Four Simple Financial New Year’s Resolutions: Share, Save, Spend, and Plan

Four Simple Financial New Year’s Resolutions: Share, Save, Spend, and Plan

During January the COMPASS blog is sharing space for financial new year’s resolutions. The series continues as Marcia Shetler, CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center shares some thoughts about sharing, saving, spending, and planning.

happy new yearWith a grateful nod to my friend Nathan Dungan, I’d like to suggest four simple financial new year’s resolutions. Nathan is founder and president of Share Save Spend, and his website is full of great resources related to finances.

  1. Share!

Data about young adult giving in Canada and the US provides mixed reviews. The Globe and Mail reported last summer that less young Canadians are giving financially. In the US, though, CNBC reported that 84% of Millennials made a charitable donation in 2014, and 70% spent at least an hour volunteering.  But because their giving is strongly influenced by their peers, social media momentum, and current issues, it can tend to be sporadic.

While some Christians use the tithe (10 percent of income) as a giving measurement, it can also be a goal to aim for over a period of time. Do you know what percentage of your income you gave as charitable gifts in 2015? If you’d like to give more, set a “step goal” for yourself: an increase of a percentage or two. Now translate that into actual dollars and decide how you would like to give it. You can even include a category for unexpected or new opportunities you might encounter this year.

  1. Save!

It can be hard to save when you are faced with student debt and new expenses related to living on your own, but getting into the savings habit will reap benefits in both the short run and long-term. Sometimes adding to your savings is as easy as increasing your knowledge. For example, does your employer offer matching contributions to your retirement fund, and are you taking advantage of that opportunity? According to CNW, more than one third of Canadian Millennials can’t answer that question.

Even if you have a tight budget, you can develop a saving mindset. Pick a short-term goal. Save your loose change. Save by spending less, like on apps, eating out (including work lunches), and entertainment that costs money. Open a savings account and schedule automatic transfers from your checking account, perhaps synching it with your payday. Money you never “see” can be easier to save.

  1. Spend!

For most people, money is an integral and unavoidable part of life. So if we are going to spend, it’s important to do so wisely. Just this month, right after the traditional Christmas gift-buying binge, The Washington Post reported that one of the newest spending trends is choosing experiences over tangibles. “People are saying, I’ve got enough stuff. I want to pamper myself a bit and do something that makes me feel good,’” the article quotes Steven Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida’s retail education and research center, as saying. This kind of attitude toward spending can spiral out of control quickly.

In the COMPASS blog, we’ve encouraged looking for ways to live a fulfilled life without overspending. Here are a few previous posts that you might want to read for more ideas:

  1. Plan!

time to plan“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a familiar phrase. Whether you want to share more, save more, or spend more wisely in 2016, developing a plan to do so is essential. If you’re not sure how much money you have or where it goes, gaining that understanding is a necessary first step. For just one month, or even just one pay period, keep a detailed record of where all your money went. How much did you share? How much did you save? How much did you spend? How can you adjust so that you are sharing, saving, and spending to reflect the life that God is calling you to live?

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.

Image Credits: Happy New Year and Time to Plan

Young Adults, Faith, and Finances: Provide a Conversation Table

One of the first COMPASS blog posts by Timothy Siburg described the monthly Saturday breakfasts that he and his wife Allison have to talk about their finances. In the most recent COMPASS blog post, Adam Copeland, new director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary, describes a similar approach in his household.

Kitchen Table

How do you provide a conversation table?

In 2012, Adam wrote an article for Christian Century in which he muses that it’s difficult for many churches to build relationships with the Millennial generation (born 1981 – 1997), let alone have meaningful conversations about Christian generosity with them. The first step in this process may be to provide a conversation table. But what topics might get the discussion started?

In his Christian Century article, Adam mentions four characteristics of Millennials’ culture and how it relates to stewardship and generosity:

  • They are concerned about the environment: 20/30-somethings haven’t known a world without global warming as a going concern. They care deeply about the earth, buy “green,” factor the environment into their life choices, etc.
  • They like to give to specific causes: Millennials want understandable details about needs and assurances that their gifts will make a difference. Adam notes that his young adult friends who run races for charities raise a lot of money.
  • They live in a digital world, but communicate and make decisions based on relationships: When Adam led a local young adult ministry and made a related Facebook event invite, friends with hundreds of Facebook friends would often “like” the event and share it on their wall. Rarely did they actually come to the event. What were these social media users doing? Being good stewards of their social media presence, getting the word out about an event they supported even if they couldn’t attend in person.
  • They are invested in many things, but probably not the church: 20/30-somethings give to their communities and are invested in their tribe, whatever it may be, even if it’s not the church. If the church can tell a meaningful story about its ministry and show how it benefits the community, you have more of a possibility of engaging Millennials’ support.
How do you engage young adults like these in your stewardship plans and ministry?

Money conversations can be different for Millennials (like those pictured here), because their economic situation is quite different than their elders in church.

