The Coming Financial Squeeze

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The Coming Financial Squeeze

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As prices rise and incomes stagnate, how can you wisely manage your finances? Discover genuine, practical answers.

Transcript

 

Have you experienced difficulty paying every bill on time? Would you say that your financial house is in order?            

Personal bankruptcy rates have increased an average of 25% every year since 2006. Last year, nearly 1.6 million American families admitted financial default and filed for bankruptcy.

It’s not just an American problem. Australia, Canada, the UK, and other Western nations have seen a similar trend. Families may struggle for up to two years searching for a way out before seeking legal protection. Things are not getting better for most of us. Prices are rising while incomes decline or stagnate.

What about you? How are you managing the current economic climate?

Stay tuned to Beyond Today as we discuss how you can cope with “The Coming Financial Squeeze.”

The dominant financial news in recent months has been about unemployment, falling real estate values and the rise of public debt.  

More than two years ago, we saw the American stock market decline and wipe out billions of dollars of wealth–much of it retirement accounts of people like you and me. Other nations, like Canada, suffered as well and coped in some ways better than America.

Now while the stock market has rebounded, it still is subject to swings such as rising oil and food prices and uncertainty in places like the Middle East. Housing prices have not come back to pre-crisis levels which, leaves many still holding homes worth less than the mortgage.

You, I’m sure, have felt the financial squeeze of rising prices of food and gas.

Maybe you’ve been shocked at how such prices have gone up these past months! Prices of everyday items are going higher and our incomes are not keeping pace. Have you felt the financial squeeze too? If we are carrying large amounts of debt, we will be faced with the choice of paying a bill or buying food. A recipe for disaster if we don’t get it corrected.

If you are worried about high debt, you are not alone. We need to understand why this has become such a prevalent problem.  

To discuss this today, I have invited an expert to join me on Beyond Today . Rex Sexton is a Certified Financial Planner who has been giving financial counsel to families for over thirty years.

Darris:
Rex, welcome to the program. What is your experience as a financial counselor as to why people are in such problems of debt?

Rex:
Well thank you Darris. If you look at what has happened the last five to six years, you go back five years ago, the average American family had a large equity in their home–average was somewhere around $100,000 per family. They had a lot of money in their retirement program, perhaps a substantial amount in a 401K or something similar. They had a good job with increasing income. Inflation was low and the future looked very confident. They felt good about the future. And in what has happened has been almost unheard of in our history except perhaps in the early 30s, the time of the Great Depression.

American families now find that their equity in their real estate has almost disappeared, in some cases completely disappeared. They not only have lost significant amounts of their retirement income. Unemployment has gone up and they have also seen rising prices. So they really are feeling the squeeze and the time to look at themselves financially, and their debt load, and how they are handling their finances is so important today. It’s almost one of the most important things they can do.

Darris:
What is the state of debt for the American family today?

Rex:
You know, debt went down a little bit in the last few years, contrary to our government…

Darris:
Personal debt.

Rex:
Personal debt actually went down until about a year ago, it started going back up. It still is way too high. Its average of about $7,800 per family in the United States, which for most people is simply unmanageable to pay it every single month and we are seeing a rise in bankruptcies. We are seeing a rise in housing foreclosures, in fact, perhaps as many as 2 million this coming year. We really are on some difficult times and we are not seeing much to tell us that the future is going to be better anytime soon.

Darris:
What kind of debt seems to be the biggest problem for people?  

Rex:
Well, why do people get into debt is a good question. One is, of course, that it’s simply impulsive buying. People do not have, perhaps don’t have a budget. They don’t plan their spending. They see something. They want it. And in our American society it’s so easy to have someone talk you into it and say, “Oh buy this. You can afford the monthly payments.” Also we tend to frivol away a lot of money as Americans and as Westerners. We buy a lot of fast food, rent movies. Most people I’ve counsel with, they lose track of how much they are frittering away.

But the impact of what that debt can do to families is something that is very serious. Men seem to have this mental attitude, that as long as they can pay their bills and pay the minimum per credit card each month, they can go off and watch TV or play football, whatever.

Darris:
Not realizing they are building up a lot of interest payments.

