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Household Debt in Canada Growing Fastest in G7 Countries

Household debt is a huge problem in Canada. In 2012 when I wrote about it, I thought it was a major crisis. Surprisingly, it’s gotten progressively worse.

Canadians are in a debt mire, sinking deeper, but continuing with life unscathed. That’s the essence of a recent Manulife Bank survey. What has changed from previous polls? Nothing much. The basic message is the same. Canadians have an insatiable debt appetite. Since 2000, Canadians have grown household debt more rapidly than any G7 country. Today, Canada’s household debt-to-disposable income ratio is a whopping 171%.

Low Interest Rates Fuelling Household Debt Hike

Beware: Household Debt Cliff Ahead
Beware: Household Debt Cliff Ahead

Housing prices continue to soar. Interest rates remain low and are likely to stay there for sometime. Thus, folks have no incentives to apply more prudent stewardship to household finances. People focus mainly on debt service costs, not on total borrowing. And funds are easily accessible. (more…)

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Don’t Integrate Faith and Business – Live Your Faith

Christians, don’t integrate faith and business. Don’t integrate faith and anything. Live as followers of Messiah where you are.

Business is having the right people in the right slots headed in the right direction. It is all about people. Business is the largest mission field available to Christians, at home and abroad. Besides, it is the only wealth creating entity in society. Those of us whom God calls to be in business need to behave consistently as His stewards (Colossians 3:23-24), and His disciples (Luke 14:25-34).

Don’t Integrate Faith and Business

Don't Integrate Faith and Business: Seek First His Kingdom
Don’t Integrate Faith and Business: Seek First His Kingdom

Many Christian business leaders and pastors have not realized how much the church drifted into the world. Thus, they see a  need for Christians in business to integrate their faith and business principles. Christianity is a lifestyle. However, the integration idea suggests that Christianity is not a lifestyle, but a set of principles that apply situationally. So, in church and “Christian” settings, we live as Christ followers, but in business we integrate faith with business principles.

Recently, two fourth year biblical studies students interviewed me in my capacity as a business professor. They asked two basic questions: How do I define ministry? How do business students carry out ministry? I told them ministry happens where you are. On the bus, at the gas station, in dorms, overseas, everywhere. Daily, Each of us who follows Jesus should live a life that glorifies Him. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells His followers to go into the world to make disciples. This includes business, and applies to each of His followers.

The students were surprised at my answer. They could not imagine business students doing ministry. When do they go on the mission field? After all, business is about making money. Isn’t it?

I assured them that making money is not a goal of firms like Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix. Money results from decisions and activities. It’s never a proper goal. Firms make products or provide services for customers and clients. To function effectively, these firms need people—employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, and so on. Sustained profits flow from treating employees well, serving customers, treating suppliers fairly, contributing to communities, and so on.

Previously, some of my students’ parents had similar issues. They were concerned their children were in the business program instead of a ministry program. I assured them that if God called their children into business, these children would be in a significant mission field.

Don’t Integrate Faith and Anything

Dont' Integrate Faith and Anything
Dont’ Integrate Faith and Anything

This silo view that only folks in churches, para churches, and overseas missionaries are in ministry is widespread in the church and among Christians. Industries are popping up to make business a ministry. Church leaders and businessmen who are Christians are calling for Christians in business to integrate their faith with business principles and practices. There are seminars and courses teaching this approach. How sad! Instead of equipping people to go where God leads them, the church, Bible schools, and Christian business people, unwittingly are promoting silo living: separate church life, business life, home life, and so on.

Many churches continue to mimic the world. Pastors and leaders seem to forget that as Jesus’ followers we need to live lives that glorify Him everywhere we go. There is no need to integrate faith and business. All we need to do is live by biblical teachings where we are.

Bible principles are excellent business principles. My former company’s (Alcan Inc.) principles, objectives, and policies could have been (probably were) taken from the Bible: Be honest, have integrity, treat people fairly, don’t take bribes, create safe and healthy workplaces, protect the environment, and so on. I worked at Alcan over 32 years in more than twenty countries, on each continent, and in different cultures. For the last sixteen years, I operated as a follower of Jesus and a senior executive. By God’s grace alone I lived my faith. In every instance my focus was on doing what’s right according to the Bible. Living my faith was enough.

Christians don’t have to Bible-thump in business. We don’t have to preach. All we need to do is follow Bible teachings.  Non Christians call this ethical behaviour. They know positive  results flow from such behaviour.

