Want to be a better investor?

In my weekly column at, I get lots of questions. Here is one I think many others are asking.

So far this year, the stock market seems very volatile. My husband and I have some stocks and certainly in most retirement accounts including ours, stocks play a role. I’ve been concerned about the impact of China’s stock problems, which have been much in the news, and I’m wondering if you have any advice on how to invest in the stock market and whether it’s wrong to be there at all. As a timid investor, is it safe for my family to put money in the stock market?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

This couple is certainly not alone in wondering whether the stock market is a safe investment these days.

First: Understand your Finances. In the Proverbs we are advised:Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” This means to only invest in what we understand.


There is a correlation between your credit score and your intimate relationships. Don’t miss this one.

First, a CitiGroup Survey found that 78% of Americans say they prefer a partner that is good with money over one that is physically attractive.  In another study that I read, a matchmaking website allows customers to post their credit scores. Those with high credit scores received more interest from the opposite sex than those with low credit scores. 

Another study by the Federal Reserve Bank found that people tend to form committed relationships with people whose credit scores are in the same range. And couples with high credit scores tend to stay together longer. For every additional 100 points or so in a couple’s average credit score at the beginning of their relationship, their odds of separating during the second year of the relationship drop by 30%. Also, if the difference between a couple’s individual credit scores is greater than 66 points at the start of the relationship, the couple is 24% more likely to split up within the second, third, or fourth year of the relationship. The link between credit scores and relationship longevity probably has to do with creditworthiness being a proxy for “an individual’s general trustworthiness and commitment to non-debt obligations,” the study notes.


Today here is a practical tip to help you get unified with your spouse.

My wife and I are writing a book to help married couples get united as couples. It will help end the fighting, the arguments, the hurt and more importantly, the frustration of not making any progress towards your financial goals.

To minimize arguing and debates over financial decisions, we came up with a Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light process. Red means No. Yellow means Wait and Pray or learn more and Green means Yes! Let’s go. It takes two green lights for us to move forward with a major financial decision.  If either of us uses the Red or Yellow Light, we honor the one who thinks we should not make the purchase at this time and avoid arguments. 


Don’t be the richest man in Babylon.

One of the classic personal finance books is The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason, originally published in 1926.  The book is written as a tale full of financial parables laced with statements using “Thee and Thou” to make it sound almost “Bible-esque” but it is far from it.  The main points of the book are packaged in the 7 Cures for a lean purse:

1st CURE: Start thy purse to fattening.

2nd CURE: Control thy expenditures.

3rd CURE: Make thy gold multiply.

4th CURE: Guard thy treasures from loss.

5th CURE: Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment.

6th CURE: Insure a future income.

7th CURE: Increase thy ability to earn.


Stop Her Before She Shops Again!

Chuck Bentley on 2/5/16 8:00 AM


Friday's Handwriting on the Wall posts will feature Chuck's new column, Ask Chuck. Chuck will be answering questions about what the the Bible has to say about money. Please share on #financialfridays and submit your own questions here. @AskCrown

Originally posted at Christian Post February 5, 2016.

Dear Chuck, 

I have a friend who is a non-believer and an impulse buyer, especially on-line. If I suggest to her that she cut up all her credit cards, I’m concerned that such a plan leaves her without a tool that she will sometimes need. But my fear is that she will also use this one credit card to continue buying things she doesn't need. How I can help her stop buying things online that she doesn't need? Help!

A Worried Friend


Dear Friend,

What a blessing it is for your friend to have a Christian in her life who cares about her, prays for her, and wants to help her get free from the bondage of impulse spending.  Without help, she will likely suffer the consequences of excessive debt and continual stress.

One of the reasons so many of us struggle with spending is that it feeds something in our hearts, a need that we try to fill with things. Impulse spending or compulsive shopping, especially when it involves going into debt, is often driven by our emotional state.  We shop to try and make ourselves happy.

I had a friend who went through several job interviews for a significant promotion. The day it was announced that he did not get the promotion, he left the office, drove to a car dealership and purchased a brand new car – that he could not afford.  It was totally out of character for him. He told me later he was trying to cover his disappointment with something he thought would make him feel better about himself. The opposite happened. He grew to resent the car as he made payments month after month and eventually sold it for a significant loss.


Are you overlooking possible tax deductions?

I found a helpful article by Intuit Corporation on the most commonly overlooked potential tax deductions. Did you know that recent numbers show that “more than 45 million of us itemized deductions on our 1040s—claiming $1.2 trillion dollars’ worth of tax deductions”?  So if you are among those 45 million who itemized their deductions, here are a few to look for that I picked from the Intuit list of their Top Ten.

