Get Savvy about Saving

-Marcia Shetler

piggy-bank-300As North Americans, we enjoy grouping and analyzing generational cohorts on any number of topics. While they share common experiences that influence their life choices, there also is significant diversity of the members of any generational cohort. That’s certainly true for millennials and their savings. According to a 2018 Bank of America survey, 16 percent of millennials have $100,000 or more in savings. But nearly half—especially younger millennials—have no savings at all, according to Gobankingrates.com. In Canada, millennials have taken to heart the need to save for retirement, with nearly 68 percent doing so. Yet, many fall short saving for other needs.

 

Benjamin Felix from The Globe and Mail describes three reasons to save: 1) emergency needs, 2) intermediate needs (think major expenses), and 3) long-term needs (like retirement savings). Each category is important, but each one also requires different considerations. Saving for emergencies lowers the need for borrowing and additional debt. Saving for intermediate needs (like weddings, vacations, and cars) involves discernment about how important the expense really is and if there are ways to be more economical. Saving for retirement as early and consistently as possible will reap big benefits when those days of leisure finally arrive.

 

Understanding the different ways to save is important. Cutting back on expenses may be the first thing you are able to do. As you become increasingly successful at saving, you also need to become more savvy. It is important to understand your savings as investments, and that can be complicated! The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority website lists at least nine different types of investments, and within each is a myriad of possibilities. But by being savvy about your savings, you can make them grow even faster. You also can learn how to prioritize and choose the best types of investments for your savings needs.

 

This month the COMPASS Initiative invites you to get savvy about saving:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Denise Wayman, regional operations manager for Everence, on Thursday, April 26, 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, 1:00 p.m. Central time, Noon Mountain time, and 11:00 a.m. Pacific time.

 

As followers of Jesus, what we do with our money is part of our Christian witness. Let’s get savvy about saving, so we can use our money in ways that express gratitude for God’s generosity to us and allow us to do the work of God in the world.

 

About the Author 

Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

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Millennials: Should We Give You Credit?

-Marcia Shetler

There’s a lot of talk about millennial debt in the media, and there’s a lot of millennial debt to talk about. About a year ago, Business Insider reported that US millennials held about a third of the country’s consumer debt. Fourteen percent of Canadians with significant debt are between the ages of 18 and 29.

pexels-photo-462368.jpegIn the US, millennials’ experiences with finances and debt have influenced their thoughts about credit. They observed their families’ struggles during the 2008 financial crisis. Many of them have considerable debt from student loans and have not been able to find jobs that help them repay it quickly. And in the US, the 2009 CARD act has made qualifying for credit cards more difficult. Therefore, US millennials are approaching credit differently than previous generations. Less than a third of them have a credit card. In Canada, 95 percent of Canadian Millennials have at least one.

Millennials also have more methods for money exchange available than ever before. In the US, 58 percent still prefer to get paid with cash, according to shopify.com. Many still write checks occasionally. Most of those who don’t use credit cards use debit cards. Across North America, payment apps are becoming more popular.

But with vast amounts of knowledge and experiences accessible to them, millennials on both sides of the border have poor financial literacy. Only eight percent in each country have a high knowledge about money matters, including credit. This lack of understanding—along with high debt, little savings, and being at the low end of the pay scale—makes the financial world a fearful one for many millennials. In fact, 33 percent of US millennials named credit card debt as the scariest aspect of their everyday lives.

People fear what they don’t understand and what they can’t conquer. This month, the COMPASS Initiative gives you several opportuntites to conquer your fears about credit by increasing your understanding:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Denise Wayman, regional operations manager for Everence, on Thursday, March 29, 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, 1:00 p.m. Central time, Noon Mountain time, and 11:00 a.m. Pacific time.

So join us, and take some credit for reducing your fear and increasing your understanding about your finances!

