Money autobiography

By Matt DeBall

knot-2114401_1280

Crossovers always have the potential to be energizing and enjoyable. Sometimes they happen on our favorite TV show or in a beloved movie series (special shout out to fellow fans of DC Comics or Marvel). Other times they happen in real life. For your edification, a crossover is happening on the COMPASS blog this week.

This month COMPASS has focused on our relationship with money and invited us to explore this relationship by writing a money autobiography. Marcia Shetler began unpacking this helpful tool and Beryl Jantzi helped us consider four categories that reveal our approach to money, debt management, and generosity. What follows in this blog are a handful of questions and answers related to my money autobiography (that can also help you write your own). A wonderful CROSSOVER has occurred because I didn’t answer these questions alone.

In February, COMPASS explored how essential it is to talk about money with loved ones, live-chat-wedding-rings-image-copyand Rafael Robert from Brightpeak Financial led a great Live Chat about money, marriage, and meaningful conversations. Connecting those conversations with our topic for this month, my lovely wife, Chelsea, has joined me in answering the money autobiography questions below. We answered these questions individually and talked about our answers afterward. While we have different relationships with money, it is our relationship with money together that shapes how we manage our finances. This money autobiography process proved to be meaningful for us, but also allows you to hear two different relationships with money that contribute to our money autobiography. We hope you will find this blog to be as meaningful and helpful as we did.

Question: Describe the role of money in your childhood. What was your attitude toward money as a child? Did you feel poor or rich? How did your perceptions make you feel?

Chelsea: Growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot in terms of money. But they never let us know or feel that strain. It wasn’t until we were older that we realized that we were somewhat poor for a lot of our childhood.

Matt: Money served different functions in my childhood. It paid for food at the grocery store. It was the two quarters that my parents gave me each week to put in the offering plate. It was how people supported my Boy Scout troop through buying popcorn. Money was just around. I didn’t feel like my family was rich or poor—just average. My parents taught us to be thankful for what we had and they didn’t talk much about money in front of us.

Q: What was your attitude about money as a teenager? What memories do you have related to money?

C: As a teenager I was obsessed with making money. I had two jobs through most of high dollar-1362243_1280school. I loved having my own money to spend on what I wanted.

M: Money was a means to have fun. It allowed me to buy snacks and games, and participate in activities with friends.

Q: In your current situation, how have other sources shaped your thoughts about money?

C: Nothing has really shaped my thoughts about money. I appreciate it more now that I am an adult with actual expenses to pay for.

M: Society at large and media has influenced me to see some debts as good (homes, college degrees) and other debts as bad (credit card). The church has helped me see money as a tool that God gives us to meet our needs and to carry out His purposes in the world.

Q: How do you feel about your present financial status? Do you worry about money? How does having or not having money affect self-esteem or sense of self-worth?

C: I do worry about money. Mostly because there are things I’d like to be able to buy (a new car) or do (remodel our home) but our financial status keeps us from doing that. Not having as much money as some of my peers does affect my self-esteem. I do find myself getting jealous of those who can buy nice houses, go on vacation, or stay home with their children instead of having to work.

M: I feel proactive and content about our current financial situation. I very rarely worry about money (only when large bills are paid right before a payday). Though I wouldn’t consider it a large factor in my self-esteem or self-worth, our money providing for our needs does have a positive effect on me.

Q: Do you spend money on yourself easily or with difficulty?coffee-1273147_1280

C: I used to be able to spend money on myself with no problems. But recent life events
have made me think more before I make a purchase for myself.

M: Somewhat easily for things under $10 (coffee, lunch, a book), but hesitantly for anything else.

Q: Do you feel generous or stingy with your money?

C: I am generous in terms of gift giving, but I know I am stingy with money. I would hesitate greatly before loaning someone money.

M: It depends on the day, but I typically feel more generous.

Q: Do you give to your church or other charitable organizations? Why do/don’t you give? How does this make you feel?

C: Yes, we give to our church. At first I was very reluctant to do so because I didn’t want to give away our money. But now I am more comfortable with donating to our church.

M: Yes. I like to give because it is an opportunity to show love to God and support God’s important work in the world. Giving makes me feel happy and like I am being faithful to God’s call to give.

