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.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?

Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife

Jennifer Grant
Herald Press, 2017
               In her book When Did Everybody Else Get So Old Jennifer Grant writes of life in her 40s, so-called midlife.  She attempts to discover what midlife really is, or even if there is such a thing as midlife.  And if it does exist, exactly when does it occur?  What does this time of life really mean?  She uses her own life to try to expand these ideas.
               Based on the title of the book, I expected it to be full of humor, causing many belly laughs.  Ms. Grant did not deliver on the laughs.  Instead, I was often left confused, trying to follow her train of thought from one idea to the next, and then back again.
                Needless to say, I was disappointed in the book.  Ms. Grant’s style of writing is not one that allowed me to logically follow her ideas.  There were also many, many quotations supporting and explaining Ms. Grant’s thoughts, a reminder of the old college research days.  And Ms. Grant’s idea of religion and theology were much removed from my own understanding of Scripture.
                I do not like giving negative reviews; however, I honestly cannot recommend this book.

In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Herald Press.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

In the Middle of the Mess

Strength for this Beautiful, Broken Life

by Sheila Walsh
Nelson Books, an Imprint of Thomas Nelson
Publishing Date:  November 2017

In her new book, In the Middle of the Mess, popular author and Bible teacher Sheila Walsh reveals her life-long deep shame over her battles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and how learning to bring the mess to God and to confess to Christian sisters helped her deal with her depression.  She does not teach how to overcome the depression, but how to live with it through God's grace.
Sheila teaches that every Christian has things they hide.  Things we don't want brought out of the dark.  Things we deny we deal with, much less want to acknowledge them before God, let alone our Christian sisters.  However, she explains that the Bible over and over again teaches that we are to help each other bear our burdens.  And how else can that be accomplished than by revealing our burdens to someone else, so they can share our load?  She teaches that we are not confessing or sharing to be absolved of our burden, but merely to have the load shared.  She warns, however, that we wisely choose who we share our burden with.  We certainly don't want to share with someone who will take it upon themselves to share with others! 
There is a truth about salvation, God's plan of redemption, that most people don't think about.  Salvation is in the past -- when you accept Christ to save you from your sins and hell.  That's a one time lasts forever deal.  But salvation is also a gift that is in the present.  Sheila quotes Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Church in London, as saying "'Salvation'. . . is a huge and comprehensive word.  It means 'freedom' . . . There are three tenses of salvation: we have been set free from the penalty of sin, we are being set free from the power of sin, and we will be set free from the presence of sin" (my underlining). 
Sheila explains throughout her book, using her own story, how Christians forget this principle of salvation.  We forget that God wants us to share our burdens with Him and with fellow believers.  We wander through life with so much guilt and shame, mistakenly believing that Christians should not be burdened this way, making us feel alone.  There must be something wrong with us!  All the time forgetting, or maybe not even knowing, that God has created a way for us to find relief.
I have to say that this book was incredible.  There were several times when tears came unbidden, and even a gasp or two.  I have heavily underlined the book.  Even if you don't battle with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, this books is excellent.  Although depression and suicidal thoughts are heavy throughout the book, that is not the theme.  The main theme is summed up in the last paragraph in the book -- "God's love is hope and life.  It's confession and prayer and silence and gratitude.  It's telling the truth and exposing the secrets.  It's being known and coming into community.  It's life!  It's saying out loud, 'I am not alone.  I am loved, and I am strong.'"  I would highly encourage Christian women to grab this book, study it, and apply it's truths!
In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Handlebar Publishing.