Rex:
Right. The consequences don’t seem to register. But wives and women react differently. It causes them mental stress. They worry and fret about their future; they are very concerned about what might happen if this debt continues. So it really is no surprise that the debt cycle Americans have gotten themselves into has caused marriage problems and family problems, really for the past 30 or 40 years.

Darris:
Alright, let’s break this matter of debt down. Everyone has debt. There is a mortgage debt. There is a car debt. You’ve mentioned consumer debt–credit cards. Is there an acceptable type of debt in our American way of life and if so, what would that be, as opposed to debt that perhaps is not acceptable from a sound fiscal perspective?

Rex:
We have become way too accustomed to being in debt in our country. I’ll just share that as a first statement. No society in history has ever had their average population in so much debt. It’s never been so easy to borrow money as it has been in America during the last 20 or 30 years. We have to almost always have a mortgage it seems like in this country, because the cost of housing is so high and we do have a tax benefit from getting a mortgage. Beyond that, my advice to people is: If it concerns you, how you are going to pay that off, you shouldn’t borrow it. You shouldn’t get into it.

Darris:
No matter what the purchase might be.

Rex:
That’s right. If you simply cannot afford it, you simply cannot afford it. Being on a cash basis, learning to save is very important. There is something very strange also about the psyche that we all have. It is easy to spend borrowed money, whereas it is not easy to spend saved money. So if you have a $5,000 limit on a credit card, it’s so easy to go out and spend that and buy big screen televisions, or go on vacation, whatever. But if you have worked hard to save $5,000 you’ll be very careful not to spend that money frivolously. You’ll watch it. So we all need to understand it is very easy to spend somebody else’s money that we are borrowing, as compared to our own money.

Darris:
So you would recommend people staying away at all from certainly consumer debt? Credit card debt and easy purchases?

Rex:
Sure if they possibly can, because you know the interest is money gone forever. You pay it and get nothing in return except you borrowed or rented somebody else’s money. And the problem is it could continue to increase and increase and snowball. And what we found the last 20 years was all of the easy debt that has been offered to us, is that many people simply cannot afford. They get in way too deep or they lose their job or something happens. We need to be like Joseph was in the Bible. Where he, during the seven years of plenty, he built up his savings and then the seven years of famine he was able then to survive. We are heading towards some very difficult times and people need…

Darris:
We have already been through difficult times. You’re saying there’s even more…?

Rex:
I believe it is going to be much worse. And I think there are indications of that. So this is the time to be preparing ahead of time to making sure we are living defensively.

Darris:
Well then how can families begin to work together to solve or prevent such fiscal problems?

Rex:
Well that’s a great question. Most families need to work together as a team. And they need to sit down and say okay: How much money do we have? What are our assets? What do we need to keep? What do we, what are the essentials each month? I think Americans have gotten way too used to getting a lot of luxuries and wants, and not understanding the difference between needs and wants. So once we have met our needs, it’s a great time to start thinking let’s put off some of those wants and begin to get our fiscal house in order, pay off any debt that is short term, especially the credit card type. And it’s not easy to do because we are so used to just ripping out the plastic, or going down and borrowing the money.

Darris:
It’s easy to get those plastic credit cards.

Rex:
Oh it is and it’s also easy not to know what your spouse is doing. But families need to sit down, certainly on a monthly basis and say this is what our budget is and be very, very careful with it. And not just plan for this month and getting by, but planning long term. Saying where are we going to be in two years, in five years, in 10 years? Because the world is changing and unless we are prepared ahead of time, we might get caught and a lot of us have gotten caught during the past three or four years.

Darris:
A budget is a pathway to a solution.

Rex:
A budget is simply a spending plan. And it’s very important we plan our spending. Your finances are a very integral part of your life. And as far as keeping mental health and keeping sane and reducing stress, it’s very important.

Darris:
You know, today you can find hundreds of excellent books and programs that help you get control of your personal finances. Now many of them will cost you money. If you are already in debt, you don’t need to continue giving your money to someone else. That’s why, we’ve prepared a booklet that will cost you nothing and immediately help you to begin to get out of debt.

