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New Website: Provident Planning!

       I’m sure you all have noticed the lack of updates on Crackerjack Greenback for quite some time. (I know because many people have asked me!) This is partly due to my upcoming wedding, but it’s also because I’ve been working on setting up a new website.


Provident Planning


       As I’ve worked through the Personal Finance Bible Study, I’ve found that God is calling me to follow His lead on this project. Part of that means creating a website completely devoted to God’s financial wisdom in the Bible. Provident Planning is the name of the new website and the web address is http://www.providentplan.com/. Crackerjack Greenback just isn’t a good name for a website that’s going to focus on God’s plan for our finances.

       I’ve found that God has a Provident Plan for each of our lives. His plan includes four main parts: contentment, hard work, giving, and stewardship. All four of these areas work together to guide our lives as we make financial and spiritual choices every day. You’ve already discovered a lot about what God says about contentment and how that may affect our lives. I’ve moved all my posts on contentment to Provident Planning, and I’ll be exploring the other areas in time.

       It may still be a while before I resume consistent updates on either Provident Planning or Crackerjack Greenback. I haven’t quite decided what I’ll do with Crackerjack Greenback, but I do know I want to finish finding all the verses in the bible related to personal finance before I begin writing for Provident Planning. You can still see all the verses I’ve found about personal finance in the Bible at Provident Planning. Once I finish that project, I’ll begin writing on those other areas (hard work, giving, and stewardship). I may continue to occasionally update Crackerjack Greenback with articles that are not relevant for Provident Planning.


Get Free Updates to Provident Planning!

       If you’d like to know when I’ve finished the personal finance Bible verses project and have begun writing on Provident Planning, I encourage you to sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. You can get them through your email or your favorite RSS feed reader. Thanks for reading so far, and please feel free to tell your friends about Provident Planning!

Personal Finance in the Bible: Legal/Government

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This is another quick update to let you know that I have added all the verses I’ve found on Legal/Government in the Bible as they relate to personal finance. You can find them on the Personal Finance in the Bible page. Just scroll down and click on the category to see all the Scripture references. Click the Scripture reference if you’d like to read the verse (opens in a new window). The Legal/Government category includes sub-categories of bribes, taxes, and lawsuits.

       That brings the total number of verses in the Bible about personal finance to 657! I still have many verses to add, so we’ll see how close we get to the oft-quoted 2,000 number. I’m not just looking for verses that merely mention money but for those verses that teach us how God wants us to handle our finances. Keep checking in, and I’ll continue to update you as I add more!

Guest Post at Free Money Finance about Contentment

       I have a guest post today over at Free Money Finance titled Contentment: Serving God Through Simple Living. Please check it out when you get a chance! Thanks!!!

Rethinking Retirement

       Mike at The Oblivious Investor has a thought-provoking article today titled Don’t Retire., which was inspired by Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine’s book Die Broke: A Radical Four-Part Financial Plan. Mike discusses why retirement as we imagine it today is probably an unreachable goal for most Baby Boomers and subsequent generations. Given the fact that many workers no longer receive pensions and don’t seem to be very good at saving on their own, I’d have to agree.


The History of Retirement

       The idea of retiring when you’re older is relatively new. It only seems to have become popular in the last century. There are several possible explanations for this, but the most likely ones are higher incomes (we enjoy a standard of living about eight times higher than Americans a century ago) and the creation of Social Security and pension programs (though the future of Social Security is unclear, and pensions are largely a thing of the past). If you’d like to read more about the history of retirement, I suggest these articles:

Economic History of Retirement in the United States (a more academic article)
The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P. (not quite as dry as the first)

       The truth is, retirement was never really an option for our earlier ancestors. They didn’t have very long lives or the economic systems we have today. We also find no discussion of retirement in the Bible as we think of it today. There is one reference to the priests (Levites) retiring at age 50 from temple service, but they were to stay on to help the younger men (probably in giving advice and guidance). The only other semblance of retirement we see in the Bible is old men sitting at the city gate. The city gate was a place of honor, and those who sat there offered advice and counsel to those in the city. Again, the older people didn’t really retire but found other ways to serve their communities. Instead of working, they lived with their children and received support from them. But that’s rare today (unless you’re Amish).


How Should Christians View Retirement Today?

       Given the nature of the labor force today and the interaction of families, we do need to be saving for a time when we won’t be able to produce as much income as we can when we’re younger. Children are moving farther away from their parents for jobs or other reasons than they did in the past (or in the Bible). Several generations of a family living in the same house or very close to each other is no longer the norm. And the complication of health problems and other issues when you’re older can definitely impact your ability to earn income.

       However, the American view of retirement is far from God’s ideal for His followers. How does spending every day on the golf course, or sipping sweet tea on the back porch every day, or traveling the world for pleasure glorify God? The work of the kingdom of God is never ending. By focusing our entire lives on a retirement where we sit around, do whatever we want, and relax, we miss the picture of what God could be calling us to do when we no longer have to work as much to earn all of our money. On the other hand, a Christian retirement focused on contentment and serving God can allow for some leisure (just as during your working years) without neglecting the valuable work we can do to further God’s kingdom and show His love to the world.

