Health Care Sharing Plans – Part 2

To help you decide if a health care sharing plan is right for you and your family, we are going to look at things to think about and questions to ask.

Several plans have restrictions on the doctors available to you. If you live in a large metropolitan area, this may not be a problem, but if you are in a small town or rural area, you may not have much choice in doctors. Be sure you understand which doctors are included or excluded from any plan you consider buying.

Some of the sharing plans will negotiate lower costs with the doctors and other plans require you to do the negotiating. Are you comfortable negotiating lower costs with your doctor? Most medical providers are so happy to not deal with insurance companies and their claims process that large discounts are often available for cash-pay customers who are willing to ask.

There are several health care sharing plans which include a savings card for dental, vision, and prescriptions. And others don’t have that option. If those services are important to you, ask before buying.

One of the plans requires you to send your monthly payment directly to another member instead of to a clearing house. This may appeal to you as it gives you the chance to tell someone you are praying for them or maybe you like connecting with people in different areas. Other people prefer to send payments to a clearing house to avoid the personal connection. Which is right for you?

The terms around pre-existing conditions and how pre-existing conditions are defined vary with each program. In general, there is some time limit applied, and sharing around subsequent events related to a pre-existing condition are either not shared, or shared at a lower level. If you have any pre-existing conditions, be sure to understand exactly what is and is not covered. None of the programs we investigated decline membership due to pre-existing conditions. 

Even though some of the programs will actually help pay for adoption costs, the adopted children are subject to the same eligibility requirements as other new members, which means adopted children who have pre-existing conditions will be subject to the pre-existing conditions clause. This limitation on adopted children seems to be in conflict with the family friendly mindset of these plans.

People who use tobacco, drugs, or alcohol may be excluded. Any medical expenses related to these can result in otherwise eligible expenses being rejected for sharing. Tobacco use is prohibited across the board in all health care sharing programs. In addition, recreational marijuana use (even in legalized states) would not be consistent with program guidelines. 

People who participate in hazardous activities need to be cautious. Each program is different about what exactly constitutes “hazardous.” It might be riding motorcycles or hobbies that require you to wear a helmet such as three-wheel ATVs, off-road vehicles, rock/cliff climbing, spelunking, skydiving, deep sea diving or bungee jumping. 

Each health care sharing program has at least some caveats with respect to being a secondary payment source for those also eligible for federal or state assistance. If you receive federal or state assistance be sure to understand the limits of the sharing plan. 

The sharing programs have their own prescription drug policies, but generally prescriptions are only shared related to a specific medical need, and only for a short duration.  Such prescriptions would generally fall under the same per-incident limits or personal responsibility. 

There are some restrictions as to how long medication is covered. This means that someone who developed a condition like Type I Diabetes after becoming a Member would only have insulin considered a shareable expense for a very short duration. Maintenance prescriptions are not eligible for sharing at all.  Members are encouraged to participate in prescription discount programs such as NeedyMeds, GoodRx, OneRX, and LowestMed.

While all of the health care sharing programs have strong histories of success, there is no guarantee of payment because these are voluntary programs and not an actual contract for health insurance benefits. 

In fact, each group makes it abundantly clear they are not insurance and membership is not a contract. 

Typical disclaimers read …

  • Whether anyone chooses to assist you with your medical bills will be completely voluntary because participants are not compelled by law to contribute toward your medical bills. 
  • Therefore, participation in the ministry or a subscription to any of its documents should not be considered to be insurance. 
  • Regardless of whether you receive any payment for medical expenses or whether this ministry continues to operate, you are always personally responsible for the payment of your own medical bills.

Ultimately, members are placing a great amount of faith in these programs, which do not receive the state regulatory oversight and protection afforded to traditional insurance. 

With that being said, they have shared billions of dollars of eligible medical expenses over their history. 

The success of health care sharing depends on upholding and dutifully administering the member guidelines – on the whole, they seem to have done this so far.

There are plenty of positives about health care sharing and at the same time, there are lots of things to be cautious about to avoid surprises if you don’t have a complete understanding of the program guidelines. 

Plan to Enjoy Christmas

In the busyness of the season, it takes an intentional effort to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, so we have some suggestions on how to keep Christ in Christmas and how to plan a Christmas Day the whole family will enjoy.

Even if your Advent has not been very spiritual to this point, start now by reading through the Advent story in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. It is a beautiful story of trust in the Lord where we hear about two faithful women who were open to the miracles God gave them.

