Crackerjack Greenback Prudent Advice for a Prosperous Future

November 6, 2008

The Way to Wealth – Nuggets of Wisdom from Benjamin Franklin: Heavy Taxes

Filed under: Taxes,The Basics,The Way to Wealth,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 6:00 am

Benjamin Franklin (Philadelphia - Old City: Second Bank Portrait Gallery - Benjamin Franklin by wallyg on Flickr)       I really like Benjamin Franklin’s “The Way to Wealth”. Taken as a whole, this pamphlet has some very timely advice for the current situation in America. But you can just as easily take it in chunks and find a lot of wisdom in his witty sayings. Well, they were witty for his time and many still are. But some of the words he uses would have been better understood in his day, so I’ll try to put them in context for our time. I’m going to take many excerpts from “The Way to Wealth” and discuss them over several posts.

       “The Way to Wealth” begins with a scene of people about to go shopping who are complaining about the bad times and taxes in their country. (Sound familiar?) One man asks Father Abraham, the main character in this short story, for his advice.

       Father Abraham stood up and replied, “If you would have my advice, I will give it you in short; for ‘A word to the wise is enough,’ as Poor Richard says.”

The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin

       So my posts are going to be short and only discuss one or two nuggets of Old Ben’s wisdom at a time. In case you are wondering, “Poor Richard” was one of Benjamin Franklin’s pseudonyms. Here is today’s quote:

       “Friends,” said he, “the taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an abatement. However, let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done for us: ‘God helps them that help themselves,’ as Poor Richard says.

The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin

Uncle Sam by AJC1 on Flickr       Yes, the taxes we pay to the government are heavy, but they’re not the only taxes we pay. Our laziness taxes us twice as much as the government does. Our pride taxes us three times as much, and our stupid mistakes tax us four times as much. These heavier taxes cannot be eased by our politicians or tax collectors, so if you want to save yourself from these taxes you’ll have to do it yourself.

       Listen to good advice, take it to heart, and something might be done to help you avoid the taxes of laziness, pride, and foolishness. By the way, “God helps them that help themselves” is not in the Bible, but God does encourage us to work diligently, avoid pride, and seek wisdom many times in the Bible. 😉

November 2, 2008

What Does the Bible Say about Personal Finance?

Filed under: Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 9:00 am

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This is a question I have asked myself many times. Many people have already tried to answer this question as a quick web search will show you. But I often see where people have twisted the Scripture to fit their message rather than looking at the Scripture first to find the message. I’ve also read that there are over 2,000 Scriptures about money in the Bible, but I can’t seem to find a free resource online that shows all of these Scriptures in one place. Bob at Christian Personal Finance has the most comprehensive list of Scriptures discussing money in the Bible that I have found anywhere online, but it’s a bit short of the 2,000 number that’s so often quoted.

       So I decided to do my own Personal Finance Bible Study to list and categorize as many verses in the Bible that I can find pertaining to some aspect of personal finance. From that resource I hope to cull the Bible’s message about personal finance and apply it in practical ways to our lives today. My biggest worry is that I might also fall into the trap of using Scripture out of context to fit my own message, especially since I’m a financial planner and already have my own ideas about personal finance. If you ever catch me doing this, please let me know!

       As I complete this work, I’m going to share it with you on this website. I’ll start a page showing the categorized list of Bible verses I’ve found along with a running total of the Scripture references and number of verses in each category. I’ll also share Personal Finance Bible Studies with you via individual posts. I encourage your participation as your wisdom and insight will help me improve this Bible Study and my own understanding.

Why Spend So Much Time on Personal Finance in the Bible?

       I don’t want to focus on money so much because of any personal fascination with it or because I’m greedy or because I want to be rich. I’m doing it because it has such an important impact on both our spiritual and material lives. It can be used as a tool to serve God and our needs, or it can keep us far away from God and take control of our lives. The problem isn’t when we’ve got money – it’s when the money has got us. Jesus told us this in Luke 16:13.