In each course I teach, I stress that business is ministry. You are in business, you are in ministry! I encourage students to obey the greatest and second greatest commandment that Jesus taught. Love people. I stress that when Christians follow Bible teachings in business we have a competitive advantage. That’s our key to success.

I see my students follow this path. One former student told me of an incident where his supervisor insisted he falsify records to speed up product shipments. The student refused. He told his boss this was not the right way to treat customers. Besides, it was dishonest. He was scolded instantly. The next day the supervisor, and the supervisor’s boss met the student. They apologized and commended him for his honesty. They admitted that consistent good customer service is essential. They agreed that the firm needed to be honest with everyone. This student did nothing but lived his life by Bible principles. He lived his faith.

Recently, I received this note from another former student:

Like any business, this dealership is determined to be successful. However, its guiding principle is to make as much money as possible from every deal. As a sales associate, I feel this is the wrong mentality to have. We should be looking to provide a service to our customers first. The outcome of a sale should take care of itself, if we are servicing our customers in truth and honesty.

He chose to follow the biblical path instead of integrating his faith with the business’ principles.

Do you find yourself wanting to integrate faith and business? Why are you not living as a follower of Jesus everywhere? The Bible is enough. It has all truth. Integration will lead to compromise. Don’t follow that path. Live a life that glorifies Jesus. You and I will fall, but He will pick us up.

Poor stewardship and greed were main causes of the Great Recession. Many Christians were involved. The world’s standards of making a fast buck attracted them. Jesus told us to be on guard against greed (Luke 12:15). This will be an ongoing challenge. However, staying focussed on our Messiah is the only way to go.

Today, many pastors behave like CEO’s and earn huge compensation to preach a feel-good gospel. An uninformed, naive, self focussed population will continue to demand that their ears be tickled. Pastors and business leaders need to adhere to Bible truths in the church and everywhere. We can do this. But only with the help of Holy Spirit.

© 2016 Michel A. Bell

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Two Life Lessons For Performance Improvement

Two life lessons flowed out of my reflections on the solution of  issues that posed the biggest challenges to some of my students this semester. As I pondered different situations, I asked this question: What were root causes of students’ biggest problems that prevented them from presenting papers on time? The answer was obvious: Poor allocation of unscheduled time.

Life Lessons: Things That Matters
Life Lessons: Things That Matters

I am convinced that learning and practicing two particular life lessons will help students become better stewards of the time the Lord gives them daily. Besides, these life lessons apply to each of us at home, at work, at church, everywhere. If each person understood and applied them consistently, he or she would be able to allocate needed time with the Lord, for exercise, for healthy eating, to work on finances. Generally, that person will experience less stress while becoming more effective:

  1. Delay gratification
  2. Focus on things that matter and things you can control

Let’s examine what’s involved with these life lessons. (more…)

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Personal Finance: Credit Scores to Debt Freedom

Popular teaching about personal finance encourages people to concentrate on credit scores, cheap credit, and credit cards. Essentially, it assumes you will live in debt forever. It does not mention the single, key, controllable element in personal finance—individual choices that decide spending, and lead to financial results.

Two Approaches to Personal Finance

Personal Finance Needs a Money Map
Personal Finance Needs a Money Map

We can view personal finance in two ways. The usual approach teaches how to use credit cards, and how to maintain a good credit score. Or, the method I apply that encourages people to strive to live debt free lifestyles.

In the first method, you can get a great credit score, and maintain it always. But, what does that mean? It means you have been in debt, you have stayed in debt, and you repaid your debts as required. You didn’t add much debt, and most importantly, you are not paying off too much debt. Do you get it? You became a slave to debt! That’s what the world tells you, and most folks tell their children. Isn’t this absurd? (more…)

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Decision Making Process More Important Than Analyses

Your decision making process is more important to a successful result than your analyses to prove the validity of a decision. That’s what research shows consistently.

How do you decide? Do you follow a predictable process or do you let your emotions or situations lead you? I believe we are poor decision makers, generally. I think we need to follow a proven process before we decide matters in our private lives and in business. Let’s see what we can learn from three large, bad decisions.

Decisions Influenced By Today

Poor Decision Making Process
Poor Decision Making Process

First, in January 1, 1962, four youths in a rock-and-roll band auditioned for a major British record label, Decca Records. Later they got a letter from Decca saying: “We don’t like your sound; groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars, particularly, are finished.” Decca missed out on signing the Beetles!

