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God’s word has a lot to say about finances, in fact, there are more than 2,300 verses in the Bible on the topics of money and possessions!

God did not leave us alone to fight all the financial pressures and challenges we face without His wise guidance and trustworthy principles.

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Make Your Expensive College Education Count!

Chuck Bentley on 5/27/16 9:00 AM

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Originally posted at Christian Post May 27, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

 

Dear Chuck,

With kids in college, I’m very worried about whether they can get a job after graduation and about the debt they’re going to need to manage because my wife and I can’t afford to pay for their educations free and clear. But it’s hard to get a good job without a college education. Do you have advice for us on making the most of a college degree?

Worried Parents

 

Dear Parents,

With four sons, my wife and I can relate to your concerns as we have worked with our boys to get a college education without debt.  I’m especially concerned for today’s graduates because I believe that they are on the verge of suffering through another economic bubble poised to burst – a college debt bubble - just like the housing bubble that burst, leaving people stuck with homes worth less than the mortgage debt. Similarly, many graduates will owe more than they can afford to pay back because of low-paying or unavailable jobs. According to the Wall Street Journal, 2016 college graduates broke the debt record set in 2015, leaving college today with an average debt of $37,172.  With so many young people burdened as they start their adult lives, it’s important to make a plan that ensures their investment pays off.

Because the costs are so high, I believe parents and students need to seek lots of counsel before going into debt for a college education. Proverbs 15:22 notes, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Know Yourself. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a loving God who intended us to accomplish His purposes on this earth. The question is, what is God’s purpose for our lives? Crown has developed Career Direct as an assessment tool to understand a person’s unique gifts and talents, because those are the skills best developed into a career. It’s important information to have as so many young adults get into additional debt because they’ve chosen the wrong majors for themselves, leading to higher costs and delays to discovering the right path.

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Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

Originally posted at Christian Post May 20, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

My spouse and I find that talking about our finances is so stressful, we would rather just avoid the topic altogether. We sort of go our separate ways, but try to avoid things like debt, and we agree on tithing. But I wonder if we would be doing better as a couple if we could really talk about money. How can we tackle an uncomfortable topic?

Married and Mum on Money Talks

 

Dear Married,

You are certainly not alone as millions of couples find talking about their finances a very difficult and painful topic. But it is a topic that cannot be avoided. You’ve heard the phrase “talk is cheap,” but the truth is NOT talking about money decisions can be very expensive when you’re married and trying to live happily ever after.

In fact, a study from Kansas State University found that arguments about money were the best indicator of divorce – more than conflicts over child rearing, sex, in-laws or any traditional areas of tension. I believe that being on the same page with your spouse on financial issues is one of the keys to a strong marriage.

Harmonious communication is key because your financial future depends on working together toward mutual goals. Since we all bring different beliefs, methodologies and goals into our marriage, a helpful first step is to seek to understand where your spouse stands on these issues.

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When should Helicopter Parents Fly Away?

Chuck Bentley on 5/13/16 9:49 AM

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Originally posted at Christian Post May 6, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

I’ve been reading about helicopter parenting, where parents hover over their children trying to control almost every aspect of their children’s lives to get “the right” outcome compared to so-called “Free Range” parents who are hands off, and then of course we’ve all seen stories of parental neglect, where parents don’t care much at all. How does someone find the happy medium? As my kids are getting older and preparing for college, I worry in particular that they are not ready to handle money, which can be very complicated, and I’d like to be involved in their financial decisions. How do I parent my kids about handling money without getting in the way of important life lessons?

Perplexed Parent

Dear Perplexed,

Let me commend you right up front for understanding an important truth – sometimes children need to learn from failure, and sometimes they need to experience unpleasant consequences to instill in them hard but important truths. The current controversies surrounding Helicopter parenting, to my mind, involve a misunderstanding over the need to adjust as children grow older. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, for everything there is a season … a time to be very closely supervising, standing ready to rescue your children (Helicopter parenting) and a time to fly away to let kids figure out a few things on their own.

Young children need an appropriate amount of hovering, for their safety and to learn the basics of life. According to the Bible, the best way to teach your children the truth about the world we live in is to share God’s word with them as you spend time together. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses tells the young nation of Israel that parents are responsible for passing on the most important lessons: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

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Pop-Star Prince Problems to Avoid!

Chuck Bentley on 5/6/16 9:00 AM

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Originally posted at Christian Post May 6, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

When the pop artist known as Prince died so unexpectedly recently, I was shocked and saddened by the loss, but also surprised when I saw this headline: Prince Leaves $300M, No Direct Heirs And The Ultimate Succession Nightmare. I don’t haven nearly as much as he did, but I’m not sure my affairs are in order either. What needs to be done to have a plan in place?

Not Ready to Go Just Yet

Dear Not Ready,

Sadly, the tragic, legal tangle that Prince’s potential heirs are facing is pretty common. With no current wife, no living children and few close relatives (he has a sister), it’s not entirely clear just yet who stands to inherit, though likely to be his estranged sister according to media reports. It’s going to get complicated, and not just for Prince’s relatives.