It’s called Managing Your Finances . This booklet contains all of the basics that you really need to start a plan to become debt free. This booklet is going to explain the biblical foundation for managing your personal finances. Apply its principles, like setting and living by a budget as we have been talking about already. Do that and you can begin to solve your financial problems. This booklet even includes a sample budget in the center fold here that will help you to even get started.

All you have to do to get this free booklet is call: 1-888-886-8632 or you can go online right now to BeyondToday.tv to download a copy. It’s free and there is no follow up. All of our booklets on Beyond Today are also available for download to your iPad, your Kindle, or your Nook.

Now, many of you watching today have financial concerns. You may be caught in a debt trap, or you may have seen your assets greatly decreased in recent years. Is there a solution? How can you plan your finances to make ends meet? Well, there are solutions. There is a way out of this.

And we are discussing practical solutions today with our guest, Rex Sexton, who is a pastor as well as a certified financial planner.

Darris:
You know Rex, there are a lot of financial management books and tools out there. Which one is the best?

Rex:
The principles of course are found in the Bible–God’s Word. It has over 230 verses about financial management, more than that if you simply add in the references to money. I think the primary scripture simply says the borrower is slave to the lender. And people don’t realize when they go out and borrow this money, whether it’s on a bank credit card or some other way, that they literally are enslaved to that institution that gave them that money. Institutions know that and they try to get us hooked.

Let me give you an example. When my son was first going to college as freshman, he had no job, he had no money. He was living on borrowed money from me. But as he went into register, there were 12 tables, each one from a different bank, all trying to give him credit cards. Just sign up for them.

Darris:
When I was a college freshman, it was very difficult to get a credit card.

Rex:
When you and I went in the 70s…No. We could not have gotten a credit card. But he got in trouble on one of the cards and I called the vice president of a bank you would recognize the name of, and I said, why did you give my son this credit card? He had no income. He had no job. And he said, well, we want to get them started on our bank services and we know that most parents will bail them out. So I said to him, I said, you know this sounds a lot like what drug dealers do. They get kids started on a bad habit to get them hooked. And then his exact words to me were, “I would not disagree with what you just said.”

So they are out there trying. And my step dad told me growing up–my step dad grew up in the depression. Many of us had parents who understood how much work it is to acquire something. And he told me, he said the most important word in your vocabulary has to be the word no. Where you say no, I don’t want to spend that money. No, I don’t want to borrow that money. No, I am not going to get involved in this get-rich-quick scheme.

But Americans, our society is not accustomed the word no. We are accustomed to yes, we can have it now. Just borrow. Just go ahead and get yourself obligated. It’s very dangerous and the Bible warns us against that. The Bible also warns us in Paul’s letter to Timothy, that those who would try to get rich pierce themselves through with many sorrows. And how many families have been destroyed because people have tried to get into get-rich-quick schemes where they pay money into the lottery? It’s honestly a national embarrassment that our state governments have lotteries because people are in trying to get this get-rich-quick schemes. It hurts a lot of people. And so Paul was rightly told Timothy, that those that try to get rich really pierce themselves…

Darris:
The lotteries tend to take the money from the poorest…

Rex:
The poorest people–those who simply cannot afford it. And so instead of working hard and saving a little bit at a time, until you get a little more accrued and gradually accruing a little bit of wealth and equity. People instead are spending their money and losing it in these lottery schemes and similar things.

Jesus Christ said your life does not consist of the things that you possess. And yet, we often measure success in things that we have, not in relationships, not in our relationship with our Creator or the future that we have. Sometimes we have seen people destroy their relationships with their husbands, their wives, their children, because they think their life consists of the things they possess, when it doesn’t.

You got to an airport, you find all of these little gift stands because people buy trinkets for their children because they feel guilty. They’re gone from their kids.

Darris:
Gone from home…

Rex:
They are on a business trip, so on their way home they buy some trinket to try to make up to that child. What the child really wanted was their time. The child doesn’t want a trinket. But often times, because we are pursuing money, we think that possessions and more possessions is a goal in life to have. That we’ve sacrificed our children and certainly people that know we do that and know we feel guilty, sell those things.