Two verses in this reading relate to the Hail Mary Prayer. In Luke 1:26-28 we hear the greeting from the Angel Gabriel to Mary, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” This is the first line we use when praying “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you.”

The next part of the story is when Mary visits Elizabeth and we hear the second part of the Hail Mary in Elizabeth’s greeting from Luke 1:41- 42, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Through these two faithful women, we can see that God works miracles in situations which humans would think impossible. Elizabeth was considered too old to bear a child, Mary became pregnant, even though she was a virgin. Instead of worrying about all the things you have to do this week, think about the miracles God has worked in your life.

Unfortunately, many people have a hard time seeing those miracles, and for them, Christmas is a very difficult time of the year. Some have lost their spouse. Some have experienced life changes that have thrown their world off balance. And how many single parents need encouraging friendships and financial help? It’s easy for them to feel all alone and consider Christmas as a time to simply survive.

It is easy for us to exclude these people from our celebrations—just as Mary and Joseph were excluded from the inn when they sought shelter in Bethlehem. I challenge you to make room for the lonely, the outcast, and the widow by praying that the Lord will bring one needy person into your life this holiday—someone who has a need for fellowship or financial assistance or someone who needs to feel the love of Christ in a real way.

Carry a care package in your car with handouts for the homeless, including water, granola bars, canned meals, disposable cutlery, and small toiletries. This is a great way to help the homeless without giving them money.

If there are people in your church who need transportation to Christmas Mass, go out of your way to help them. It’s easy to get caught up in the activities of your own family, but what better way to teach children about the real meaning of Christmas than to show them what it means to be a Christian.

Invite someone who is alone to join your family for a Christmas meal. Your table may be full, but there is always room for one more.

Maybe you know someone who is homebound, or in a hospital or nursing home. Take time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to visit with them, take them food (allowable on their diet) and pray with them. Fill Christmas stockings with simple items they’ll use like hand-cream, postage stamps, pens, pencils, a small notebook, magazines, socks or simple Christmas decorations.

Extend your outreach to your own family by planning some low key activities for Christmas Day that the whole family will enjoy. One of the problems is the headlong rush into Christmas Day, then suddenly it’s over as soon as the presents are opened. Christmas will be more meaningful if you find ways for the family to slow down and savor the day.

A leisurely gift opening on Christmas Day can foster an attitude of gratitude instead of having everyone tear into presents in five minutes of total chaos.

In our family, when it’s time to open gifts, the children pass out the gifts to everyone. When everyone has their presents in a pile in front of them, we start with the youngest, who opens ONE present, when that one present is opened, and everyone has oohhed and aahhed over it, the next oldest opens ONE present. We go through the family in rotation from youngest to oldest with each person opening ONE present when it’s their turn, till all presents are opened.

This slow process eliminates the ‘what’s next’ attitude when there is a big build up to Christmas presents, and the presents take less than 5 minutes to unwrap. Usually, the kids get interested in one of their gifts before their next turn, which gives them time to enjoy their gifts and appreciate what they received.

The other thing that happens is that the oldest people (usually parents and grandparents) generally have the fewest gifts and drop out of the present opening rotation earliest. This situation results in the kids being worried about how few presents dad or grandma got, so there are opportunities for talking about what’s really important as far as giving and receiving gifts

Another idea we’ve used to slow down the gift opening is to make a game of it. Hide the gifts and play “hot and cold” as the person gets near where their gift is hidden. Try writing a poem or playing 20 questions in order for them to guess their gift.  And the kids always love scavenger hunts where you hide clues around the house and send them scurrying around to find each clue which finally leads them to their gift.

Creating other family traditions will bring everyone together for fun and build memories that last a lifetime. Make a fire and roast marshmallows or make s’mores. Pick a favorite family game and have a tournament—Spoons; I doubt it; Monopoly; Uno, etc. Pull out pictures from Christmas past—especially pictures of the parents as kids or the children as babies.

Watch traditional family movies on Christmas Day—It’s a Wonderful Life; The Nativity Story, The Ultimate Gift, The Polar Express: A Christmas Carol.

Put together a jigsaw puzzle. Have it set up on a card table, so people can work on it sporadically throughout the day.

Read (or make up) a Christmas story—have different people read different parts in voices appropriate to the character.  Even the little ones can get involved if you have them say some key phrases during the story.

After Christmas dinner, go outside for a walk to get some exercise and use the excess energy the kids have from all the excitement. Play flag football. Play in the snow; build a snowman; have a snowball fight, make snow angels. Or if you are in a warm climate like we are, go to the beach and build sandcastles, play volleyball or simply walk and bask in God’s beautiful creation.

