remember your words of affirmation for their effort. Knowing they won’t always do things the way you would or possibly as well as you would, make your feedback and compensation age appropriate. They may not remember what you said, or how much they got paid, but they will remember how you made them feel.

3) Homework: Financial stewardship takes work and needs to be modeled in the home. And as I’ve cautioned before, If you allow culture to model it…it will. And when your young ones earn their allowance, allow them to make the decision of how much to give, save, and spend. It’ll likely be heavy on the spend side. That’s okay, they’re kids. (And some of us have a hard time growing up, don’t we?) It’s a process. Guide them through the virtues of giving first, saving second, and then living off the rest. Give, save, live off the rest. Easy to say, often hard to do.imagesBB9T5JVE

An important and often overlooked financial rite of passage:

a) Take them to the bank, open a savings account, and make a deposit with the money they chose to save.
b) Take your deposit slip and savings account booklet straight to the ice-cream shop. Help them record the transaction in their booklet while you enjoy the treat.
c) When you’re finished, go back to the bank, make a withdrawal for the amount of the ice cream and put that money in your pocket. As you’re leaving the bank, you’ll want to be prepared to have a discussion on fairness. That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.
d) When you get home, and if they’re still speaking to you, record the withdrawal with them so they’ll see how the entire process works.

And if you’re questioned as to why you just had to get the more expensive waffle cone,
you’ll know progress has been made.

TAKE AWAY: Every dollar is spoken for…whether or not you can account for it. Understanding this principle and practice will prove invaluable in later years. You’re building good stewards of resources.

Are these homework assignments going to pull our country out of an $18 trillion debt?  No, but it might have kept us from getting into it in the first place. Okay. Maybe not. The point being, let’s treat the cause and not the symptom. And let’s start at home. Let’s introduce lessons that leave legacies. Ones we can be proud of. Fall’s on the way, and the new school year is upon us. It’s the season of homework. Home, after all, is where the most important lessons in life are meant to be taught.

Columns of the heart

imagesCABWT15PFor thousands of years, architecture has embraced the use of columns. Columns were used to support arches and beams upon which ceilings and walls rested. Providers of structural integrity, if you will. I’ve walked among a few of the Roman variety in the city of Split, Croatia, located on the Adriatic Sea due east of Italy. These palace columns have been standing for nearly 2000 years. True story. And at the base of these columns were folks selling Croatian artwork, imported Italian sweaters and Nike soccer balls. Also a true story. Back in the day, circa 305 AD, the palace was built as the retirement home for the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Not really sure what to make of the Roman Emperor’s retirement package, however. After retiring, he was subsequently killed and thrown into the Sea (as the tour guides tell it). Today, however, the heart of commerce still beats within those palace walls and at the foot of those very columns.

Though benefits packages have come a long way, we still need those columns. Just three, really. And all we’ll need is an excel spreadsheet or a pencil and paper. (Aside: The Egyptians and Persians constructed their columns indoors while the Greeks and Romans used theirs both indoors and out.) So, you see, it’s not so much how you integrate your columns into your structure, but that you integrate them - period. But since you asked, I like the pencil and paper variety. I retain more when I write than when I type. Okay, so where were we? Oh yes, ready to build our columns:

Column 1: The date     Column 2: What you bought     Column 3: How much it cost

“Sure, sure, and I’ll see where I spend my money. Just how, exactly, does that relate to the structural integrity you’ve alluded to?” you may ask.

Fair response. Having the above information is a great first step toward financial balance, but what resides in these columns represents more than spending habits. It represents your heart. You want to know what’s important to you? Look at your bank and credit card statements.

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
                                                          Luke 12: 34

Not a big Bible reader? Those are the words of Jesus. You may know him from such works as: THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE, Little Debbie Swiss Roll Cakes, and the US hockey team’s win over the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics. These are his words as provided by Luke, an author and doctor back in the day. Or if you prefer, you’ll find the same words in the book of Matthew, previously a tax collector before dropping that gig to hang with JC and crew.

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to believe Jesus is who he says he is for the principle above to bear weight. Give it a shot. Document every dollar. It’s going somewhere – either through intention or ignorance. But if you do fall into the believer category, then accounting for the gifts you’ve been entrusted with, be they time, talent or your resources, is something you’ve already taken to heart, no?

Today’s Takeaway: Insert columns into your financial structure and take a load off.

Related Articles