13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Luke 16:13 (NIV)

       Jesus is clearly telling us that we must have the right views about Money if we’re going to truly love and serve God. That’s why I think it’s so vitally important to focus on Personal Finance in the Bible and how it should affect our lives as Christians. If we can get that right, it’ll make it much easier for us to serve God completely and wholeheartedly.

Stay Tuned!

Stay Tune by shop boy on Flickr       So stay tuned for these things to come. I’ve already got a bit of the work finished, but it will take a while to get it on here. I’m planning on adding Bible verses on Wednesday and the Personal Finance Bible Study on Sundays. Each Wednesday I’ll choose one of the verses I’ve added and write a short post on it. I’ll be starting with Contentment and then Giving. We’ll see where the Bible takes us after that!

Want to learn what the Bible says about Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

October 30, 2008

You Don’t Need Things to Feel Rich

Filed under: Consumerism,Contentment,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 3:33 pm

Family Time by Joe Thorn on Flickr       Stop Buying Crap has a great post on 10 Simple Ways to Feel Rich Without Materialistic Means. You’ll notice that none of them require you to buy some fancy new Stuff to have fun and feel wealthy.

       Numbers 1 and 8 are some great ways to spend time with family. Having strong family relationships is good for your health and can increase your life expectancy. I also like numbers 7 and 10 because they remind us to appreciate the oft-ignored beauty all around us.

       The things that make us feel truly wealthy often have nothing to do with our Stuff or bank accounts. What are some non-materialistic things that make you feel wealthy?

October 26, 2008

The Importance of Values

Filed under: The Basics,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

What Are Values, and Why Are They Important?

       Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? Why is it important to plan for the future? What are you planning for and why? These are just some of the questions I start asking myself when I begin thinking about my goals and my future. Figuring out my goals isn’t very important if I don’t know why they are my goals in the first place.

       These are questions we often don’t ask ourselves when we’re rushing around to keep up with the day-to-day. But the answers to these questions are quite important, and we need to know our own personal answers by heart. The key to answering your own questions fully and effectively is to identify your values.

       Values are principles, standards, or qualities you consider worthwhile or desirable. Values will vary greatly from person to person because they depend on your personal judgment. What principles, standards, or qualities do you consider worthwhile or desirable? In other words, what are your personal values?

       If you cannot answer this question confidently, you may want to continue reading. Knowing your personal values is extremely important because those values shape everything about you. Your relationships, behavior, choices, and personal identity are all affected by your values. Even if you cannot name all your values, they are still influencing every aspect of your life.

Compass by seany @ flickr        However, we are easily distracted – especially with all of the busyness and media in our lives today. It’s far too easy to get sidetracked and led away from your values. This is why it’s vitally important to know your personal values. Those values are your compass for the day to day decisions you must continually make, and they help draw the map of your entire life.

The Role of Values in Personal Finance

       Now why would I be discussing values on a personal finance website? Isn’t that more of a personal development topic? Well, yes – it is. But the truth is that your values will have an impact on your financial decisions. There is no use in looking at numbers, giving you advice, or talking about investments until you can list your personal values. That would be like going on a great journey to some unknown land without a compass or any sense of direction. How will you know you got to the place you wanted to arrive?

       For a lot of people, including myself, retirement is a goal. The question I ask is: Why? Why do I want to retire? Well, I know someday I won’t be able to work because I’ll be older and my health could be declining. I don’t want to be a burden on my future family, so I want to plan ahead for retirement. I also would like a time of rest from paid work, when I no longer have to work for money. That’s not to say I won’t be working. On the contrary, I may spend a lot of time volunteering or working for charities. Which gets into another important question. What am I going to do when I retire? And why do I need to wait until retirement to do those things? The answers to all of these questions are somehow tied to my values.

       As I mentioned above, your values shape everything about you. Your values affect your behavior and choices. Your behavior and choices affect your personal finances. Therefore, you must recognize and understand your values before you can really start to work on your personal finances.