About the Author 

Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Faith and Generosity: The Connecting Thread

-Marcia Shetler

fabric-1031932_1920Recently the Barna Group and Thrivent Financial partnered to produce a study called The Generosity Gap, which explores attitudes, understandings, and practices related to generosity. Pastors and church attendees from across denominations and generations participated in the study. Ninety-six percent said generosity is important to them, and that Christians should be generous to reflect God’s character by showing love to others, to give back in appreciation for God’s generosity toward us, and to become more like Christ.  An attitude and a discipline were the words both groups used the most to describe generosity.

These survey participants, at least, seem to have a good understanding of what it means to be generous. Some might claim that a generous spirit is part of our nature as God’s creation. In their blog for Spirituality and Practice, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat note that generosity is a fundamental teaching in most, if not all, of the world’s religions.

grass-2563424According to Christian historian Tertullian, in the early days of Christianity the generosity of the disciples set them apart. In her book Beyond Belief, Elaine Pagels describes it this way: “Unlike members of other clubs and societies that collected dues and fees to pay for feasts, members of the Christian ‘family’ contributed money voluntarily to a common fund to support orphans abandoned in the streets and garbage dumps. Christian groups brought food, medicine, and companionship to prisoners forced to work in mines, banished to prison islands, or held in jail. Christians even bought coffins and dug graves to bury the poor and criminals, whose corpses would otherwise lie unburied beyond the city gates. . . such generosity, which ordinarily could be expected only from one’s own family, attracted crowds of newcomers to Christian groups, despite the risks.”

crochet-patterns-2092645_1920While the recent Barna study names differences in thoughts about generosity between denominations, generations, and vocations, I think there is a connecting thread between the centuries-old actions of the early Christians and the responses of the study participants. Christian generosity at its best is not just transactional: it is transformational. The early Christians were known by their care for the poor, the sick, and the grieving, possessing the characteristics named in the Barna study: attitudes and disciplines that in the spirit of Christ’s example showed love to others in gratitude for the grace they had been given and continued to receive.

Are the ways you are generous testimonies of your faith and blessings to the world?

Stay connected with COMPASS this month for more guidance about generosity:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Jacqueline Painter, a financial advisor for Everence, on Thursday, February 1, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, Noon Central time, 11:00 a.m. Mountain time, and 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.

About the Author 

Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

This Year, Resolve to Be Generous

This month, the COMPASS Initiative is exploring the connections of faith, finance, and generosity.

water pitcherGenerosity is connected to faith. The call to “have a generous and charitable spirit”—as James Clark, a contributor with the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics defines it in his blog post “Generosity: More Than Money Can Buy”—can be found throughout the Bible. Consider these words of wisdom from Proverbs: “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water” (11:24-25, NRSV). And whether they are about considering the growth of a mustard seed, blessing five loaves and two fish, speaking words of welcome to a tax collector, or having a conversation with a young man of means, Jesus’s words and actions often focus on generosity.

credit-squeeze-522549_1280 (1)Our generosity and our financial practices inform each other. Sometimes our generosity is impeded because of our lack of financial planning and/or our attachment to our consumer culture. But in their book American Generosity: Who Gives and Why, Patricia Snell Herzog and Heather E. Price say that generosity develops a healthy awareness of your own material abundance and of the needs of others.

corn croppedGenerosity is about more than money—and about more than 10%. We may debate about how much financial giving is enough. In Giving magazine Volume 16, Marc Kirchoff references the biblical story of the widow’s mite. “The poor widow knew nothing about the debate, or she ignored it. She gave all she had—even all she had to live on. Jesus affirmed her action as the standard. God may not care so much about our 10 percent as the 90 percent. That is, God cares about how we use all our resources.” And perhaps you have heard generosity defined as time, talent, and treasure. When we start to think about it, there are unlimited ways we can be generous. James Clark says, “We can never point to a meager bank account as an excuse for why we cannot give.”

