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Your Greatest Resource for Managing Personal Finances

Personal finances can be a daunting and blood pressure-spiking topic. It can give us feelings of success or failure. It’s an area of our lives that can be hard to hide from others, especially if it isn’t going well. It can dictate how we view our quality of life, where our kids are able to go to school, and the vacations we can or cannot take. Studies have shown the extreme effects of gratitude in emotional well-being, and at times, personal finance can tend to influence just how grateful we feel. How stressed we feel about our personal finances can significantly impact our emotional well-being in various areas of our lives including our relationships with others.

And yet, when we resolve to get serious about our personal finances, we can get conflicting messages on what that looks like. Experts tell us we each need to have “a number” for retirement, the world tells us we can never have enough, and the Bible tells us the love of money is the root of all evil. So then, how do we navigate the waters of personal finance wisely and yet not overemphasize its importance relative to other areas of our life?

Our editorial director at RENEW.org asked if I could try to provide some guidance on this topic for our readers. While I am not a financial advisor, nor do I hold any degrees directly related to personal finances, I do have over 30 years’ experience of successfully managing many millions of dollars in the business marketplace. In addition, my personal story includes hitting a very low point with my own finances where I was paying months (yes, plural) of apartment rent on credit cards as I struggled to manage my income and outgoings.


“When we resolve to get serious about our personal finances, we can get conflicting messages on what that looks like.”


Through some lifestyle changes, listening to and learning from others, and hard work, I changed my personal financial trajectory. Today, I am a debt-free home and property owner, on track to help two children through college and retire well. While not an expert, I have learned some things that are worth sharing for anyone wanting to arrive at a place of financial flexibility—e.g., more margin to give generously and to work meaningfully—instead of living with a lot of stress and little room for intentionality.

Perhaps then, through this article, and maybe more to come, I hope to provide a few of the big lessons I’ve learned along the way. My prayer is that these personal financial lessons can help someone reading who may need a redirection of their financial trajectory. I hope to help equip them to lead their families well and honor God with what he blesses them with. I do need to give credit to my mom and dad for being a great examples of how to manage money in lean years and in fat years, to Dave Ramsey and his team who provided my wife and me with some early-on instruction and inspiration to become debt free, and to the church leaders throughout my life who had the wisdom and courage to explain the teachings of Jesus on finances. These mentors each helped teach me what Scripture tells us God expects from us when it comes to money. (For more on what the Bible teaches about money, click here.)

Although Scripture tells us not to be greedy (1 Tim. 6:9-10), or prideful in our wealth (Prov. 11:28), or fall for get-rich-quick schemes (Prov. 28:20, 22), it does commend hard work and the material well-being that follows (Prov. 10:4; 21:20), especially in the interest of taking care of your family (1 Tim. 5:8). In this article, I’d like to describe the most important lesson I have learned in redirecting dangerous financial trajectories and managing personal finance. I want to make clear that this isn’t about getting rich quickly or about climbing a social ladder. It’s about working diligently and managing your money wisely so that you can take care of your family and be a blessing to others.


“I’d like to describe the most important lesson I have learned in redirecting dangerous financial trajectories and managing personal finance.”


With that in mind, here are a couple truths I want to point to in this article to help you manage your finances better.

Two Truths About Personal Finance

This first truth is going to sound very basic, but it’s surprising how easy it is to forget. Here goes: Your income is your greatest resource for managing personal finances.

No matter how you slice it, your income—what you earn, inherit, are gifted—is your surest resource to give, save, invest, and spend. In other words, the money you receive free and clear from obligation (as opposed to money you receive from borrowing) is really the bulk of what you have to work with to become financially stable. Generally, this type of income is earned income, that is, compensation for work done. Even the Levitical law calls out the importance of the laborer’s wages (see Lev. 19).

I told you it was basic. But it’s fundamental to my next point (which is also basic, but a lot of people forget it).

Second, since your income is your central resource in becoming financially stable, you gain financial stability and flexibility by maximizing your income. Let’s say you consistently have more money going out than coming in each month, and the trajectory isn’t sustainable. This is by no means a one-size-fits-all, but a helpful paradigm to help you diagnose your current situation is the “10-10-80-maybe” plan. Simply put, you take your total income and then tithe 10%, then put 10% into invested savings, and then create a budget to live on the last 80% and maybe have some left over for more giving or saving. If you cannot comfortably follow a plan like this, you need to consider maximizing your income.


