I asked my oldest to write up her experience in living in a home where saving and giving were required, alone with work and college happening at the same time. Below are her thoughts. Hope you enjoy it and find some encouragement or counsel within.
My dad took me to pick up my paycheck, then he was taking me to get a haircut, and then we were going to go and open up my own bank account. While I was getting my hair cut, the lady doing the cutting asked what we were up to that afternoon. I told her I had gotten my first pay check and we were going to go deposit it in the bank. She flipped out and demanded that my dad let me go on a shopping spree. She just couldn’t comprehend that he would make me save it, and the rest of the hair cut was spent with her insisting that I spend the money and my dad telling her no. Of course, I was traumatized. I think that was probably the start of my current approach to being trapped in a hair salon – make up stories.
From the time my siblings and I were little, my parents had us saving our money. We were all very much aware that one day we would have to pay for a car and for college and we were very impressed by that ambiguous, looming reality. Because my parents enforced this from the first moment we got money in the mail from a grandparent for a birthday, we hadn’t ever experienced any other thing to do with money besides save it. And if any of us ever suggested that something else was possible, “Car and college!” was always the response.
Once we got our first jobs and started seeing a bank balance that kept rising, saving got easier. It was pretty exciting – even though we knew it wasn’t ours, it was all going to “car and college.” It was exciting the first time I bought a car and paid cash for it and had money left over. And it was exciting when I started college and was paying for it myself. At that point I had been working 39.5 hours a week since the time that I was legally old enough to and saving the vast majority of what I was making. The moment I hit 18 I grabbed every opportunity for overtime that came along and watched as my savings began disappearing into the black hole I liked to call Carthage College.
Getting through college didn’t happen without sacrifices. I didn’t have a ton of free time between classes, studying, working, and church. I had to leave a college I loved a year and a half in because I ran out of money and had to chose between taking out student loans or going to a cheaper school. That wasn’t a decision my parents made for me either, it was one I made entirely on my own. As I prepare to pay for my last class next week and finish, debt free and with money in my savings account, I have no regrets. I worked hard to get where I am today.
A college education has a lot of value. There are the obvious benefits – a college degree is necessary for most jobs and education is always worthwhile. But there are a lot of soft skills that are crucial to success after college that are driven home much earlier when a student is going to school full time while working full time: time management, budgeting, prioritizing, scheduling, determination, and a do-or-die attitude (none of us died!) Every semester there was at least one week where everything seemed to be due at once and I can remember thinking those first couple of semesters “There’s no way. I can’t get everything done and still take my regular hours at work. There’s just no way.” But at the same time, I knew that if I didn’t take the hours, I wouldn’t be able to pay for the classes and it wouldn’t matter anyway. So I went to work, worked my hours, came home and studied until two or three or four in the morning. And I discovered that I lived.
Today, I use every single one of those soft skills that I picked up during high school and college as I work in a ‘real’ job as a ‘real’ adult paying ‘real’ bills. Just this past December I relived working until two or three in the morning for a couple of weeks to finish a project on time, only this time it was a project for work, not for school. Every adult knows what real life is like. Some adults want to keep their kids from experiencing that realness as long as possible. Others try to prepare them through experience. I know without a doubt that if I ever have kids they will get jobs at a young age, save their money, and work their way through school. It will be my turn to say “Save your money for a car and college!”
In light of my post yesterday I thought it might be of some small interest how Kim and I taught our children how to approach money when they were very young. The motive was not to make lots of money, it was to teach them to save, to be prepared to give and give generously and not go into debt. These were things I had not learned for years and had no desire to put that burden upon my children as well.
The standard was simple, no matter what you get and where you get it, 10% you get to spend, 10% you give to the Lord and the rest you put into savings. End of subject, not open for debate or discussion. Each of my children were faithful to this expectation to varying degrees since as they became older they would have greater control over their money.
This standard took place early in their life. When I say early I mean, when they were about to get money for birthday or Christmas this program kicked in. That meant that they would put their money into the offering plate on Sunday and they learned to go to the bank and put the rest into savings.
I am also a firm believer in teaching children the value of work and employment so all of mine were working at a restaurant by fourteen. I had little interest in their social life and activities, knowing that these would come and go but certain standards ingrained early could benefit them for a life. I taught them that there are a lot of idiots out there and they must not be numbered among them. Rather, they should do every and any job with the mind set that when the boss is looking to send someone home they are the last person on his mind.
It did not take much time for their paychecks to add up and since they knew I refused to pay for their college they kept at it with the savings. The result is that they all went to colleges and they all paid for their colleges with cash. They discovered that they could study, work and go to classes and not die. They might not be able to “hang out” like so many of their friends, but they certainly did not want to waste their hard earned money by flunking.
I cannot tell you how many in my church would tell me, or even more helpfully, my children how mean I was as a father. I sat and heard many a mom (usually while the father quietly sat on the side) tell me how my children only had their youth once and they should enjoy it. How I could harm my children and make them resent me. To be honest, I would look at them and what I really heard was, “Blah, blah, blah.” I figured in the end things would be plain and Kim and I would reap what we sowed one way or another.
Were they perfect? Nope, not in the slightest. And at times we had to make corrections and reminders. But they are all young adults, two with children of their own, who are not afraid of work and not adverse to going without something if it means debt. Kim and I delight to see our children, we love to fiddle around with the grandchildren. And we hope to see these things poured even deeper into the hearts of the lives to come.
Tomorrow I asked my oldest to relate what it was like growing up in this sort of home and ultimately paying for college on her own. Apparently there is a “traumatic” moment at 14 that I don’t remember that involved her first paycheck, a haircut and me glowering at some lady.