By consciously making plans to slow down and enjoy the holidays. “Then you and your family… shall make merry over all these good things which the LORD, your God, has given you.” Deuteronomy 26:11.

When you really think about it; what do want to accomplish during the Christmas season? You want to build memories you can enjoy the rest of your life. Memories centered around celebrating the birth of Christ, helping the less fortunate, and enjoying family and friends.

This Christmas season, don’t let the world make you discontent with its focus on buying. Instead, learn to be content by developing traditions that are meaningful and fun but not expensive. Use the Christmas holidays to make memories that will last a lifetime.

And most importantly, keep Christ in your Christmas.

Join the Compass Catholic podcast on thoughts on how to make conscious plans for a Christmas day you will enjoy.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays as it is the only holiday where we gather for the specific purpose of being thankful to the Lord for all that we’ve been given.

All of us face challenges–financial challenges, health challenges, relationship challenges, job challenges, you name it. And those challenges can get overwhelming unless we take a step back and reflect on the goodness of God. Psalm 30:12-13 speaks to this: “You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. So that my glory may praise you and not be silent. O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”

In the United States, we live in a time when some people would like to remove every connection between God and country, yet our Founding Fathers clearly saw God as the source of the bounty in this country. On November 26, 1789, our first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, George Washington spoke of that day as, “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

Many other countries around the world also designate a specific day of the year as their day of thanks. Almost all religions of the world have ceremonies of thanks to God and many are focused around the harvest season. I believe that the origin of giving thanks to God comes from deep within the human heart and it is a natural response to a loving and gracious God.

Attending Mass as a family is a way to thank the Lord. The Opening Prayer for Thanksgiving Day Mass reads: “God and Father of all gifts, we praise you, the source of all we have and are. Teach us to acknowledge always the many good things your infinite love has given us. Help us to love you with all our heart and all our strength.” What a beautiful way to start Thanksgiving Day!

Google “Thanksgiving Bible Verses” and you’ll get about 25 verses to choose from. Ask each family member to pick their favorite and read it aloud before the Thanksgiving meal, then share why they chose that specific verse.

Encourage each person at your dinner table to thank each of the others at the table for something over the past year.  This helps draw everybody closer together as each person shares their personal thanks.

Gratitude is an important virtue. It helps us concentrate on the realities in our life–when we are grateful, it helps us focus on the blessings in our lives instead of the day to day irritations.

During this time of Thanksgiving, it is easy for us to spend a day being grateful, but are we grateful to God the other 364 days of the year for everything he has given us? We challenge you to go beyond Thanksgiving Day and live a life of gratitude throughout the year!

Consider starting a Gratitude Journal. By taking time each day or once a week to write down the things for which you are grateful you can focus on those things that often escape notice but are so important.  Being consciously grateful helps you discover what you take for granted–job, family, freedom, birds, faith, friends, and the very air you breathe.  Each of these things, no matter how important or mundane, is a gift from God for which we should be thankful. Recalling all of the gifts that have come your way is fun to read later, and you can savor those special moments over and over again.

Another way to bring gratitude into your everyday life is to have each person at the dinner table share three things that happened that day for which they are grateful. In a family with young children this can range from the amusing (“I am grateful I didn’t have to sit next to any girls on the bus”) To the profound (“I am grateful I got to see Grandma today–she is getting old.”)  But whether or not there are children in the family, the gratitude discussion at meals helps keep thanksgiving at the forefront.

At bedtime, each of us can spend a few moments in silence to reflect on our day and say a prayer of thanksgiving about the things we experienced during our waking hours. We are showered with blessings from God each and every minute of the day and night and it is right to acknowledge those blessings.

Use your 5 senses to concentrate on the wonder of the world around you.  Touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, and hearing helps us to appreciate what a miracle it is to simply be alive. Once we start noticing the small things around us, it’s easy to get out of our natural tendency to see what is wrong and instead focus on all the little blessings we receive daily

Look for opportunities to thank the people around you and tell them how much they mean to you. Instead of a text, or phone call write and mail a hand-written note to express your thanks. The person who gets it will know you took extra time and thought, and they will appreciate your extra effort. Who doesn’t enjoy getting something personal in the mail, which is such a rarity these days?  When you say “thanks” be specific. Instead of using general phrases like “thanks for your help,” one of the best ways to show your gratitude is to acknowledge something specific about how they helped or what their help meant to you.

