What’s God Think about My Money?
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CJ CagleC. J. (CHRIS) CAGLE is a retired IT professional, having worked as a manager and architect/strategist for several large financial institutions for almost thirty years. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the Florida Institute of Technology. Chris serves as a deacon and leads the stewardship ministry at Crossway Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. When he’s not writing about stewardship or retirement or working in his church, he enjoys hiking and fishing. Chris and his...more
Author CJ Cagle challenges us to rethink our resources in light of God’s advice — commands — on money: what’s dangerous, what’s wise, & how to get out of debt.
What’s God Think about My Money?
Dave: Okay, one of the things I hate to admit is—you’ll know as soon as I say this—when we pay our bills every month—[Laughter] Why are you laughing? Go ahead and tell them.
Ann: Something happens—actually, you don’t pay our bills every month anymore—because something would happen that you would turn into a different person.
Dave: What do you mean?
Ann: You were so stressed; you were so angry. It would permeate the entire house for about a week.
Dave: So we changed who paid the bills. Ann started paying the bills.
Ann: Well, one Christmas—
Dave: Oh, you don’t have to go here.
Ann: —when our kids were little, and I was at Toys-R-Us. I only did one shopping day because our kids were little. I am at Toys-R-Us, and I have all of Christmas in my cart. I get to the checkout, and my credit card doesn’t go through. I’ve got this line behind me. I am so embarrassed; and I had to leave the shopping cart and go home and ask Dave, “What happened?” And—
Dave: Why did I bring this up? [Laughter]
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: I should have never brought this up; but the card was maxed out. They wouldn’t let us put anything else on it. So—
Ann: I think you were late in paying the bill, because we didn’t have the money.
Dave: —we didn’t have any money. That was the year, by the way, we said, “That’s it! Number one, Ann is going to take over the financial part. Number two, we’re not going to put stuff on a credit card anymore.” It was a discipline not to do that.
Anyway, why are we bearing our soul to the world about our financial check paying?
Ann: Did that hurt your feelings? I shouldn’t have brought that up; is that bad?
Dave: No; that’s reality. I think we share it because we learned from it; and hopefully, others can learn from it. But we needed a lot of help; we all do.
We have CJ Cagle with us today, who wrote a book about retirement, Reimagine Retirement; but it’s more than reimagine retirement.
Ann: Yes; and Chris, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
CJ: Thank you. Good to be here again.
Ann: We’re happy that you are here to counsel us. Thank you. [Laughter]
Dave: You are going to counsel us, and hundreds of thousands of others as well, because we’re not the only ones who have made a mistake like that. Fortunately, that was in the first five years of our marriage; and we’re thirty-five years beyond that; but if we hadn’t changed something financially then, we might not even be able to sit here with you today.
Ann: We might not be married because this, many times, is a cause for a divorce.
CJ: It can be.
Dave: Have you ever had that kind of discussion or tension in your marriage about money?
CJ: Absolutely; absolutely. [Laughter]
Dave: Good; it’s not just us!
CJ: No, since 50 years, I’ve been—no, no—
Ann: I’m guessing you’re the saver.
CJ: I was the budget tyrant—[Laughter]—that’s how I would kind of describe myself. I would sit down each month with all my—because I was kind of nerdy; I’ve always been kind of nerdy—I would sit down with my spreadsheets, and my computer, and my software, and my books. I would come down from on high; my hair would be white, and I would be glowing. I would say, “Thus sayeth the Budget Guru, ‘Wife, here is our budget.’” [Laughter]
She would kind of lovingly comply—but she didn’t; right?—her heart was to comply, but she didn’t.
Ann: Oh, she had secrets.
CJ: As soon as I caught the first deviation: “Aha! Where were you?!” “Toys-R-Us.”
CJ: “I saw Toys—who, where?—that’s not”—my favorite phrase was—“That’s not in the budget.” It was really through my first exposure to Financial Peace, Dave Ramsey’s course, that I realized I had never ever sat down with her and actually had a conversation about our money. I assumed that I was in charge, and that I knew best, and that out of my well of infinite wisdom, was going to come the very best budget for us and the very best financial plan for us. It wasn’t bad in a lot of ways. The problem was she wasn’t at the table; she wasn’t even in the game.