Q: How do you feel about asking other people for money…for yourself, a worthy cause, your church community, etc.?gift-1278395_1280

C: I am very hesitant asking people for money. I never want anyone to feel obligated to
give to me based on our relationship and I wouldn’t want my asking for money to affect our relationship.

M: It would make me uncomfortable to ask for money for myself. For my work, I am a fundraiser, and because I believe in the ministries of our organization, I am comfortable with asking people to support them.

Q: Consider the following idea: how you handle money reflects your deepest values. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

C: I agree. What we spend our money on may reflect what we care about the most or what we consider a priority in our lives.

M: Agree because of Matthew 6:21, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When we spend money on anything, it reveals what is important to us.

Q: What future hopes or plans do you have with money?

C: I hope that we are able to continually support ourselves financially. Being independent financially is a great feeling.

M: I hope we can plan to pay off our debts, save for retirement, increase our savings for unexpected emergency circumstances, and increase our giving to church as we are able. I also plan to open savings accounts for our kids early in their lives to prepare for their needs and aspirations in the future.

In addition to answering these questions for your own money autobiography, you can learn more about this helpful tool on Tuesday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET at our next Live Chat “Your relationship with money” led by Mike Little, director for the Faith and Money Network. Sign up while spots are still available at marcia_5.gr8.com.

About the Authors

C&MDeBall-9-15Chelsea and Matt DeBall live in northern Illinois. Chelsea works as office coordinator for a Special Recreation Association, and is pursuing a Master’s of Mental Health Counseling from Judson University. Matt serves as the COMPASS communications coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and as coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary. They enjoy caring for their Welsh Corgi (Watson) and being involved at the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

Practical Advice to Keep Your College Years Affordable

By Ryan Zantinghdouble-coins

Despite a growing skepticism about the value of a college education, the evidence remains clear that those with a bachelor’s degree have nearly double the annual earning potential and half of the unemployment rate of those with only a high school diploma[i]. But investing in a college degree is expensive—there’s just no getting around that.

A solution to the high cost of college will require better teamwork between the government, colleges and universities, lenders, philanthropists, education think tanks, and other stakeholders. But until that happens, there are some very practical things that you can do to keep your college years affordable. Below are eight pieces of advice:application-1883453_640

1. Apply for Scholarships Early and Often: Most students apply for scholarships when they are entering college, but fewer continue to apply for scholarship opportunities throughout their college years. Colleges usually have some scholarships that are available only to continuing It would surprise you to learn how often colleges extend their scholarship application deadlines because no one applied.

2.Save: Outside of receiving as many scholarships and grants as possible, the best way to reduce the cost of college is to save. College savings will reduce the amount of loans that students will need to repay (with interest). There are college savings accounts that offer preferential tax treatment, like 529 plans or Coverdell Savings Accounts in the US and RESP in Canada.

3. Complete the FAFSA or Canada Student Loan Application: in the US, The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your application for federal, state, and college need-based grants and need-based employment. It also makes students eligible to borrow Federal Direct Student Loans, which offer far superior terms than private student or parent loan options. Even students without financial need can borrow these loans. To maximize opportunities for assistance, complete the FAFSA early (it becomes available each year on October 1). When you apply for a Canada Student Loan, you are automatically assessed for eligibility for Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants, which are based on financial need.

4. Don’t Over-borrow: I often see students borrow more money than they need to meet their expenses, usually because they want to make sure they have enough. Careful planning and budgeting can reduce over-borrowing. If you still borrow more than you need, ask the Financial Aid Office to return what you don’t need rather than receiving a “refund.”

5. Be Frugal: Try to buy used textbooks or rent them when possible. Is a new laptop a necessity, or will your college’s computer labs suffice? If you do plan to purchase a laptop, check with your college’s IT department about free software—some schools provide their students with a license for Microsoft Office or other software at reduced or no cost.target-970640_1280-cropped

6. Keep Your Eye on the Target: Nothing increases the cost of college like adding another semester or year of school. In addition to the added cost, it delays your future earning potential. Don’t compromise your grades by letting too much work or play get in the way.