“Since your income is your central resource in becoming financially stable, you gain financial stability and flexibility by maximizing your income.”


So, how do you maximize your income? Great question. There are two main levers to maximize this resource. You maximize your income by increasing earned income and/or decreasing outgoing expenses.

Maximizing Income by Increasing Income

The first lever is increasing your income. This can be more obtainable than we tend to think. It begins with examining the work you currently do to earn income. Assuming you enjoy your work (enjoying what you do is very important) and would like to remain in your current position, begin by committing to doing a great job at work so that you can create a history and reputation of good performance and hard work. You will be glad to know Colossians 3:23 calls us to do this anyway! This then provides you the grounds to meet with your supervisor and ask for increased compensation, a better position (and thus increased compensation), or to have them develop a plan for you that will lead to better compensation.

A second consideration may be to look to other jobs that may offer better income opportunities. This may require training or other self-work to increase your skill set, to acquire the “tools” or learnings to be considered.


“Begin by committing to doing a great job at work so that you can create a history and reputation of good performance and hard work.”


I’ll mention an unfortunate observation I’ve made. It seems that the best way to increased compensation is often through changing organizations, even if you move to the same role as you currently hold in your current organization. The Federal Reserve Bank reports that, with few exceptions, “job switchers” experience between 1% to 2% greater wage growth every year since 1997 compared to “job stayers.” Most employers, in my experience, do not understand the value of those currently employed versus what the broader market is willing to pay them. My greatest leaps of increase in income have always been to similar roles but with another employer (though usually with greater responsibility). Employers, take note here: The cost of searching for, hiring, and training the replacement for your best employees is high. Make sure you are compensating them to the value they are bringing if possible.

A third idea for maximizing your income is to simply add an additional source of income. It can be as simple as moonlighting a few times a week at a retail shop or a place you frequent anyway because of a hobby or interest. Does your church, gym, favorite shop, or restaurant need a part-time shift covered?

Maximizing Income by Decreasing Expenses

The other lever to maximize income as a resource is by decreasing outgoing expenses (and thus increasing the income you have left). If this is the path that feels like a more realistic opportunity for you and your family than increasing income, then get your game face on and attack your expenses with prejudice! This is hard for many to realize and execute as, in general, we tend to drive cars we cannot afford and make other lifestyle choices that prevent us from winning. I am never surprised that after slashing expenses time and time again, I can almost always examine my outgoing monthly expenditures and still find something that I can give up.

Very few of us live exactly at our means. Almost everyone has a little “extra” fun with spending (and I think they should if they can afford to). But if your mission is to maximize your income, this may be the lowest hanging fruit.


“We tend to drive cars we cannot afford and make other lifestyle choices that prevent us from winning.”


One of the best ways to decrease outgoing expenses is to become debt free. Do not be found as a slave to the lender (Prov. 22:7). This is the piece of advice championed most by one middle-Tennessee financial guru named Dave. I cannot do better than Ramsey and his team driving this point home or expanding on the concept, so I would commend their website to you for more on this topic.

Diligence & Contentment

I would challenge that there is rarely, if ever, a financial situation that could not be improved by the combination of lowering expenses and increasing income. I’ve found the following phrase helpful here: “Earn more, give more, save more, spend less.” It is as simple and complicated as that. I have never met anyone who put this formula to work and regretted it. The problem is that this calls for diligence, and most people would rather skip ahead to the fruit without bothering to plant the seed and tend the tree. It’s not unlike the person who says, year after year, “I want to learn to play the guitar.” The truth is he doesn’t want what he says he wants. He wants to play the guitar—but not to learn how.

That said, the ability to become financially content largely hinges on your definition of contentment. If you make $50,000—can you live on $40,000? If you make $100,000, can you live on $80,000? Being content to live on less than you make may be as important as lowering expenses and increasing income. You need to decide how much money is enough. We must resist the temptation to answer as Lee Iacocca did when, at the height of his success, he was asked how much revenue was enough. His answer: “a little bit more.”


“Earn more, give more, save more, spend less.”


I have had many people reach out to me for financial advice expecting a magical investment opportunity I could show them or some secret savings account that grows your money faster than others. The reality is that financial stability and flexibility is the product of consistent wise practices plus time. In the interest of getting to a better place financially, I encourage you (together with your spouse if you are married) to take a good look at your income and ask how you can maximize it by increasing income and decreasing expenses.

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