So stay connected with COMPASS this month for more guidance about generosity:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Jacqueline Painter, a financial advisor for Everence, on Thursday, February 1, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, Noon Central time, 11:00 a.m. Mountain time, and 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.

About the Author 

Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

A Conversation with Grace Duddy Pomroy – Part Two

Grace Duddy Pomroy will be one of the keynote speakers at the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Leadership Seminar in Florida in December. As a good friend of mine and a Millennial, I thought it would be fun to have her share some thoughts prior to the seminar on the COMPASS blog.

What follows are the continued thoughts from a recent conversation and interview I conducted with Grace. Be sure to check out the first part of the conversation here.

Timothy Siburg (TS): Taking a broader brush now Grace, what are some insights and implications about Millennials, giving, and the church that stand out to you?

Grace engaging the conversation about young adults, giving and the church

Grace engaging the conversation about young adults, giving and the church

Grace Duddy Pomroy (GP): “The intergenerational aspect to the conversation around stewardship is imperative. The cross-generational talking points are huge. There needs to be more space in the church for conversations like how to engage young parents, and respond more directly to the unique and constantly changing lifestyles and challenges younger adults face. This is a huge opportunity for the church, and one for which old models may not work. Engaging Millennials in conversations about faith-based stewardship and generosity presents both a wonderful challenge and golden opportunity.

In meeting this challenge, peer-to-peer engagement is key. Part of the challenge and opportunity for the church is tapping into the power of peer-to-peer engagement among Millennials, especially with advocacy.

For an example of how this can be effective, consider Jacob’s Well, a missional community in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Just last week they, along with most other non-profits in Minnesota, participated in “Give to the Max Day” a day where people are highly encouraged to give and support their favorite causes and/or organizations. As part of the day, there are different prizes and incentives. Jacob’s Well decided to leverage social media and peer-to-peer engagement. They figured that they could be the most given to organization between 2-3am that morning, and receive a special “Golden Ticket.” These are incentives like an extra $1000 (or more) for different benchmarks or goals. One is being the most engaged or given to group each hour. To try and encourage everyone to give though at 2am instead of during a normal business hour, Jacob’s Well used social media to have people say, ‘I’m in, are you?’ The excitement covered all of their social media, and they had so many people give. I’m not sure if they made their goal or not, but it just shows what engagement can look like around a cause with shared passion. For me, this is a good reminder about the power of social media.”

TS: Grace, this is a fantastic conversation, so thank you. To wrap this up I have a couple quick other questions. First, COMPASS is all about faith, finances and young adults. What comes to your mind about that intersection?

GP: “As a blogger myself and one of the points of emphasis of my blogging, I believe that young adults today have a deep understanding of frugality that they would never name themselves. They are frugal by their nature. I think this largely has to do with the fact that most of this generation of young adults came out of school and college in the midst of a major recession. Many decided just to go back to school, and are now entering the workforce with loans, but they are entering with honesty and hope.”

TS: In the spirit of the COMPASS blog in November’s focus of “An Attitude of Gratitude,” what are some of your thoughts on gratitude?

Grace and her Grandpa

Grace and her Grandpa

GP: “Gratitude has always been huge in my life. It’s not the same thing as stewardship, but they go together well. I grew up in a family where thank you notes were customary. They may have started as a ‘have to’ but quickly became a ‘want to’ and regular part of life. I honestly believe that expressing gratitude can change a person’s life.

A personal story. My grandfather just started kidney dialysis treatments. Recognizing this and that I can’t physically be with him and my grandmother, I wanted to find a way to still be present with them. A friend suggested that I write a letter. I am now writing a letter of thankfulness and gratitude to them each week, telling them how grateful I am for their influence in life. It’s been so much fun to hear back from them about how they appreciate my questions, the sharing of memories, etc. I’m enjoying it so much too, that’s why I am writing each week instead just once or twice.”

Wedding Picture courtesy of Tandem Tree

Wedding Picture courtesy of Tandem Tree

TS: Finally, with Thanksgiving being this week, what are you thankful for?

