As early as you can in life, you need to have a foundation. Anyone building any building knows that. Anyone building an organization knows that as well. Jesus explained that about life as well:

Matthew 7:24-27
24  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
27  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Foundations in construction matter. Foundations in life matter just as much. One area in life where a foundation is especially important is in your handling of money. A foundation is a set of principles that will guide all of your spending, saving, and giving. Without that foundation, you will be subject to every tug and pull that modern American marketing can generate – and there is a lot of “tug” in the psychological work behind modern marketing.

Here are a few ideas for a foundational set of principles.

Everything starts with God. It always has and it always will.

1. God Comes First

There is a good reason why God comes first, and it is a better reason that, “He said so.” Well, He did say so, Exodus 20:3, but you need to also know that He owns everything anyway.

Acts 17:24-25
24  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
25  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

He created the ground you walk on, the air you breathe, and He even created you. Psalm 24:1-2 and Psalm 139:13.

God wants to be in a close relationship with you, one of love and honor. He wants that relationship fervently enough to give us His Son as a sacrifice to make relationship possible. John 3:16. God wants it to be a voluntary and loving relationship, so He is willing to allow people to make a bad choice, hell, and choose not to walk in relationship with Him.

As free people, we have choices. Money is one of those choices and many people chose it over God. God knows – and so do we – that our heart follows what we treasure. If we love and treasure God, we will follow Him. If we love and reassure money, our heart – and ultimately our lives – will follow money.

Matthew 16:21, 24
21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

24  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

God deserves and wants to be honored in relationship. One way we do that is by giving back to Him a portion of what He has given to us. In Old Testament times it was called a sacrifice. Exodus 20:23-25. While most people did not have much in the way of spending money, they did have animals or grain because Israel was primarily an agrarian culture. The offerings were sacrifices of animals or grain.

Today our offerings to honor God are money or assets of value. Once you learn to give back to God, you begin to see how truly faithful He is. Malachi 3:10 and 1 Corinthians 1:9.

2. Save for Your Future

Many advisers recommend saving 10% of your income for the future. That is a place to start, but mathematically, 10% isn’t enough. See Save More – 10% Isn’t Enough. But 10% may be a lot of money and may not be possible for you at first if your finances are upside down. Start with whatever you can set aside; the important first step is that you start with something. Once you have started and have a few months of being able to save something, it is time to look for ways to cut your spending and save a little more. See Budget Breakers, Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship, 7 Steps for Financial Progress, and Save $ in 2022.

The sad truth is that far too many Americans have set aside nothing for their futures, not even for retirement. See 8 Financial Moves to Make in Your 20’s. Read it even if you are long past your 20’s. Life should never be about hoarding great wealth, but it is about responsibly setting aside reasonable amounts of money so that you will not be a burden on your family and so that you do not have to depend on Social Security.

Your goal is to first set aside one month’s living expenses for an emergency fund. Then start saving more, some for a larger emergency fund and some for retirement. The emergency fund remains quickly available, the retirement accounts can be longer term investments. Again, see 8 Financial Moves to Make in Your 20’s. Your long-term goal for your emergency fund is six months of your current living expenses.

3. You’d Better Budget

Budgeting is hard. It takes time and discipline. But I also discovered a lot about my finances when I did my first budget. I realized how much each month went into “little” daily expenses. That adds up fast; I saw that in certain areas we were being “nickeled and dimed to death.” I saw places where my spending was too high and needed to be put in check. I saw a few places where the bills could be easily trimmed; one was a particular insurance policy I hadn’t watched closely and hadn’t gotten competitive bids in years.

To get started, I recommend you start with a course like Financial Peace University which offered for free at Idlewild or Crown Financial. They teach budgeting, prompt you to use budgeting, and they both do it well. Budgeting will help with your financial discipline, reduce your impulsive purchases, and help your efforts to save.

The first budget line item should be giving to God. The second should be saving. Sections 1 and 2 above were in that order for a reason.

4. Take the Free Money

Many employers do a matching contribution within 401(k) plans. What they offer is a dollar-for-dollar employer match up to as much as the first 6 percent of salary. What that means is that you get “free” money. It really isn’t free because it is an employee benefit that is offered to you as part of your compensation for the work that you do. How it works is simple: for every dollar you contribute up to 6 percent of your salary, your employer contributes the same amount to match your contribution. The only thing that is “free” about this is that it is free money for your employer if you don’t contribute to your 401(k) and take all of the match.

If your employer has a 401(k) and there is a match, always contribute enough to get the matching contribution. If there is no match, contribute as much as you are able.