Why did Decca miss this chance to sign one of the best groups in history? Decca assumed the future would resemble the present. Four piece groups were not in vogue then, so, Decca extended the present to the future. (more…)

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How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

How to stop living paycheck to paycheck will take time, sacrifice, and patience. The solution won’t be easy, and it might be counter intuitive. It will focus primarily on lifestyle choices, not on strategies to get more money.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and be free
How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and be free

Since the apparent problem is a lack of money, logically, it would seem more money will solve it. But, it won’t. Money isn’t the obstacle. It’s your choices that led to debt. Money is the symptom.

For a short-term fix, you could try to change income or expenses. But for the long-term, first you should accept the principle to live on no more than current income. So, you need to look at ways to lower expenses. This starts with deciding to review your attitude toward money—what you believe about money.

Your attitude decides your behaviour. And your attitude and behaviour results in specific consequences (a+b=c). You might think your income is low, but that’s relative. The key issue is to accept who you are, where you are, and what you have (Hebrews 13:5, 2 Kings 4:1-7) as the basis to build and move on.

We can learn much from Oseola McCarty. I encourage you to take a moment to read about Oseola McCarty. Her story will encourage and bless you. (more…)

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Holiday Survival Kit: Getting Through The Holidays Debt Free

Holiday survival kit? Why does anyone need a holiday survival kit? One definition of survival is “to continue to live in spite of difficult circumstances.” Have Chanukah and Christmas become difficult times? For many, they have, although these periods are meant to be times of reflection and celebration. That’s why we need a holiday survival kit.

These can be lonely times for many folks. That’s a real important issue that needs to be addressed sincerely and compassionately. However, this is outside the scope of this blog, and I won’t address it here. If you know folks who will be lonely this season, pray with them; ask the Lord how you can help them.

I will focus mainly on the commercial parts of Christmas. (more…)

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What Does Stewardship Mean Today For businesses?

Applying effective stewardship in business is key to its success. What does stewardship mean today for businesses? Since the Great Recession, executives are more aware of their trust roles. These days, there is greater protection for shareholders. But we have a long way to go before effective stewardship is widespread in businesses.

What Does Stewardship in Business Mean Today

Stewardship in business is essential? Stewardship means you accepting your responsibilities
Stewardship in business is essential? Stewardship means you accepting your responsibilities

What is stewardship? Stewardship is acting as a steward.  Who is a steward? A steward is someone who gets responsibility and authority from an owner to look after the owner’s property in the owner’s best interest. 

What does stewardship mean today for businesses?  This will vary from firm to firm. These days, many boards of directors and executives see the need to be more accountable. They see this partly because of new government rules. However, executives know the cost of poor stewardship is huge. It hurts their brands. Greed filled executives in good years leading up to the Great Recession. During this time, many managers made decisions that caused major damage to their firms.  (more…)

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Effective Stewardship as You Get out of Debt

Effective Stewardship Requires Caution
Effective Stewardship Requires Caution

How do you get on top of your finances when you are deep in debt? Apply effective stewardship. Accept you are a manager of God’s resources.

While in debt, it seems you are digging one hole to fill another, doesn’t it? By God’s grace these seven effective stewardship steps might help you navigate this difficult path.

1. Patience
2. Know where you are
3. Slow and steady
4. Follow a specific path
5. Celebrate small victories
6. Get an accountability partner
7. Create a nest egg


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Unbalanced Life Key To Live As Jesus’ Disciple

Unbalanced Life Is Key To Live As Jesus' Disciple
Unbalanced Life Is Key To Live As Jesus’ Disciple

Unbalanced life? I strive to live an unbalanced life—that’s right, unbalanced. I know this is counter cultural because I hear the balanced life mantra daily. Are you aiming to lead a balanced life? Balancing work and family? Maybe, work, family, church, other activities? I think this balancing act was a key reason for the disturbing findings in a December 1983 Princeton Religion Research Center survey conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the Gallup Organization.

The survey found no significant difference between the churched and the unchurched in their ethics and values on the job. Both groups called in sick when not sick, cheated on income tax, and pilfered company supplies for personal use. If we choose to follow Jesus, He needs to be first and foremost in our lives—every decision and every act must reflect this. We do not need to attend church daily, or slip away to pray and meditate very hour; but we need to do what’s right, and be available to Him always. (more…)

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