Oh, and if you are not sure about what I mean by, “blah, blah, blah” I present this:
I have debated in my mind for quite some time whether I should post this or not. Ultimately two points pushed me over the edge to do so. First, every time I read the article I link to below I get find that my problems with it do not diminish. Second, hardly anyone reads this blog so if I am wrong then my damage will be minimal. Of course, if I am right, which I think I am, then any impact will be wimpy at best.
With that little introduction I want to give my two cents about the whole idea of matching gifts to charities. It happens quite often and as best as I can figure someone has a chunk of money, let’s just say about $270,000 and they decide to donate it to some worthy cause. Let’s just say that the cause is one that prints and distributes bibles. So they write a check, send it to the organization and moves on. Their prayer is that the Lord uses this amount in a wonderful manner and that many who do not have the Word of God might finally own a copy. Except that is not what happens.
Instead the person contacts the said bible organization and tells them that they desire to give up to $270,000 as a matching gift. Cool! Now, if a whole bunch of other people hear about this then they can send in their smaller amounts, hopefully to the total amount of $270,000 and the organization now has $540,000. But implicit in this whole scenario is that if only $100,000 is brought in from others then that amount is matched and the group gets $200,000. Am I the only person who finds this remotely offensive?
Here is my point, if the person who is doing the matching gift offer is really going to give that whole amount, then why even bother with claiming that he/she is going to match any giving up to that amount? At what point does that become manipulation and even dishonesty? Recently Crossway sent out a letter that exploded on several blogs related to a matching grant that, amazingly enough, matches the dollar amount I referenced above. Read carefully this quote (emphasis through bold is added):
We have been offered a matching grant in the amount of $270,000, if we are able to raise an additional $270,000 to match the grant.
The purpose of the grant is to help provide the Bible and Bible learning resources free to 1 million people globally—free via the Internet, and free globally, anywhere and everywhere, on every major tablet and smart phone device—particularly to people in great need in China, India, and Africa.
Now I know I am not the brightest nor the greatest mind trotting around blogdom, but this is wrong in my book. We have people with great need and the ability to provide them the Bible free. But all of this is only if this donor can manipulate others to have the same passion he has to donate money to Crossway. And that is what I see happening. If the donor has this burden, then he should give. But he should not use his burden to manipulate others to have a similar (though with less money) burden.
Well, the plan worked and the money was raised. They praise God who did more than they thought they could ask or think. But I don’t get the sense it was God as much as it was manipulation. Was this intentional? I highly doubt it. But it is manipulation still. Why not simply send the letter out and say, “Hey, we received a very gracious gift of X amount. It helps us reach halfway to the amount needed to do Y task. We want you to know about this and would like you to consider giving something toward it as well.”
I have personally made the decision that I will not give to a need when it is marketed in the manner of a matching grant. I just want organizations to ask. No gimmicks at all.
Well, that is my two cents. I wonder now if someone might match that and help me understand why this is a proper way to do business for the Kingdom.
I am working on my sermon out of Matthew 6. A simple command to not store up treasure on this planet. Why? For thieves, moth and rust destroys. In other words it does not last. As I am working on trying to describe the futility of hoping in this age I thought of a photo series out of Boston.com that shows the serious effects of a drought in West and Central Africa. The images are stark, as they should be. My heart breaks for those pictures of the little ones. My mind went back to a time in seminary where I visited a neonatal unit in Los Angeles. A little premature baby had just been born from a crack addict. The little girl could have fit in my hand. All I wanted to do was take her home. I saw that day another brush stroke in the effects of sin and death in this world. This photo series shows another.
Look at the photo series and see that nothing lasts. Not only does rust and moth destroy but so does dust and drought. How do this images move you to think of money and why God has enriched you?
“We don’t give them [our children] a pound of twizzlers, it will make them sick.
Likewise, I believe it is usually the grace of God to withhold this kind of money from his children.”
The above is my take away quote from this article by Tim Kimberley on whether he should buy a lottery ticket. I think he is right, though I confess I have bought a few over my life, six to be exact, five of which were bought at one sitting at the request of a relative who gave me the money. And to be honest I knew it was not right. Sounds sort of judgmental and self-righteous doesn’t it? Let me explain just a tad.
In his excellent article (which by now you should have read) Tim gives several ways he worked through the process of making his decision. The two key ones were that he did not trust himself to simply give it away to the cause of Christ and second, the massive cost in joy and life that past winners have suffered. And he is right. I don’t trust myself further than I can spit (and when I spit it tends to just dribble down my chin three out of four tries). Money is the great idol of my country, we spend an inordinate amount of time believing that it is what will fix things. Our decision-making about world crises? Money. The cause of violence in our cities? Poverty. The reason our children come out of school dumber than when they went in? Not enough money spent on teachers.
This hope in the power of money is so much part of what we are that we reveal daily the truth of Jesus’ words, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:21 NASB) But sadly it is so easy to not believe this is true in my heart, no I would be different. And this is because we do not have a hefty, rich, well-rounded understanding of the biblical description of our hearts and the propensity for idolatry that flows in our hearts even as though redeemed in Jesus Christ.
Jesus doesn’t tell us to hope in money, he tells us (commands) to trust in God and keep our eyes on the age to come that will not pass away and where we shall be joint heirs with Jesus. And to the person who says, “If I win the lottery I will give it all away to missions,” I would say that it is better to take the dollar you would spend on it and give that to missions. And every time you are tempted to buy something that is to bring you riches, give the money needed to participate away to missions. And trust in Him who is Lord over all creation to extend His work through His power and might.
Do we believe the words of Jesus that we cannot serve both money and God at the same time? Do we believe the Spirit who tells us that money is the root of all sorts of evil? Solomon said it bluntly, “Riches do not deliver in the day of wrath. . . .” (Prov. 11:4) so why would you pursue it? And finally, does our Lord speak in jest when He says, “A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov 28:20)