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Savings and the American Psyche

Americans are not known for their prudent saving habits. If anything, we’re renowned for being the largest consumer market in the world.  We work hard to buy things we don’t really need with money we don’t have to impress people who don’t like us.  The use of debt for instant gratification keeps us swirling through the debt cycle and makes it impossible to save.

The majority of Americans are not ready for a common financial emergency.

CreditDonkey.com reports that 26% of Americans do not have any emergency savings. Recent research from Bankrate.com finds that 24% of Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that our faith calls us to live in a way that is different from our culture.  Nothing in our culture encourages us to follow Jesus and his word.  “In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6).

Those straight paths mean you don’t have to become another pitiful statistic of poor American saving habits. The earlier you start educating yourself and saving for your future, the better off you will be.

If you spend fewer dollars than you earn, you will be able to save for unexpected financial emergencies, as well as long-term goals such as college, a house, retirement, etc.  In the simplest terms saving is not spending today so you have money for the future.  It’s delayed gratification, a term you rarely hear.

Since we don’t know what the future holds for us, it’s a good idea to have some level of savings to meet our future needs. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’—you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.” (James 4:13-14)  In order to plan for the unknown tomorrow, it’s time to start saving now!

Think of your savings as a pile of cash that is readily available when you need it most.  In addition to unexpected expenses, your savings will also dampen the impact of a sudden job loss.

On the other side of the savings psyche from those who don’t save enough is the top 1% of income earners who are reportedly saving 38% of their income according to financialsamurai.com.  It is obviously easy to save if your income is at the top of the financial food chain. The rich are rich because when you have a higher income less of your income is needed to support daily living expenses; unexpected bills don’t take a big bite out of available cash and there is a lot of freedom in the way you save and spend.

In both of savings psyche it is important to understand the reason for saving.  It should not be to get rich, but rather to be able to provide for the needs of your family. Beyond that your savings should be for the benefit of others.

Whatever our financial picture, there is a grave danger in focusing on money with the simple goal of accumulating wealth for our own enjoyment and self-satisfaction.  1 Tim 6:9 tells us, “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.” And then we read in verse 10; “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.”

This is another area where God’s word is different than our world.  Americans keep ‘score’ with how much money and stuff people have.  If you have a lot of money saved and you possess a lot of stuff, people assume you are successful, happy, fulfilled and important. But often the happiest people are the ones who live the simplest lives, as they are free from advertising pressure, comparing themselves with others, over spending and social pressure.

Whether you are struggling to save each week or have plenty of money socked away a good thought to remember is, “A rich person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.”   Author Unknown

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