Tag Archives: Stewardship

Sound Mind Investing

You may have noticed (but probably not) that there’s one “ad” on this blog to a company named “Sound Mind Investing”. It’s been there for a few years now and one that, despite my general disdain for ads, it’s one that I feel very good about having on this site. Some of you may know from various Facebook statuses or my previous posts on this blog that Sound Mind Investing (SMI) changed my life many years ago. It helped me get my financial house in order, and taught me how to give, save and spend appropriately and without any guilt. I love SMI and what they stand for so rather than just a passive ad on the side, I wanted to write a little more about them and how you can benefit from their services too.

Take a look at their mission statement:

Sound Mind Investing exists to help individuals understand and apply Biblically-based principles for making spending and investing decisions in order that:

  • their future financial security would be strengthened, and
  • their giving to worldwide missionary efforts for the cause of Christ would accelerate.
In other words, we want to help you have more so you can give more.

I have been a faithful subscriber to their newsletter since 2008 and my only regret was not discovering them sooner. As a subscriber to their monthly newsletter, SMI gives their monthly investment suggestions and I simply follow them. Not every pick has been a winner. I recall my first year with them and I lost something to the tune of 24% of my portfolio (but the Dow and S&P 500 lost an average of 38% for comparison). But I never panicked and was actually very excited about that because I had 40 some years for that investment to bounce back and because I believed and was taught the principle of “dollar cost averaging” through their handbook.

Which brings me to the other offering that SMI provides that I have found to be invaluable in every way: the SMI Handbook. Being new to finances back in my early twenties, I picked this book up off a recommendation from a friend and decided to go cover to cover in a week. (Something I don’t actually recommend.) I was young and hungry, so I devoured it, learning everything from how to save to mutual funds, to the differences between stocks and bonds, from asset allocations to understanding mortgages. Whenever I show people the book, they immediately get intimidated. Not going to lie, it is a thick read with lots and lots of pages. What I try to remind people and encourage them is to treat this as a textbook and handbook, not a novel to be read straight through. From time to time I still pick the book off from my bookshelf to scan a few sections to brush up on topics that I need or want a refresher for.

But what good is a financial newsletter recommendation without some facts? So just how good have their picks been? Since I started investing and following their picks in 2008, I have seen my portfolio grow 33% overall. But more importantly for me and TJ is that our financial house is in order and we have NEVER fought about money during our marriage. Never. We have no debt (minus a mortgage). No car payments. No student loans. We have an emergency fund. We are saving for “retirement” so that we can be self funded ministers of the Gospel in our latter years. We have college savings for our children so that they can graduate from college without the burden of debt. But the best part of all? Our giving has increased every year too. Yes, we have been able to save more but the best thing for us has been enabling ourselves to give more to the causes that we are passionate about.

For anyone who is interested in subscribing, I would highly recommend you do the web option for $9.95/month. You get the digital version of their newsletter via email AND you get full access to their website with other helpful articles and readings over various financial topics. The print only version is $79/annually and the dual version (which gets you both the printed newsletters and web access) is $79/annually plus $4.95/month.

Would you like your financial house in order? Would you like to be worry free about the future and your “retirement years? Would you like to increase and give to all the places where God is asking you to?

If you answered “yes” to the previous questions, why not give SMI a try?

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Robbing God

When I was in college I had a great mentor that taught me how to walk with God, read my Bible, build computers, work a grill and even how to ask girls out on dates. We would spend many evenings together talking about life and I got to observe how he did life. One summer I noticed that he had a stack of letters on his desk from other students and friends who were going on a summer mission trip somewhere. I asked him how he was going to decide who he was going to support, thinking that he had some elaborate method to figuring out who would be the most “effective” and who would bring more bang for his buck. I was quickly humbled when he looked at me and said, “I never say no to anyone who asks. If they are doing God’s work, it is my responsibility to support them, even if it’s only for $10.”

That was probably one of the most important lessons that he taught me. As I observed his life, I knew that he made a very modest salary but was also extremely generous with what he had, especially his money. I watched him pray over each person that sent him a letter as he wrote out a check for everyone. Amazed at how he could afford to do this, I had to ask him just how he was able to give so much when he had so little. He smiled at me and said, “I don’t spend very much so that I can give. It is all God’s anyway. I am just managing His money for Him.”

I could tell by the way my mentor lived that he gave up some worldly possessions in order to be in a position to bless others. I took that lesson to heart and have applied it in our own family. TJ and I will always say “yes” even if it means cutting some corners in our own personal lives. Had my mentor been wealthy, I don’t think I would’ve learned this lesson very well. What he did was give God his very best, his first fruits that which cost him something. It reminds me of the passage 2 Samuel 24:24a:

“But the king (David) replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

The context here is that King David was building an altar and went to buy a threshing floor from Aranuah. Aranuah, in his moment of generosity, offered to David to take whatever He pleases and even oxen to sacrifice. But David would not accept a handout to offer as a sacrifice to God. It was against the very essence of the word “sacrifice” if it cost him nothing.

My mentor showed me a great lesson here too. I was very guilty of only giving when I had some extra cash laying around after I took care of myself first. What I was giving back to God did not require a sacrifice on my part and was certainly not costing me anything. With the economy in its current condition, the giving trend has decreased significantly and I actually believe that it has more to do with the spiritual issue of giving than it has to do with a financial issue.

Giving is never a natural response of the flesh. How many times around December did we have our parents explain to us that it is more important to give than it is to receive when we were younger? As sinful, selfish beings we are more inclined to keep and gain rather than give and sacrifice. I believe it has been incredibly unfortunate that not many of us have ever been given a proper Biblical understanding regarding stewardship. I think it is a particularly hard topic for people to hear (the Western culture is very sensitive to instructions on money) and I also think that it is a bit awkward for Pastors and those in vocational full time ministry, basically those with the most face time, to address this issue as they receive their salaries from such giving. But regardless of how it might come across and how others might feel, I believe that proper financial stewardship is an issue that needs to be addressed regularly and often.

God does not mess around when it comes to finances and giving.

“Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produces” – Proverbs 3:9

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.  ‘But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ ‘In tithes and offerings.” – Malachi 3:8

Interestingly, God calls it “robbing” when we don’t give back to Him. Under the old law, we were required to tithe ten percent but we are no longer under the law. But the giving principal still applies, even if it isn’t a set amount or percentage. TJ and I do give at least 10% of our income not because we feel it as a requirement, or even because it’s a suggested amount but rather that is where we feel led by God. TJ was very adamant that we give at least 10%, even when our income was at poverty levels.

I would imagine that my mentor was the servant given the two talents. He wasn’t given much to work with, but whatever he did have he used for the glory of God. I imagine that in the future he will hear this: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ I too hope that our family will have the same privilege of hearing those same words when that time comes.