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Money, Money, Money, Money

By Justine Dorton

I know there’s a good reason for not being overly public about money, but doncha just wish that sometimes we could talk a teensy-bit more candidly about it?I don’t really want my friends to pony up last year’s 1040, but sometimes I’d like to talk about money, in an open and honest and meaningful way. Like here’s some questions I’d really like answered.

Why does it seem given to some to always be asked to give resources, and to others to always receive them? Both have clear hardships, both require much from the people involved. Giving requires the constant companionship of the Lord to know how to best deal with the blessing the Lord has entrusted you with. Receiving requires the humility and clarity to do the receiving, the gratitude to accept it, and the constant companionship of the Lord to understand why it’s happening. Discuss.

How on earth does one actually save up a full 6 months of cash in an emergency fund? Everyone around me seems, on the surface, to be so totally together, that I often wonder if we are the only people anywhere without such an enormous slush fund. The Prophet has asked us to do this. I know it’s possible. I just don’t know how.
Why is it that everyone seems to be able to find unkind/unsavory words for the many “monied” people that roam the earth, yet so many people want to be one of those “monied” people. Simple jealousy? Envy? Discontent? WHAT!?

It seems to me if I could talk more openly with friends/family/whoever about money, maybe I could have avoided the rental property fiasco we had, maybe I could learn what the heck a p/e ratio is, or maybe I could learn why money is such and strange, vital, important but not important part of our existence and journey here on earth.

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

14 thoughts on “Money, Money, Money, Money”

  1. Numbers 1 and 3 I can't respond to, but when my wife and I went to a financial advisor (which I highly recommend–ours wasn't terribly expensive, but was helpful), the first thing they recommended was a 3-month emergency fund. We figured out how much we would need to make our rent payments, food payments, and other necessities for three months if we were both out of work, and figured out how much we would have to put away (ours is in a money-market fund, but any fairly liquid, very secure investment should work) each month to make it. Our advisor said to have it done in a year, but my wife is an overachiever, so we actually did it faster than that.

    Outside of that, one of the refreshing things about living in New York was that people were very open about money. Now that we're out of NY, nobody really talks about how much they make, how much they pay in rent, or anything else, but I agree that an openness is totally helpful.

    Again, getting a financial advisor was one of the best things we did (and ours charged us $500, and we spent a good 10 or 15 hours consulting with him).

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  2. You brought up some good questions, Justine. I have often wondered why in workplaces everyone's salaries and raises are confidential. I think it is a manuever by employers to protect themselves more than anything.

    Let's say everyone's salary, raise and bonus was posted on the bulletin board. It might be a little akward for people at first, but knowledge is power and I bet most people (from a career standpoint) would rather have it out in the open, and know where they stand. It is a competitive marketplace, after all.

    But as for money in interpersonal relationships, I think the old fashioned way of "the less said the better" is usually best. There is too much temptation to judge, be proud, envy, be ungrateful, etc. We have always kept our finances pretty private from friends and family, and its worked.

    I had a friend ask me how much our house cost. I just smiled and said "ohhh, that's a secret." Was I a jerk? If she really wanted to know, of course she could look it up. I just didn't want to "go there".

    We also have not disclosed our earnings or savings to our families. Some of them tell all, but that doesn't mean we have to. I just don't want everyone getting involved "gee, can they afford that?" or "gee, they should be more/less generous" or "gee, that was a dumb decision." Leave them in the dark, and they can't interfere, right? We enjoy keeping this part of our marriage between us.

    That being said, I think it is very important to teach your kids everything about finances. My parents did a great job. My in-laws didn't. Their kids have sometimes learned the hard way.

    I too look forward to a time when we transcend these matters that don't matter –except when they do matter, and then they matter a lot.

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  3. I'm way open about money. But then, I'm way open about alot of things.
    I believe in financial advisors for ordinary people. But being as cheap as I am, I've never consulted one. I would suggest at least reading a "financial planning for ordinary people" book if you haven't already. Automatic millionaire, or anything else by David Bach is good. The Wealthy Barber is similar. They should be at the public library. You can build up savings faster than you think if you pay yourself first and make it automatic. It's just the same as saving for retirement, but you direct the money into a different account.
    I believe that there are different kinds of trials. Poverty is a trial, but so is wealth. I often wonder how I am doing in the wealth trial. We may not have tons of money by American standards, but compared to the rest of the world we are fantastically rich. And yet when we have extra money, we dream about what other things we might want to spend it on. Don wants a full suspension mountain bike. I want a laptop. Shouldn't I be dreaming about hungry Africans who need my help? Temples that could be built? I have trouble with that.
    My kids and I are reading The Messenger by Lois Lowry. It makes me think about the way so many AMericans seem to trade away their deepest selves for that which is of less value. I find that I have to make conscious choices every day to live as though I value that which has worth.

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  4. Justine–When we lived in D.C., I endlessly thought about how certain people afforded their homes, etc… I literally started to dislike those who had moved to the area before the huge housing boom (embarrasing, but true). And, people talked about money a lot because (I think) of how expensive it was to live there. I am SO relieved not to be in that environment now. I talked to a lady the other day who was complaining because of how hot her cinderblock house got in the summer, but how wonderfully warm it was in the winter. Another was living in her husband's grandmother's home built in 1908. I think I'm learning (slowly) that value has nothing to do with price.

    So, should we talk about money? Sure. Should we learn what pitfalls to avoid? Sure. Should our conversations about money supercede the worth of ourselves or the person we're speaking to. No way. But, that's the very problem I have had a very difficult time overcoming and one of the pitfalls of any discussion about finances.

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  5. The answer to number two (for our family and many of our friends) can be summed up in two words… Dave Ramsey.