       22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

       27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

       29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Luke 12:22-31 (NLT)



       We are not to seek a life that’s merely full of the pleasures of this world. God calls us to seek His kingdom first. When we put our focus on God and trust in Him, we no longer have to worry about our retirement accounts, government policies, economic disasters, or any other worries. When we have the glorious gift of Jesus Christ, we remain wealthy despite what happens to us in this life. We have riches that cannot fail, that cannot disappear, and that will never leave us—even after death.


A Different Retirement

       I’m not saying you should stop saving and investing for the future. There will most likely come a time when you will not be able to earn all the money necessary to cover your needs. It is prudent and wise to save for such a time, and the Bible commends and encourages such wisdom. But you should rethink your hopes of buying that second home, taking luxury cruises three times a year, or endless rounds of golf during retirement.

       A Christian can most definitely follow God’s teaching and will if they save up for retirement and reduce or eliminate their workload. But a Christian retirement should be focused on meeting your needs (not extravagant needs, but your daily bread—just enough) and then using your abundance of time to do God’s work. Minister to the needy, volunteer more, visit the sick and those in prison, comfort those in mourning, reach out to those on the margins of society, pray and study God’s Word—these are all wonderful activities to fill a Christian retirement. But seeking a permanent vacation, a time when you do little that is useful or glorifies God, is only a product of greed, selfishness, and the World—it is a tool used by Satan to distract you from furthering God’s kingdom. Flee from it, and seek God’s counsel for your older years. Ask Him to guide you and show you His ways so that you can continue to glorify Him.


The Results

       This new view of retirement has profound implications for your life—now and when you’re older.

  • You no longer need to be obsessed with saving and investing all of your money. You’re free to be extremely generous—following God’s teaching on giving. You won’t have to save as much, but you should still save prudently.
  • You will avoid the depression that often comes at retirement. Many workers realize they actually enjoyed the interaction with their coworkers or the public and feel lost after they retire.
  • You’re free to do work that you enjoy even though it may not pay well. You don’t have to run after the highest paying job just so you can secure the retirement you’re told to dream about.
  • You don’t need to be a workaholic. You can focus on family and serving God during your working years—glorifying God much more than if you spent 80+ hours a week working. This also leaves you with more time to develop your relationship with God.

       Seeking a retirement where you can glorify God even more than you did while you were working brings you much closer to God than a retirement where you spend every day out on the boat. I challenge you to reconsider your ideas about retirement. Rethink retirement, and pray for God to show you what His will is for the later years of your life. Let God transform and renew your mind—clearing out the messages the World and Satan have planted in there and putting His teaching and will in your heart. Then plan and save for a retirement that glorifies God.


P.S. Yesterday marked Crackerjack Greenback’s 100th post! I’ve had 7,044 visitors and 193 comments since November 2008. Thank you for reading and visiting! If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, please tell your family and friends about Crackerjack Greenback!

Personal Finance in the Bible: Prudence/Wisdom

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This is just a quick update to let you know that I have added all the verses I’ve found on Prudence/Wisdom in the Bible as they relate to personal finance. You can find them on the Personal Finance in the Bible page. Just scroll down and click on the category to see all the Scripture references. Click the Scripture reference if you’d like to read the verse (opens in a new window).

       That brings the total number of verses in the Bible about personal finance to 579! I still have many verses to add, so we’ll see how close we get to the oft-quoted 2,000 number. I’m not just looking for verses that merely mention money but for those verses that teach us how God wants us to handle our finances. Keep checking in, and I’ll update you when I add more!

Hiring a Financial Planner: The First Phone Call

Antique German W48 Phone by Qole Pejorian on Flickr       If you’ve decided to hire a financial planner, you should consider your choices very carefully. You’ll be sharing your financial information with this person, so you want to make sure you can trust him to provide quality advice and look out for your interests first. Unless you meet the financial planner at a seminar or some social event, your first contact is likely to be over the phone. Read on to see what you should expect from this first conversation.


The Greeting

       Your call should be answered promptly and by a friendly, professional person. If you’re calling a small, solo financial planning firm, the person who answers may actually be the financial planner. For larger firms, you’re likely to speak with a secretary or assistant first. Let them know you’re interested in learning more about their financial planning services. Depending on the firm’s procedures, you may be transferred directly to a financial planner, a business development/marketing person, or you may be asked for some basic information first. Understand that the firm operates in this way for a specific reason and be willing to work with their requests unless they’re unreasonable.


The Screening

       Early in this initial phone call, the planner or other representative of the firm should ask you if you have a few minutes so they can describe their services. This description should include a summary of the services they offer, their typical client, and the associated fees.

       If they do not tell you what the fees are up front, don’t be afraid to ask them now. This process helps you get an understanding of what the planner can do for you and whether or not you will need the services they offer.

