The question graduates — and all of us — must answer over the course of our lives is whether we will be good and faithful servants
By Phil Lenahan
Congratulations to all new college and high school graduates — and their parents! Graduates now begin a new stage on their life’s journey, one that includes increasing financial responsibilities.
The financial “philosophy” you choose to live by, along with the decisions you make over the next decade, will go a long way toward determining whether your life will be filled with purpose and financial peace, or with regret and financial bondage.
The principles for succeeding with life and money haven’t changed over the years, but the culture has. Those societal changes make it more difficult to make the right choices, especially for young adults. What used to be common sense is now “old-fashioned” and out-of-date. Rampant consumerism and consumer credit lead to spiritual and financial bondage rather than true freedom, yet many are caught in their grasp. The average college student graduates with over $4,000 in credit card debt and about $27,000 in student loans. The prophet Isaiah warned us about setting life’s priorities apart from God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
What steps can you take to make your transition to financial responsibility a smooth one? It starts by embracing the church’s teaching on being “a steward of Providence.” (CCC 2404) This teaching recognizes that God is the ultimate creator and owner of all that exists, and that he has made us his stewards, or managers. We are all stewards. The question we will all answer over the course of our lives is what kind of steward we will be. We should all strive to live so as to hear the Lord say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
A faithful steward
What are the attributes of a faithful steward? Here are some of the key ones:
• Keeps God first. A faithful steward’s priorities and decisions are informed by the teachings of Christ and his church, and he grows in relationship with the Lord through a sacramental life. (see Matthew 6:24)
• Recognizes the inherent value and dignity of work. Faithful stewards strive to grow and use God-given talents in ways worthy of the Lord. (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
• Is generous in attitude and action. While giving a tithe (10 percent) isn’t a legal requirement of the church, it’s a good rule of thumb to consider when determining how to fulfill the obligation of supporting the church and her works. (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
• Learns basic financial skills — what I call “Financial Planning 101.” This includes how to create and manage a financial plan. (see Luke 14:28-30)
• Learns how to save for future obligations (including reserve funds), which means being able to say no to something today so you’ll be able to provide for higher priorities down the road. (see Proverbs 13:11)
• Understands the difference between productive and unproductive debt. If you are a college graduate with credit card debt and/or student loans, eliminate it — first the credit card debt, then the student loans. If you are a high school graduate and you end up using credit cards down the road, only purchase what’s in your budget, and pay the balance off in full every month. Limit any student loans to an amount that can be considered productive. (see Proverbs 22:7)
• Makes sure to include money issues as part of the discernment and preparation process for marriage. It’s critical that there be unity in marriage with money issues, and that unity should revolve around the principles of being a steward of Providence. (see Genesis 2:24)
Living your life out as a steward of Providence will help you not only achieve financial independence, but even more important, live out that independence in ways that honor the Lord. God love you!
NORTHWEST CATHOLIC - July/August 2014