7. Accelerate Loan Repayment: If you can, try to start repaying your loans while you’re in school. Even small regular payments can really add up. When you graduate, try to pay more than your minimum required payment. By paying ahead of schedule, you will significantly reduce your interest payments over the life of your loan.

8. UPromise: in the US, UPromise by Sallie Mae allows you to earn cash back on shopping, dining, travel and more, which can contribute to a college savings plan or pay down eligible student loans. While you could do this with any cash-back rewards card, UPromise easily allows family or friends to earn rewards on your behalf as well.

[i] Mangukiya, Piyush. “[Infographic] Is College Worth the Cost?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

About the Author
ryan-zantingh-tcc-trnty-edu_fa-staff

Ryan Zantingh is Director of Financial Aid and Enrollment Operations at Trinity Christian College of Palos Heights, Illinois.

 

Image credits: Trinity Christian College, pixabay.com

Move Mountains

During January the COMPASS blog is sharing space for financial new year’s resolutions. The series continues as regular contributor Matt DeBall, shares some thoughts about January being “A new beginning,” and about praying, saving, giving, resting, and community. 

January. A new beginning. A fresh start. In this first month of the year, we have the perfect opportunity to take stock of lifestyle habits, try new patterns, set goals, or even chart a new course altogether. For Christ-followers, it only seems natural to also consider how to love God and neighbor in new ways.

credit given to Glenn Riegel

Majestic Mountains, a photo by Glenn Riegel

In seeking to respond anew to the movement of God, I can’t help but think of our recent celebration of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah shares, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 4:3-5).

While this scripture is traditionally used in beautiful Advent liturgies and alludes to the coming of the Christ-child, it is also a call to continually make way for the Kingdom of God in our world. Our God is coming, and we need to move mountains to make the road ready. This challenge from the prophet also reveals the way in which God, as our sovereign Lord, desires for us to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to make bold moves in us and through us every day.

Changing geological features as Isaiah describes certainly seems like a daunting task, but as Jesus shared with his disciples, faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). By trusting in our Savior, we have enough faith to raise any valley and flatten every mountain. With Jesus, every roadblock to God’s Kingdom is removed.

As we begin this year, here are a few ways we can make room in our lives and world for God’s kingdom.

Pray – Whether at home with others or alone on the go, there are many “in between” moments where God is present with us. By using some of these seconds or minutes for prayer, we can be refreshed by God but also be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in every encounter of our day. Making way for God happens not only in action but also in attitude. As we make room for these reflective moments with God, we are made aware of how we can better love others and serve God.

Save and give – Money is an important resource related to almost everything in life, and as people of faith, it is essential for us to be good stewards of it. Though we may not compare making financial changes to “moving mountains,” we can be comforted in knowing that small changes also make room for God. You may consider:

  • Putting aside dollars in relation to what week of the year it is (Week 1: $1, Week 2: $2, …). [Catch up by putting aside $10 before the end of January.] Before next year, you will save nearly $1,400 to give to your church, put in savings, or some of both. OR
  • Collecting spare change and dollars in a jar until it’s full, and deciding before it’s counted how it will be divided for giving and saving.

Regardless of what method you use, imagine how that money could be used to further God’s kingdom in your community and make way for the peace of God’s kingdom in your own life.

Rest – It can be so easy to pack our schedules full with (mostly) meaningful activities. But if we put too much on our weekly calendar, a lack of energy or attention may dampen our effectiveness. For ourselves and for those whom we serve with at work, at church, or in our community, we must be good stewards of not only our time but also our energy. To make way for God’s Kingdom, consider scheduling more time for restful and re-energizing activities.

Community – As we make room for God in new ways, both in our own lives and wherever we go, we cannot do it alone.  Whether a personal goal or a communal change, teamwork is essential to consider. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Whether before or after setting goals, consider whom you might invite to join you on the journey.

May the Holy Spirit reveal how you might move mountains and raise valleys to make way for God’s kingdom in your life and in the world. And may we all experience grace and peace as we strive to fervently love God and neighbor in the year ahead.