GP: “Well, I just recently got married and so I am incredibly thankful for my husband Tyler. In addition to that, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is my dad’s and also has become mine. It’s my favorite because there are no gift expectations, rather we gather on Thanksgiving and are just grateful for each other’s presence and company. There is something beautiful and wonderful about that.”

Thank you Grace for sharing. I hope you enjoy hearing more from Grace at the Leadership Seminar next week. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!

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Grace headshotAbout the Interviewee: Grace Duddy Pomry is Executive Director of Operations at Kairos and Associates, and previously served as Assistant Director for the Center for Stewardship Leaders and Luther Seminary. She is author of “Stewards of God’s Love”, recently published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She blogs regularly and you can follow her on Twitter.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

A Conversation with Grace Duddy Pomroy- Part One

Grace headshotGrace Duddy Pomroy will be one of the keynote speakers at the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Leadership Seminar in Florida in December. As a good friend of mine and a Millennial, I thought it would be fun to have her share some thoughts prior to the seminar on the COMPASS blog. What follows are thoughts from a recent conversation and interview I conducted with Grace.

Timothy Siburg (TS): Grace, what are you looking forward to at Leadership Seminar?

Grace Duddy Pomroy (GP): “I am most looking forward to being with leaders that I don’t have the opportunity to interact with on a regular basis. I’m excited for the fellowship and conversation, as well as to share with this audience about adults under 40.”

TS: Speaking of adults under 40, what might be a 15-second preview of your presentation?

GP: “Well, I intend to begin by setting the stage with some differences among generations. Then we’ll think about the how and why of giving and charities, and differences across generations. I’ll highlight a number of assumptions held by different generations (about other generations), name them, and then spend some time thinking about the importance of engagement.”

TS: In thinking about Millennials and adults under 40, what have you seen and discovered in your work and research?

GP: “To be perfectly honest, when I started in this work and research there wasn’t a lot written about adults under 40. That’s changed. Today you can’t go one day without seeing a new story about Millennials. The problem is, I’m not sure we have any better understanding about Millennials now than when I started on this work. The only big change is that there’s an awareness of different generations, and Millennials themselves finally are actually part of the conversation. In highlighting this, there was a series of articles in a recent denominational issue of a magazine about Millennials, which served as the majority of the issue. While well intentioned, they are full of misconceptions. Articles like this illustrate the lack of cross-generational engagement in the church.”

TS: What observations might you add about young adults and giving?

GP: “My observations about giving are fairly anecdotal. The best research I have found comes from Blackbaud and the Millennial Impact Reports, which have now been published annually from 2010-2013. Millennials by and large are devoted to causes, not institutions. They tend to believe it’s important to give, and their personal values play a big role in deciding how and when to give.”

TS: What have you learned and discovered specifically about Millennials and giving?

GP: “Millennials seem to do well with micro and monthly giving. When I convened a giving circle among a group of senior seminary students, I found that a few of these students give regularly to congregations or faith communities. But nearly all of them give monthly to NPR (National Public Radio). It’s not that they give a lot, but they give monthly, as NPR makes it possible for them to give $5 per month. There are some serious implications for faith communities in recognizing this. I think the greatest implication is the ability to give small but regular gifts to a cause.”

TS: Speaking of faith communities and seminary, what shaped your education about stewardship?

GP: “To be honest, except for one class, seminary taught me little about stewardship. The one exception was the class I took called, “Money and Mission of the Church.” Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money, quickly became my go-to stewardship book. It explains a theology of abundance without using the term, focusing instead on what the author terms the ‘sufficiency.’”

Grace and I had such a wonderful conversation, that we are only half way done. For the rest of our conversation, be sure and see part two.

