Money, marriage, and the world of millennials

By Beryl Jantzi
couple-1853996_1280-copyThere are a number of good resources currently available for pastors to use when working with couples getting ready for marriage. One of my favorite inventories to use with couples when I was in congregational ministry was PREPARE/ENRICH. One of the 13 categories assessed in the inventory provided by PREPARE/ENRICH inventory is Financial Management.

PREPARE/ENRICH recently hosted a webinar by The Love & Money Project, an initiative of brightpeak financial committed to helping young Christian couples grow stronger around the topic of money. The Love & Money Project shared a resource for couples they have developed entitled, Better Halves, which is for engaged or married couples wanting to work at enhancing their relationship and their ability to talk about money. Better Halves Workshop, is a fun and fast paced, 3 hour training, that includes 12 modules of experiential learning and Better Halves Small Group is a 6 session program for couples to do together.

Besides promoting this new curriculum, the webinar included five revealing trends related to the new reality of money, marriage and millennials.

Five new realities concerning money, marriage and millennials

1) Millennials are getting married later in life

  • In 1956 the average age of women getting married was 20.1 and 22.5 for men.
  • In 2016 the average age for women getting married is 27.1 for men it is 29.2.
  • One of the reasons identified for waiting longer is that individuals do not feel financially prepared to get married.
  • 66% of persons surveyed with in the age range of 18-35 were not married but most hoped to be married one day.
  • Living with parents is the most common living arrangement for individuals in the 18-35 age range. For many, this is a necessity due to financial constraints which do not allow them to live on their own.

2) Cohabitation is on the increase

PREPARE/ENRICH has determined that couples that live together, have a greater chance of splitting up than couples who get married. As part of the research they have conducted over the years, they identify couples as fitting into one of several categories from conversation-799448_1280-copyConflicted to Vitalized.

  • 21% of cohabitating, dating couples were identified as Vitalized. However, 51% of dating couples NOT living together were viewed as Vitalized
  • 48% of cohabitating, dating couples were identified as Conflicted, compared to 16% of couples who were not living together.

Studies have shown that a public wedding ceremony offers extra benefits for a couple. In many cases a wedding is preceded with pre-marriage counseling that provides opportunities for conversation with a third party to address current and future relationship issues. Couples that cohabitate do not typically have the benefit of these conversations. There is the show of public support at a public wedding ceremony as well as the offering of gifts, financial and other wise, to help the couple get established in their home. These tangible and intangible expressions of support are not to be taken for granted.

3) Cost of weddings

The average cost of a wedding in 2015 was $26,000. Along with this, weddings are bouquet-1854074_1280-copybecoming increasingly spectacular in nature which creates pressure for others to do the
same.

In 2014, Emory University economics professors Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, conducted a survey of couples and the increasing cost of weddings. They surveyed more than 3,000 people–all of whom have been married just once–and found that across income levels, the higher the cost of the wedding, the shorter your marriage will be. A few takeaways from their research:

  • Guys, spending $2,000 to $4,000 on an engagement ring means you’re 1.3 times more likely to get divorced compared with the more frugal fellows who only allocate $500 to $2,000.
  • For both sexes, spending more than $20,000 on the wedding increases the odds of divorce by 3.5 times compared with couples who keep it between $5,000 and $10,000.
  • For the best odds, keep the cost of festivities to less than $1,000.

4) The new bread winner

Women for the first time are graduating from working-1219889_1280-copycollege at a greater rate than men. As a
result of women becoming more educated than
men, they are also earning more than used to be the case. From 2000-2014 the average wages for men has gone down by 34% (adjusted for inflation) while the average wage for women has increased. This means that more women are becoming the primary income earner in many millennial homes. This is good news that wages for women is on the increase and but it is also a recognition of a change that is happening within culture and the church.

5) Student loans

In 2015 the average student loan owed by college graduates was at a new high of $35,000. This has implications for all the categories listed above. As a result, it will take millennials longer to get established and become independent from parents as well as being able to purchase a home, save for retirement, and start a family.

These are sobering realities which call for us in the church to encourage honest and open conversations with millennials as well as the upcoming generation about finances and the longer ranging impact it has on our lives. If you are interested in resources that can be used to assist with these conversations, feel free to reach out to me at beryl.jantzi@everence.com.

About the Author

Beryl Jantzi and familyBeryl Jantzi serves as Director of Stewardship Education for Everence, a Christian-based, member-owned financial services organization which is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other churches.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

New Engine, New Tires & Luke – Faith in the face of debt

By Timothy Siburg
car-1564300_1920

Student loans? Broken down cars? How am I ever going to pay this off? Those are some pretty normal reactions to debt, and ones we have heard a little bit about this past month on the COMPASS blog.

