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Let’s talk about bankruptcy.

Around 800,000 people filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015. That is actually good news!

Population-adjusted, the bankruptcy filing is at historic lows. On an annual basis, there are now 2.65 filings per 1,000 persons. This is the lowest it has been in 26 years excluding the surge when new laws were enacted. There now have been 57 straight months of year-over-year declines in the bankruptcy filing rate.

Experts believe there are several reasons for this. One is the legal reform that has made it more difficult to qualify for bankruptcy protection. Lower interest rates and better consumer friendly options like debt management plans have also helped. 

The leading cause for bankruptcy filings is related to outstanding medical expenses associated with an injury and the loss of income while out of work. Other factors are reduced income, job loss, divorce and excessive credit card debt.

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I know that getting out of debt is a great New Year’s resolution but do you have any advice on something else that I should prioritize?

Chuck Bentley on 1/8/16 8:30 AM

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Friday's Handwriting on the Wall posts will feature Chuck's new ChristianPost.com 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 8, 2016.

Dear Chuck,

I know that getting out of debt is a great New Year’s resolution (I’m willing to try that one again!) but do you have any advice on something else that I should prioritize?

Looking for a New Idea.

 

Dear New Idea,

First, Happy New Year!  This is a great question since most resolutions involve getting in better shape physically or fiscally (financially - may be a better word here)!   My encouragement is to keep this as your top priority as it is likely the best financial move you can make. You should also work to establish an Emergency Savings account.

I have an idea that could kill two birds with one proverbial stone – this year get your taxes organized as quickly as possible so that you can file in January and put that money to work for you. The fact is, most of us are giving the government an interest free loan by having our withholding too high. We don’t realize that when we get that refund check that money –which could have been working for you – has been sitting with Uncle Sam waiting for you to ask him to mail it back to you.

The average tax refund is more than $3,100 – a good start on debt reduction in the New Years. You can file your taxes by mid-January, and if you file on-line, a refund won’t be far behind.

To get started, gather your tax records, and look through your finances for potential deductions. You can find some great tax tips from Crown here. One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you are a Do-It-Yourself tax preparers, whether you want to hire an accountant, or, like a good friend of mine in personal finance, do all of the above. You can save a little money by preparing your own taxes first and then having a professional take a look for a smaller fee. Your legwork can lead to savings.

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Is success a confirmation of God’s blessing? Not so fast…

Chuck Bentley on 1/7/16 7:30 AM

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I have seen many times that a man or woman can be a stellar success in man’s economy and an absolute failure in God’s economy.  Let me explain.

Material success is far too often viewed as God’s endorsement of our actions.  Now, before I sound pious, this applies to businesses and ministries alike.   To be sure we are not deceiving ourselves about our success in man’s economy, we need to consider two criteria.

First, our actions must be in accordance with God’s written Word. Some decisions are objective enough to be eliminated on the basis of direct contradiction to the Bible.

Second, because the Christian life is not a set of rules that can be obeyed to the letter of the law and thus justify all our actions, we must consider the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We are held to an even higher standard that requires constant input from the Holy Spirit to keep our motives pure and to do the right thing, especially when we come under pressure.

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Are you looking for a job this year? I have an encouraging story for you.

A number of years ago, a young man called me after his release from a California penitentiary after serving 7 years for armed robbery.  He had undergone a life-changing encounter with Christ and was a frequent listener to My MoneyLife® during those years of incarceration.  He wanted my advice on finding a job. With a felony conviction, he was finding it impossible to get his foot in the door anywhere.  I advised him to apply at privately held small businesses and ask for a chance. I said, “explain that you are looking for a fresh start and will be faithful to do the job, whatever the owner would require of you.“

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Are you resolved to get out of debt in 2016? I have some practical steps for you today.

Chuck Bentley on 1/5/16 7:30 AM

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For the average American, interest payments consume the largest chunks of their monthly paycheck.  There is interest on the credit card balances, student loans, store accounts and the mortgage.

Here are some ways to get started paying it off this year!

  • Use your income tax refund, which is estimated to be around $3800 this year for the taxpayer, to pay off your highest interest debt first. It is the one costing you the most and will provide the biggest relief to get it paid off. Crown has a strategic alliance with a firm that provides excellent on-line filing services. The sooner you file, the sooner you get your refund.
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This New Year – make Christ honoring financial choices.

Chuck Bentley on 1/4/16 7:30 AM

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We are inundated with financial advice.  The list of sources for the latest and greatest on how to make and manage money is all around us.  The vast majority of what I read can be condensed to this formula – do this or that to increase your earnings and to have more money.  It is stated or packaged or even disguised in thousands of ways, but the common denominator is usually the same. 

The Bible actually does not offer this advice.  The Scripture tells us primarily what we are to believe about money.  This is a profound difference than telling us what to do.  

Romans 12:1-2 says we are not to be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This means we have to change our beliefs if we expect to be truly changed.  One simple application of this for 2016 is to ask yourself, “Is the financial choice I am making honoring to Christ and his kingdom?” 

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Are New Year's Resolutions Biblical?

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

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Friday's Handwriting on the Wall posts will feature Chuck's new ChristianPost.com 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 1, 2016.

Dear Chuck,

A lot of us – myself included – will make New Year’s Resolutions about money or family or career, maybe even about learning a new skill. (I keep saying I’m going to learn to play guitar.) But does the Bible have anything to say about this kind of thing? Is this a secular pursuit?

Getting Ready for the New Year.

 

Dear Getting Ready,

Welcome to the New Year, and thanks for your question. Making plans and setting goals is something that we all do throughout the year, so beginning 2016 with a list can be a great way to make sure that you’re moving in a direction that can change your life and the lives around you for the better. But in scripture, the question isn’t really whether we should set goals (we should) but about what we should do next.

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Can you believe this is the last day of 2015? It has been a great year.

Chuck Bentley on 12/31/15 7:30 AM

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As I think about the year we are closing the history books on this year, I am grateful for all the Lord has done in and through our ministry.  I want to share a few of the personal highlights for me….

Our radio reach expanded, growing through 235 new stations. We are grateful to our radio partners and encourage you to remain faithful to support their ministry in your area.

I visited the Amazon River in South America and delivered Crown materials to missionaries who use our programs in 119 churches up and down the river.  It was a joy to expand our ministry to some of the most remote people groups on planet Earth.

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One discipline, leads to many more.

Chuck Bentley on 12/30/15 7:30 AM

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When I was in high school, I had a cousin that was very disciplined about working out. If he had a goal to do 20 push ups each day, he did it without fail.  I remember how impacted I was by his ability to stay on track day after day.  When I asked him how he managed to be so disciplined he told me that he had observed that if he was disciplined in one area of his life it tended to help him in EVERY area of his life.  I do know this: the opposite is definitely true. If I don’t have at least one area where I maintain self-discipline, every area of my life seems to be a struggle. 

Proverbs 15:32 (NLT) says, “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself;”

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Want a few tips for starting the New Year off on the right financial foot?

Chuck Bentley on 12/29/15 11:00 AM

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Stop wasting time.  I know it sounds obvious, but all of us do things that are unproductive.  Consider a few of my favorites:  stop watching TV, stop surfing social media sites or checking them frequently to see if you have any new likes.  Stop reading books that have no value. Take an inventory of that one thing in your life that you know is a huge time waster. Now make a plan to replace that with something productive.

Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” 

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