This was originally posted last summer, but we decided to take it down at that time to focus the blog on our son Judah who went to be with the Lord. We are reposting it now to start a new financial series, called “Managing His Money” that Sherpa will be doing. Occasionally, people ask how we handle money. Rather than giving a half answer a hundred times, we will share our thoughts on the topic in a more thoughtful manner. Before beginning, we would like to give special thanks to Alec Stevens, a financial advisor registered in Maine and Texas who runs a radio show called “His Money.” We had the chance to visit extensively while on a trip to Israel in early 2020 and he directly provided the inspiration for the name of this blog series. As a disclaimer, Sherpa is not a financial planner and this is not “financial advice.” Please do not look at this as a replacement for what professionals like Alec can provide. Enjoy!
So we just started a new savings goal, called “Family Miles” (June 2019) which will be used to purchase a camper someday. How it works is for every mile we walk as a family together, we put $10 into a special account that invests in index funds in the stock market. Imagine if we had started before hiking the Appalachian Trail? We figure it will be 5-10 years before we have enough set aside, but that camper will represent literally hundreds of family walks and the hours of time spent together! Savings is one piece of finances, and we put this post together to share our philosophy on the bigger picture. Enjoy!
March 2020 update: Our camper van balance is sitting in a Betterment account at $948.56. Most of the time, we don’t track mileage, instead just adding $10 for a walk or bike ride, or $20 if it was a really long walk… Not too shabby for 9 months 🙂
Alright, so you’ve started a lemonade stand and you have a few quarters in the drawer, now what? Handling money is both the easiest thing in the world and the hardest at the same time. To dumb it down, there are three things that are important whether you live in a 3rd world country, just got out of prison, or happen to be independently wealthy. These 3 principals all show up in Genesis 2.
Immediately after telling Adam to take care of the garden (think sweat), the second job God tasked him with was to use his brain and name the animals, even before he made Eve to be a helper for him. As a side note, with all of those animals running around the garden he needed a helper! This story illustrates the three basic privileges we have in life. The first is to use our bodies to work physically, the next is to use our minds, and the last is to use our hearts to love (which is where Eve came in). We see these three principals again in Deuteronomy, when God gives us the most important command in the Bible, which is to love Him with all of our heart, mind, and strength.
Pillar 1: Work is satisfying. Never Retire!
The bible left out a story. Don’t worry though, archeologists found it in a jar somewhere and now we know the truth about the creation story. When God first created Adam, he actually put him on an island under a palm tree with a virgin pina colada in his hand where he had an excellent view of large swimming creatures blowing water spouts. But Adam was bored and lonely so he decided to climb the palm tree, picked some coconuts, figured out how to crack them open to make more pina coladas, and named the swimming thing a whale. And then God decided he’d be better off working in a garden and had him name lots of animals in his free time. And since he loved climbing palm trees for coconuts so much, God created Eve (Song of Solomon 7:7-8).
We all know that God did not put Adam on an imaginary island to do nothing but watch sunsets. Retirement is a lie. It is a fantasy that does not work in reality. We are created to work. Many people faced with the prospect of retiring are terrified of not having work. Those that do retire find ways to occupy their time with hobbies or face depression. We are simply not wired to find satisfaction apart from work. This is a major theme of nearly the entire book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. So find work you enjoy, do it as if your boss is the Lord, to the best of your ability, with all your heart, for as long as your strength allows! If your financial situation allows you to fire your boss and serve the Lord directly with all of your time, pray about it. But don’t ever focus on retirement if you define it like most people do, it’s a terrible concept, especially for a believer. Instead of following the “FIRE” (Financial Independence Early Retirement) community, join the “ON FIRE” for Jesus community!
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
Pillar 2: You name every Dollar.
Now that you are working and enjoying it, in most cases you are making some money as a result. And since everyone wants money, your money has value to everyone else, which makes it valuable to you as well. Never forget that money is just a transaction system backed by faith in the unspoken promise that it will be valuable to everyone else. People put so much faith in its value that they will give you real things in exchange for a piece of paper or the wave of a plastic card near a credit card reader. Those real things have names like “Dehydrated Meals” and “Tents”! And so we know that all money we receive has a name. The best part is that you get to choose the name for each dollar you ever have. What if you decide to do nothing with the money and just throw it into a campfire? “Fireworks” is a name too… Every dollar you will ever get in your entire life has the name you give it.
Pillar 3: What you name money reveals your heart.
That brings us to the last but most important pillar. Every time you receive money, you name it, and that decision is a small piece of a big picture that reveals your heart. For us, these are the names we have given to the money God has entrusted us with. Every single dollar we have received since we got married has one of these names. Did your spending over the last month reveal your love for the Lord or something else?
- Giving – The name you should give to the first portion of every paycheck. Always give as soon as the money is in your account before you have a chance to name it something else! If you don’t know what to give to yet, remember to be a good steward and set it aside in a dedicated giving account that earns some interest. Finally, don’t make excuses because of your situation. Everyone, from the pastor and congregation of the poorest church in the world to the richest person on earth must give with a joyful heart! The amount you give depends on what God places on your heart, but the frequency should be a portion of each instance of money crossing your path.
- Savings – Only after paying God, should you pay yourself. If you are more interested in what the stock market is doing than what the missionaries you support are doing, your heart has a deep issue. But once you are giving joyfully, you should always transfer some portion of every paycheck to savings, even if you can only afford a very small amount. Savings works best when you have goals. The best way to start is to list all of the major purchases (ideally anything above $100) on your radar and then start working towards them individually. We recommend using an online account that takes several days to get your money out of to avoid impulse purchases.
- Taxes, Food, Health, Housing, Utilities, Transportation, Education – These are the names of all of our bills. After Paying God, and paying yourself, pay your bills. You may have another bill named “debt”. We did too when we first got married. If so, you have an emergency on your hands. Eat beans and rice until it is gone. Do everything in your power to stop accumulating any more of it and eliminate it as fast as possible. Work two jobs if you have to. Debt is a modern form of slavery. You were bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Don’t sell yourself! Emergency debt includes car notes, medical debt, credit card debt, 401k loans, home equity loans, student loans (after graduation), etc. These are debts which cannot be paid off by selling the thing the funds were used to purchase in the first place. Disclaimer: Asset backed loans such as mortgages are not an emergency because in most cases you can clear the debt by selling the house. In practice you are just renting your house from the bank (via a mortgage) and the government (via property taxes).
- Discretionary, Travel – Once you have directed your heart and accompanying money towards the work of the Lord, set aside some money in savings, and paid your debts, live on the rest however the Lord defines abundance in your life! Abundance will always be the result, even if it looks like a dirt floor for your situation. The Holy Spirit is dwelling inside you! The owner of the title deed to planet earth joins you at every meal you share with fellow believers. You have direct access to God Almighty! You are abundantly blessed beyond measure regardless of how much is available to spend.
Hike the Good Hike,
Sherpa and Porter