What strikes me though as I think about these questions, is a reminder of the way God is present even in the face of our stress, uncertainty, doubt, and fear, all of which can surface when thinking about money and debt.

The Gospel of Luke is full of stories and parables from Jesus about money, wealth, poverty, and debt. For example, there is the confusing parable of the Dishonest Manager found in Luke 16:1-13.

In this story we hear of a manager who has been called to account for his business. In the face of what sounds like the manager’s certain firing, he goes about reducing the amount owed by different individuals in the community to the manager’s master. This is something that certainly could be praised, in that those oppressed and marginalized by debt were getting some of it forgiven. Of course, the story is much more complicated than that.

It’s not as likely in our daily life that someone will come along and just because they can, reduce the amount of debt we owe. If you are assuming that is going to happen for you, I wish you well, but I wouldn’t advise you to plan and budget that way.

Debt is a reality of life. It doesn’t need to be a crushing one, however. It only has power, like money, when we give it that power. We can certainly live in fear of it, if we are not careful. And unexpected and big expenses can help lead us to be in fear.

hand-truck-564242_1920A couple of days ago, my wife and I faced one of the downsides of moving across country from Washington to Nebraska. My wife Allison went to turn the car on in the morning, and every warning light started to say hello to her on the dashboard. As we suspected, our car needed a new battery. That’s not all that surprising, since we have shared one car between the two of us for our six years of marriage, and it’s been a few years and a couple cross-country moves since getting a new battery.

Unfortunately, one of the other downsides of moving, wear, and tear is that your car might also need new tires, plus its next regular oil change. So, with new tires, fresh oil, and a new battery, we spent a bit more this week on our car than we like to do in one day.

This could easily have led us into despair and debt. Thankfully, we budget for such days as this, so it wasn’t that bad. But interestingly, there is another faith element to this.

A few days earlier we had received a refund check in the mail for the balance of Allison’s seminary cost, as she graduated from seminary and actually had money left on her account in her favor. We didn’t think much of the check at the time. The day after the car was running like new, we remembered that check. It was just about the exact cost of all of the car expenses. Sometimes I think God truly has a sense of humor. It’s experiences like this that remind me of just how much abundance we live in and have, thanks to our abundant God.

What makes confronting the reality of debt—whether student debt, housing mortgages, car loans, etc.—possible is the reminder that God is with us, and wants us to live life abundantly. Living abundantly doesn’t mean living irresponsibly. It means enjoying, giving, sharing, and using all that God has first entrusted us with to live our lives and steward them for the sake of our neighbors and communities. It also means responsibly paying off debt early or on time, so as not to be overwhelmed by the interest accrued from it, so that we can live abundantly.

As long as I can keep this in perspective, making those monthly student loan payments, and needed car expenses, for example, doesn’t seem to be as daunting.

Note: That check, in addition to helping our car expenses, will be stewarded in part back to the larger church in gratitude, and in support of other future seminarians.

About the Author
timothy headshot
Timothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison is awaiting call to be an ELCA pastor, and the two of them reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on his blog.


About COMPASS

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 or Twitter.

And join us this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for a Live Chat with Darryl Dahlheimer, Program Director for LSS Financial Counseling, for Conquering Your Debt: the Overlooked Key to Faith and Finances. It’s free! Register at https://stewardshipresources.org/compass-live-chats. People of all ages are welcome!

Image credits: pixabay.com

A Word to all Recent and soon to be Graduates

Congratulations, graduates! You have studied and grown, and are now ready to be sent out or start new chapters. For some of you, this may mean your first full-time adventure in the working world. For others of you, this may mean moving cross-country. For others, it may mean the transition from one school and degree to another and further study.

Whatever your chapter and transition looks like, congratulations! Your hard work and dedication deserves to be praised.

graduatesMuch has been shared on this blog (and will continue to be shared) to spread light on thinking about faith and finances. COMPASS has and will continue to be a place and resource to think about student debt, the different challenges of finances, and yet the hope and promise of abundance that we share in our collective faith.

Today, I don’t want to spend much time thinking about these challenges and bills—some that you are likely already facing and paying—and others—such as your educational debt—which may become due after deferment in about six months.