I like to say that if you don’t have a will, the government has one for you. Who would you rather have prepare your will for you?

LexisNexis reports that about 55 percent of American adults do not have a last will and testament, and for some segments of the population it’s even higher. Among African Americans, 68 percent don’t have final documents, and 74 percent of Hispanics also don’t have a plan in place. And while people may think it’s no big deal to die without their estate in some kind of order, it makes a real mess for those who are left behind.

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Beware of Craig’s List Scams!

Chuck Bentley on 4/29/16 9:00 AM

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Originally posted at Christian Post April 29, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

I’m a little afraid of selling things on the Internet. This month a man was sentenced to life in prison for helping his stepsister beat to death a man she met on Craigslist that she intended to rob. She’s in prison now too. So many people I know have made a lot money by selling things on the website or buying things at what seems to me to be an international garage sale, but I am a little afraid to use it because of all the stories you read like this one. I know Crown advises people to simplify and to sell things to downsize and earn money when possible, but do you think it is safe to use it?

Scared of the Worldwide Web

Dear Scared,

It’s very appropriate to be concerned about any exchange on the Internet, whether it’s money or just information on Craigslist or any other site. Just because we are Christians, and hope for the best, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be wise about how we conduct business. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Here are a few tips that I recommend when using such a service.

  1. Research what you’re buying or selling and stand your ground. You really need to know the value of things to get a good exchange. Too often people become deceived by a sales pitch or are cleverly discouraged from asking for something’s true worth. Negotiating is part of the sales process and is as old as time, but you need to understand what you have or what you want. Proverbs 20:14 notes the truth about such exchanges, “’It's no good, it's no good!’ says the buyer-- then goes off and boasts about the purchase.”
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Can you Legislate Greed Away?

Chuck Bentley on 4/22/16 9:00 AM

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Originally posted at Christian Post April 22, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

With all the talk about socialism in this election cycle, I keep wondering if there is a way to better deal with greed than our country’s capitalistic system. Do you think that greed can be controlled through economic policy? Does socialism do a better job than capitalism in controlling greed?

Puzzled by the Headlines.

 

 

Dear Puzzled,

Great question. I believe that a lot of the conflict in the debates about socialism and capitalism can be informed by considering God’s law found in the Ten Commandments.

In Exodus 20, God outlined two commandments that influence our economic lives everyday (and that most of us agree with): Thou Shalt Not Lie and Thou Shalt not Steal.

Pretty much every government in the world has some structures in place to protect or reimburse people from theft and to guard against those who would rip-off a buyer. People generally agree that they don’t want their homes robbed or that they don’t want to be deceived by a crooked salesman or be the victim of a fraud. Our own government has set up all kinds of regulatory agencies – like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- trying to ensure that products sold deliver on their claims or are not dangerous.

My point is this: These commandments obviously have strong economic implications. When either one or both are chronically violated, people, businesses and the economy as a whole will suffer.  High crime leads to bad economic growth.

But I believe that it’s the last commandment – Thou Shalt Not Covet – that’s the hidden issue behind the headlines now, as many people consider economic policies that look into other people’s lives, homes and businesses making a judgment about whether they “deserve” their possessions. And as the commandment says, considering other people’s possessions is a bad idea. Fundamentally, a socialistic structure evaluates people’s possessions to determine if they deserve it – and that is a judgment call, made by human beings.

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Tax Refunds: To Shop or Not To Shop – That is the Question

Chuck Bentley on 4/15/16 9:00 AM

0 comments

Originally posted at Christian Post April 15, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

Procrastinators Unite! This weekend, my husband and I will be crashing on our tax returns, due Monday, April 18th, and we’re hoping to receive a return. What do you suggest we do with the money?  

Procrastinator

Dear Procrastinator,

It is never best to wait until the last minute to do your income tax return but it is better than not filing or filing late! 

Since the majority of filers will receive a refund, this is a great question; especially when the average tax return in 2015 was $3,120.  Usually, I wouldn’t turn to a poll to offer advice, but I’m going to make an exception today after reading about a new one out from Bankrate.com. Despite assertions that the economy is doing well and unemployment is down, most people are experiencing stagnant wages with little job growth.

Better than Shopping. Bankrate found our present economy is impacting how people intend to use their money with “84 percent of Americans receiving refunds intend to pay down debt, save or invest their windfall or use it for everyday necessities.” In fact, only 7 percent said they intended to spend the money or take a vacation with the cash.  

I thoroughly applaud the more than 8 out of 10 Americans intending to hold on to that cash. At Crown, we advise that a good budget begins with $1,000 in an emergency fund followed by a plan to get debt free and stick with a plan. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, 80 percent of Americans are in debt, though that does include people with a mortgage. Still, about 4 in 10 people have expensive consumer debt like credit card debt, student loans or car loans.

