What’s Your Definition of Financial Success?

Too many times we define financial success according to an outside standard instead of defining it for ourselves. We look at the person with the six-figure income as financially successful. Or we think the person with the biggest, fanciest car is financially successful. Or we think the people who live in the high-class area of town with the big houses are financially successful.

We fail to take into account our own lifestyle, the goals specific to our own life, our own starting point and our own resources as a way to define financial success.

It’s like looking at someone who is a physical fitness trainer as a benchmark for defining our own physical fitness. We will never go from being a couch potato to being a long distance runner in a short period of time. If we are trying to improve our health we need to take it one step at a time. We have to acknowledge the weight we lost over the last year. The amount of daily exercise we are doing now. And the way we have changed our eating habits to be healthier.

So, when we define financial success, we need to start with where we are, define where we are going, evaluate how we have used the resources available to us and measure how much progress we are making to get to our own definition of financial success. Your definition of financial success is not the same as how the couple next door, or your brother or your friend define it.

To some, financial success might mean a certain income. To others it might mean all their debt is paid off. To others, it might mean total financial freedom. Some people may define financial success as simply being able to pay the monthly bills with a little bit left over.

The best way to define financial success is very simple. How much progress have you made on your financial goals? If you are making progress according to your plan, then you’re financially successful.

It takes hard work and paying attention to what you are earning and spending. But almost everyone can make some progress in being financially successful. We frustrate ourselves when we define financial success by looking outward at other people instead of looking inward at our own progress.

If you define financial success as having a million dollars in the bank and you are hardly making ends meet, then you’ll never feel financially successful, even in you manage to dig totally out of debt and your retirement is fully funded.

No matter what anyone else is doing, if you are putting yourself in a better position, little by little then you are making progress and being financially successful.

If you think that financial success is impossible, look for a realistic definition that relates to your own life. If you have $25,000 in credit card debt and you reduce it to $20,000 by the end of the year, you are being financially successful. If you have not saved anything for retirement and you can save $1,000 this year, you are being financially successful. Figure out what financial success means in your own life and aim for that. 

You can’t compare yourself to someone who was given a huge inheritance or someone who made a killing in the stock market when a company they founded went public, or someone whose salary is 10 times what you make.

Are you doing better today than you did yesterday? That simple question eliminates all the excuses you may conjure up for yourself. You can’t excuse your own failure based on the success of those around you.

Measuring financial success is no different than measuring your progress in getting healthy. You may weigh 300 lbs., but if you weighed 350 lbs. last year you’re making progress.

All we can really do is evaluate the progress we are making on our own journey. Financial success isn’t hitting some arbitrary net worth number or buying a certain item.

It’s about a long term journey one step at a time to be in better financial shape each week, each month and each year. It’s hard work. But it is well worth the effort.

Start your journey to financial success by being intentionally grateful for what you have. Instead of wanting more and more, appreciate all those things that you already have. 

Once you begin to appreciate what you do have, the constant quest for more goes away. You’ll see that a bigger house doesn’t really matter.  A bigger TV screen doesn’t really matter. A newer car doesn’t really matter.

Look at what you DO have, not what you are lacking. Philippians 4:11-13 tells us “Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient.I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things, I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”

What actually matters in terms of success and failure is how well you’re managing what God has given to you. If you work hard, spend carefully and give cheerfully, no matter what happens, you’ll be better off than if you had done nothing at all. You’ll be able to weather both the good and bad that comes your way. Nothing else matters, because there’s nothing else you can really control.

Judging your circumstances against other people makes you frustrated, complacent or arrogant.  God is calling you to be a faithful steward of all the blessings he has given to you. He is not calling you to compare yourself against anyone else or to define your success based on anyone else’s journey through life.

How Much Money Does it Take to Feel Wealthy?

Money is a key issue for Americans. Credit Card debt now totals more than $1 Trillion. Student loan debt now totals more than $1.5 Trillion. Financial issues are the leading cause for divorce. Basically, money is a key source of stress in our lives. Many people in a recent Charles Schwab survey showed that there is a big difference between having money and feeling wealthy.

Even though most Americans won’t admit that money is a key to happiness, the survey respondents did not hesitate to put a number on what they needed to be financially comfortable. The survey results indicated that for a couple to be financially comfortable they need a net worth of about $1.4 million.

The same surveys indicated that for someone to be considered “wealthy” they needed a net worth of at least $2.4 million. It’s interesting to look at the difference between generations on the amount of money needed to be wealthy.

Baby boomers were born between 1944 and 1964. They are currently between 54-74 years old (76 million in US).  Their idea of wealth was $2.7M. Gen X’ers were born between 1965 and 1979 and are currently between 39-53 years old (82 million people in US). Their idea of wealth was $2.6M. Millennials were born between 1980 and 1994. They are currently between 24-38 years old and their number is $2.0M.

