Okay, so I have mentioned in a few previous posts that J and I don’t really save money. Many of you have inquired about this, especially after I stated that this “unsaving” mentality was deliberate.
We deliberately DO NOT save money.
Before I get too far into this, I probably should state again that I am not a financial expert and I don’t read non-fiction, which would include any financial book. That is to say that I have no idea what financial people say about this topic and I probably won’t, unless it is a story. (Note my post about McTeague) I say that because I want to point out that I am not trying to argue or discredit others since I really have no idea what their ideas are. I only know from my own experience, my friends, and from a little Googling, that most experts advocate having savings, so it is a bit unconventional not to do it–on purpose.
Initially, I’m sure that our un-saving began as a rationalization of the fact that we have not really ever had a lot of money to save or set aside. From our perspective, we have usually “needed” all the money that we’ve had.
But there have been a few times where we have had savings. On one occasion in particular, we had a bit of savings that we were living off of while J was looking for a job. Initially, we felt very comfortable because of the nestegg. As months went on and the money dwindled, we started getting all panicky and nervous, worrying about whether or not he would get a job in time. Or would we run out of money? We got to the very end of the money and he still did not have a job.
Now you are probably thinking that this example proves EXACTLY why people need savings. But this story has more lessons than just the financial ones, but for the purpose of this post, I will focus on the financial, which in this case are inextricably linked to the spiritual.
I should also point out that the basis for our lives is spiritual, not financial, so if you don’t share that perspective, I’m sure you won’t agree with this philosophy. If you fundamentally think that your money is yours to do with what you like, then this post is not for you.
(Look at the beach photo if feeling cranky.)
The only non-fiction that I do read is the Bible. So, during this scary time of uncertainty and change, I began to look in the Bible for passages where it talked about money, provision, and need. And I found a lot. I’ve heard it mentioned in sermons that Jesus talks more about money than any other subject, which is probably because He knows that we are obsessed with it. Here is the gist of what I found; I’ll provide one illustrative verse for each statement and you can look for more at biblegateway.com if you are curious, want to check the context, or want to prove me wrong.
1. The Bible only talks about SAVING money a handful of times, but it talks A LOT about spending. James 4:2-3 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
2. The Bible speaks favorably of preparing for a KNOWN time of need, like animals storing for winter. Proverbs 30:25 Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer;
3. The Bible speaks unfavorably of saving or storing up provisions for an UNKNOWN reason. Matthew 6:19-20 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
4.The Bible STRONGLY and REPEATEDLY advocates giving money to those in need. 1 John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
5. The Bible warns strongly against putting personal security in money. Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
6. The Bible warns against worry and anxious preparation for the future. Matthew 6:25-27 25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
7. The Bible teaches us to ask for our DAILY BREAD, which means the immediate, not the future need. It also keeps us in a constant daily routine of supplication. Luke 11:2-4 He said to them, “When you pray, say: ” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.’ “
So to that end, we realized that as long as we HAD savings, we were putting our security in that money rather than trusting God to provide for us. We mistakenly felt that we did not “need” to trust Him when we could trust ourselves. And no amount of money or lack of money would have mattered because we were focused on the money! At that time, I realized that I had been feeling very discontented and worried, focused on the day when our savings would run out rather than being thankful that our needs were met.
We switched our focus away from the future and began living off the “daily” bread. Our savings diminished to nothing, but wouldn’t you know, the minute there was nothing left, God provided J with a job. Maybe it was coincidence, but I don’t think so. Ever since then I have realized that if I want a close relationship with God, I have to need Him. If I don’t sense my need for Him, I don’t go to Him. Perhaps that reveals me for the selfish, bratty, childish person that I am, but it is true.
(Are you thinking, “Finally she’s talking some sense!”?)
Also, we realized that saving for the unknown, the emergency, or the “just in case,” is a slippery slope. When is it enough? If we don’t know what the saving is for, how do we know how much we “need”? When will I have enough in my emergency fund to feel safe? And if I have that amount, will I really feel safe? Is it two months income? Three? Maybe it is the average time required to find a new job?
We have retirement savings because that is a KNOWN time of need for which we are preparing. We try to save for the summer months when J doesn’t get paid because that is a KNOWN time of need, like winter for the animals. But to be honest, every year we have ended up not having much for summer and, like a knight in shining armor, our tax return comes through and saves the day. Between our low income and charitable giving, we always have enough daily bread. But we don’t save for a rainy day. We don’t set money aside for emergency, or our kids, or college, or any kind of future expense that we don’t know about.
(Oh Hello Soapbox. Do you mind if I climb up? Okay, then. Here I go.)
Additionally, how can I justify stocking up my rainy- day- fund when there are endless people who are in need RIGHT NOW that I’m supposed to be helping? God is VERY clear about helping those in need. (Matthew 25:44-46 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”) God is clear about not storing up money arbitrarily too. And yet it is totally our human tendency to think our money is for us, for our needs, our emergencies, our problems. If we don’t have any current problems, we save our money for later, anticipating potential problems, all the while rationalizing our failure to help people who DESPERATELY need the money NOW. Lots of people call preparing for the unknown “financial wisdom”. I call this Bull crap. Sorry.
Also, I think that if more people adopted this mindset then we would actually be helping people who are in need rather than giving them condescending looks and preaching to them about financial wisdom. If having a savings creates a feeling of superiority over those who don’t, then it is even more detrimental. I hope I am not the first one to call this to your attention, but we are actually SUPPOSED to need and help each other. It defies our American sense of independence, but it’s true. Giving and receiving connects people together, creates community, family, and investment in each others lives. Savings and “God helps those who help themselves” mentalities seems to create the idea that we all stand alone with our money and take care of ourselves.
So that is why we don’t save. Call it rationalization if you like. But honestly, I feel much freer of financial worry with not a dime of savings than we did when we had a lot socked away.
(Okay before posting angry comment, look at soothing beach photo. Now, let me know all the places where you think I’m wrong. I’m not above being corrected, but please don’t recommend non-fiction financial books to me because I won’t read them. )
Update: I wrote a teensy-weensy hint of a retraction HERE. What do you think?