Rather, today I want to encourage you to give thanks: to celebrate and be joyful. Give thanks for your focused study. Give thanks for your family, friends, and loved ones who have supported you up to this point. They may have helped buy you dinner, get your study food, be the listening ears to talk through the challenges of life away from home at school, or shoulders to cry on when things didn’t quite go as you had hoped. These people—your network and community—have been a big part of your journey to this graduation. Thank them. Celebrate with them, and allow them to celebrate with you.

Congratulations, graduates! May your discernment and transitions into whatever lies ahead be blessed.

A Personal Word of Thanks

In the spirit of giving thanks, I too wish to give thanks today. I have recently received an exciting call to serve as the new Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In my transition into this new chapter, I will no longer be serving as the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC).

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way these past 2 years. I am tremendously grateful to Marcia Shetler, the Executive Director/CEO of ESC for this opportunity. I am also excited to share that though I will no longer be serving in this capacity; I will continue as a committee member for COMPASS and ESC and will continue to offer thoughts and perspectives on this blog about once a month as a volunteer contributor. I look forward to continuing the faith and finances conversation with all of you well into the future.

timothy headshotAbout the Author: In addition to these roles and news, Timothy Siburg also currently serves as a congregational mission developer, among a few other roles. He blogs regularly on his own blog as well.

Image Credit: Graduates

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.

After Graduation… Student Debt?

After my wife Allison's and my most recent graduation.

After my wife Allison’s and my most recent graduation.

As the calendar turns to May, many students across the United States and Canada are preparing to graduate. Some are graduating from college or graduate school. Many others are preparing to graduate from high school, and then either enter the workforce or continue their educations in college.

All of these graduations are major life achievements worth celebrating. So in some ways I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but graduation can also mean it’s time to really look at and prepare for paying back your student debt.

For high school students preparing to begin college or further study, higher education loans are likely the first ones you will be taking on in your life. Most student loans require you to complete some kind of basic education about the loans, including learning about the life of the loans and their cost often online in a half hour or less.

This introductory information is helpful, but if you are like I was when I graduated from high school a decade ago, you may complete the online “training” with little more thought than going through the motions. Had I paid more attention, I would have better understood the potential for long-term student debt.

Those of you graduating college and entering the workforce will likely have a “grace period” on your loan payments upon graduation. After that period you will be required to make regular payments on your loan debt. Spend some time determining what those payments are and how they are structured, including the amount of interest. If able, I recommend beginning paying them off as soon as possible as to cut down on the amount of accrued interest.

Those who graduate from college and continue education with graduate study can place your school loans in deferment because you are continuing your education. However, if you are working while a student, it might be wise to make some kind of payments toward your student loan debt to at least reduce the cost of interest. (Not to mention that your student loan debt may continue to increase if you have added loans for your graduate education.)

These nuggets and observations are ones I have learned from experience. They are not necessarily bad things, but it’s helpful to have awareness and understanding of them.

Returning to graduation, congratulations on your studies and best wishes on your life’s journeys and next steps!

As we celebrate the graduation season during May and June,

  • What questions do you have about student loans and student loan debt?
  • What things are you wondering as you make final decisions and preparations for what’s next?

These are the questions that COMPASS will be exploring over the next few weeks. Please join the conversation.

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.

We Are What We Eat – Part 2

During April, the COMPASS blog is sharing perspectives about environmental stewardship and being eco-friendly on a budget. Today we welcome back regular contributor Dori Zerbe Cornelsen who reflects about how “We are what we eat.”

It is early spring where I live on the Canadian prairies.  There are just a few crocuses blooming in my otherwise still barren garden.  It’s the time of year when I begin to yearn for colour after a long white winter.

Produce from Metanoia Farmers

Produce from Metanoia Farmers

I also yearn for fresh food greens and veggies, grown locally.  One of the ways we have decided to enjoy fresh local produce in the summer is by participating in a Community Shared Agriculture project called Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative.  We buy a half share for the two of us and get to eat whatever the land is producing that week, by the work of hands of farmers we know, from sometime in June into September.

I like that faith is part of the Metanoia Farmers’ motivation.  Here is a description:

“The Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative is a group of CMU (Canadian Mennonite University) students and alumni, emerging as farmers motivated by our faith, who use sustainable practices to provide food to urban eaters.  We grow a wide variety of only heirloom vegetables and are developing our seed saving skills to continue to be able to grow these vegetables…The Metanoia Farmers operate as a workers cooperative, practicing consensus decision-making models.  We hope to foster meaningful dialogue while joyfully stewarding God’s gift of the land.”

dori-zerbe-cornelson-220x220I can almost taste the kale now…

About the AuthorDori Zerbe Cornelsen works with Mennonite Foundation of Canada encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Image Credit: Produce from Metanoia Farmers

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.