Based on those responses to the survey, it seems that the older you get, the more money you think you need to be wealthy. Maybe that’s because we see more as we get older. We get a case of the “wants” as we learn what other people are buying, where they are going and what they are doing. And as we age, it’s easier to consider that brick wall called death which limits our future time here on earth and we want to experience and have everything this world has to offer before that end time.

Not considering a specific number, how did the people surveyed define wealth? Peace of mind and living stress-free was the number one choice for 28% of the respondents. That was followed closely by being able to afford anything I want; loving relationships with family and friends and enjoying life’s experiences.  Having lots of money only garnered 11% of the votes when defining wealth.

When asked about what made respondents feel wealthy in their daily lives, the survey found that spending time with family was most commonly cited, at 62% overall. That was followed by taking time for myself; owning a home; meals out/delivered; subscription services such as Netflix; grooming and pampering; having the latest tech gadgets; shopping at specialty stores; having a busy social life and driving a luxury car.

It is interesting that in both of the above survey questions the first responses referenced personal relationships rather than having a certain amount of money as an indicator of wealth.

Maybe those first answers are more indicative of what is really important in the long term. Money is just a tool. It allows you to make choices about the things that you want to do, but money will never create happiness. Money can provide you with the opportunity to create memorable moments, but money doesn’t create those moments. Special memories can come from a simple hot dog dinner on the back porch. And people can be miserable on a luxury yacht in an exotic location.

Money does not equal happiness and wealth is more than an arbitrary amount of money.

A rich life is deep and meaningful, going well beyond the quest to buy more stuff and have more money.

What is your personal definition of a wealthy life?

Join us on the Compass Catholic podcast for more details on the Charles Schwab survey about wealth in America.


Listen to the podcast.

Work is More Than a Job

We are all called to be workers. In the earliest part of the creation story God, the universe’s first worker, gave Adam the garden to “tend and keep” (Genesis 2:15).  The first thing God did with Adam was to put him to work. Work was given to man as a gift, before original sin, not as a punishment after original sin. At it’s very core, a Christian approach to work is rooted in man’s relationship with God and creation.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 American Time Use Survey (most recent data available), in the US, employed persons worked slightly more than an average of 7.6 hours a day during the work week.

The job we do during our work week allows us to buy the necessities in life. Work provides “our daily bread” and we are able to support our families with what we earn. What is more challenging to understand is that our work (and how we accept, respect and support the work of others), is the mechanism that provides for the nourishment of our spirit.

Pope Francis has stated that being a worker and engaged in business is a genuine human and Christian calling. He calls work “a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by the greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.”

When we forget that our work is an opportunity to use our gifts and our energies to help meet the needs of our fellow man, we forget that we are called by God to be a worker. Realizing that we actually work for Christ, not our boss, changes everything.

Just as many people separate their spiritual life from their finances, many people separate their work life from their spiritual life. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24 that “No one can serve two masters; for 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 God and mammon.” If we are truly living our faith, our work life and spiritual life need to be integrated. If we are serving God with our work, then our work has a higher purpose.

We have a tendency to feel that the person with the big office and big paycheck has more value than the person who is emptying trash cans and cleaning the bathrooms. When we do this, we fail to acknowledge that there is equal dignity in all different occupations. What would the workplace be like if no one every emptied the trash or cleaned the bathrooms? The CEO and the janitor have different tasks, probably different education levels and different sized paychecks. But their work has equal dignity if done for the glory of God.

Pope Francis reminds us that work is fundamental to the dignity of the human person. He explains that “work ‘anoints’ with dignity, and that dignity is not conferred by one’s ancestry, family life or education. Dignity as such comes solely from work.”

Think about the lesson learned in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Each of the three servants is given a portion of the master’s assets based on his abilities, and is entrusted to be a responsible steward.

Two of the three follow the master’s instructions and make productive use of the master’s talents. The third, out of fear, hoards the asset and does nothing with it. The first two are praised and rewarded, and the third is scolded, rejected and punished. God expects us to use our “talents” to care for ourselves and our families. Work honors the gifts and talents that we receive from God. We are all called to use these talents in proportion to our abilities for our own care and benefit and for that of others.

Depending on your approach to work, you can spread the light of Christ or not.

Are you a frustrated worker always complaining and badmouthing your fellow employees and management? Do you constantly grumble about what goes on in the office or your hours or your co-workers?

Think about how your work is affecting your attitude. Do you feel a sense of joy and energy about your work? Or are you feeling depressed and overwhelmed? Your work should be uplifting to you.

Make a list of the gifts God has given you and evaluate how well you are using those gifts in your current job. See if you might tweak what you do or even make time for a hobby or a way to serve as a volunteer so you can use those gifts. Joy follows when you put your gifts to good use and if it doesn’t happen in your daily job, it needs to come from somewhere.

Is your job in conflict with your faith and family? It is important to be sure that work is not interfering with your vocation as a spouse or parent. If your work means you constantly miss important times with the family, then you may need to make some changes. For example, does your job interfere with your prayer life or your ability to have breakfast or dinner with the family on a regular basis? Even if you work less because you are putting your attention on the important areas of your vocation, your work time will be more productive if your priorities are in the proper order.

