If you could start over, what would you want to do? I’m pretty sure all of us would do some things — maybe a lot of things — different if we got a do-over on life. Especially when it comes to our finances. Looking back over my life, I can guarantee you there are some things I would definitely DO differently.
For example …
- I would’ve started getting serious about SAVING a lot sooner. What I wouldn’t give to have the knowledge I have now back when I had the opportunity. Can you identify with that? It would have been just as easy, when I was mowing lawns in Jr. High or working as a janitor at an apartment complex in high school or at McDonalds in college, to save 10 percent of whatever I earned . But I didn’t. I didn’t save 5 percent. I didn’t even save 1 percent. I spent it all. Every week I spent every cent I earned. Wow! I’d give anything to have a DO-OVER on that.
- I would’ve AVOIDED DEBT like an olympic athlete avoids a donut shop. I had no idea the hole I was digging when I signed up so easily to take on debt I couldn’t afford for things I didn’t really need. The commitment to pay additional interest — which I really didn’t understand, meant I would be paying a lot more with debt than I ever would’ve paid had I waited until I had the money. I shared in The ABCs of Financial Freedom that DEBT is a Dumb Explanation for Buying Things. In reality, debt is us giving ourselves what God hasn’t given us yet. All these years later, I now understand it doesn’t take any more discipline to save the money up front and save the heartache later.
- I would’ve TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS. Years ago, I didn’t want anyone taking money out of my paycheck. I wanted it all — every dime of it so I could spend every dime of it. How dumb was that? I wish I would’ve had $40 a week taken out of my paycheck to fully fund my IRA back in the 1980s when I first opened one. Instead, I paid the $40 whenever I had it and most weeks, you guessed it — I didn’t have it. I’d already spent it on stuff I thought I had to have.
- I would’ve been MORE GENEROUS in my giving. I’ve tithed and given beyond the tithe all of my life, beginning in elementary school. But I could’ve and should’ve been far more generous in my giving than I was. Again, the reason I couldn’t give more was because I’d already spent more than I had. A practice I continued every week for years.
- I would’ve HAD A PLAN for my finances and my future. I guess when you’re young and you think you’ll live forever, you just aren’t concerned about next week, next year or whenever. You live each day to the fullest, believing there will always be a tomorrow, and you’ll always have a job and you’ll never have any worries, etc. But the kicker is, we don’t know any of that. In fact, James 4:13-17 warns us we don’t have the promise of tomorrow. Our lives are but a mist. And, if we’re honest, so is our money. Just like our lives, our money “appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
The REALITY is: we don’t get a DO-OVER on life or on our finances. One thing we can do is make changes to make sure we’re doing right now what we should’ve been doing for years.
What does that look like for me?
- I SAVE as much as I possibly can every week. I have the maximum amount deducted from my paycheck each week and so does my wife. It goes into our 403b accounts at The Solomon Foundation. Then, I have The Solomon Foundation take a fixed amount out of my bank account every week, via EFT/ACH, and place it in an account, earning interest for our family. I also put whatever is left, after our bills, into a savings account at our local bank. (Proverbs 13:11)
- I DON’T DO DEBT anymore and haven't since 1999. We pay cash for everything. If we don’t have the money, we don’t have the thing or things we want until we do. As I said before, it doesn’t take any more discipline to save the money up front than it does to find the money to pay off a debt with interest. (Proverbs 13:18)
- I take advantage of PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS for SAVINGS and also USE ONLINE BILL PAYING and ONLINE GIVING. Technology is really our friend when it comes to saving, bill paying and giving. It makes those functions easy and automatic. I can’t believe it took me so long to start; I wish I had started years ago.
- I try to be MORE GENEROUS every year. Not only in our giving to Crossroads, where the majority of our giving goes every week and every year, but also in our day-to-day living. I’ve found the Bible promise to be true that we will be “enriched in every way so we can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11), and I’ve also discovered that the more you give and the more generous you are, the more you have. (Proverbs 11:24-25)
- I have a PLAN and a STRATEGY to get there. Yes, I have a budget, but I also have a plan that goes beyond that and a specific strategy to get there. Numbers 1-4 are part and parcel of my strategy. It’s not a wish, dream or even a goal. It’s a defined plan that takes discipline and determination. Anyone can do it and everyone should do it.
Where are you today? If you could start over, what would you want to do? I’m pretty sure all of us would do some things — maybe a lot of things — different if we got a do-over on life. Especially when it comes to our finances.
So are you doing what you ought to do right now?
Or are you hoping for a DO-OVER?
© 2016. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.