We Are What We Eat – Part 1

During April, the COMPASS blog is sharing perspectives about environmental stewardship and being eco-friendly on a budget. This week we consider how our decisions about food purchases impact environmental stewardship. Today we learn a little about the sustainable agriculture movement. Later this week we will welcome back regular contributor Dori Zerbe Cornelsen who reflects about how “We are what we eat.”

In a capitalistic society, mass-production of everything—including food—can be thought of as a good thing. New technologies, chemicals, and government policies have reduced the number of farmers and increased the size of farms. The number of farms in Canada decreased by more than 10% between 2006 and 2011. In the US, the number of farms decreased 3% between 2007 and 2012.

However, more attention is being paid to the concerns of this type of farming: topsoil depletion, economic effects of the decline of the family farm, poor living and working conditions for farm laborers, and increasing costs of production. These efforts can be defined as sustainable agriculture.

The University of California-Davis’s Agricultural Sustainability Institute names stewardship of both natural and human resources as important in sustainable agriculture. The Institute says that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What a box of produce from your local CSA might contain

What a box of produce from your local CSA might contain

Participating in community-supported agriculture (CSA) can be sustainable and budget-friendly. You can buy a membership or subscription from a local farmer and receive produce in season in return. You can learn more about CSAs and search for one near you at www.localharvest.org/csa.

As we attempt to follow Christ’s example, we know that how we practice Christian stewardship is a measure of our faith’s authenticity: our commitment to unity and community, our concern for the needy, and our witness in the world.

Paying attention to how we use what God has given and entrusted us—including how we spend our food dollars—is part of our stewardship footprint.

Image Credit: CSA Box

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.

Eco-Friendly on a Budget

As the calendar turns to April, our focus turns to environmental stewardship. Later this month, on Friday April 22nd, the World will observe Earth Day 2016. In observance, the COMPASS blog will feature perspectives all about being environmentally friendly on a budget and our stewardship of the Earth.

eco friendlyThe first post in this series will take up the idea that “We Are What We Eat.” In addition to this, other reflections will include thoughts pertaining to: the stewardship of recycling; sustainability; community agriculture; the work of restoring creation; as well as water stewardship. If you would like to share a post or reflection within this theme, please let me know as we are always looking for more perspectives to share as part of COMPASS and our shared conversation about faith and finances.

To begin our conversation, consider these questions:

  • Do you think about where the food you eat comes from?
  • Do you actively recycle in your home and office?
  • Do you produce more things that go into recycling each week, or the garbage?
  • Do you leave lights on in rooms that you are not seated in? How about water running while you are brushing your teeth?
  • How might the answers to these questions be informed by your faith?

A Personal Confession

In asking these questions, I have to confess that I often come up a bit short. I don’t always eat the healthiest diet, nor always look for the most sustainable source of food. I do occasionally leave lights on in rooms that I am not in, and from time to time catch myself leaving the water running while no longer actively using the faucet. Even with the ability to recycle, I still think my wife Allison and I produce more garbage than recycling.

I work hard to recycle both at home and in the office, and this is made easier by living in neighborhoods and cities where recycling is a priority. However, I have come to learn through traveling, that this is not always the case across the country and world in all communities.

The way we care for our environment matters to me, because I believe that we are called to be stewards of creation. In Genesis we are reminded that God has created all, and invites us to participate with God in caring for it and working with it. When we lose sight of this, when we don’t show care for it, we are all impacted. Not only does it negatively impact the quality of our planet, it shows disrespect for the beauty that God has created for us to live and work in.

Environmental Stewardship on a Budget

How we live faithfully in this way on a budget sometimes may mean a bit more of a cost. Choosing to eat healthier may not always be the cheaper option. Recycling may not always be more budget friendly than garbage. But at least, utility costs are usually positively impacted when you turn the lights off as well as the faucet off. And, if you don’t mind it in the summer, you can turn the temperature up on your thermostat to save energy during the day, as well as down a bit during the winter to cut down on heating costs.

As we take up these questions this month, I invite you to share your perspective, and I look forward to the conversation together.

timothy headshotAbout the Author: Timothy Siburg is the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and focuses especially on the center’s COMPASS initiative focused on creating conversations and resources for faith and finances among younger Adults and Millennials. Timothy also currently serves as a congregational mission developer, among a few other roles and blogs regularly on his own blog as well.

Image Credit: Eco Friendly

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.