This morning I ordered a $60 item online. It gave me the option of paying the full amount, or making four, "easy payments" of $15 a month. But think about that for a minute! Unless it's a medical prescription, or some life or death product/service you need and do not have the funds, in what universe is buying a $60 item on the installment plan a good financial stewardship idea?
In our new universe apparently! These point-of-sale-loans (POSL) have become a new, explosive 20 billion dollar industry with an average sale of $622. While most of these loans are interest free if you pay the loan off in the first 3-4 months, anything longer is subject to high interest rates similar to credit cards. And they apparently make a good share of their money on steep late fees, hoping you're just one day late. But my issue isn't with these companies. However, my alarm bells went off after I opened a devotional this morning from Pastor Rick Warren about the decline of savings by Americans. He wrote:
Japanese save 26% of their income
Europeans save 18% of their income
Americans spend 1% more than they make.
"The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get." Proverbs 21:20
Warren suggest this simple test; when you are tempted to purchase something ask yourself a final question, "Do I really need this, or is it a want?" If your answer is "I really need this," ask yourself a final question, "What bad things we'll happen to me if I do not purchase this?"
If you're an older Christian, you were probably raised understanding the need to save and not spend more than you make. But perhaps your children or grandchildren have not. So, then it's up to us to teach them financial literacy so they can give generously and/or live without fear.
So gather your teenage kids or grandkids and have a conversation about:
Credit card interest rates
Saving for the future
The real cost of buying things "on time!"
It will take some work. I could not find a single source that had all the answers to each of these topics and it will depend on the ages of your kids. But please do not use that as an excuse to have "the talk!" Consider leading them through these verses from scripture then share a personal story about how you or others have put these ideas into practice and why they work:
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. -Proverbs 22:7
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; -Proverbs 3:9
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have." Hebrews 13:5
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. -I Timothy 5:8
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. -Romans 13:8
I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man. -Proverbs 24:30-34
Share with them what you did to save and invest. Also share with them the mistakes you made and what you wished you had known younger in life. Be the patriarch of you family and instruct them to be both wise and content.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain." -I Timothy 6:6