  1. State Sales Tax – Did you purchase a vehicle, boat or building materials? State sales taxes are deductible but vary by your state and income level. Be sure to use IRS tables or calculators to determine what you may qualify to deduct.
  2. Charitable Donations that you made in cash or other out of pocket expenses such as costs for driving for a volunteer effort, organizing help at a homeless shelter or other qualified charities that you supported with good deeds. Your expenses should be carefully documented and deducted.

Today, I have some strong words about credit card debt.

The NerdWallet 2015 American Household Credit Card Debt Study released last month, found that the average household has $15,355 of credit card debt (and $129,579 in total debt, including mortgages).

Okay, I want to be very blunt. Credit card debt is one of the worst forms of debt you can have. It is right up there with a payday loan or a car title loan, just not as expensive.  Listen to me.   You should never carry a balance on a credit card. That is financial madness!  If you are in the average of this survey and have $15,355 of debt on your card balances, you need to stop using you cards, make a plan to pay them off completely and never get into the situation again.  So how do you accomplish that you might be asking?  Here you go.


Are you richer than you think?

I have been troubled by the attitudes I saw during the recent Powerball craze when the jackpot hit over $1 billion.  So many people decided to jump into the madness of buying a chance to get rich.  At a recent dinner party, one of our guests was being asked about his business and his reply was very wise.  He said, “I don’t make a lot of money but I have great social capital.  It is more important to me than money.” 

There was a lot of Biblical wisdom in that statement. 

In Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”


How do I survive the next “Snowmageddon”?

Chuck Bentley on 1/29/16 8:00 AM


Friday's Handwriting on the Wall posts will feature Chuck's new column, Ask Chuck. Chuck will be answering questions about what the the Bible has to say about money. Please share on #financialfridays and submit your own questions here. @AskCrown

Originally posted at Christian Post January 29, 2016.

Dear Chuck, 

My family and I were surprised by the scope of the blizzard that affected much of the country, including us, which makes me wonder if there are more things we should be doing to get ready for emergencies like this. What does the Bible have to say about preparing for disasters? I doubt this is the last one I'll see! 

Snowed in. 


Dear Snowed,

Storms like the one that shut down the federal government for days are a great reminder that being prepared for disaster means getting ready for every thing from the next “Snowmageddon” to being ready to face the loss of your job. While talk radio hosts have joked that the lobbyists for cows and chickens have conditioned us to run for eggs and milk at the first sign of a snowflake, not every emergency can be addressed with a run to the grocery store.

In Genesis 41, you can read about how God gave Joseph the interpretation for a dream that was troubling Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. The dream foretold of a 7-year famine that was going to follow 7 prosperous years. Joseph advised that 20 percent of the country’s resources should be saved during the good years for tough times. That’s still good advice. In fact, I wrote a book about preparing to survive and even thrive in a difficult economy, called The S.A.L.T. Plan, to provide concrete tools to be ready based on Biblical truths.

The S.A.L.T. Plan follows the themes: Save, Asset Allocation, Liquidity, Truth, walking through strategies to be ready for emergencies.

First, eliminate all consumer debt, applying half of surplus income to debt and half toward a savings fund. One of the best ways to be ready for hard times is to have resources ready. That includes having food and supplies stored on hand. This is more easily accomplished if you have a good budget, and there are tools that can help.


Ever been tempted to cheat on your tax return?

From research compiled by the IRS, 15% of Americans admit to cheating on their tax return. Here are some of the top ways individuals have attempted to deceive the IRS.

  1. Claiming the first time homebuyer tax credit when the house was not in fact their first home.
  2. Working a job under the table while also getting unemployment benefits.
  3. Filing a false insurance claim.
  4. Lying about their income to qualify for free government money or assistance programs.
  5. Not declaring income earning in tips.

Intuit, the owners of TurboTax, surveyed why the 85% of American taxpayers were motivated to be honest with the IRS.

The greatest influence was not fear of an audit but a commitment to maintain their personal integrity.  

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches.”  Think about how much better off you are to be honest.

As Christians, we should never struggle to determine if we are going to be honest in any financial matters.  Always file your returns. Always tell the truth and always pay what you owe.  Any compromise on these values will damage you and reflect poorly on the body of Christ.

It’s tax season, so file, be honest. Sleep well at night. And thank God for the riches of having a good name. 

Crown has identified an IRS approved tax preparation software company that shares our values. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and like to file on-line, go to and check out the link to file on-line through our website.




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