    He advocates the same things that the prophets have- use a budget, get out of debt/stay out of debt, and having 3-6 month emergency fund. (He also talks about sensible investing.) You might be able to get his book "The Total Money Makeover" at your local library. If not it is available online and at many book stores. The book walks you through becoming debt free and building a savings account step by step. You can also hear Dave online at http://www.daveramsey.com/radio/home/

    He really has been an answer to prayers for us.

    Also the church has recently developed a program that is available at providentliving.org.

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  6. I really think my biggest concern of late has been about the responsibility money brings. The stewardship it carries, and the sometimes heavy price of generosity. There was a recent situation in our family where one sibling gave money to another sibling. Sibling A struggled with dropping the "new felt right" to scrutinize all sibling B's spending choices, and sibling B struggled with every single purchase that wasn't essential to their survival, feeling so beholden to sib A. But of course, we would all have done the same thing to help out a family member. So, why wasn't it easier?

    I strongly believe that all this "stuff" in our lives truly belongs to the Lord. Sharing resources, helping each other out, making it easier to get through this life — all important and worthy goals. It's just tougher than I had hoped.

    For me this is a very spiritual matter. The Lord has expectations for how we use our resources to further His purposes. No matter how much or how little we have, we hold a stewardship to do right by the Lord.

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  7. I think it would be easier for me to give if I always remembered on a deep level that everything I gave was to the Lord. I'd like to think I could say, "Okay, it's God's. That's the end of my involvement." But there is still that sense of entitlement–however subtle–to have some continuing say over what happens to those resources.

    I have always taken way too much credit for the blessings I have. I am really good at thrift, and I work really hard, so it bugs me to think that someone who does less would have the same rewards. I remember not long after I came back to church I was even struggling with how to feel grateful. "I go to work. I buy the ground beef. I cook the hamburger. What has God got to do with it?" Then it hit me. He made the cow.

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  8. I've never posted, so, "Hello!"

    One thing that really struck me was that the oft-quoted scripture in Mosiah says, "when ye are in the service of …. ye are ONLY in the service of your God." I had always read this to mean that you are also in the service of God. It was a break-through for me to realize that if I'm only in the service of God, then I shouldn't expect any kind of recompense from anyone else here on earth (including credit or control.) I think this can apply to time, money, creativity, food, friendship, and sadly, parenting. (and church callings.)

    Growing up, we always lived far away from my grandparents and when we would visit (about once a year), my grandmother would shove bills into my hands or pockets and say, "You have a good time while you're here." Her giving didn't have any strings attached and I always felt like that was REAL generosity.

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  9. That's the beauty of anonymous giving- "That thine alms may be in secret"- there is no strings attached, and that is true generosity. It's not always possible, but by anonymously giving, we are being only in the service of our God as Carrie talked about, and using the gifts he has given us to help others. When I was a teenager, my family hit a rough patch financially, not long before Christmas. Someone anonymously stuck $300 in our mailbox, with a little card, and signed it "Love, Santa." There was no list telling us what we could buy with the money, no requirements, just much needed money and love. Whoever sent this money showed by their actions that they didn't feel control over it, and likewise my parents didn't have the extra burden of knowing someone was watching and criticizing every financial move they made with this gift. I think that's why we are told to "let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth". It helps the giver learn how to let go of entitlement and control over the money, and learn how to truly give, and it allows the recipient to not have extra guilt (they are probably very humbled already by the fact that they need money) and feel beholden to anyone. A lot of the time it's simply not possible to be anonymous, but when it is, the result can be wonderful and bless everyone involved.

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  10. The slush fund thing–what works best for us is not to depend on your tax refund, and then just dump everything into savings when it shows up. I know a lot of people who plan on that money, who have it spent even before they get it. That has helped us alot, as overall, we are pretty lousy at saving.

    My sister also says you should ALWAYS put money away from every pay check, even if you can only afford $5. That has helped us too, even when the only thing we could put away was less than $20 from our paycheck. Amazingly, it adds up faster than you would think.

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  11. Most people don't have much in savings, let alone 6 months worth of savings.
    My suggestion is start with a small goal. $500 or $1000. Once you have it and realize the safety net that it is (any emergency that comes along from a plane ticket for a funeral, to car repairs or a new refridgerator if the old one breaks) you won't want to live without it. If you have to dip into it, you try to build it up again right away.
    If $1000 is being kept easily, then go for $3000 and slowly work your way up to $5000 then $10,000. Depending on your circumstances this process might take you 5 years or 10 years. That is fine.
    You need to understand the need, establish the habit and then experience the piece of mind and then you are sold on the concept and the motivation will be there.

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  12. I'm really really embarrassed to discuss money, also sex. I don't even tell my kids how much I pay for stuff.

    But one of the best things we ever did was get a 401K plan through Bill's work. It was hard, we took the minimum a long time, but now we have a small nest egg. I didn't think we could do it, with the four kids at home and Bill's income being so unstable, but we did. We never saw that money, you know? We did borrow from it twice, for good reason.

    It's always hard, but I will share with you something I read and have shared quite often: I read this in a book written by two Wall Street Journal Economists. It was mostly Greek to me, except the first chapter, where they printed the results of a study they did. They said, if people do four things they will get ahead:

    1. graduate from high school
    2. get married and stay married
    3. never quit a job unless you have another job
    4. THIS SURPRISED EVERYONE: Participate in organized religion.

    I live in a lower middle class neighborhood. We are now mostly grandmas and grandpas and young families who need the cheaper housing. We have all had tough times financially, but we are almost paid off on our houses and are, just like they said, getting ahead. Nobody's rich, but we are seeing small dreams come true. We have all managed to give our children weddings, help each other, and fix up our houses a little.

    Even the poorest of us are "getting ahead." Bill and I are prepared to help our children if the worst happens.

    I hope that helps.

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