       Some planners may mention a minimum account size or net worth so that you can screen yourself out of their services. If you are far from reaching their minimums, politely say so and move on to the next planner. Trying to work with a financial planner focused on wealthier clients is likely to cost you much more money and may not provide you with the essential services you need.

       If they do not take the time to discuss their services and fees with you but instead rush to set up your first meeting, be very wary. Anyone who is not willing to take the time initially to teach you about what they can offer you is likely a pure salesman. You should be on your guard when hiring a financial planner as there are many out there who will not put your interests first. But be especially careful when the planner moves quickly to set up your appointment without first taking the time to let you know what they do.


The Question

       After describing the services they offer, the financial planner should ask you if you have any specific needs or services they did not mention. They may also ask you, “Do you feel like these services will be helpful to you?” Be up front and clear. If you are looking for a planner who will manage your investments and do your tax returns, say so. This will avoid any misunderstandings or disappointments and keep you from wasting your time in a meeting to find out the planner will not suit your needs. On the other hand, set your expectations carefully. Though it can be nice to get everything done at a “one-stop shop”, you may be forsaking quality or integrity for convenience.


Setting the First Meeting

       If both you and the planner are in agreement that their services may meet your needs, the next step is to set a date, time, and place for the first meeting. The planner should explain what will happen at this first meeting and let you know if you’ll need to bring any specific documents along. They may also send you a packet of information further describing their services and requesting information from you before the initial meeting. Carefully complete any requested information if you’re comfortable with it and return it promptly so the planner has time to review it prior to your meeting.

       You should go into the first meeting not looking for specific recommendations for your situation but with the understanding that you haven’t yet hired this financial planner. You should prepare a list of questions to ask the planner about what their services entail, how they charge for their services, their qualifications, if they are required to put your interests first (fiduciary duty), and if they meet state and federal regulatory requirements. We’ll discuss the first meeting in more depth in a later article.

Top Christian Financial Websites by ChristianPF.com

       Bob over at ChristianPF has put together a list of the top Christian financial websites, and Crackerjack Greenback made the list! Check out the article to find more useful resources as you seek God’s guidance for your finances.

       Also, Crackerjack Greenback was included in the 191st Carnival of Personal Finance – Wizard of Oz Edition last week. There are many articles there if you’re looking for something to read about personal finance.

Cheap, Healthy Food: A Wholesome Meal for Under $1/Serving

       Do you want to eat healthier but you’re afraid it will be too expensive? I have three easy recipes you can combine to make a wholesome meal for less than $1 per serving. And it doesn’t taste like cardboard, either!

       These recipes come from the More-With-Less Cookbook, a collection of Mennonite recipes with a focus on affordable but nutritious meals. It’s also focused on moving away from processed foods and wisely using the world’s resources. I highly recommend you buy a copy if you don’t already have one. It’s a very affordable cookbook ($11.55 on Amazon) and a great value!


Middle Eastern Lentil Soup

Combine in soup kettle:

1 cup lentils
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Cook until the lentils are soft (about 30 minutes), adding water if needed to maintain a soup consistency.

Heat in skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add and sauté just until yellow:

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

Blend in:

1 tablespoon flour

Cook for a few minutes. Then add the sautéed ingredients to lentils and bring to a boil. After the soup boils, remove from the heat and stir in:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


Tomato Chutney

Combine in a bowl:

2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes (about two medium tomatoes)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with fresh cilantro, if available.


Rice

I hope you already know how to make steamed rice… :)

Fix up about 5-6 servings (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups dry rice).


The Meal

       Serve the Middle Eastern Lentil Soup over rice and top with the Tomato Chutney. This should make about 5-6 servings. Total cost per serving? $0.80! (Assuming you drink water, of course.) You could probably add a vegetable for an additional $0.20-0.30 per serving. You can easily prepare and cook this meal in about 40 minutes. (Rice is easy, and you can fix the chutney while the lentils are boiling.)


The Nutrition

       Lentils are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re high in fiber, folate, molybdenum, manganese, iron, and vitamins B1 and B6. They’ve also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Serving lentils with rice ensures that you get the complementary proteins you need to match the complete proteins available in meats. The lack of meat, however, means that this meal is very low in cholesterol.


Eating Healthy for Less

       I plan to share additional recipes that will provide you with healthy meals at an affordable price. While this isn’t a cooking blog, it is about saving money. Saving money on your food bill shouldn’t come at the expense of your health. These types of recipes help you save money and eat healthier. In general, if you want to eat healthier and save money, follow these tips (from the More-With-Less Cookbook):

   Eat More:

  • Whole Grains- rice, wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn, and millet
  • Legumes – dried beans, soybeans, dried peas, lentils, peanuts
  • Vegetables and Fruits – inexpensive, locally grown, in season or homegrown and preserved
  • Nuts and Seeds – inexpensive, locally grown or homegrown

   Use Carefully:

  • Eggs
  • Milk, Cheese, Yogurt
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Meats

   Avoid:

  • Processed and Convenience Foods
  • Foods Shipped Long Distances
  • Foods Heavy in Refined Sugars and Saturated Fats



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