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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

(more…)

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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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How to Cope with The Severe Onslaught on Wall Street?

Wall Street Plunge
Wall Street Plunge

Wall Street panicked this morning (August 24). Fear and hysteria were pervasive. Programmed selling followed—securities’ sales generated automatically at pre-set stock prices. Bargain hunters intervened, the onslaught stopped, and the market recovered some losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plummeted more than a 1000 points in the first six minutes of trading. It recovered to close down 588.47 points, or 3.6%, at 15,871.28. This was the lowest level since February 2014. The carnage was similar world wide. The Canadian S&P/TSX 60 was down 3.1%, Nikkei, Japan was off 4.4%, and Shanghai, China dropped 9.3%.

Is Wall Street out of control? What should you do with your pension and investments? Some have fallen 20%, 30%, or more in the past week!   (more…)

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How to Seek First His Kingdom while Earning an Income

Seek First His Kingdom
Seek First His Kingdom

Seek first His kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33). These are comforting words from Jesus to His followers. What does it mean to seek first His kingdom? Apostle Paul and other disciples are perfect examples. More recent individuals include Corrie Tenn Boom and George Müller. Sadly, we do not grasp the essence of the life of a follower of Jesus because we focus on us and our entitlements. Besides, TV evangelists present God as a celestial slot machine from whom we demand comforts. When we don’t get them, these charlatans blame a lack faith. Meanwhile, their followers support their wealthy lifestyles.

The Bible says a lot about money, wealth, and possessions. Jesus’ essential message on this topic is this: Don’t be greedy; don’t be caught up with material stuff. Seek first His kingdom—focus on the eternal. Many people tell me this is impractical; they say it’s not realistic to be absorbed with spiritual aspects while bills must be paid now. How, they say, do we reconcile the need to put food on the table today with seeking first His kingdom? Often, they tell me they are embarrassed to admit this, but that’s their reality—they must earn an income first.  (more…)

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Why are Christian Bookstores Struggling?

Christian Finance Advice Blog is pleased to present this blog from two budding authors, Briercrest College & Seminary seniors, Nicole Chenard and Meghan Friesen.

Christian bookstore must follow solid business practices
Christian bookstore must follow solid business practices

There was a time when Christian bookstores were prominent in the community and seen as a relevant resource for churches and Christians. However, like so many other businesses, times and consumer demands changed and most Christian bookstores did not adapt. In fact, many failed. They struggled to provide adequate returns on investment, and often they did not implement effective marketing strategies.

Many Christian business owners justified their poor business performance by saying, God would meet our needs; but they did not perform critical research to adapt to the changing marketplace. This lack of research crippled their businesses. Simply put, Christian bookstores performed sub optimally because they did not apply effective Bible-based business strategies, management systems, and performance metrics routinely.

Why don’t these businesses provide adequate returns on investments? We believe there are at least five main reasons:

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Oil Price Drop, Blessing Or Curse For Canada?

Is the oil price drop a blessing or a curse to the Canadian economy?  It is a reversal of the 1970s. The oil shock of the 1970’s caused panic worldwide. Businesses scampered to become more energy efficient. Under the guise of discouraging consumption, governments seized the chance to raise taxes on energy related income and energy use. And economies adjusted to high energy prices, which became the acceptable norm.

Oil price drop needs changed behaviour
Oil price drop needs changed behaviour

Oil Price Drop Shows Economy’s Weakness

In the past ten years, the Canadian economy, and the Canadian dollar strengthened. Strong and growing oil prices, among other fuelled this boom. Meanwhile, the world has been congratulating Canada on its skillful economic prowess. People overlooked Canada’s excessive household and provincial debt levels (excluding Saskatchewan). Ontario has been spending recklessly and racking debt and deficits at an alarming rate.

Alberta appeared to be doing well. But, the real situation has surfaced. Lower oil prices mean less income. In turn, this shows wasteful spending that oil revenues masked.  Meanwhile the Federal government’s budget-balancing games continue.

Today, the fragility of the Canadian economy is being exposed. The excessive dependence on energy and commodities generally has been highlighted. Instead of rejoicing that lower oil prices will boost many segments of the economy, bloated governments are worried they won’t be able to rake in energy related taxes. Will this steep drop in energy prices cause governments to see their waste and the need to shrink? (more…)

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Why Target Canada Failed: Target Off The Mark To Start

Why Target Canada failed? Its poor start doomed it for failure. Target gave its rivals almost two years to respond to its entry in Canada. In 2011, Target announced it would buy Zellers’ leases, but only in 2013 did Target open its first store in Canada. Then, it tried to make up lost ground and ramped up too quickly. This two year delay alone is a valid reason why Target Canada failed. What was Target thinking?

It was no surprise when on January 15, Target said it was closing its Canadian operations. This will affect 17,600 workers and cost its owners over $6 billion pretax. What a waste!

Target saw a chance for its first venture outside the USA. It viewed struggling Canadian discount retailer, Zellers as a ready made vehicle. So, it bought Zellers’ store leases–not its business–for $1.8 billion. But, Target made basic missteps that led to its demise. These are three major blunders why Target Canada failed:

  1. Protracted entry, rapid ramp up
  2. Brand promise neglected
  3. Competitive advantage overlooked
Why Target Canada Failed? Target Was off the mark from the start
Why Target Canada Failed? Target Was off the mark from the start

Why Target Canada Failed: Protracted Entry, Rapid Ramp Up

Target gave its rivals almost two years to react to its entry in Canada. In 2011, it announced it would buy Zellers’ leases. However, it did not open its first store until 2013. No doubt Target realized it was late, and opened over 100 stores during 2013 in former Zellers’ locations! During this rapid ramp up, many stores had empty shelves. From the start, Target Canada did not connect with its customers. It built up massive losses. Yet, it continued to open more stores in 2013, even with supply chain problems.
(more…)

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3 Investment Fundamentals For The Long Term

Investment fundamentals are key to investing. Before you invest, always recall these three for long term investing. First, there is nothing new in stock market performances. Second, nobody can predict future stock market values. Third, there is a time to save and a time to invest. I will develop each later.