Ann: Oh, Chris; this is a bad move.
CJ: That was a bad move; but what I decided to do is: “Okay, honey, we’re going to have Budget Day.” We did this one Saturday.
Dave: You didn’t call it “Budget Day”?
CJ: I called it “Budget Day.” [Laughter] We sat down, and I brought out all/I said, “Honey, we’re going to go through every single item on the budget, and I want to hear your perspective on it:—
Ann: Oh, that’s good.
CJ: —“too much, too little?” “What should be in? What should be out?” There were things not in the budget that ended up in it; I’ll give you an example: we were leading a small group at the time. She said, “Honey, you don’t know this; but I take ladies in our small group out to lunch two or three times a month.” My immediate response: “Well, that’s not in the grocery budget! That’s not in our date night, eating out!” She says, “Exactly. Do you want me not to do that?” “No, I love that you do that.” It opened my eyes to the fact that I needed a category for it.
Ann: That’s good.
CJ: And then, she loves to give little gifts to her lady friends.
Ann: Oh, I like your wife; me too!
CJ: Yes; she got the opportunity to say, “Can we factor this in the budget?” I started—“Well, this goes in; that has…”—it took about almost four hours—three-and-a-half/four hours to get through it. We, for all practical purposes, have that same budget today.
Ann: Wow; and if your wife is the one that is really good at the budgeting and the numbers, would you guys be okay with that?—with her budgeting?
CJ: Absolutely; absolutely.
Ann: Yes; me too.
Dave: Well, here is the question—and you know this—couples fight over money.
CJ: Right; oh, yes!
Dave: It’s a huge tension in a marriage. There are couples listening to us right now; maybe, they can’t even talk about it because it is such a tension. What would you say to them? How can you help them?
CJ: Well, if it gets to that point, where they just can’t talk, it’s because they haven’t talked. There may be other issues at play, which may well have to do with different views of money—the purpose of money: “Why does God give us money?” “How are we to rightfully use our money?”—even different perspectives on what the Bible teaches about money. I think this is where getting good, sound, biblical counsel really, really is important: getting on the same page, so to speak.
Ann: In our break, you mentioned the word, “financial infidelity.”
CJ: Ooh; yes.
Ann: Talk about that; what is that?
CJ: Yes; that’s a danger that can kind of creep into relationships where, one partner is much more focused on and involved in the finances than the other; and the other partner is like, “I don’t care; just do it. Just do it; I want to go do these other things.” They just assume that everything is okay. The infidelity part doesn’t necessarily have to do with wrongdoing; it’s just not being honest.
Because I believe strongly that a couple becomes one flesh when they are married, and God sees them that way—in many practical ways, their finances have to become one as well—not that you can’t have individual accounts. Some IRS rules and other banking laws require certain accounts to only be—if you have a retirement account, it can only be in your name—but your husband can be your beneficiary.
Ann: This gets really complicated in blended families, especially. I know that Ron Deal, with our blended family ministry has talked about this. It would probably be worth, even listening to him at times.
When my mom came home from shopping with me—
Dave: This is a true story; this is not hypothesis. [Laughter]
CJ: I feel it coming.
Ann: —this is a true story of a lot of women—she would say, “Don’t take the bags out yet, and don’t tell your dad what we’ve been doing.” Is that financial infidelity?
CJ: Yes; if you are spending money from a shared account—and if there is, and has been, a mutual understanding up to that point that we are going to make certain purchase decisions together—now, that doesn’t mean, in my opinion,—
CJ: —that every single penny [is accounted for]—but any kind of significant expenditure, that could have an impact on the budget, that isn’t, at least, discussed.
Ann: And it is more of the hiding aspect.
CJ: Yes; it’s more of the idea that it’s for some reason. The question is: “Why the concealment? What is the reason?” Or it may be just not sharing information. I often will talk to couples in—we were talking about retirement savings earlier—I’ll have a wife say to me, “Yes, my husband/he handles all the investments, and I don’t have any idea what we have or how it is invested.” It doesn’t mean that he is intentionally trying to hide something illegal, illicit, or immoral—or whatever—but why would he not share that with her? Well, maybe, she has never asked: “Honey, you know, it would be helpful if I kind of knew where we are financially.”
