Wednesday, March 21, 2018

WHAT Roadblocks?!?

I recently read  and posted a review on the book Faithful Finance by Emily Stroud.  Ms. Stroud's book challenged me to make some changes in my finances.  Fortunately nothing serious, but I did decide to make a change in my housing.  And that change, that journey, has become a testimony for me.  As you will find if you scroll down to earlier posts, I read and posted my review of Faithful Finance on January 24th of this year. 
Over that weekend I just happened (we really know that's not what "happened") to see a home listed on the Zillow website.  A home that was listed for much less than my mortgage.  A home that was approximately two miles from my parents' home.  A home that was in the country and had a little bit of land.  A home I had admired for years, every time I passed it.  An old home.  I liked that home. That home became my inspiration.  I prayed, asking God to lead me.  If it was fine with Him, I would like to sell my home and move to the country.  However, if it was not part of His plan for my life, then I asked that He would place some major roadblocks, blocks I wouldn't miss. 
I went to my parents' that weekend, and while there I casually tossed out the idea of selling my home and moving closer to them.  I told them I had read and been inspired by Faithful Finance.  When asked, I showed them my inspiration home on Zillow.  I was expecting resistance.  Caution.  Words of warning.  Instead I received the opposite.  My mother did caution that my dad might not like the idea of the home I was interested in (it's over 100 years old!).  Unbeknownst to my parents, that's what I had asked for, roadblocks.  Guess what -- my dad did not offer any resistance!  In fact, Monday of the next week he had driven by the home and walked around it.  He even liked it!  My first roadblock was laid waste, was non-existent.
I called a realtor on my home.  The second potential roadblock.  Was my house worth enough for me to make a profit?  Would I have enough for all the closing costs?  The realtor fees?  Would I have enough left over for a down payment on a new home?  At first it was disappointing.  The realtor suggested I list at a certain price based on average comps in my neighborhood. I once again checked Zillow and suggested a price higher than he suggested.  He wasn't sure we would get that amount, but agreed to list at my price if I would agree to lower the price if we didn't get any offers within two weeks.  Fair enough.  We went over a very short list of items needed in order to prepare the house for sale.  We agreed we would try to list the house the following week. My parents came up that weekend, and we made short work of the punch list.  February 6th I signed a contract to list the house.  The house was to be photographed and placed online.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  No calls.  Nothing showing up online.  Should I call the realtor, or was I being paranoid?  Was this a roadblock?
Tuesday the 13th I called the realtor.  The house had NOT gone live due to a miscommunication in his office.  It was corrected by lunch.  While I was sitting in my vehicle at lunch I got the first phone call.  Would I allow my home to be shown Wednesday?   Absolutely!  My house was shown six times between Wednesday and Saturday.  On Saturday I got a phone call from my realtor, saying we had an offer.  What?!?  But I'm not packed!  I thought this would take several months!  Nope.  Tuesday, February 20th, I had a signed contract -- for just a hair less than what I asked for!  Roadblock two laid to waste.
Now I was having problems with doubt.  I have always been a worry wart.  What if the inspection came back and the potential buyer backs out?  What if they want a lot of work done, but I want to sell "as is"?  What if, what if, what if...?  It was hard to remember that I was the one who prayed, asking God to put up roadblocks if He didn't want me to go through with this.  I had prayed that, but I was doubting and fretful.  And I had the huge stress of packing up a four bedroom home, that had a huge sunroom and an outdoor building, by myself (thankfully I have awesome parents, and my dad was amazing in helping me move!!!).  Wait -- what if the buyer's financing falls through?   That happens, you know. 
Here's another one -- it had been agreed and was in the contract that I would replace or repair one item in the home, for no more than a certain sum.  My realtor suggested it was covered under an insurance policy that went into place when I agreed to sell the home.  However, when I called, it was strongly suggested that I say that this item had broken since the contract, when in actuality it had not worked in a couple of years.  I was not happy about that suggestion, and decided I would try to repair or replace the item myself.  Then I thought maybe I would offer the potential buyer cash in the agreed amount, and let her put that towards a new item.  She agreed. I was happy, thinking I had done the right thing.  The following Sunday, March 4th, was my last day at the church I attended, where I played the piano and was part of the Sunday morning praise team.  They decided it would be a good idea to call me up front following the service and pray over me.  Then they gave me a card, and told me they wanted to help with moving expenses.  When I got home, I opened the card and out fell cash.  EXACTLY THE AMOUNT I HAD AGREED TO PAY THE BUYER!!  I sat and bawled!  God knew that I could pay for that myself, but He chose to show me His love, and His removal of a real pain, by giving me exactly what I had agreed to give to the buyer. 
Closing day came just last week.  Everything went smoothly, despite my self-inflicted anxiety. Everyone was happy.  The realtors.  The banker.  The closing agent.  The buyer.  Me!  And I was able to tell the new owner, along with the realtors and closing agent, what God had done for me.  :-)
God chose to remove all roadblocks in the sale of my home.  He moved faster than I ever expected. Now I am working on getting a new home, while my sister patiently puts up with me crashing in her spare bedroom!  Roadblocks?  Well, let's see what happens...