By taking time each day to think about how blessed you are, you can focus on those things that often escape notice but are so important.

This year, instead of November 22nd being one day of Thanksgiving, have it be the first day of a year of thanksgiving. “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will delight and rejoice in you; I will sing hymns to your name, Most High.” (Psalm 9:2-3)

To all of you who listen to us on the radio, read our blogs and experience the compass Bible studies, we offer our heartfelt thanks!

We wish each and every one of you a happy and blessed day as we offer thanks together to our God. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Compass Catholic podcast this week shares gratitude stories from our Compass family.

Momisms

Sunday is Mothers Day—a time to honor mothers, grandmothers, step mothers, god mothers and especially those people in our lives who are not “official” mothers but who fill that role so beautifully. Mother’s Day is a modern celebration of all things related to our own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in general.

While the businesses which benefit from the sale of cards, flowers, candy and gifts have commercialized Mother’s Day, the real purpose of this holiday is to show love and appreciation to our mothers by writing a personal letter, rather than buying token gifts or simply signing our names to pre-made cards.

Mother’s day is time to reflect on the gift God gave us when he gave us our mother. God blessed me when he gave me my mom. She taught me many good things that have served me well over the years. She always encouraged me to do something well if I was going to do it at all. She also taught me to think through what I was doing and plan ahead when I had a task to complete.

I remember one time when I was a pre-teen we were cleaning the house. She asked me to bring her the vacuum. We had an old fashioned canister vacuum and the way it was stored in the closet, all of the pieces and parts were separated. So, being the obedient child I was, I went to the closet, got out the canister part and brought it her. The she asked me to get the hose. By this time, I was doing the eye roll thing, but I went back to the closet and got the hose. Then she asked me to get the extension tubes. I did this with the eye rolling plus the deeply exasperated sigh only a wounded child can make. I went back to the closet and got the tubes. Then she asked for the floor brush. I complied by getting the floor brush, accompanied by much eye rolling, sighing, and a posture that indicated that I could not possibly be any more put out. My mom simply said thank you and told me a story.

She told me about a time at her office when two workers were asked for the same information. One worker brought a complete file folder into the manager’s office and was able to provide their manager with all the information he requested in one visit. The second worker brought a single piece of paper into the office had to go back to her desk multiple times to get the rest of the information the manager needed. The second worker acted as if the constant need to go back for more information was the manager’s fault, instead of their own ineptitude at getting things done the right way the first time. The story ended with my mom asking me “Which of those two people do you think the manager will trust and promote?”

I remember this scenario so clearly because she took what could have been a time to reprimand me and turned it into a teaching moment that has stuck in my mind and served me well over the years.

And like most moms, she had her favorite sayings, which I used on my son, who is now using them on his three boys. “If you are bored, I’ll give you something to do” was the response on those long lazy summer days when I said I was bored because it was too hot to do much of anything and there was no air conditioning in the house. When I was crying for no good reason, the response was always “I’ll give you something to cry about.” And when I whined about not being able to do everything my friends were doing, I got the standard momism, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge would you follow them?”

She hasn’t said those momisms in quite a while now and I am not even sure she would remember them. She does not know who I am when I call or visit. She spends her day sitting in her favorite chair “cutting coupons” (often without using either scissors or coupons.) While she does not have any specific physical illness, she is declining and it’s impossible to have a conversation with her. I pray for her daily and ask God that when her time comes, it will be peaceful and pain free. I also pray for my sister and her roommate who are caretakers for mom.

I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to thank my mom for all she did and taught me when she still had the ability to recognize me and understand what I was saying. I thank God for all the times I took a few minutes to send her a card, or write a letter or call to share a special memory or to tell her how much I appreciated and loved her.

I encourage each of you reading this to thank your mom in person and to thank God for giving her to you. Tell her how much she means to you and what influence she has had on your life. Pray that God will bless her and give her strength and good health to continue being his instrument of love in the world. And if your mom is no longer alive, pray for the repose of her soul and in thanksgiving for the gift she was to you.

“The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a Mother.”
-St. Therese of Lisieux

Friendship and Lifestyle

friendship-1081843_1920This week I received an email from a dear friend who lives in a village outside of Krakow, Poland. She is a beautiful example of a devoted Catholic mother and wife, and although I have only been with her a handful of times, we are sisters of the heart. She and her husband stayed with us when they visited Florida in January and we had stayed with them several times when we were on ministry trips to Poland.