But you know once those years are gone, you cannot get them back. If a child turns 10 the father can’t say well I was going to teach him to fish when he was six, but now he’s 10 so I can’t. And how many parents have talked to me, I have heard say, that if they could go back and do it again, they would spend so much more time with their children and less time pursing their career.

Darris:
Why should we look to the Bible for financial help?

Rex:
The Bible is the Word, God’s, He is our Creator. He created our mind. He knows how we work. He knows what will make us happy and He knows what we should strive for in this life. The world on the other hand, tries to hold out things that are like a mirage. Things that we think will make us happy but won’t. There’s the old saying, if we strive to get happy by acquiring temporary things, our happiness will always be temporary.

But there are permanent things that make us happy: Our relationships with our husband or wife, the kind of family that God intended when He created Adam and Eve. Our relationship with our Creator and the hope He gives us of a coming Kingdom we can be a part of. Those things are real happiness and those are the things that we need to be striving for.

Darris:
Money should really help us develop those rather than separate those types of relationships…

Rex:
Right. Money is a tool. It is not a goal. It simply is a tool to use to have the kind of life that we should have.

Darris:
Are there predictions about economic conditions in Bible prophecy?

Rex:
Yes. It’s interesting you ask that question. In Luke 16 there is a parable that Christ gave, and He didn’t say if your money fails, He was telling people use their money properly because He says, when it fails. So the prophecy from Christ is when your monetary system does fail, then you should be able to have the benefit of doing things the right way.

So there is coming a time when we know that this financial borrowing binge our governments have been on has to destroy the monetary system as we know it. And it will, how will we taken over to a worldwide bank or whatever they do to solve the problem, we don’t know. All we know is this huge amount of debt that we are accruing, not only America but other Western nations, simply cannot continue. And so there is going to be a time when the financial system, as we know it, is going to collapse and be replaced with something else. And it’s going to be a very, very difficult time, because the average family is going to suffer a reduced standard of living.

Darris:
You know, greed, materialism really has become a part of life and do dovetail into the, even the prophetic element. What causes that?

Rex:
Well greed is because of human nature and I think part of that human nature is simply a matter of competition. We see other people as our competition. We don’t see the real competition that we have here on this earth.

I’ve known two very wealthy people in my life–men who would be up in the billionaire category. And I asked one of them one time, a few years ago, I sat down with him and had lunch, and I said, why do you keep on striving to make more money? You have more than you could ever spend. You have more coming in for the rest of your life that even your family could spend. And he looked at me and said, it’s winning the deal. So he has this competition where he has to do deals with other guys who are very wealthy and they’re sort of in a competition as to who can win, who could beat the other out, so to speak. So it’s almost like a sports competition I would guess.

But isn’t that, it says something about greed; that after a while, it isn’t just about having money to do good things. Like many people have: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a good example, Carnegie and his libraries. I mean, many people have been philanthropic and used their financial blessings to help others. But there’s also that group that it’s simply all about me. And it’s about greed and it’s about being in competition with other people. And those are, I think tells us a lot about human nature, something that we need to overcome.

Darris:
What are some other concepts from the Bible that can help people get out of the trap of debt? Some of the principles that God’s Word talks about?

Rex:
Well, the most important principle is that God says in Proverbs to honor Him with the firstfruits of all of your increase, which means tithing. The first 10% belongs to God. In the book of Malachi He challenges us. He says, I challenge you now. You bring the tithes into my storehouse and I will open the doors of heaven to bless you.

Darris:
Now tithing, we are talking about a law of God.

Rex:
Right. It’s a law of God that has been in place since day one. It still works. There are many, many illustrations and stories people could tell about where they’ve stepped out on faith. They’ve honestly given God His first, the first 10% of all their increase and yet that 90% they have left over, it seems to be more than what they had to begin with.

Darris:
It goes further.

Rex:
That’s right. God blesses it. And the tithing principle is one that is where God tells you, be my partner. It’s really one of the few things He tells us in the Bible, you do this and I’ll hold your hand and together we will accomplish this. So it’s really a powerful law.

Darris:
As we continue this conversation on Beyond Today , and you think deeply about what we have to offer to you, we want to be sure that you are continuing to learn and to develop your understanding of God’s Word, the principles there that come into your life.