Matt DeBallAbout the authorMatt DeBall currently serves as the coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity from Northern Seminary, and enjoys running, reading, and napping. He and his wife, Chelsea, live with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, in northern Illinois.

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

Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year from all of us at COMPASS! 2016 is going to be a year of continued, new, and exciting conversations. We’ll continue to explore faith, finances, and topics such as debt management, saving, thanksgiving, gratitude, and giving. We’ll also enter into new conversations about shared economies, alternate living situations, pooling resources, and even piecemealing income.

resolutionsTo kick off the year, during January COMPASS Team members and other Millennial guest bloggers will share resolutions, questions, and ideas for financial New Year’s resolutions. To start this month’s series on Financial New Year’s Resolutions, I figured that it would only be fair if I shared some of my own first.

I have to admit, I have never been enthusiastic about New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I have made them and then not followed through:  I’ve just never really made them. I know that they are helpful for some people, but instead of resolutions, I am going to make a few promises to myself. When I promise something, I generally follow through.

  1. I Promise Myself that I Will Be Healthier

This might sound like a generic resolution, and to some degree maybe it is. But for me, this means more than just making sure I work out regularly. Being healthy also means allowing myself space to be most fully and healthy me, emotionally and mentally. 2015 was a wonderful year of growth and opportunity. My plate filled to the brim with great blessings and opportunities as I have piecemealed income and projects. This is exciting but also means that I end up working so many projects that I hardly ever get a full day off during the week. For my health, sanity, and productivity, I am promising myself that will change in 2016. This may mean occasionally saying no to a project that might have provided some extra financing, as well as to continue to make financial commitments for insurance, health care, and regular doctors’ visits. Being proactive and preventative is a promise for health- both physically but also financially.

  1. I Promise Myself that I Will Take Some Time to Breathe

Also related to health, I am starting the year with the promise to give myself a little more “me time” each day for reflection, prayer, moments of gratitude, and vocational restoration. A day off each week away from work and projects is helpful for me to be most productive, but taking a little time to reflect each day also enables me to be my best self whom God has created and called me to be. Without taking this time, I can give in to doubt and stress related to life and finances, while not taking the time to reflect and be grateful for all that God has done and continues to do.

  1. I Promise to include Creativity in My Life

I have found that writing and blogging is a way that I stay healthy and mentally charged. By carving out some time each day to write, I will also be giving myself a chance to reflect and see how I am doing and breathe without focusing on other projects and work that needs my attention. This time allows me to create and write, something that I believe I am called to do as part of my vocation and identity as a Child of God. When done with my blogging and “me time,” I will be even more focused, productive, and ready to dive back into my work for that day, and be able to get more done.

  1. I Promise to Continue to Budget and Save for a Honeymoon and Make it Happen
Happy New Year's from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington

Happy New Year’s from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington- being healthy by taking some time to enjoy it together.

My wife Allison and I have been married for nearly five and a half years now. This is the real confession moment: we have not yet gone on a honeymoon. Because of our vocations, studies, and other demands we moved and started seminary (following our faith calling for further education and preparation for ministry) right after getting married. In the meantime, we have created a few different financial savings account pockets, one of which is for our honeymoon. I am promising to myself that not only will we continue to save for this experience, but at least by the end of the year we will have made reservations to make it happen.

  1. I Promise to Give More

As a late 20-something, I know that my wife and I have a long and exciting life and journey ahead. I’m grateful for that, and that’s why we save as much as we do and budget regularly. This year I am promising to build off of that and continue to give more financially. We’re not “crazy wealthy,” but we’re not starving either. We have been more than able to find the ability to continue to pay off our student debt, give towards our faith community and causes we believe in, and save some. I am happy to say that in each year of marriage we have been able to incrementally increase our giving, and I promise that 2016 will continue this trend as we give more of what has been entrusted to our care.

These are five big promises, I admit. But I think that I can keep them. It might mean giving up an occasional early-morning or late-afternoon meeting for a walk or workout, or taking some time that might have been spent elsewhere to collect my thoughts and write some reflections. Overall though, I believe these decisions will make for a healthier, happy, and productive 2016.

What New Year’s resolutions are you making for yourself? What promises are you making to yourself?

Image Credit: Resolutions

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.