I think they live a fairly typical Polish lifestyle, but by any American’s opinion, their lifestyle would be outside of a typical mainstream American lifestyle.

There is no TV in their home. For entertainment, the children do crafts, read, or play games with each other. Clothes are washed in a washing machine and dried outside on a clothes line, even in the coldest weather. She walks to the butcher and the market to buy groceries. Both of these stores are small shops about the size of a garage and have a limited supply of basic necessities. A lot of food like bread is made at home from scratch. And there is not a fast food place to be found in their entire village.

Their lifestyle does not have most of the things we consider to be necessary based on our standard American lifestyle.

If we moved to their village, it would be significantly different than the way that we live right now and it would probably feel uncomfortable. Can you imagine not having access to a modern American grocery store or walking to the store to buy from a limited selection of items? When I think about how they live, I can appreciate a few aspects, but overall it feels strange to me based on how I’ve lived my life in America.

That doesn’t mean that it is wrong. What it means is that it is so different from what I consider “normal” from what I am accustomed to, that it creates a sense of discomfort.

Being with these two beautiful people whose lifestyle is so much simpler—but not necessarily easier—than ours made me think about our lifestyles in America.

In many ways, we are all living a lifestyle that mimics what surrounds us. Our family, friends, choice of television shows, websites, magazines, and books all influence our lifestyle. On some level, these things show us how people in our culture live and we tend to incorporate that style into how we live.

Now, think about being removed from your American lifestyle and plopped down in the middle of a small village in Poland. Would you feel some level of disconnect between your American lifestyle and your Polish lifestyle? Will you start to fall into patterns of Polish life? Or will you continue a lot of the patterns of your American life?

The answer to how much you assimilate into a Polish lifestyle probably depends heavily on who surrounds you. Do you spend a lot of time with other Americans in Poland or do you embrace the local culture and immerse yourself in it?

If we moved to their small village in Poland, I am sure our friends would help us find suitable housing. They would refer us to the local Catholic church and introduce us to the priest. We would be introduced to their friends and included in some of their family activities. They would help us learn where to shop, what to buy and how to get around. In other words, they would help us change our lifestyle to be less American and more Polish.

Interesting thoughts, but how does that relate to our mission of Biblical finances? The answer is simple. If you want to follow Biblical financial principles, and be a good steward of God’s blessings, surround yourself with people who share those values.

The more aware you are about the people in your life, the things you read, the things you watch on television and the websites you visit the more you can mold your lifestyle to be a steward of God’s blessings.

Stop using shopping as a vehicle for entertainment and only shop for necessities. At home, turn off the television and read a good book, or play games with the children. Take up a hobby. When you are with others, disengage in conversations about all the ‘stuff’ people have and the things they bought and the things they want. In other words, find ways to disengage from the typical American consumer-based mindset where happiness comes from how much stuff you can accumulate.

As you make these subtle changes, you will gradually enjoy spending more time with those people who live a stewardship lifestyle and less time with those people who live a typical American lifestyle based on consumerism and debt.

It’s actually pretty easy. If you want to be a good steward, surround yourself with people who are good stewards. Seek out those people who live a life similar to the one you want.

As Catholics our friendships should be founded not only upon a similar lifestyle, respect, and love for each other but also upon the mutual love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus shared His whole life in a community of brothers and sisters. He fished with them, went to weddings and dinner parties. He prayed for them, and with them. He loved them and forgave them. He taught them the way of his Father. He even washed their feet.

This early Christian Community laughed together, cried together, and sang together. They shared in the agony and pain of death and in the joy of the Resurrection. Think about this—it is only when Jesus was alone that Satan tried to attack.

They knew that they needed each other to persevere in the Christian life, and so do we. There is nothing that can help you be a better steward than surrounding yourself with people who have the same goal, people who will love and support you and encourage you when things get tough. And most importantly pray for you.

So to end this blog, here are some Bible verses that reiterate the value of true Christian friendship:

Sirach 6:15 – Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth.

Sirach 37:5 – A good friend will fight with you against the foe, and against your enemies he will hold up your shield.

Proverbs 17:17 – A friend is a friend at all times, and a brother is born for the time of adversity.

Sirach 6:16 – Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.

Sirach 25:9 – Happy the one who finds a friend, who speaks to attentive ears.

Job 2:11- Now when three of Job’s friends heard of all the misfortune that had come upon him, they set out each one from his own place: Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath. They met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort.

Sirach 6:17 – Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship, for as they are, so will their neighbors be.