Evaluate the budget. Is having both parents working really adding to the family budget or tearing the family apart? Look at the costs associated with the second working parent—day care, restaurant lunches, fast food dinners, convenience meals, clothing, dry cleaning, transportation, etc. and figure out how much extra money is actually coming in to the family budget. It might not be as much as you think

If any of the above items hit a soft spot in your heart, maybe you need to make a change. Pray to the Holy Spirit for clarity about your current situation.

God is our Provider and He’s always faithful to provide for our needs. Obviously, our jobs are a big part of that. We never want to be ungrateful for our work because the Lord has provided it to us. The most important way to stay grateful on the job is to always keep in mind that you’re working for the Lord. Col 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men—it is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

For more on this topic, connect with Compass Catholic on Breadbox Media as we discuss the purpose and meaning of work.

How to Pick a Bank and Avoid Fees

We’ve dealt with quite a few banks over the years, as we’ve moved from one location to another (we are currently living in our 9th house) and we’ve usually picked our bank based on how convenient it was to our house. That is definitely not the best way to make a decision about where to keep your money.

There are lots of options when deciding where to bank. There are regular ‘brick and mortar’ banks, which can range from small local banks to large mega-institutions.  Another option is the Credit Union, which is typically organized as a not-for-profit company, affiliated with a business, branch of the military or educational institution. There are some Savings and Loan institutions which originally started as a mutual association to benefit both depositors and borrowers.  And one of the newer choices in an online bank.

In order to make a decision on which type of bank is right for you, discern why you need a bank in the first place. Are you required to use an automatic deposit by your employer in order to get paid?  Do you need a checking account, savings account or a credit card? Do you want to establish a relationship with a bank in order to secure a home mortgage or a car loan?

Whatever type of institution you are considering be sure your money is insured. The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) is an independent agency of the US government that protects the funds of depositors in banks and savings and loan associations. All federal credit unions are insured by the NCUSIF (National Credit Union Insurance Fund). State-chartered credit unions may be insured by the NCUSIF, or might have their own state insurance or private insurance.

The typical accounts covered by insurance are checking, savings, money market deposit accounts and CD’s. Deposit insurance typically does not cover other types of financial products such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, life insurance policies, annuities or securities.

Look at the bank’s website to determine how closely their services meet your needs. Are their locations and hours convenient for you? Can you access the bank when you are in a different location? Does the bank have 24-hour security monitoring so you are able to report a stolen card or fraud transaction off hours? Will you have access to online banking? Are there requirements for a minimum balance?  Are there limits to electronic transactions?

And one of the most important things you need to know is their fee structure.  Ask what situations result in a fee and what are those fees.  Because not knowing this little tidbit can hit you right in the wallet. According to a CNN Money report from February 2017, in 2016, the “big three” banks earned the following in fees:  $1.1 billion in ATM fees; $2.3 billion in maintenance fees to keep accounts open and $5.4 billion in overdraft fees.

It wasn’t that long ago that if the bank received a check that you had written and you didn’t have enough money in the bank to cover the check, they would send the check back to whomever you wrote the check to marked with a big red NSF stamp, indicating that there were insufficient funds in the account to pay the check.

The bank would charge you a small fee (@$10) and you would also have to pay a small fee to the business which tried to cash the check. Today most banks will cash the check, even if you don’t have money in your account and charge you an overdraft fee, sometimes as much as $35 per check.  The legal amount for NSF fees varies by state.

A Pew Charitable Trusts report from December 2016 said that, at that time, more than 40 percent of banks in the U.S. shuffle transactions to maximize overdraft fees.  For example, if you have $100 in your account and have the following charges in this order: $75; $25 and $115, the bank may reorder your transactions so the $115 is deducted first so both the $75 and $25 charges result in overdrafts, thus the bank can charge you twice for two overdrafts, rather than the one which would have occurred if the transactions had been processed in the time sequence order.

Here are some tips that will help you avoid paying ANY bank fees. The first step is to have a clear understanding of the fees and go with the bank that has the lowest fee structure, based on your requirements.

Keep your check register up-to-date and record all transactions (checks; ATM and debit cards) every day. Also, be sure to keep track of related fees for using an out of network ATMs or monthly fees for your checking or savings accounts.

Balance your checkbook and savings accounts every month. If you have any questions or find any errors visit the bank and ask questions until you understand. It’s your money and you have every right to understand what the bank is doing.

Have an EMERGENCY FUND! Overdrawing your checking account by even a few pennies can trigger some hefty fees. Protect yourself by adding a small cash cushion to your account and don’t let your account go below that cushion.

In order to keep track of your cash cushion, sign up for online alerts with your bank or credit union. They will send you an email when your checking account balance dips below a certain limit, say $50 or $100.