Our free magazine that we always offer on Beyond Today is The Good News magazine. Every issue of this publication contains articles on how to live a successful Christian life based on God’s Word–the Bible. There are articles on Bible prophecy that help you understand the meaning of world events, such as the recent economic meltdown, putting it into proper perspective, giving you context and understanding and the continuing fallout from those problems. It puts these events and others in the context of God’s Word and that is an education for life you do not want to be without.

You don’t even have to wait for a subscription to come in the mail. Read this magazine online and then, decide if you want to subscribe. 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv to begin reading right now, The Good News magazine.

We are now joined by Beyond Today host, Steve Myers, and Rex Sexton, to continue discussing how to handle these tight financial times.

Darris:
Steve, in the case of the average person, how should they prepare for what’s coming, financially?

Steve:
I think sometimes the most simple solutions can be the best. Especially when you think about it, we shouldn’t buy things that we don’t have the money for. So if we wait till we have the cash, we’re not going to get into debt. We’re not going to pay a lot of interest on credit cards, if we just wait till we have the money. And I think that’s a very simple solution that could at least start us down the path to having a better solvency in our own individual families.

Rex:
It’s a change in the way you think, and a change in the way we value, not only our life, but what is important in our life. And we have to look at ourselves and plan, okay, what’s the most important thing I want to accomplish in the next year, two years, five years. Most important thing should be our relationship with God and secondly, our relationships with those whom we love, our family. And after that then we could improve in the other areas, and use the financial blessings as a way to not only help, but to improve our relationship with God and with our family.

Steve:
That’s kind of an interesting point because it reminded me of one of the Proverbs. Proverbs 3:9 Proverbs 3:9Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your increase:
American King James Version×
says that we should honor the Lord with our possessions.

Rex:
Right.

Steve:
Sometimes we don’t think about that. That the way I spend my money, could actually show whether or not I honor God! You know, what do I put first? Do I put things first? Are things more important to me than a relationship with God? Are things more important to me than a relationship with my family? And I think that we have a tendency to get that mixed up in our thinking, and so the Bible is pretty clear on what should be most important to us.

Darris:
What’s the most important step in breaking the debt trap?

Rex:
Well Darris, I would say the most important step is to take an honest appraisal of where you are. And if you’ve had the habit of simply paying on credit and at the end of the month being surprised by the large size of this bill that comes, then you need to stop and say okay, something is wrong here. So maybe a good look in the mirror is the most important step and after that it might be looking at your spending plan and ways to improve your income, if that’s necessary. Or ways to live below your income so you can start saving a certain amount each month and begin to build up some equity. So, probably just a good cold glass of water in the face, so to speak, or look in the mirror is what most of us need.

Steve:
Yeah I think one of the things that, if you look at one of the principles in the Bible, is the principle of tithing. That God shows clearly that we should take 10% of our income and support His work with that. And, we need to take a look at that. If we don’t understand what it’s about we should read our Bible and find out what does that mean and how can it impact me and really make a difference in my life and my financial state as well. I think people would be surprised how much God could bless them if they begin to apply that principle.

Darris:
We’ve talked about tithing in the earlier segment. Tithing is a law of God and it really speaks to, not just the disciplined, but a commitment to a way of life.

Steve:
Not just a financial law but a spiritual law!

Darris:
It is a spiritual law and you know, when you, this whole issue of money, the principles that we talked about from the Bible about financial management. Christ in so many of His parables would use money to illustrate spiritual principles, really spiritual character. And I think it’s amazing to really study it from that point of view, to understand the way we handle money and view money speaks a great deal about our character…

Steve:
Right.

Darris:
…as individuals, and especially spiritual character.

Rex:
Well, where your treasure is, your heart will be also. God is almost saying, where you put your money and how you manage your finances tells me about your heart. Tells me what is important to you inside. And so, God is watching what we do. It is an integral part of our character and something we need to say is not divorced from our relationship with God. It’s not a separate issue with our family. It is integral to both of those things.

Darris:
So, what we’re talking about is we turn people to the Bible for financial principles. It is a very practical hands-on first step that can begin a search for a right and proper foundation of a relationship with the true God.

Rex:
That’s right.