Sirach 40:20 – Wine and strong drink delight the soul, but better than either, love of friends.

No amount of money or stuff can take the place of true friendships based on a mutual love of Christ.

Teaching Kids Dollars and Nonsense

wealth-69525_1280A recent article from the Washington Post by Amy Joyce was titled “Teaching Kids Dollars and Sense.” In the article Ms. Joyce quotes Ron Lieber, who authored the book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids who are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.

I have not read the book and don’t know anything about it, as I am only commenting on the article. Most of what Ms. Joyce wrote was spot on, such as: start early; it’s the parent’s responsibility to teach their children about money; let the kids suffer the consequences of a bad financial decision when they are young; use three jars marked give, save and spend to develop a kid friendly budgeting system, etc.

But one of the things I heartily disagree with was that we can feel good about ourselves if we have “a little left over for charity.” We’ll never have enough left over for charity. This attitude is inappropriate for adults and unattainable for kids. The first words a toddler usually learns are Mama, Dada and MINE!

Kids are not natural givers. In our consumer society where children are walking bill boards with their character based, book bags, lunchboxes, shirts, dresses, shoes pj’s and underwear, no child will be naturally generous because everything in our culture influences them to be selfish. Children will only be generous with money if the parents intentionally teach them to be generous.

Google the words “children and generosity” and you will get about 35 million results in nano-seconds, most of which use words such as teach, learn, lesson, activities, raising, developing, growing, engaging, fostering, cultivating, helping, nurturing. None of these words make generosity sound like an automatic way kids think, do they?

If we want our children to be generous, we need to teach them to be generous, and the best way to do that is to be generous ourselves. We often hold money tightly grasped in our hands as if our very life depends on it. But the Bible tells us that all the money and possessions we hold onto so tightly really does not belong to us–they belongs to God.

God owns everything. Think about that for a minute. The Bible tells us that God owns everything: the highest heavens (Dueteronomy 10:14); the world and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1); all the land (Leviticus 25:23); all the silver and gold (Haggai 2:8) all the animal, cattle, wild birds all living things in the field (Psalm 50:10-12); all the earth Exodus (19:5); all of life (Ezekiel 18:4).

Boiling it down to the smallest possible denominator, what do you have that does not have God as its source? Your job? God gave you the talents and gifts you use in your work. Your life? God is the source of all life. Your health? Your family? Friends? Everything you have comes from God!

Once you recognize God owns everything, it’s easy to become generous. It’s not how much of your money you have to give to God. The real question is how much of God’s money do you need to keep.

1 Chronicles 16:28 tells us “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and might.”

Proverbs 25:21 tells us to be generous to our enemies “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat, if thirsty, give something to drink.”

Tobit 4:8 challenges us to “Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little.”

Above all else, giving directs our heart to Christ. Matthew 6:21 tells us, “For your heart will always be where your riches are.” This is why it’s necessary to give each gift to the person of Jesus Christ: it draws our heart to him.

Read the story of the faithful steward in the parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:21). Giving is one of our responsibilities as stewards, and the more faithful we are in fulfilling our responsibilities, the more we can enter into the joy of knowing Christ more intimately. (“Well done good and faithful servant. Come share your Master’s joy.”) Nothing in life compares with that.

For most of us, becoming more generous is a journey that takes time. The more we expose ourselves to what the Bible teaches about giving, the more generous we become. And once we become generous, it’s easy to teach our children to be generous.

There are lots of things parents need to teach their children . . . to look both ways before crossing the street, how to speak properly; how to make their bed; how to dress and even how to manage their money and how to be generous.

Vacations with a Catholic State of Mind

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Vacations replace the exhausting day-to-day grind with relaxing and fun experiences that can be shared with friends and family. Most of us look forward to the next vacation as soon as the last one ends. While it is easy to get caught up in the joys that vacations can bring us, we need to be responsible spenders in line with the Catholic debt perspective.

Don’t spend money on a vacation if you are in debt
If you have piled up large amounts of credit card debt, it is probably best to take the money you would use for the vacation and redirect it to paying off debt. Being in debt and going further in debt to finance a vacation you can’t afford is a downward spiral that will not end well!

We live in Orlando which is one of the vacation hotspots of the world, but even for us a one day ticket to one of the local theme parks is a budget buster with tickets near $100 per person per day–not counting parking, food and drinks (which can’t be brought into the parks).