The Old Covenant book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, tells us there is a time for everything under the sun; book-ended with a time to be born and a time to die. This same book of the Bible, chapter one verse nine, reminds us there is nothing new under the sun–this includes gyrations in stock markets.

Undoubtedly, the stock market is sizzling and is due for a correction. When? Nobody knows; but for months, many people, including me, have been predicting a fall. Meanwhile, what should you do with your investments? Get out of the market and put everything in savings accounts or equivalents? Do nothing? Do something in the middle?

When your attitude is money-making, your only strategy, usually unconsciously, is to do whatever it takes to get more. If you have a plan, it has no substance because making money dominates it; your emotions fluctuate regularly depending on the state of the market; you take this emotional instability into your relationships, and generally, you live a highly strung, stressful life. This leads to greed-driven, speculative, short-term, high risk decisions that create panic and end in disaster.

No wonder after a sharp fall in the stock market many people complain they lost money, although a fall in stock prices, per se,  does not create losses. Often, nothing but fear or greed drove prices up and caused them to fall.

Here are three investment fundamentals for long term investing:

1. Investment Fundamentals Key to Stock Market performances

Did investment fundamentals change?
Did investment fundamentals change?

Stock prices rise and stock prices fall. That’s not a new phenomenon. Learn basic investing fundaments, not to become an expert, but to gain general knowledge of the process, players, and products. Don’t panic when the market falls because the market cycles over time, fluctuates wildly, sometimes daily. Ignore short-term variations, and remember you lose nothing when stock prices fall, unless you sell your holdings.

With an attitude to invest and not gamble, you will invest when you fulfill prerequisites (see three below). You won’t feel pressured to sell investments each time your stocks’ prices fall because you will have goals and plans supporting your investment decisions. Your investment goals will be the destination reflecting appropriate time-frames; these goals might change over time as your circumstances change. Meanwhile, your investing activities will be the journey to reach those goals systematically, methodically, and consistently.

Under the Lord’s guidance, develop a long-term, carefully crafted investment plan to invest funds not needed in the household budget. Understand when to buy and when to sell–buy based on your research and goals, and sell when your pre-established conditions exist. Don’t forget tax effects of selling.

2. Nobody can predict the timing of future Stock Market values

Did investment fundamentals change?
Did investment fundamentals change?

The most important investment basic to grasp is, God alone knows the future. No matter how qualified your investment advisor, TV investment guru, university investment professor, she does not know future results of the Stock Market. This is an indisputable fact you must accept before, and when you invest.

So-called experts will tell you a market correction is due; but not one of us knows when. Your best approach is to understand you are investing God’s money, work with a fee-only investment advisor, inform yourself generally, and know your informed opinion is as good and reliable as your advisor’s or any other person’s.

3. There is a time to save and a time to invest

The best answer to every financial question is, it depends. What’s your personal situation? Do you have debt? Do you have savings for big ticket and emergency items? Your time to invest is after you clear your debts, including your mortgage, saved for major predictable buys such as paying cash for your next car, and saved for “predictable” emergencies.

If you are investing and you do not fulfill these conditions, develop a strategy to exit the market; but only after you understand potential effects of that decision. Don’t do this alone. Seek advice from a fee only investment advisor. But please understand that this professional investment advisor will not necessarily do better at investing than you. That’s why you must get to know the rationale for her advice, ponder it, pray about it, and then choose the path ahead.

Most of all, know your precise reasons for investing and your investment time horizon. If your investment goal is to “make money,” you have a real problem. Do you want to make money? Print it! Doing anything with a goal to make money is gambling and speculating.

Before you invest, you must study: zoom in on the details of the specific investment, then zoom out to look at the bigger picture. As you journey, review your investments, compare them with your goals and plans, and depending on the result, act–do nothing, sell, buy, or a combination–based on information gleaned from the review.

© 2014, Michel A. Bell

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Managing God’s Money Essential Tool Kit

Managing God’s Money essential tool kit is built on the solid base of God’s ownership of everything. Over the past 20 years we developed this managing God’s money essential tool kit to promote effective stewardship. These managing God’s money essential tools encourage and facilitate a debt free lifestyle, when practiced regularly.

Managing God's Money essential tool kit is built on the Gas Principle
Managing God’s Money essential tool kit is built on the Gas Principle

The GAS Principle provides the solid, unchanging base. Three biblical truths, the GAS Principle, acknowledges our need to depend on our Messiah Jesus to provide for our needs. We need to accept and live according to the GAS Principle. Then we will see the reality of Apostle James’ teachings in James 4:13-16. We won’t dwell on the future. We will accept that only God knows the future. Therefore, we will let Him lead and guide us there. (more…)

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Do You Know Your Spending Profile?

Do you know your spending profile? If you don’t know your spending profile, probably you haven’t seen funds trickling out. Almost everyone I know who tracked expenses for at least a month found they could change spending habits and reduce monthly outlays—some by more than 20%.

The average American and Canadian household (2.5 people) spend around 50% of income on food, clothing, transport, and shelter. In Canada, each of five income quintiles in the table below represents about 70% on food, clothing, transport, shelter, and taxes. The first four quintiles reflect 67% each on the five expenses’ groups. (more…)

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