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Financial Wisdom in Times of Inflation

Financial Wisdom in Times of Inflation

A young man once asked me about saving for retirement. He wondered how it could be honoring to God, considering Scripture passages like Matthew 6:19-21 and Luke 12:13-21 that tell us not to store up treasures on earth. But other Scriptures, like some we recently studied in Proverbs, tell us it’s wise to save up for the future.

In Luke 12:13-21 and James 5:1-6, the context is not the wealth, but what they did with it. In both cases, the rich were consumed in self-indulgence. They found security and comfort in their riches. And in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Paul addresses the heart of the issue: We are to be content with what God gives us. And for those who have much, God calls us to be generous (1 Timothy 3:16-18, Proverbs 11:24-28).

Saving might be a key strategy to prepare for times of financial upheaval like we’re seeing now. This year we have seen prices on food, gas, and everyday goods rise substantially. This rise in prices is called inflation, and we haven’t seen it climb to these levels for 40 years. This can be worrisome no matter what our financial situation is, so in this article I will take a brief overview of inflation and some practical, biblical ways to ride through these times.

What causes inflation

Inflation is the decline over time of purchasing power over a variety of goods and services, or how much stuff one unit of money can buy.

The main cause of inflation is the increase in money supply. The money supply needs to increase to keep up with a growing economy. In 2020, governments around the world reacted to Covid by limiting people’s movements and shutting down or restricting factories and businesses, which disrupted global supply chains. Our government tried to keep the economy going by doling out trillions of dollars in stimulus and increased unemployment checks: lots of money chasing a limited amount of goods and services. All these factors led to the rise in prices of goods and services.

The Federal Reserve (the Fed) is the central banking system that controls the money supply. The Fed has been raising the interest rate multiple times this year. This is the rate at which commercial banks can borrow from the Fed. The Fed raises rates to restrict the money supply, which raises the cost for capital investment. This means it will cost more for banks to loan, which means less money is being pumped into the economy. With less money supply, inflation will start to slow and the economy could contract, resulting in a recession.

Riding out recessions

Regardless of which direction the economy is headed, there are simple things we can do to keep up.

If thinking about finances makes you cringe or nod off, find someone within the church to help you create a budget and keep you accountable. A budget is simply tracking your income and expenses.

An emergency fund is your hedge against the unforeseen. How much to save depends on a few variables, but generally it’s a good idea to have enough in the bank to pay 3-6 months of expenses. Proverbs 6:6-11 and Luke 14:25-33 tell us it is wise to plan and prepare. In times of plenty, save up so you can ride through the lean times.

It is never too early to save for retirement. Depending on your situation, a Roth or a traditional retirement account may be more advantageous. Also consider using a health savings account, which gives multiple tax advantages to save for medical expenses in your later years. Retirement savings is also a way for you to continue supporting the church locally and abroad, and to bless others in need when you are unable to work.

“Is this purchase God-honoring? Have you considered all the associated costs?”

Finally, do what you can to reduce your debt. The question we need to ask about debt is: Are we honoring God with what we are doing, or is it out of selfish motives? For example, it is impractical to purchase a home with cash. But before you do, are you asking God and getting godly counsel? Is this purchase God-honoring? Have you considered all the associated costs (see Luke 14:28)?

Not all debt is within our control. Medical expenses can cause us to use credit cards or get personal loans. On a fixed income, an unexpected expense can cripple our ability to pay for basic needs. That’s when the body of believers should fulfill verses like Romans 12:13 or 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and give to those in our body who are hurting financially.

But some debts are due to a lack of self-control. This isn’t a budgeting issue nor a money issue; it is a sin issue. Being good stewards of God’s resources is about having self-control, and for that we need to develop good habits: asking for help with budgeting, not relying on credit cards, or avoiding debt by using cash only.

Tips for wise stewardship

Saving $1,000 in a year can seem like a lot, but if we break it down, that’s $83 a month or about $19 a week. Here are a few ideas to save $1,000 by the end of 2023:

  1. We’ll start with the obvious: coffee and eating out. Save money by making it yourself.
  2. Are there subscriptions you can cancel? Magazines, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix? Not a month goes by that there isn’t a new trend that requires a subscription.
  3. Impulse purchases: From grocery stores to Amazon, companies purposefully set up their stores to get you to buy something you were not intending to buy. Maybe you don’t need that candy or drink or that “irresistible” Prime Day deal.
  4. Entertainment: Are there cheaper alternatives? Instead of going to a movie, consider borrowing a movie from a friend or the library.
  5. Save fuel by using alternative modes of transportation or carpooling. Plan the day to combine errands instead of making multiple trips.
  6. Delay gratification. If there is something you want, can you hold off for a few weeks? Those desires may change in that time, and you may realize you didn’t really want or need it.
  7. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be leery of get-rich-quick schemes or using a home equity line of credit to get out of debt faster. Don’t play the lottery.
  8. Stay away from payday loans or title loans. If you’re in dire straits, seek help from the church.
  9. Shop around for insurance each year. Bundling your auto and home insurance from one issuer may get you a discount. Can you move your medical insurance to a higher-deductible plan?
  10. Car payments: Can you go without a vehicle or buy a less expensive vehicle without taking out a loan?
  11. Review your mortgage. Drop private mortgage insurance as soon as you can.

Everything we have is from God. As Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

We are to be good stewards of everything God gives us, including money. May we learn to manage it for His glory!

Henry Yan

Henry is a member of Faith Bible Church with bachelor’s degrees in economics and accounting. He and his wife, Mandy, have been married 15 years and have three children. They serve in college ministry at Faith Bible Church.

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