Budget wise it it’s better to make a vacation out of things we can do for free at or around our own home. Try an overnight campout on the lawn with the kids, while showing a movie on a sheet hung on the trees. Go to the public pool or park. Check out the local historical sites. Or just spend time with family and friends playing games or watching movies, which can be much more fun and relaxing than fighting your way through hordes of hot sweaty people while dragging the exhausted kids along.

The thing that matters most when it comes to vacations is the memories you make. Sure you will remember a day in a fabulous theme park, but you may make more meaningful memories from a well thought out day near home.

Plan in advance for your next vacation
Start saving for your next vacation as soon as the last one ends. Make vacation savings a part of the family budget and get the kids involved in helping. They can cut coupons and have the savings go toward vacation. Set up a ‘thermometer’ type saving chart on the fridge so the whole family can see how the savings are mounting up. Let the kids come up with money saving ideas–they can be very creative!

If there is a special activity the kids want to do, such as zip lining or a Segway tour, have them save the money they’ll need for the outing. Or if they want something special to take on vacation such as a boogie board, have them save the money. It helps get them out of that sense of entitlement we see too frequently.

Plan your vacation in advance as much as possible. Maybe there are savings to be had by purchasing tickets to attractions in advance or by booking at off peak season times. Look for ways to make the vacation spending fit your budget, because once you are actually ON vacation it’s too easy to let the credit cards take over and the budget goes out the window!

Choosing the right time to book flights is important in keeping the prices as low as possible. Book the flight a few months in advance and try to book your flight on a Tuesday or Wednesday as prices are usually the lowest then. Browse through different airlines to get an idea of the price range, and then make an informed decision on which airline gives you the best deal.

We hope this helps you get the most out of your next vacation. As always it is important to remember the Catholic debt perspective, which is STAY OUT OF IT!

We pray for you to be smart about how you manage your money, and vacation spending is no exception. God bless and have a wonderful vacation with your loved ones, no matter where it is!

The Beans

A New Paradigm: Adult Children Living at Home

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A while back I wrote about Cheri Frame, an educational consultant who runs a business called “Credits Before College“.  Her goal is to make sure that kids are getting out of college without debt so that they are financially prepared to enter the work force or even go into ministry if they so desire.

The concept of getting kids in and out of college without debt is wonderful and I know I would have loved to have had this inside scoop when I was headed off to college. This line of thinking also made me ponder some of the arrangements we can utilize before our kids set out on their own.

When I went off to college, I had the idea that once I turned 18 I would be “turned loose.” In other words, when I turned 18, I was an adult and therefore officially on my own. Upon graduating from college (with student loan debt), my first job took me to one of the most expensive areas of the country to live in, New York City.  I made a paltry salary, which barely covered my rent and utilities. I pretty much had to rely on my credit card to meet basic needs.  To me, that debt was a huge black cloud hanging over my head and I had no foreseeable way of paying it down.  My husband had a similar experience.  We have talked about how this impacted our young lives as we started out and that, if at all possible, we’d like our children to have a different experience.

There is a book that has been around for quite some time called “Leaving the Light On”, by Gary Smalley & John Trent.  My husband and I read it to gain insight into creating a home for our children that was inviting and welcoming.  We want our children to feel like they can still come home, even after they turn 18.  We realize this is counter to the way we were raised and maybe even a bit controversial today, but it actually reverts to a time when men and women did not leave home until they were married.  The reason it looks different to us today is because men and women are not getting married after high school graduation anymore. They are heading off to college, then living on their own for years before marriage.  Unfortunately between college debt and independent living, the debt spiral usually kicks in.  What if we could provide them with a more secure start in life?

Naturally, I am an advocate for education and I hope my kids will pursue college.  But, my husband and I are not opposed to them earning their degrees close to home, even continuing to live at home while they are in school, if it will help defray the cost of their education.  Once they have earned a degree, ideally they will be able to find a job and establish themselves in the work force.  However, having a job and earning a salary high enough to support oneself do not always go hand-in-hand.  Perhaps by allowing them to stay home a little longer, at least until they are able to cover their necessary expenses on their own, they can be better prepared for the transition between adulthood and true independence.

Having adult children live at home can be challenging.  It can also be a great blessing as you get to know the young adult emerging from the cocoon of childhood.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord; great shall be the peace of your children.” ISAIAH 54:13

The “Sandwich” Generation

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We had a post on this blog not too long ago about having a conversation with our parents in regards to planning for the future. It is imperative that we know about their long-term plans, care preferences, and probably the most difficult discussion of all, the funeral arrangements.