Churches also should remember that money conversations can be difficult for Millennials, because their economic situation is quite different than their elders’. For example, according to a US Government report, their wage-earning power will be affected by the recent economic downturn for years to come, and they are less likely to be homeowners. Many are trying to pay off years of accumulated student debt. Forbes says that more than a quarter of them have fallen behind on paying their bills, and as a group they have the lowest credit scores of any generation. The Canadian PR Firm Citizen Relations reports that Canadian Millennials experience increasing pressure to spend via social media, with 56 percent of them feeling driven to live beyond their means.

If you are helping to lead or implement stewardship opportunities for young adults at your church, you have an opportunity to provide space for conversations, learning, and listening about tough and emotional topics, such as faith and finances.

  • Consider setting your conversation table outside the church building and at times other than Sunday mornings. How about a coffee shop? Or an ice cream parlor? Or a casual restaurant with a room for conversation?
  • Leverage the social power of the young adults you know: have them help you with the invitations. They’re the social media experts: use that to your advantage and give them responsibility.
  • Use your table as an opportunity for intergenerational discussions with selected members of your congregation. As a generation that loves interaction, they are looking for stories of financial wisdom from real persons.
  • Remember that the best conversation is not a one-way transmission of information, but a dialog in which all participants benefit. Think about what you might learn from the young adults at your table.

Who knows where the conversation may lead?

P.S. Need some resources to help you engage in conversation? The COMPASS web page has links to videos, online resources, and book reviews.

marcia shetlerAbout the Author: Marcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, which along with COMPASS provides a variety of resources to support generous giving and faithful stewardship. Visit the Ecumenical Stewardship Center website at www.stewardshipresources.org to learn more.

 

Image Credit: Kitchen Table.

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.

Money Meetings

During August, COMPASS is providing space and ideas for faith communities in engaging and planning stewardship for young adults starting in the fall. As part of that series, today we invite Adam Copeland, director for the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary to share some reflections.

Adam shares about “Money Meetings,” and reminds me of something my wife Allison and I do regularly with pancake breakfasts. In thinking about stewardship and young adults, faith communities have an opportunity to provide space for conversations, learning, and listening about tough and emotional topics, such as money. If you are helping lead or implement a stewardship plan with young adults in mind, engaging this is important. Adam’s thoughts and stories may be of benefit, particularly in providing examples of how it is important for young adults and their families to talk regularly and openly about money in their daily lives.

Kitchen Table

Kitchen Table

A few years ago now, I wrote a blog post titled, “The Totally Unromantic But Wholly Appropriate Symbol for Our Marriage.” In the post, I suggested that the best symbol for my marriage was not a wedding ring or a romantic poem, but our kitchen table. In part, I explained,

Our kitchen table is where our marriage happens. OK, obviously, it happens elsewhere most of the time, but the kitchen table is the place where we make our marriage work well everywhere else. It’s where we talk pretty much every night — about our day, about our plans for the future, about our feelings, and struggles, and joys.”

I wrote that blog post four years ago, and now my wife and I have been married nearly nine years. I recently ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for years. After we exchanged greetings he said, “Hey, I want you to know I think about that blog post about your kitchen table a lot. It really meant something to me.”

It was a kind, touching remark for my old friend to make. But, truth be told, I had almost forgotten about the post. It’s funny what sticks in our memory—or doesn’t, as the case may be.

When Timothy asked me to write for the COMPASS blog this month, I thought about the table post again, wondering if I could re-use it for the series. When it comes to money, though, the story gets a bit more complicated.

In my marriage we have something we call “money meetings.” About once a month, my wife and I set aside time to go over our finances. We look at the past month’s expenses and plan for the next. We consider our long-term goals. We touch base about whether our spending is in line with our values.

It’s a very important part of our marriage, and I fully recommend something like this “money meeting” practice to others. To be honest, though, these meetings don’t often happen at the kitchen table.

Sometimes, they do, I suppose. It’s not like we completely avoid talking about money at the kitchen table. But, in the past few years, we’ve found other places to go for our money meetings. We need the separation. Plus, money meetings are hard!

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop

Often, we’ll go to a coffee shop. Sometimes, we’ll catch a happy hour. Or, at times, we do have the meetings at home, but we set a timer and then, once it goes off, we go to our favorite ice cream shop.

My point is this: while our money meetings are good—you might even say, ‘essential’—to our relationship, they aren’t particularly fun. They’re easy to put off. It’s simple to sit at the kitchen table and chat about most everything else, but when it comes to money, the table takes on another feeling entirely.

And yet, those money meetings are necessary. They keep us honest, faithful, and communicative when it comes to money. Plus, how else would we have bought the table in the first place?

Adam Copeland

About the Author: Adam J. Copeland teaches at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he is director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders. Follow his learning and insights on his blog and via 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.

Image Credits: Kitchen Table and Coffee Shop.