When I decided to retire about three years ago, I had to sit down with my wife and say, “We’ve got this. With God’s help, we can do this.” As you’ve heard me say many times, it wasn’t just about the numbers. It is about what it is we are going to do in retirement; but I had to give her some reassurance. I had to share a lot of information with her. I don’t want her to think that there is anything in our personal finance life that she can’t know about or ask about if she wants to know.
Dave: Yes, that’s—
CJ: Sometimes, she puts up the hand, “I don’t want to hear all this detail, financial, mumbo jumbo. Just cut to the chase; tell me what I need to know.”
CJ: I’ve learned what serves her and what is loving toward her. Think about it in those terms: “How can I be loving toward my spouse when it comes to sharing with about our finances and managing our finances together?”
Dave: I’m guessing secrets are not good.
CJ: Secrets are totally opposite of that.
Ann: You even wrote a blog about “Loving Your Widow Well.” What in the world is that?
CJ: I asked men—could be a woman; I mean, it could be a wife—either way, if you are a wife and you have reason to believe you might pre-decease your husband—it would be something to think about if you handle all the finances; so it works both ways. Statistically, most women will outlive their husbands; that’s the statistics. God is sovereign; God sets the time—not you and me—nobody else; just Him.
One of the ways we can love our widows is to think about what is going to be the financial condition of our spouse after we are gone. Now, that has to do with provision on the one hand. In my book, I talk a lot about social security and the benefits for many couples having a good, sound social security benefit strategy: how they receive benefits, delaying social security for as long as possible to allow their benefits to grow. One of the ways that that loves your widow, for example, is that, if I am the primary earner, and I maximize my social security benefit, then when I’m gone, my wife’s survivor benefit is maximized; that’s one way.
There is another way: I have a letter that I jokingly—not jokingly but a little tongue-in-cheek—refer to as: “A letter from your husband, who is now in heaven.” In that letter, I tell my wife—or anyone who might be assisting her—everything that I think she needs to know about our financial situation, our day-to-day affairs, including all the passwords.
I have a password vault that I keep all my passwords in—which I would strongly suggest people have—how to get to the vault, how to get to the passwords, who to contact if they need help. Our life, in some ways, has gotten simpler since I retired; so I have fewer accounts, fewer this, fewer that; because I’m all about simplification for just that reason. That’s another way to love your widow is to simplify things so you don’t have ten accounts spread across ten financial institutions and a hundred different passwords all over the place. You can simplify to help do that.
But she won’t let me read it to her. I’ve said, “Yes, I’ll read it to you,” or “You can read it if you...” “Oh, no, no, no; I don’t want to see it now. I don’t want to see it now.” There is a little comic relief in it; because I write it kind of like I’m looking down from heaven, even though I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to do that or not. It’s deep waters there; I’m not sure what we’re going to see and not see. So yes, that’s one way to do it.
If you are out there, and you haven’t done that, in some form or fashion, it’s a way to love your wife from the grave/from heaven.
Dave: Yes, that sounds like a—
CJ: If it’s possible to do, you can do it. That’s one of the ways you can do it.
Dave: That sounds like a really wise—
Ann: —yes, plan.
Dave: —plan. It makes me want to do that. I mean, in some ways, you don’t want to think, “I’m going to die.”
CJ: No; no.
Dave: But you don’t know. Those questions need to be answered.
CJ: Right—and the other essential documents, too; right?—will, power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, financial power of attorney—those things—having those in place.
Dave: Talk about debt. Almost every financial advisor I read/listen to, from Ramsey to Ron Blue to—you name them; I’m guessing you will be the same—talks about a debt-free lifestyle. Is that a good thing?—bad thing?
CJ: It’s definitely a good thing, especially speaking as a retiree, going into retirement debt-free and not having a mortgage is huge; but yet, I had a mortgage at one time. I can’t say I am anti-debt if I had a mortgage; or that I think debt is wrong, then, I was wrong to have a mortgage.