Steer clear of “bounced check coverage” or “courtesy overdraft protection.”

Many banks and credit unions enroll customers into courtesy overdraft programs when they open their checking accounts. But you are supposed to agree with this option so be careful when opening an account at the bank. If you aren’t sure that your bank did you the ‘courtesy’ of enrolling you in a super-expensive protection program, check the fine print of your account agreement or call your bank and ask. If you are enrolled, ask to opt-out of the program and be sure to follow up in writing.

If you feel you need overdraft protection, signup for a program linked to a savings account, line of credit, or credit card. You might pay an annual fee for this service and a small fee for each overdraft, but you will be guaranteed protection if you overdraw your account. Be sure to read the fine print when signing up for one of these services.

If you prefer to use debit cards rather than cash, be careful. Merchants can place holds or blocks on your checking account when you pay by debit card. These blocks can be more than the purchase amount, especially for gasoline, rental car and hotel purchases. They do not actually take the money out of your account, but the block does affect your available account balance for a day or two.

Remember that debit cards don’t have the same protections against fraud as credit cards. If someone obtains your debit card number and pin, they can clean out your checking and savings accounts and you don’t have any protection. If someone steals your credit card, your loss is typically limited to only $50 and most times not even that.

If you pay attention to how your bank operates then you can eliminate having to pay bank fees.  You want the money to remain in your account and not pad the bank’s bottom line. Remember the adage from Sirach 20:12. “A man may make a good bargain, but pay for it seven times over.

An Abundant Life

Do you consider an abundant life as having everything you want or as appreciating everything you have?

One of the major challenges that people face in dealing with money and possessions is understanding the role God plays in finances. Do we really believe that God owns everything? Do we acknowledge that in our mind and know it in our heart and live it in our actions?

In Deuteronomy 10:14 we read, “Look, the heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the LORD, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it.”

Psalm 24:1 tells us “The earth is the LORD’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it.”

The Bible even lists specific items the Lord owns. Psalm 50:10-12 declares, “For every animal of the forest is mine, beasts by the thousands on my mountains. I know every bird in the heights; whatever moves in the wild is mine. Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it.”

The phrases “the earth and everything on it” and “The earth and all it holds” and “the world and all that fills it” don’t leave too much room for second guessing what God owns, does it?
God owns everything, and for us to actually live in a way that acknowledges God’s ownership can be an ongoing daily decision in our life. Once we acknowledge His ownership, every spending decision also becomes a spiritual decision.

When we believe that we are in control, we can become obsessed with money and possessions. We want more and bigger and better because that’s how the world tells us to live. But when we acknowledge that all the stuff we have really belongs to God, then we can put our money and possessions in the proper perspective. Money is simply stuff which we use to buy other stuff. It is not a measure of our success, importance, reputation or worth.

With God in control we can conquer the desire to be a “stuffaholic” and we can stop keeping score the way the world measures things. We can understand the difference between needs and wants and use our money to honor God in the way we give, save and spend.

We must live in a way that recognizes God’s ownership and Lordship. In the reading from Luke (14:33), we heard Jesus say that “None of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything that you have.”

Is Jesus saying that we have to give up our possessions? I don’t think so. The problem is that we tend to treat our things, our “stuff” with a level of importance that should be accorded only to God. We must renounce our “stuff” and stop focusing on the material things in our lives in order to focus on Jesus and the Kingdom of heaven.

Our Lord owns all things. He never transferred ownership to us. You may remember the verse from Genesis 1:28. After God created man and woman he blessed them and told them that they had dominion over the earth. One of the dictionary definitions of dominion is “power for a specific purpose within specified limits.” So there is a limit to our ownership and there is also a purpose for our ownership.

However, too many times we get so focused on money and possessions that we forget about the purpose and limits of our ownership. We spend our lives trying to find happiness. At every turn it seems that we could buy more happiness…if we just had a little more money, a bigger house, a newer car, a different job, a 60” flat screen TV, and on and on.

We forget that there is only one God and it isn’t spelled m-o-n-e-y!

In John 10:10 Jesus is quoted as saying, “…I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Jesus promised us an abundant life.

Finding happiness and true financial freedom begins with understanding authentic abundance and realizing it is something different than the size of our house, the kind of car we drive or the number of zeroes in the amount of money we have saved.

In explaining “an abundant life” it might be easier to describe what it isn’t. Constantly striving for wealth and material success won’t provide us with an abundant life. In fact, constantly striving for wealth and material success will probably cause you to experience a less abundant life!

An abundant life isn’t based on your accumulation of material wealth, but rather it is based on your attitude and love for your fellow man and what you actually do with the money and possessions you already have, no matter how much or how little.

Jesus promised us an abundant life. He never promised us an abundance of stuff. If you are content and have a heart for freely giving and sharing—first to the Lord and then to your brothers and sisters, you will have an abundant life.