———————————————————————-

About the Interviewee: Grace Duddy Pomry is Executive Director of Operations at Kairos and Associates, and previously served as Assistant Director for the Center for Stewardship Leaders and Luther Seminary. She is author of “Stewards of God’s Love”, recently published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She blogs regularly and you can follow her on Twitter.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

The Challenges and Beauty of Gratitude: A Millennial Perspective

Today on the COMPASS blog we continue our space of reflections related to “An Attitude of Gratitude” and Thanksgiving. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Allison Siburg. Allison is a theologically trained millennial, and also happily married to Timothy.

Now before you bail on this blog post by this 20-something that clearly doesn’t have it all together, I should share that I didn’t hack the COMPASS blog – I was asked by the editor and curator (and husband of mine) of this beautiful blog to contribute and I said “Yes!”

22b1683134ca7369efed0ae7f70f4f5fTimothy asked me the question, “Is it easy or hard to be grateful?” For me, it depends. If I’m in a good place mentally, I am awesome at being grateful. When I focus my thoughts on my unique ethnic makeup, economic status, personal and professional networks – with a mindset that they are all gifts from which to serve, and not of which to extort or take advantage I find myself incredibly grateful to God for my life and well-being.

But if I’m in a bad place, being grateful is difficult. In those bad places, when my thoughts are sprinkled with anxiety and worry, it’s hard to look past myself. My mind turns toward obsessing with planning, focusing on inflated consequences of what’s wrong, or mapping out how to avoid this, them or that thing I know I’ll cross paths with tomorrow, next week, or over the holidays.

Family meal planning and coupon searching

Family meal planning and coupon searching

I’m pretty proud of our family’s budget and our commitment to talking about it once a month over Saturday morning pancakes. That same budget allows me to map out coupons and deals for grocery shopping and plan dinners for a week at a time (breakfast and lunch, you’re on your own with sandwich and box meal staples). However, the weekly rhythm can get a little stale, and I find myself complaining about the search for another set of coupons that supply another set of recipes for another set of meals. It becomes a “have to” instead of a “get to.”

Mental models from our past can get in the way of expressing gratitude as well. When you’re a kid and your older relatives say “Eat your food, there are starving children in Africa,” you do your best to join the “clean plate club” (I’m almost a card-carrying member). But perhaps this well-intentioned comment leaves a stench of guilt that is difficult to shake over the years, so much so that it seeps deep into our working definition of gratitude. Perhaps in the case of helping a neighbor across the world in the spirit of gratitude, the ends justify the means. But I have a feeling we expect more from ourselves than a tight, packaged end, and we expect from ourselves integrity expressed in the ends as well as the means. I know I do.

In moments of un-gratefulness influenced by either past or present, I have to snap myself out of it. I have to pivot from having an awful attitude to an attitude of gratefulness – a gratefulness motivated not by guilt but by love. Love from God, love from neighbor, love from my closest ones. Love is the root of my gratitude. Without love, I don’t realize that our mounting student loans are little compared to the challenge a single mom and her child faces when homelessness is a better option than facing domestic abuse. Without love, I don’t see the struggling musician in front of me when we go to a free-dinner community event for our apartment complex. Without love, I don’t see the custodian with Asperger’s Syndrome who is having more fun than I am at an evening community gathering at church. Love is the root of my gratitude.

It’s difficult to be grateful when I’m in my head and living in the future—or the past—instead of in the present. But when I look around me at what I have and what we, (my family, the church and larger community) collectively have as a community, I realize there are more reasons than I can count to be grateful.

Now it’s your turn. Is it easy or difficult for you to be grateful?

AllisonheadshotAbout the Author: Allison has served congregations in areas related to curriculum development, adult and young adult faith formation, and helping people learn about their strengths and be able to articulate their own faith stories. Allison currently serves as a facilitator for brightpeak, a division of Thrivent. She holds a MA in Systematic Theology (Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN) and a BA in Religion and Women’s and Gender Studies (Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA). She currently resides in St. Paul, MN with her husband Timothy. She blogs regularly and can be followed there as well as on Twitter

Image Credit: Too many Tabs

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.