However, for some of us, the opportunity to have this discussion with our parents has come and gone and we are now the beneficiaries of aging parents who have little to no financial resources and are unable to care for themselves any longer.  For some, this means the aging parent(s) will come to live with their adult children in order to provide the care they need because there isn’t enough money to consider any other option.  For others, while there may be enough income to allow the parent(s) to live somewhat independently, such as in a home with caregivers, this too can be an equally difficult discussion when the time comes to make the change.

More often than not, the adult children also have children of their own at home and are now in the middle of a delicate balancing act. Between managing doctor appointments, school recitals, and ball games, how are we to be sure everyone is getting what they need?  When funds are tight, how do are we to prioritize between our child’s medicine and Grandpa’s or Grandma’s?

As a Church, we need to care for our elderly, but when those elders are our own parents, it can add a whole new dimension to our lives.  Tensions can run high, so it is important to remain in Christ, stay grounded in our faith and remember all the sacrifices our parents made in order to provide for us when we were growing up.

We also need to remember that we are part of a larger community, the Body of Christ.  Not only can we rely on our Church for emotional assistance and counsel, but also, when our financial resources have been tapped, circumstances may dictate that we swallow our pride and make an appointment with our pastor to have a frank discussion about the situation.

Some parishes have counselors and financial advisors available to help outline a plan in order to ease the burden of guilt when we find ourselves between the proverbial “rock-and-hard-place”.  We are also blessed to have outreach ministries such as Catholic Relief Services and The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which have been set up to help in instances such as these.

The journey is not easy, but as our parents near the end of their days on this earth, more than anything we need a spirit of compassion, a heart filled with empathy, and grace beyond measure.  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

“Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you.”~Exodus 20:12

 

5 Things to Stop Doing for Your Children

john“You can’t always get what you want” is a familiar phrase to all of us. This is a hard fact of life that often appears at the most inconvenient times; yet, learning this helps us along our journey toward self-sufficiency and financial independence. However, when you’re overcoming your own challenges on the road to Catholic money management success, you may have forgotten to consider how your actions may affect your children. What happens when your knee-jerk reaction is to give kids what they want but really don’t need?

The answer to that question is becoming painfully apparent as the current generation enters adulthood. We have an entire generation of young adults who received just about everything they wanted with little or no work. Rather than a fleeting phenomenon, it’s becoming a cultural norm—and a problem. The fact is that life doesn’t give us everything we want, whether it’s jobs, cars, houses, friends, or even simply good days. Learning that the world doesn’t revolve around us is a message that needs to be instilled in children from an early age. Today, we discuss five behaviors you can change to help prepare your children for ultimate financial independence.

  • Stop being the ultimate problem-solver. No parent likes to see his or her children going through rough times. The initial response is usually to swoop in and right all of their wrongs so that we can see them happy again. However, this constant interference creates a false reality for them. You won’t always be there to help, and what’s more, your child will never learn how to fix problems on their own if you always do it for them. It’s ok to step in occasionally, but it is never ok to solve all their problems for them. Make sure they take part in solving whatever obstacle they have encountered.
  • Stop giving them made-up awards.
  • Stop centering your life around your children. We love our children very much, there’s no doubt in our minds about that; however, children can’t be the center of our universe when Christ should take that position. Help your children lead Christ-centered lives and be sure they know that Christ is the center of your life. Married couples need to put God first, their spouse second and their children third.
  • Stop overspending. While discussing financial problems with children is inappropriate, it’s a good thing for them to understand there is a limit to how much a family can spend. They need to hear you say, “We can’t afford that,” or, “We will have to save money for that.” Letting them know that financial resources are limited will help your children understand the value of saving and careful, conscious spending. It also conveys the message that material goods are not the most important things in the world.
  • Stop feeling guilty. It’s easy to feel a sense of guilt for not giving into every one of our children’s desires. As their caretakers and parents, we want to give them the moon, the stars, and beyond. But there’s no reason to feel badly for instilling a sense of responsibility and independence in them. Ask kids to be responsible for what they lose or break, and impose consequences for negative actions. Age appropriate discipline is needed in order for them to become fully functioning adults.

Realizing that our children’s behavior toward finances and material possessions is a direct reflection of what we teach them can be a huge wake-up call. As it says in 1 Peter 5:3, “Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.” Adjust your own attitude and you’ll be sure to see an adjustment in your children’s attitudes, as well. For more resources to help you along your journey to Catholic money management, feel free to browse our blog, or call us at (844) 447-6263 today.