The difficult thing about debt is that, on the one hand, debt is not forbidden in the Scripture; but on the other hand, the Scriptures are pretty clear that debt is dangerous; and it can really weigh us down. It even goes so far as—you know the familiar Scripture—that it makes us slave to the lender;—
CJ: —right? It doesn’t mean, obviously, slavery in a physical sense; but slave to the fact that we have—to give money—we are forced/required to give money to a lender that, therefore, cannot be used for other purposes, like saving or giving; right? So, in that sense, that bondage/breaking that bondage of debt can be a real positive thing to create margin, when you are younger, to be able to save and give; and when you are older, to help lower your expenses in retirement.
I don’t think all debt is evil. A small to very moderate amount of college debt, in order to get a degree that offers you the chance of a promising career that will enable you to quickly and easily pay that debt back, would not be a terrible debt. It would be nice to avoid it if you can, but it’s not terrible. Getting a debt to buy a house that is likely to appreciate in value is not a terrible thing to do. Being able to lend to a family member—although I prefer giving over lending—or lend to a friend, interest free, to help them through a difficult time in life—the Bible says that is a blessing; it’s a blessing to be able to lend. God said to the people of Israel: “I would rather you be a lender than a borrower”; we see that dynamic in Scripture.
Installment debt, revolving debt, using debt to finance the purchase of things that can depreciate in value: bad financial decision, in most cases.
Dave: Yes, and I know that a lot of debt in this country—personal debt is—“I want to live a lifestyle that I can’t afford.
CJ: Right; right.
Dave: “So, I put it on a credit card.” I read somewhere the average American, when they make $4, spend $7. That is really dumb to do.
Dave: Yet, it’s like the lifestyle that so many of us live. We think—and this is where even the statistics early in your book come into play—“I can live this way,”—and then, when I get to the time when I’m not going to be able to work anymore, or I need to live off of what I’ve saved—we’re back to that statistic we started at: a third of us have nothing or even very little, and we can’t live on it. There we are.
Ann: It is so easy to go in debt, because everything is at our fingertips. We can be in bed at midnight—
Dave: It’s a genie; you just rub the genie.
Ann: —go on Amazon; and in a day or two, that present or that item can be on your front step. It’s already attached to your credit card, so it’s really easy to add that up.
Dave: As we wrap this up—and you’re looking at a 20-, 30-, 50-year-old, thinking about their money—what’s your best wisdom? What would you tell them?
CJ: First and foremost, recognize that all that you are and all that you have has been given to you by God. As a Christian, you, therefore, have a responsibility to wisely manage those things, despite the challenges that exist in the culture and the pressures that everyone is under, to manage those things in a way that are for your good and His glory. Notice I said both—your good and His glory—God has a heart for our good. He wants us to live in the good of the financial gifting that He has given us.
The Bible is just chock full of wisdom, and help, and guidance; and where you need help filling in the blanks, there is tremendous resources out there. I would encourage you: “If you are in a local church, seek out a financial coach or advisor; read some books.” Obviously, I wrote one; but I’m not the only one. A lot of what is in my book is really a compilation of what I’ve learned by reading a lot of other books, men that I respect.
Avoid debt as best you can. Avoid credit cards like the plague, especially when you are young. Live below your means so you can create the financial margin to save and give, but never save at the expense of giving. If you can’t save or give, because you are spending too much or you don’t make enough income, go to work on that side of the equation: get help; pray. And most importantly, keep your eye on the prize, which is—it’s not a worry-free retirement—the prize is eternal life in glory with Jesus forever.
Ann: That’s perfect.
Dave: Yes, that’s great advice. I think one of the things we miss—and you know this better than anybody—is: “When we have a plan, it leads to freedom.”
Dave: Even when you said, “Budget Day,” I was thinking, “Oh, it’s freedom day”;—[Laughter]
CJ: It really is.
Dave: —because if you really live according to that plan, you are going to feel a freedom—that money will restrict if you are under it—but if you are free, you’ll be like, “Ah, I’m living the way God wants me to live as a good steward of His money.”
Dave: Thanks, Chris; this is good.
Ann: Thanks, Chris.
CJ: My pleasure. Thank you. I enjoyed it.
[Closing music screeching to a halt]
Dave: Good stuff!
Sound Engineer: Go back on mic; we’re going to try it.
Dave: Alright; here we go.
Sound Engineer: Just as an extra piece. [Laughter]
CJ: So a question that is on a lot of people’s minds is: “How much do I need to retire?