5. What If There Is No Free Money?

But what if your employer does not offer a 401(k) or if you are self-employed? Unless your income is above the limit, you can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”), either a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA. Roth IRA income limits are over $100,000 per year and are higher for married couples [the limits for a full Roth IRA contribution of $6,000 depend upon your filing status (Single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er) and your modified adjusted gross income and your age. For more details, check with the website for the current year.] The limits vary per year and people above 50 can contribute more, so check carefully.

There are ways to wisely save. If you have questions, give us a call at The Idlewild Foundation, (813) 264-8713. We would love to help and our services are without any charge.

6. Set a Spending Finish Line

One thing you do when you budget is that you see how much you really need and you see how much of your spending is discretionary – that is spending on your wants instead of your needs.

Here’s an idea for you to try as a personal experiment. Try living on what you need instead of what you want. Test the limits of your ability to live frugally while giving and saving more. By setting your budget according to your needs, you cap your spending, that is, you create a lifestyle or spending finish line for each month.

There is a second finish line and that is to say how much is enough in savings for your life. Then you will know when you can retire and when you are as secure as the financial markets and the economy can make you. In truth, that isn’t truly secure – the only real security come from placing your trust in God, but it is wise to make your best efforts.

Try setting both finish lines and see how they work for you. A reasonable finish line will help with your discipline and keep you focused on what really matters. It is amazing how free you can
feel without the pressure of “keeping up with the Joneses” and without having to feel you must rush out and buy the latest toy.

7. Invest What You Save

No one ever got rich off bank savings accounts, except the bank. To make headway against the expenses of life and the pressure of inflation, you need some means of keeping ahead of the rising cost of living. The market or some reasonable means of investing is essential to building a meaningful financial future. Go back and re-read 8 Financial Moves to Make in Your 20’s to see how compound interest gives you hope of building financial strength.

Investing offers you hope for the future rather than a lifetime of work, followed by more work to be able to survive in your retirement. You want to be able to volunteer, serve, travel, take a few mission trips and make your retirement more than TV and golf.

Invest, diversify, focus on an economic goal and when you reach that goal, consider being generous with what God has given you. 2 Corinthians 9:11.

8. Know Investment Basics

Investing in your future is serious business. Know the basics, including the terminology. See Help, I Don’t Speak Woman! (or Financial Advisor).

Using a few of those terms, diversify your investment portfolio. Make sure that your investment options are in different financial sectors and companies. Do not put all of your financial eggs in one basket, not even that sure thing that some broker receiving a high commission wants you to buy.

The stock market is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Check out Want to Get Rich Quick? The Bible Has Something To Say About That for an honest view of approaching the world of investments.

The stock market is an investment tool that requires both attention and patience. See Aren’t Stocks a Risky Investment? A good rule of thumb to follow is this: if you don’t understand it, don’t invest in it. Stay reasonable, diversified and patient.

9. Eliminate All Debt

One verse says it all:

Proverbs 22:7
7  The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Solomon was a wise man when he said that. It was true then and it is still true today. If you are in debt, do everything legally possible to reduce it and get free. That includes your home mortgage. If that means you can’t buy that new boat, take that great vacation to Europe, buy that new fancy car, or have the latest smart, wide, flat screen TV with all that new technology, then do without those things. None of them are as important as freeing yourself from the bondage of debt and protecting your financial future.

For a few ideas that may help, see Dumping Your Mortgage Debt and What About Getting Out of Debt?

10. Have the Right Insurance Coverage

Insurance companies of all types and brands are in competition. Keep them competing and regularly check prices. The insurance types you need include car, home or renters, and health. There are many variations within those types of insurance. Having a skilled, experienced and caring insurance agent is important because you don’t have the time to become an expert in insurance products.

We live in a very insecure world. No, insurance is not going to replace God as a firm foundation, but at least you will know that you have been responsible with what God has given you.

11. Be Generous – It Strengthens You!

One of the most amazingly true statements I have ever heard is, “I have never met an unhappy generous person.” After I thought about it a while and looked around, I realized that statement is true. It isn’t because generous people have lots of money so they can be happy – some of the most generous people I know have little money but are generous with everything God has given them. Generous people are happy because they are doing what God wants them to do with His stuff.

For just a brief sampling of what God thinks of generosity, check these verses out:

Psalm 37:26
26  They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.

Psalm 112:5
5  Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.

Proverbs 11:25
25  A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Luke 11:41
41  But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

For even more on this amazing topic, generosity, see What About Generosity?, Science Proves It Is More Blessed to Give Than Receive and other articles in Giving Generously, Joyfully and Wisely. We were created as generous beings, made in the image of a generous God. Genesis 1:27 and Titus 3:4-6.

Make your generosity a lifetime of blessings for those around you and for yourself. Be generous with your Labor, your Influence, your Financial resources and your Expertise; be generous with your entire L.I.F.E.

If you don’t know where or how to start to begin, give us a call at the Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.