Too many times what we hear is that we are supposed to have abundance IN life. However, if we can’t share what we have with our brothers and sisters; if our heart is not content with what we have, then we are bound for a life of striving for abundance, but we will never have an abundant life.

So many of us are tied to our material wealth that it can get in the way of our spiritual life. Our money possesses us, as we use it to achieve an abundance of material possessions, instead of us using our faith to achieve a truly abundant life.

Ideas for a Simple Christmas

Christmas can be a peaceful time to make memories and share love or a time of unbridled consumerism.  Here are some ideas to help you keep things simple this year.

Evelyn Bean

Care Package – create a gift that take more time and effort than money and make it special to each person:

  • Notice the kinds of things your spouse or friend likes (special coffee, tea chocolates or snacks and pack them into a basket or gift bag.)
  • Take dinner to someone—cook it, take it over, join them for dinner and clean up the kitchen afterwards.  Give them a night off along with the benefit of friendship.
  • Rent a DVD, pop some popcorn and snacks and reserve a night to be company for friends, or family.
  • Give the children in your life a certificate to spend a day or weekend with each of them individually doing something that is unique or special to their unique interests.
  • Create a “craft kit” with crayons, markers, glitter, glue, staples, stickers…popsicle sticks and anything else that would be fun.

Regift – while ‘regifting’ is sometimes thought to be the cheap way out, done properly, it can be a blessing to the recipients.

  • Try the attic, basement and hidden corners of your home for heirlooms or things with sentimental value that could be passed on to your children or other family members.
  • Create a “dress up box” with cast off clothes, old gowns, costumes from past Hallloweens, flannel shirts, cowboy hats an anything else to help young children create a fantasy world of make believe.  If you don’t have these items around the house, go to places that sell used items like Goodwill.
  • For those of you with adult children, wrap up their rock collections, stamp collections, dolls, baseball cards and sports trophies and take a trip down memory lane on Christmas day when they open these special gifts from their childhood.
  • For a gift exchange with friends, set up a rule to exchange something you already own that has been a blessing to you.  When you exchange gifts, tell them how the item has blessed you, and why you decided to give it to them

Audio Messages – A recording in what ever format is a gift than can be enjoyed over and over again.

  • Make a mix of favorite music on a CD.  The music you pick should be meaningful to your relationship with the other person so they’ll think of you when they listen to it.
  • Read a selection of the child’s favorite books and record it on a CD or MP3 file. The child can listen to your voice over and over again.

Coupons for Services – Give the gift of time when you offer your services via a special coupon designed specifically for that person.

  • Give elderly relatives an invitation to your home for dinner once a month to offer them a change of routine.
  • Offer a house cleaning coupon to include dusting, mopping, and vacuuming to a new parent or elderly friend.
  • If you know the recipient has a need, create a coupon for things like painting a room, fixing the fence, planting a garden, or whatever they need to have done.

Create Memories – Everyone (young or old) seems to enjoy looking back at pictures of the past and remembering.

  • Make a memory by pulling together photos of a child as they grew up or a special family vacation or a collage of photos from Christmases past.
  • Create a memory jar by writing down favorite memories of the person receiving the gift.  Use small pieces of paper and put them in a decorated jar with instructions to open one memory every month, week or day or on some special dates throughout the year, depending on how many memories there are.
  • Select a single word that honors who they are and what they mean to you. Give them a letter telling them why you chose that special word to describe them.
  • Get photos of you and the person you’re giving the gift to, and make a personalized calendar.  Add in upcoming events and special family dates such as birthdays and anniversaries.

Food – We all have to eat, so food is always an enjoyable gift choice.

  • Make a big pot of soup and buy a good loaf of bread and deliver it. This is especially appreciated if it’s delivered when the person is frantic with holiday preparations or if they have guests.
  • Make batches of of frozen soups or casseroles, which are sized appropriately for the recipient – family size or single serving.  They can defrost and cook them for a quick meal.

Appreciate the Gifts as they are opened:

Take the focus off the gifts and concentrate on the meaning behind the gifts. Slowing down the gift opening on Christmas Day can foster an attitude of gratitude. We use a very elaborate present opening process: 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 open, 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 accomplishes several things. First it eliminates the ‘what’s next’ attitude when there is a big build up to Christmas presents, then and the presents take less than 5 minutes to open in a frenzy of greed.

Usually the kids get really interested in one of the presents before their next turn to open a gift, and they enjoy the gifts a lot more and they appreciate what they have instead of moving quickly to the next present.  We’ve even stopped opening presents for a few hours while they played with their gifts.

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 mom or grandad got, so you have lots of opportunities for talking about what’s really important as far as gift giving and appreciating what they got no matter how few gifts it may be.

When you really think about it; what do want to accomplish during the Christmas season? Is it fostering an attitude of consumption or memories you can enjoy the rest of your life? Memories centered around celebrating the birth of Christ; and memories centered around helping less fortunate; and memories centered around enjoying one another.