Steve:
Yeah I think sometimes we separate our life out. We’ve got this religious part over here, and here’s our financial part and here’s my job. And it’s all separated but that’s not what the Bible teaches. We are, supposed to have a relationship with God and not put our life in these different categories, instead we should frame it by our relationship with God and that should come first and that’s going to be then the basis for all the things that we do in our life.

Darris:
What can families plan for financially in the short term, in the near future?

Rex:
Well Darris, it’s going to be a very difficult future. We’ve all hoped that the recession would end. There are some signs, but honestly we’ve lost 8 million jobs overseas. Real estate values have not come back. The average person has lost confidence. And it’s going to take a lot of time to rebuild that confidence. So it may come back, but honestly I would say for the next three to five years we need to plan on more rising prices, more difficult times, more of a financial squeeze for every family. So we need to be preparing now and making sure that we’re not caught.

Darris:
You know Rex, you mentioned the word confidence. I think from what I’ve read in the many articles about the current financial problems and what lies ahead, probably as much as anything else, the biggest concern that planners have and people who understand this is the lack of confidence that people have for the future, financial future. Not just their immediate financial future but for many Western governments, America, Canada, that lack of confidence is as much as anything else, it seems to be holding back a really, full recovery.

Rex:
Well not only that Darris, but people are even not confidence anymore in precious metals. Gold has gotten up to where it’s four times the cost of what it actually costs to get it out of the ground and make it. So it’s also a potential bubble. And some people warn in putting too much in that type of investment. So we have really been unsettled that this confidence we had five or six years ago has been greatly damaged. It’s going to take some time to build it back up.

Steve:
Where do we put our confidence? I think that’s a …

Darris:
Good question.

Steve:
Do we put our confidence in financial things? Do I put it in money? In our jobs? Or do we follow the Proverbs, where it says put your confidence in God? Get that right first in your life and that’s going to help order the other things in a godly way.

Darris:
Okay, we’ve got just a short time here remaining in this segment. Let’s kind of go back and by way of quick review, give our audience some steps on how to really get out of debt and how to stay out of debt.

Rex:
Okay, the first thing is to do an assessment, where you are now. The second thing is to come up with a plan. Not just one month, to get your bills in line, but I mean a year or two year…

Darris:
A budget plan.

Rex:
Right and then stick with it. Don’t allow anyone to trick you into spending money you don’t have, borrowing money you shouldn’t spend. Once you have a plan, keep it in line and make sure that it works.

Darris:
Steve, anything to add to that yourself?

Steve:
I think that’s wonderful, exactly.

Rex:
Oh, we should add make God your partner. We should say, be sure we’re following the spiritual principles in God’s Word and that’s the integral part of our plan.

Darris:
I think it’s important that our audience understand that you don’t have to be a slave to debt. The booklet that we’re offering, featuring on today’s program, Managing Your Finances is an easy to read, basic booklet that gives you solid principles to begin to get out of debt managing your finances in a proper way. It’s one of the best things we could put in front of you to develop sound financial principles to overcome some of the problems that you and I are living with in our own present world today. And don’t forget, we’ve have The Good News magazine as well which also contains additional articles on the subject of the world economy and personal finances as well. You can go online at BeyondToday.tv.

You know, there are indications that some very difficult economic times are ahead. Many families have felt the squeeze already, many more will in the future. Financial troubles and debt are a huge problem, but you don’t have to live under that weight. It’s not difficult to understand how to get out from under our struggles with money, but it will require commitment. It is possible to take control of your money.

You and I must not manage our finances like most governments do. You see, we can’t print money and live with huge surplus debt. It will catch up to us, and it will create enormous stress in our lives.

You can get out of debt! No matter how much you owe, you can restore your fiscal stability into your life. You have to make the right choices, starting now, but it’s within your power. Make the choice to live within your income, and to prepare for the coming financial squeeze. And most importantly, put your faith and trust in God, and serve Him above all.

God is the ultimate provider of all of our needs.

Thanks for joining us on Beyond Today . We invite you to watch us again next week. And remember, if you’d like to review what we’ve covered today, you can find all of our past programs online at BeyondToday.tv .

For Beyond Today , I’m Darris McNeely.