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The Tax Man Cometh

Chuck Bentley on 4/8/16 2:36 PM

0 comments

Originally posted at Christian Post April 8, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

I’m getting nervous as the April 18th tax day approaches. Sometimes it feels like a test I’m going to flunk, and I don’t want to be audited. Do you have any good advice on taxes and does the Bible have anything to say about this?

Worried.

 

Dear Worried,

You’re not alone in feeling the pressure. A Zogby Interactive Survey found that 56 percent of Americans find the tax filing process stressful, while 18 percent say it’s very stressful.

Did you know that even Jesus had a taxman? Jesus’ disciple Matthew was a tax collector who left his job to follow the Messiah. It’s interesting that taxes have been with us for a while, and that the Bible indicates we should pay them.

Matthew 22:15-22 tells the story of the Pharisees, religious leaders of Jesus’ day, trying to trick Jesus with a question on taxes.

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Are you Investing or Gambling?

Originally posted at Christian Post April 1, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

What is your take on "investing" in money market funds? Is this not a different way of gambling which is forbidden by the Bible? I will love to see your take on this.

Curious.

 

Dear Curious,

I have no problems with money market funds or other legitimate means of investing. Your question, one that I frequently receive, is to understand the difference between gambling and investing.

The difference between these two is vast but can be confusing, especially for those who don’t regularly engage in either, because there is risk in both.

At the heart of it, gambling is based upon chance, and all must lose for one to gain. But investing is based upon knowledge and all have the opportunity to win.

Both involve risk, but only investing allows equal opportunity for all to benefit. For instance, if you buy stock in a company that makes a good product, the customers who buy the products win if the product is beneficial to them, the company that sells the products wins as their profitability increases and you as an owner of the company win as the value of the company increases.The risk you take is based upon the performance of the company and you can use knowledge to decrease your risk.

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Socialism 2.0: An Economic or Governmental System?

Chuck Bentley on 3/25/16 9:00 AM

1 comments

Originally posted at Christian Post March 25, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

 

Dear Chuck,

I read your column about socialism and the Bible. Perhaps I don't quite understand articles like these as I should, but is capitalism a form of government or an economic system? Or are the two so intertwined in American thought that we think of them as one and the same? Are we afraid of losing our economic system or our political system or both? The conversation seems to revolve around the amount of government control over monetary issues in our lives. Do you consider that a political or an economic debate? Sometimes I think we forget our sinfulness and the potential failure of any system and that general biblical principles can (and I would argue, should) be applied to any governmental/economic system we live in. Thank you for listening and thank you for your reply.

Seeking Understanding.

 

Dear Seeking,   

Thank you so much for a great question and one without a shrill tone attached to it.

My recent column at the Christian Post sparked some very vigorous debate, some of it over the top, some of it thoughtful, but all of it a sign that in light of current events, we should come together to consider a Biblical perspective on economics. Governments and economic philosophies are separate but intertwined.  Governments exist to uphold the economic philosophy of a nation, to create laws, protections and policies that support the economic, political, cultural and structural choices of a people. Capitalism, socialism, and communism – these economic philosophies become reality when governments make laws to carry these ideas forward, and it’s a good idea for a nation to consider if they want to go where those ideas will take them.

My own concerns with socialism have been fine tuned as I’ve traveled around the world for the past 15 years, visiting nations often in economic collapse, where people are truly suffering. In an American context, some of these hardships are not as well known, but I appreciate that so many have taken time to think about this lately, given the ongoing presidential primaries where socialism is in the headlines.

Capitalism is based upon free enterprise, the empowerment of the individual to operate in a just society, make choices of where and how to invest capital and to reap a just reward for their labors.  Thus a democracy is established to ensure that free enterprise is protected and the people can flourish.

Socialism and/or communism by definition are economic philosophies that embrace centralized control of resources with the idea that wealth is redistributed by political leadership not based upon merit or achievement or personal rewards but based upon a government's definition of what is “fair.” Sadly, in actual practice, governments often think it is “fair” to take from political adversaries or those who don’t support them to give to their own constituencies or even to keep the resources for themselves. Socialist structures can become a means of coercion that provides a way to take from the producers and give to the non-producers. And usually those whose resources are taken are first attacked, denounced and defamed as unworthy and flawed.

Another of my concerns with socialism is the way it separates work from reward.  God always intended us to work. Consider that in a perfect world – a world without sin – God gave men and women work. Genesis 2:15 noted, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Work is not a punishment or a failure of imagination. It is one of our primary purposes here on earth. God sent a message to Asa, when he was told he needed to lead the people of Judah, in 2 Chron. 15:7: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded,” and consider Proverbs 12:11, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”

The Bible is clear that we must work as unto the Lord, if we are able, and with the rewards we earn, we should be generous with those less fortunate. But a socialistic structure turns that on its head. Those who work and achieve can be demonized as unworthy; those who contribute nothing can be rewarded for merely being associated with those who have power.

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