This Christmas season, don’t let the world make you discontent with it’s focus on buying. Instead, find ways to simplify your celebration and focus on what is really important.

If you happen to find yourself shopping on Amazon.com to implement one of our ideas, please be sure to use our link. 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchase will help Catholic Compass’ vision.

Interest Rate Hikes

graph-163509_1280The Federal Reserve Board passed on the opportunity to raise the prime interest rate in September, but it is a forgone conclusion that it won’t be long before the rate does rise, maybe as early as their next meeting in December. When it happens, higher interest rates will affect each typical American family in different ways.

Here are some areas to aware of when interest rates begin to increase and how they may affect you.


Savings and money market accounts today offer an average interest rate of only 0.44%, according to Bankrate.com.  Savers have been the big losers through the low-rate environment of the past seven years.  With the typical one-year certificate of deposit yielding just 1 percent and money-market funds paying next to nothing, savers currently lose cash after factoring in inflation and taxes. Rising interest rates should increase yields on personal savings, which will give you an increased incentive to save rather than spend.

There are several important Biblical principles of saving that have to be considered. The first is to balance our saving and investing with generosity. Jesus told the parable of a farmer who harvested a bumper crop and said to himself, “‘I don’t have a place to keep all my crops…I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I will store the grain and all my other goods’…But God said to him, ‘You fool!’ …This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.” (Luke 12:16-21, 34).

The key word in this parable is the word ALL. Jesus called the farmer foolish because he saved everything, and didn’t balance saving with giving.  If we only pile up our investments, they will pull on our hearts like gravity.  Our affection will be drawn away from God toward them because “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12:34)  However, if we give generously to God, we can invest and still love him with all of our heart.

Let’s face it—most people want to get rich.  I’ll never forget how surprised I was the first time I realized the Bible’s caution against it: “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).  This verse declares that those who want to get rich give in to temptations and desires that ultimately lead to ruin.

Why is the quest to get rich so incredibly dangerous? The next verse from Timothy answers that question: “For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

When we want to get rich, we actually love money. That has consequences I witnessed firsthand. I started mowing lawns when I was about 8 years old and even had a savings account. I remember that I bought my first suit when I was in the third grade with money I had earned. While I was in college, I paid for all of my room, board, books and spending money by working in the school cafeteria and running my own janitorial company.

Once I graduated from college, got married and started working, money wasn’t a real issue as we always had enough for what we wanted. When I was about 35, even though I had a job that paid well, I started working a part time sales job.  The allure of this job was about all the money that I could make. I began to fantasize about the nice cars we could own, about really big beautiful houses and about having enough wealth that my family would be set for generations!

As my desires to become rich reached new heights, I left my fulltime job with a salary to pursue my dream job, which was based 100% on commissions. Unfortunately, the money stopped flowing and the debt started growing!

However, once I learned God’s perspective, my attitude changed dramatically. Instead of wanting to get rich, I wanted to be a faithful steward; wisely handling the money God blessed me with. I wanted to please God, and becoming rich lost its importance as I developed a new relationship with him.

It is not wrong to become rich. Many heroes of the faith, such as Job, Abraham, and David were rich. In fact, we rejoice when God enables a person who has been a faithful steward to prosper. Nothing is wrong with becoming wealthy if it is a by-product of being faithful. But it is wrong to strive for riches if getting rich becomes an obsession and we cannot be faithful to God because of that obsession.


Mortgages are another area that will impact people in the pocketbook if interest rates rise. Interest rates are a big component for the majority of homebuyers—after all, how many people can actually purchase a home and pay for it with cash? With interest rates drifting lower for more than three decades, home affordability has improved dramatically, even with home prices also rising over that stretch.

If you already locked in a 30-year mortgage at the ultra-low rates that have prevailed over the past several years, you are to be congratulated. But the millions of Americans who hold adjustable-rate mortgages could end up paying more because interest payments on variable mortgages will increase.  This will have a big impact on consumer spending as it means a significant impact on personal discretionary income.

Compass Catholic always encourages people to be sure the house they are buying is affordable. So many people only look at the mortgage payment when calculating housing costs, but housing costs include a lot of other things: maintenance (you may need to buy a dishwasher now, but in 5 years the roof might need to be replaced and that can be a major expense); homeowner association dues; furniture/appliances; property tax; homeowners insurance; water; utilities; pest control, etc.

Your mortgage payment (which normally includes principal, interest, property taxes and Insurance) should be about 35-40% of your total housing budget. The other items mentioned previously will easily consume the remaining 60-65% of your housing budget.

One of my favorite verses related to home ownership is from Luke 14:28-30.  “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ “ This verse sums up the fact that when we are planning to buy a home we need to include ALL costs associated with the home as we calculate what we can afford.