Dave: Yes, that’s a good question
CJ: “How much do I need to have in my retirement savings account, my IRA, or whatever—to supplement other sources of income—to be able to retire, at least, kind of live at a standard of living that you had before you retired?”
If I was to ask each of you this question—“How much do you think you need to retire?”—what do you think that amount would be? Put in on/write it on the little index card.
Ann: I’m writing mine down right now.
Dave: I’m writing my own, and Ann is writing her own.
CJ: Yes, each of you write that down.
Ann: But I’m going to write down what Dave—
CJ: You’re going to have some financial infidelity here for just a minute. [Laughter]
CJ: You’re writing it for you, as a couple, not individually.
Dave: Alright; I’ve folded mine up.
Dave: Don’t let my wife see it. [Laughter]
CJ: Okay; alright.
Dave: Okay, here is my question: “Are they the same number? Are they even close to each other?”
CJ: They are not even close.
Dave: Not even close! [Laughter]
CJ: They’re not even close—[Laughter]—and so just to give you an idea how far apart: so, Dave, your number is about five times bigger than Ann’s number.
Ann: Wait! What?!
Dave: You know why? I know the standard of living she wants to live at.
Dave: And I know what it costs to keep that.
Ann: I said more than I thought you would say; interesting.
CJ: It would be—for those of you listening—do this with your spouse. See where you kind of end up. I would guess the number is somewhere in between here.
Ann: —of what we think we need to live on.
CJ: Probably, depending on other factors; because remember: savings isn’t the only number. Without social security, or without other sources of income, or without a pension or annuity, the number does need to be a little higher. So I would say between these two numbers—erring on the high side but somewhere in the middle is probably where you need to be—depending on what your current lifestyle is.
Ann: Yes, that is a fun exercise.
CJ: Try it at home; see what you come up with.
Shelby: Obviously, as we’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson talk with CJ Cagle today, there is a lot that we need to rethink when it comes to our perspectives about retirement. Money and debt can be really a vicious, downward spiral of hopelessness; but it doesn’t have to be, because God hasn’t called us to live in hopelessness.
We have a duty, as believers, to manage our debt well for the good and the glory of God. This conversation today has really shifted our focus to help us understand that doing practical things—like making a budget and creating a plan for our money—is something that can bring glory to God. We don’t often think of it like that, but it definitely can.
CJ Cagle has written a book called Reimagine Retirement, and it’s available over in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to order your copy online, or you can call us and order it at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Watching God heal brokenness is something that we’ve seen done in so many different ways, particularly at the Weekend to Remember® event. I have the president of FamilyLife with me here today, David Robbins. David, you’ve had lots of opportunities to see God work in the midst of the brokenness.
David: What we see all the time at Weekend to Remember getaways is that people come in, and the realities of life have drifted couples apart. That is what happens with life: the realities of life will never drift you closer together; they always push you further apart. Really, the simplicity of what we do is certainly offer up truth from God’s Word; but also get people looking in the eye and having conversations that, really, the speed of life doesn’t allow you to have, and transformation happens. It’s the beauty of what happens when people take time away to focus on themselves.
I just want to encourage you: we have this unique sale going on this week. It’s a great opportunity to go check out the locations of where Weekends to Remember are happening in the next couple weeks and months and to carve out time away for you and your spouse. You will never regret it. And no matter what chapter you are in, in your life currently, getting time away to spend time with one another and focus on one another could be something that God restores and starts a new chapter that you’ve been longing for in your marriage.
Shelby: That’s right; and you can enjoy three days of romance and reconnection with your spouse. If you sign up between now and Monday, April 4th, you’ll get 43 percent off the regular price for you and your spouse. You can head over to FamilyLifeToday.com, find different locations about where the Weekend to Remember events are, find a time, sign up, and watch God do amazing things in your marriage. Again, you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can give us a call at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And the particular Weekend to Remember events that are happening this weekend are in Branson, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. You can pray for those couples as they are heading off to enjoy a refreshing Weekend to Remember together and watch God work in their relationships.
That’s going to wrap things up for us. On Monday, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking with Laura Story. She has written a book called So Long Normal, pushing past the loss of our “normal.”
We hope you get the opportunity to worship with your family this weekend at your local church. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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