I began participating in my company’s 401K when starting my first job out of college last year. I know I should be giving and setting aside funds for emergencies, too. But where should I start?
Novice with Money
Dear Novice with Money,
It’s refreshing to hear from someone your age who’s already investing yet also desires to give and save! Most of our financial challenges can be resolved if we follow a simple, biblical practice: “Give First, Save Second.” It is easy to say but often a challenge to implement, so I have jotted down some tips for you below.
Since God is a giver, recognize and consider yourself a giver as well. This goes beyond simply practicing the act of giving to taking on the identity of a giver created in the image of God.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed into the image of his son …” (Romans 8:29a ESV).
1. There is no set dollar amount to give. My motivation comes from this: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce …” (Proverbs 3:9a ESV).
2. Since God owns everything, ask yourself, “How much of God’s money should I spend vs. how much of my money should I give? This will ultimately change your mindset.
- “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein …” (Psalm 24:1a ESV, 1 Corinthians 10:26 ESV).
- “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:8 ESV).
- “Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from you alone, and you are the ruler of all mankind; your hand controls power and might, and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength” (1 Chronicles 29:11b–12 TLB).
3. The tithe (10%) was a requirement of the Old Testament Law, but their giving amounted to much more than that. Start giving now, and don’t worry about the percentage. Seek to increase the amount every year. I suggest that you make giving 10% of your gross annual income a minimum goal.
4. Develop an investor mindset towards giving.
- What solution to the world’s problems do you care most about advancing? This will help you give with passion.
- Consider these best practices in your decisions.
- Be intentional, not spontaneous.
5. Find an inspiration and possibly an accountability partner. Learn from other committed, generous givers. Some of my inspirations are: Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, R. G. LeTourneau, and Alan and Katherine Barnhart.
Saving does not represent a lack of faith, but it does reflect the heart of a faithful steward. Savers have resources to take care of their families and others but saving to become self-reliant and take life easy is condemned in Scripture. We must learn to save in order to reduce stress, increase our capacity to give, and live without fear of economic challenges.
1. What is saving? Money you have immediately available that is not at risk of loss or penalty.
2. Saving 5 -10% of your gross income is a healthy start. It should not exceed the giving percentage except in the case of an emergency when you really need to catch up. Don’t stop giving to increase your savings.
3. Exercise self-control. No man knows the future, and the only way to be prepared for it is to save during the good years.
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Proverbs 6:6–8 ESV).
4. Create financial margin to give and save appropriately. Sacrifices may have to be made through controlled spending.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV).
5. An emergency fund protects when the unexpected hits. Start with $1000, then 3-6 months of your overhead, and a maximum of 15 months in savings. In Genesis, Joseph implemented a planned program of saving:
“Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine” (Genesis 41:34–36 ESV).
6. After you have adequate emergency savings, begin investing. I consider money in a 401(k) an investment account, not a savings account. See number one above.
Think beyond this life
We should desire to steward wisely whatever God has entrusted to us because one day we will give an account.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19 ESV).
With prices rising everywhere, it can be harder to budget for the future and can cause extra anxiety. For help with understanding inflation and to make a plan, Crown has a new Inflation Survival Guide that you can download and share with others.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.