Consumer Loans

Consumer loans are another area where we can get hit in the pocketbook if interest rates increase. Increases in the fed interest rate means an increase in interest payments on credit cards and loans. The higher interest rates will discourage people from borrowing, which we think is great.  Carrying a balance on credit cards is just throwing money away. If you have an average credit card balance of $6,500 at  $18% interest, you are paying about $100/month in interest ONLY—with no payments on the principal. There is a verse from Sirach, which reads: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” And that is where a lot of people get into trouble with credit cards—buying stuff they don’t need with money they don’t have.

With all this talk about rising interest rates, it’s worth noting that many Americans wouldn’t be hurt much by higher rates, including people who pay off their credit cards each month and homeowners who locked in attractive fixed-rate mortgages already and the people who are in good shape financially with emergency savings and a modest lifestyle.

The volatility of the stock market that we have seen in recent weeks will actually have a greater impact on people’s financial lives than the small rate increase that the Fed will initiate sometime in the near future—probably mid-December or mid-March.

People just need to stay calm, make sure that their financial houses are in order, work on paying off all of their debt and increase their savings

Lastly, we need to keep in mind the verse from Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

No matter what happens to interest rates, or consumer confidence, God uses everything for good and for his purpose.

-Jon Bean

How Much is Enough?


Watching commercials, browsing catalogues, visiting on line shopping sites, watching shopping networks on TV, reading advertisements and interacting with social media about different products makes you want it all now! We’re living in a society where folks feel they need that instantaneous fulfillment and everything in our culture encourages us to buy, buy, buy.

The constant quest for material goods is like being on a sugar rush that you can’t escape. A perfect example is craving the newest technology toy. What do you with the old technology after you have the newest version? Is it an investment you’re still going to use or is it sitting in your home collecting dust? Is the new thing the best thing only until the next new thing comes along?

So many times our accumulation of stuff is wrapped up in our quest for happiness and security—what the world tells us is important. Finding happiness and security will never come from buying or accumulating “things,” no matter what the world tells us.

If your closets are overflowing with clothes you don’t wear, and if the garage is so full there is no room for the car, and if the attic has no empty space, then it’s time to sit back and think. Pope Francis tells us “There is a danger that threatens everyone in the church, all of us. The danger of worldliness. It leads us to vanity, arrogance and pride.”

Get away from the danger of worldliness. Clean out those garages and closets and donate the items to a consignment shop, St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store or Catholic Charities. And once the clutter is gone, find some positive ways to remain grateful for what you have without the constant quest for more. Here are some ideas to help you be more grateful:

  • Start a gratitude journal and write what you’re most thankful for daily or weekly.
  • In your evening prayers, meditate about the good things in your life that day.
  • Stop using the words “my” and “mine” and instead use “the” to put distance between yourself and your possessions.
  • Each evening at the dinner table have each family member share three things for which they are grateful.

These suggestions will help you become more aware of what you do have instead of being so wrapped up in what you want. What if every day God only gave you those things for which you thanked him yesterday? How much of your stuff would remain if that were the situation? There is no such thing as being too grateful for all the blessings God has given to us.

“Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)

Listen to our Compass Catholic’s radio show to learn more money-saving tips: http://compasscatholic.org/archived-radio-shows/

7 Things The Middle Class Can No Longer Afford

johnDuring economic discussions, we often hear about the financial burden that’s placed on the middle class. So, who are the middle class? Though there is some debate over the exact income a middle class household brings in, we do have an idea of who the middle class are — most working class people. They are neither rich nor poor and they have a reasonable amount of discretionary income (perhaps about 1/3) after taking care of the necessities. But things that the middle class could easily attain in the past are getting harder and harder for people to afford.  The following list is in order
1.) Vacation.
Number one on our list is vacation.  Vacations used to be simple.  I remember hopping into Grandmas station wagon, the kind where you faced the rear of the vehicle (with no seatbelt…) and embarking on a road trip. These road trips would lead us to our Aunt’s farm, a simple cabin by the lake or or maybe even to a museum or historical village.  Today’s vacations consist of high priced airline tickets, passport fees, cruise ships, attraction tickets, expensive meals at chain restaurants and pricey hotels filled with amenities you’ll probably never use. As vacations become more expensive, the temptation is to pay for them using a credit card, which ultimately leads to a potentially dangerous financial situation.

2.) New Vehicles.
A ton of new innovations in vehicles, such as GPS, Sensors, Cameras, Adaptive Cruise Control, Onboard WiFi and more has driven the price of vehicles up to new heights.  The average price of a new vehicle today is $32,000, which makes those monthly payments go sky high and many buyers finance a car loan for 72 months. A new vehicle quickly depreciates in value—when you drive off the new car lot, the vehicle is immediately worth 25%-30% less than what you paid, which ultimately ends up costing you more money for less value. Your best bet here: purchase a reliable used / certified vehicle.  It won’t depreciate as much as a new car and your payments won’t be nearly as cumbersome as a new car.