Until We Find Home - Book Review

By Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2017

Sometimes we dream of things we believe we cannot live without.  We think we know ourselves.  Then reality hits, and we find everything is upside down.   That’s what happens to young, ambitious Claire who fancies herself a writer helping with the French Resistance in the early stages of World War II.  Claire is in love with a man who is deep in the Resistance, and is helping him save Jewish children by smuggling them out of France.  Unfortunately, her love does not meet her at the agreed upon time, and Claire is forced to take responsibility for getting the latest group of children to safety.  She rebelliously resists going any further than she feels is necessary – she has done her duty.  But her plans fall apart.  She expects others to take responsibilities they have never agreed upon, while refusing to do the same herself.  Being forced to care for other people’s needs also allows Claire and her Aunt Miranda to grow, and their hearts begin to heal. 
This is an interesting book, set during the early stages of World War II in England.  Ms. Gohlke does an excellent job of making you feel a part of the lives of the characters.  At times I wanted to yell at Claire and point out her faults, and also to do the same with Aunt Miranda.  The kids in the story grow and change as well, and their antics are entirely believable.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about life in England during World War II, or who just wants to read a great romance.

In order to comply with Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Tyndale House Publishers.  I am under no obligation to post a positive review.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Faithful Finance

10 Secrets to Move from Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control

By Emily Stroud
Zondervan2015, 2018

As the subtitle of suggests, in Faithful Finance Emily Stroud gives her ten secrets to gaining personal financial freedom.  She can substantiate her secrets with her work and her credentials, which are impressive.  She holds an MBA (Texas Christian University in 1998) and a CFA Charter which she earned in 2002.  Interesting side note –June 2016 statistics state there are approximately 132,000 charter holders. According to the stats, only 43 percent passed the Level 1 tests in 2017, with only 47 percent of those passing Level 2, and then only 54 percent of those remaining passing Level 3!  It takes approximately four years to complete all three levels.  According to the CFA Institute, the CFA is the highest distinction in the investment management profession. 

You might think, as I did, that this book might be way over your head.  That it would be dry, dull, boring, and would have no practical advice, at least not advice that was understandable.  You would be very wrong.  In fact, I am recommending this book to my college age friends, as well as to my two sons who are in their early twenties.  If this book is read and applied while you are young, it will start you on a firm foundation for years of financial security.  Obviously this doesn’t mean you are going to be rich (as in wealthy).  Ms. Stroud provides solid principles to follow, laid out in an engaging format.  So much so that I should have finished her book much sooner, but kept stopping and thinking how I could apply the principles to my own life (I am in my late forties, and although I practice many of her principles, I can learn to practice them all). 

Everyone wants their money to grow.  One of the first things Ms. Stroud talks about is a budget.  Most of us think of that as a very bad word, or even a restrictive way to manage your money, but what about if you use it as a TOOL?  I’ve started working on MY budget.  If you don’t know what you have and where you are spending it, your money definitely will not grow.  In fact, it’s likely it will do the opposite. 

Speaking of growing your money, in Faithful Finance Ms. Stroud talks about ways to invest your money, breaking down the various types of investments and how each could benefit you.  She talks about the many types of insurance and what type you should have for the different stages of your life; and explains the differences.  If you have kids and want to save for college, she provides resources and describes what each can do for you.  If you are nearing retirement or already in retirement, she shows you how to carefully manage and even invest your money so you will always have an income stream.  Talking about kids’ college and retirement reminds me of Ms. Stroud’s point that education is very good to have and is eventually financially beneficial, but she also stresses that paying for college should never be at the expense of retirement!  She explains there are many ways to fund college, but if you fail at saving for retirement, you may become dependent upon your children.  That would defeat the purpose of your kids becoming financially independent.

Do you own a house?  If you don’t own a home, home ownership is considered a good investment.  That is, if you make sure your overall housing expenses fit in your monthly budget.  And if you pay your house off before retirement, it gets even better.  I love the verse Ms. Stroud quoted on purchasing a home -- Jesus said in Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”  Ms. Stroud’s point – make sure you plan and prepare for this investment.

Speaking of using Scripture in Faithful Finance (hey, the title might be a clue), Ms. Stroud liberally sprinkles Scripture throughout her book.  And in several places she mentions that the most important place to “lay up your treasure” is in Heaven.  She also presents the simple plan of salvation where appropriate.  But even if you are not a Christian and not even remotely interested in Christianity, you will still benefit from the wisdom this book provides on how to handle your finances.

I can’t wait to make my recommendation of Faithful Finance to my friends.  I have already begun implementing some of Ms. Stroud’s strategies in my personal life, and am excited to begin to do more.  And if you thought you might borrow my copy of the book, think again -- you will have to buy your own!
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In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Handlebar Publishing.  I am under no obligation to post a positive review.