Thursday, 12 NOV 2015 :: Personal Income, Budgets, and the Needs of the Body

I was checking on some articles at today.  This is one of the websites that make up the Dave Ramsey program.  I followed a link from an email I received from them, to an article on Christmas budgeting I think.  I am trying to decide how to save money for Christmas 2016.  From that first link, there were other links on the site I checked on, trying to see what they had there, if I wanted to buy something for a Christmas gift this year, and whether I should sign up for the daily giveaways they offer right now for the holiday.

Originally, I discovered the website because of a radio program I sometimes listen to with a Ramsey host named Chris Brown.  He talks to people who call in about their individual financial situations.  There is a lot of referencing to the Financial Peace program offered by Dave Ramsey, so you begin to hear some of the budgeting concepts taught by Dave Ramsey.

I am only a little familiar with the Dave Ramsey financial program, having heard of him through churches and other connecting sources along the way from there to here.  I found one of his old workbooks at a thrift store, so I bought it to see what it had in it.  It was from 2007, before the financial meltdown we have been trying to recover from as a nation, and a world.

I know the Ramsey program involves the historical envelope system of budgeting.  This is when you have a separate envelope for each of your budget categories, and you can only spend the amount that is in the envelop, no more.  I don't think you are suppose to take from other envelopes when you run out of one category, but I haven't explored the Ramsey program completely... especially the more current one.  :-)

What stands out to me is that it is a Christian program so it includes the tithe.  Secular (non-biblical) debt programs would not include the principle of tithing.  I am not sure if they offer a structured debt-counseling program, but it would be important for Christians to find one.  They do offer links to local contacts for those who are looking for them.

One of the pieces of information that caught my attention in listening to Chris Brown one day was a budget percentage he mentioned... he said that the total value of your car could not be more than a certain amount of your budget.  I had never heard of this before, and I have read and listened to a LOT of financial advice programs over the years.  I wasn't able to capture the amount he stated the first time I heard it mentioned, so I went to the website looking for the information.  It wasn't there, so I sent an email, but haven't heard back about it.  I finally decided it must be one of those tidbits of information you get in the Financial Peace program, which you have to buy.

I was half-way looking for that piece of information today as I explored the site.  I did find an article that mentioned a percentage limit for your housing, which I am kind of familiar with, but never thought of it applying to your home ownership.  The article was on whether you have too much house for your budget.  The government percentage is all I have ever heard of, and that is 30%, but it included utilities, I think.  I believe the Ramsey amount was 25% for rent or mortgage payments.  I don't know yet if that includes insurance or any other housing costs.

In my browsing, I also discovered another Ramsey presenter called Christy Wright.  She talks to women about starting a home-based business to create extra income.  I signed up for her emails to get a copy of a PDF she offered.  I will find out more about her as time goes by.  I haven't fully read the 4-page download I received, but I did save some of her other articles on the site, and will try to get them read this weekend.

The reason I am bringing all this information up is because of something else that was on the website, in one of the article illustrations.  It was the income illustration... the amount they believe most people earn and budget.  I laughed to myself because the amounts they were using were in the thousands, the family had two incomes, and both of those incomes were around $3K to $4K each.  Many times, sometimes years, I have survived with food stamps or less, sometimes solely on the offerings of others.  I currently have a cash income of less than $400 in Social Security retirement payments.  When I find this disparity in the information I look for, I often want to create a budget of my own using the amounts that are given as the "norm."

I have long complained that most churches and organizations are geared toward people who have a lot more than the poor, but the poor are often (unconsciously) expected to accomplish as much as these households with higher incomes.  Poor families aren't always welcome in established churches because so many things are attached to the money issue... education, childcare, clothing, food, transportation, work, giving...  Poor people don't build the church, they are the ones who need its resources.

Budgeting principles are the same for everyone... that is not what I am talking about.  A 10% tithe is 10% of whatever your "profit" is, your increase.  It doesn't matter if you make $100 or $1 million, GOD expects the same commitment from every Christian.  What I am talking about is something that isn't easy to find anywhere.

I couldn't find the same article when I went to look for it, but I did find this income comparison in another one.  The title is in the link below it.

Tax bracket: When you leave your job, you might see a boost in your spouse’s take-home pay. Yes, we’re serious! Let’s say you both make $40,000 per year with a gross combined salary of $80,000. This puts you in the 25% tax bracket. After federal taxes, your income is reduced to $68,287.

With one spouse leaving work, you’d probably guess the number would be cut in half, equaling $34,143. But your new household income qualifies you for the 15% tax bracket. That means your income after federal taxes will actually be $34,907—nearly $800 more per year than you expected!
on 21 AUG 2015

I have to wonder about our values when I see these amounts.  This assumes that our lives must reach these income levels to have a good life.  Living on $35K a year would be a dream for me...  I think I have only made over $10K once in my life.  We say it doesn't matter, but it seems to. 

As a poor person in the church, it has always been hard to relate to the bulk of the people in the pews because our lifestyles were/are so far apart.  In creating Working Together, this income disparity took a long time for me to work through.  I finally decided that everyone's wages would need to be the same, no matter what their job was. 
This was not meant to reflect socialistic theology, but to be a statement that we are all equal in the eyes of GOD.  We have different tasks to accomplish, but we are all part of the same Body of Christ.  Each one of us is required for the "success" of our work in this world.

Yahoo had an article on 5 NOV 2015 about a family that downsized to a smaller house so the mother could stay home...  I wanted to share this small part of it ::
Talya says their move -- which has given them a hefty $1,350 more a month than they use to have, since their $1,800-per-month mortgage shrank to $450 with the new property...
At 25% for the mortgage payment, this family would only need $1800 a month in net income to live in a home of their own.  That may be more than I can afford, but most poor families have to pay half or more of their income for housing.   People who have to survive need rent and utilities.  Food, clothing, transportation, and other luxuries are secondary, flexible, able to be adjusted as the months go by. 

How much money do we need? 

There are good people trying to survive on less than $1 a day in other parts of the world, working at jobs that will kill their wage earner and leave the rest of the family more destitute than they were before.  What is a decent lifestyle in America?  If we have more than we need, how do we use the excess?  Do we store it in our barns and plan to rest for the remainder of our lives?

How can we make our Body of Christ better than it is?

After my tithe and savings, I now have $300 to budget for all my living expenses.  Using $400 as my income amount, if I kept to the Ramsey budget, I would need to spend $100 on a rent/mortgage payment, pay utilities beyond that, get food stamps to eat with, and then try to better my life with the rest.  If I go by the government model of 30%, my housing and utilities would be in the $120 range, I would still need food stamps to eat with, and everything else would need to come from whatever cash was left.  There is no community housing for that level of income... only government housing. 

  • How can the church change this reality? 
  • What is the responsibility of the Body of Christ toward its poorer members? 
  • Is the church the same thing as the Body of Christ? 
  • How do we become ONE Body of Christ instead of so many churches? 
  • How do we stop making the government the provider of what we need?

I guess this is important because persecution of the saints is already a reality and we need to create ways to meet the needs of persecuted Christians (in America and elsewhere) as the End Times get worse.  The government is not going to be our friend or our protector when those days get here.  Until then we need to prepare for these changes in need and resource sharing.