3.) Paying Off Debt.
It’s getting increasingly difficult for the middle class to pay off their debt.  Whether it’s vacation debt, misc. expenses, emergencies, home-related expenses, student loans, car payments, etc. debt can be a huge burden.  The average household has 3 credit cards with about $15,000 in debt and the average mortgage debt is about 150K. If you find yourself in this situation and need some advice on how to tackle paying off your debt, look over the debt payment tools on our website (CompassCatholic.org)

4.) Emergency Savings.
With more and more money going out the door and less and less money going into a savings account, emergencies can take a toll on a middle class family.  It could be anything, an exploded water pipe in your home, an air conditioner that has decided to quit, a health crises or other tragedy.  Emergency savings are becoming a thing of the past and that’s a frightening situation.  One of the best pieces of advice that we can give you is start keeping track of your spending. Check out the tools on our website (CompassCatholic.org) or use an app to track your spending. Once you track every dime you spend and have some facts, you can find the leaks and redirect the money into savings.  Maybe it’s frequent visits to the fancy coffee store, lunch at a restaurant, or excessive spending at the grocery store.  Whatever it is, tracking your spending lets you be in control.

5.) Retirement Savings.
A sad and scary statistic is that about 20% of individuals 65 years and older have no money saved for retirement.  Their money will run out and it’s a gamble to rely on social security payments. Establishing that emergency fund, then building on it will help you save for retirement. The sooner you start the more time you will have to build that a egg. If you do have a retirement plan, congrats.  Be sure to NOT borrow money against it and remember that you CAN’T get a loan for retirement, so it is critical that you save today for tomorrow.

6.) Medical Care.
Medical insurance costs escalate EVERY year.  Like it or not, it’s going to happen.  A lot of younger folks today are skipping the health insurance offerings from their employer to simply get more out of their paycheck, but it’s a dangerous gamble.  Healthcare and its annual increases of 10-15% need to be a line item factored into your budget.

7.) Dental Work.
This one might surprise you, but there are over 108 million people in the United States with no dental coverage at all.  The problem with this, it’s not IF you’ll need a dentist, it’s WHEN you’ll need a dentist.  If you do not maintain your dental health through regular visits, you run the risk of incurring huge fees when you finally go to the dentist in pain.

The important takeaway from this post is this: The bible teaches us to be good stewards of what God has given us, including how we manage our finances. While it’s getting more and difficult to make a living and to have ⅓ of your paycheck left over, with some diligence and focus, you can make the cuts where you need to and feed the mission critical areas of your budget that we just discussed.

We will leave you with this verse: Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent end in profit, but those of the hasty end in loss. ”

Thanks for reading and sharing.  To learn more about Compass Catholic and being a good steward of your financial resources, visit our website: http://compasscatholic.org

Are We Faithful With Worldly Wealth?

content ballOur daughter is saving to go on a class trip next year and, since she’s not old enough to hold down an actual job, I headed to the library for some fund-raising/money-making type books for students to give her some ideas.  While I was browsing, a few other books caught my eye related to building a wealth and money mentality.  Being part of a financial ministry, my curiosity was piqued so I picked those up, too.

One of the books I started to skim over seemed a little over-the-top for my taste at first, but as I read on, something jumped out at me that made me think.  One of the questions posed was, “Do you fear being rich?”  The idea was that maybe we are sabotaging opportunities for wealth because we are afraid of it.  At first I thought, “Why would anyone be afraid of being wealthy?” I started making a mental list of all the wonderful things wealth offers—from simple freedoms like having the house paid off, to being able to help a friend or relative in a bind, to taking a fun vacation.  But, I realized as I read on that I also have negative perceptions about wealth.  I fear labels such as “snob” or “fake,” “flashy” or “out-of-touch.”  I also had to wonder why I felt like it was OK for others to have wealth, but it wasn’t “for us.”

It was then that I realized that maybe we are a little afraid of becoming rich because of the negative connotations we have attached to money.  I think we try to be very conscientious about not putting money before God, but maybe what we truly fear is that, by becoming wealthy, we might actually be putting more importance on acquiring material security rather than living our lives for God.

Compass Catholic Ministries is committed to helping individuals and couples obtain financial freedom through a step-by-step process, but the heart of that mission is focused on God and helping us to remember (or learning for the first time) that all of our blessings are from God.  Often times, the reason we get into financial trouble in the first place is because we put money before God by putting material desires ahead of concrete needs such as providing food, shelter and clothing for ourselves and our family.  Even when providing for our needs, we need to keep ourselves in check because, while we do need food, that may not come in the form of a steak dinner.  We need shelter, but an affordable dwelling may mean that children have to bunk together.  In other words, within the confines of our needs, we make adjustments, based on our finances, that allow us the ability to be financially free rather than a slave to debt.

Are we afraid of wealth?  Maybe not as much as we are afraid of losing sight of what is really important.  But, God created us for great things including using our talents to build his kingdom on Earth.  By following the Compass Money Map and removing the shackles of debt, we will be free to do the Lord’s work.

“If, then, you have not been faithful in handling worldly wealth, how can you be trusted with true wealth?” ~Luke 16:11