       For example, let’s say you want to start using a budget to track your spending and find ways to save money. If your values include frugality, thrift, and organization, then this will probably be an easy goal. But if your top values include extravagance and liberation, you’re probably going to run into some problems trying to stick to a budget.

       So before you spend any more time reading about personal finance, take a few minutes to identify your personal values. There are different ways to do this, but I’ll explain the method I’ve used. If this doesn’t work for you, then a quick Google search will provide you with other ways to accomplish the task.

       If you are married, have a partner, or your finances somehow involve other people, then you may want to do this exercise with the other people involved. This will elicit an important discussion and ensure you are in agreement or at least at an understanding about your guiding principles.

Identify Your Values

       To start this process, you will want to make sure you have time to focus. Sit down with some paper, and ask yourself this question: What is most important to me in life? Write down your values to answer this question. Try to make these one or two word phrases, and don’t worry about the order yet. I was able to get the major ones for me (Faith in God, Family, and Love) but I hit a road block trying to think of everything that’s actually important to me.

       If you’re like me and are having trouble listing specific values, you can try using Steve Pavlina’s list of values as a starting point. Go through this list and write down the values that you feel are most important. Try not to choose the values you think you should have, but choose the ones you find truly important in your life.

       If you’d rather not write these down on paper, I have included a link to Steve Pavlina’s List of Values in a Microsoft Word Document so you can edit it in an electronic format. Feel free to add other values or put them in your own words.

Prioritize Your Values

       Now try to narrow down this list by combining similar values into a single value (or two if you need to). You want to get this list down to no more than 10-15 values. Using the list of values mentioned above, I ended up with 59 on my list. I had a lot of paring down to do! I eliminated the overlapping values to get it down to the phrases I thought summed up that particular group the best. For example, I eliminated ‘Education’ and ‘Knowledge’ and used ‘Learning’ instead. It took me a while, but I got my list down to 13 values.

       Then you need to prioritize your list of values. You can do this by listing your top value first, then your second highest value, and so on until you’ve prioritized your entire list. If you are having difficulty prioritizing this list, then you might want to try CNN Money’s “The Prioritizer” calculator. The Prioritizer allows you to list up to 15 items and then asks you a series of questions that forces you to choose between each possible pair of goals. Once you’re finished, the calculator will give you a list of your values in priority order according to your choices.

Examine Your Values

       Now that you have your prioritized list of personal values, it’s time to examine these values closely. Are there any that you feel do not fit? Are there any you’d like to change? This can mean dropping a value, adding a value, or tweaking your priorities. Some of your financial goals may require changing your values or priorities, so feel free to reexamine this list at any time.

       After examining my prioritized list, I decided to drop 3 of the values I had listed leaving me with 10. Here’s the list of my top ten values in order of importance:

      Paul’s Top 10 Values

  1. Faith & Relationship with God
  2. Devotion to Family
  3. Compassion & Love
  4. Giving
  5. Integrity
  6. Curiosity & Wonder
  7. Contentment & Simplicity
  8. Fun & Youthfulness
  9. Prudence & Wisdom
  10. Balance

Evaluate How Your Values Should Affect Your Life

       Finally, it’s time to consider how your specific list of values will affect your life. If these are the things that are most important to you in your life, how should they steer your decisions? You might feel like you’re not following your values very well at this point in your life, but you have the ability to change that right now.

       With your list of values in hand, you can evaluate any decision with intelligence and confidence. You just have to ask yourself: What should I do in this situation if these are my guiding principles in life? Apply this method to every area of your life, and you’re sure to see your life becoming more aligned with your values. As your situation changes, you might need to revise your values. Adapting to changes in your life will be crucial to your success in accomplishing your goals.

       Now that you have your list of personal values, you can proceed with evaluating and planning your personal finances. These values should help lead you in making the necessary decisions about your goals, priorities, necessities, and the things you’re willing to sacrifice. All of these are important in reaching a financial future that will ultimately make you happy and fulfilled.

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