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.

Wednesday, 11 NOV 2015 :: Veteran's Day

It's almost over, but there is still a little time to call it Veteran's Day.

There were some posts on my Facebook timeline today... with the flag, with military objects, with soldiers. I didn't do much online other than Facebook and checking my emails and Etsy, so I have no idea how much celebrating went on. 

There were moments about our military on the debate yesterday.  Some of those feelings were still around Facebook.  The need for a military, the high price that many pay for our protections, the cost of supplying the military we have, these all come into the conversation. 

If we were all moral, peaceful, kind, compassionate people,
there wouldn't be a need for protection.

But all of us are not good people.  Some people like to hurt others, some people need to control others, some people think money is the only thing that makes them worthwhile and they will do horrendous things to get it.  These other kinds of people create a dangerous world, and we have grown up with the idea that a police force and military will help protect us.

On Facebook, there was a photo of men in German prison camps as they were freed... I made the comment that men like Hitler are why we need a strong military.

At the debate, one of the comments that stood out was from Carli Fiorina on negotiating with our opponents... I think they were discussing Putin at the time.  The idea was that someone like Putin wouldn't even care about negotiating if we were not a threat to him...if our power did not exceed his.  The comment was that you need to negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness. Militaries cost money, but they are a necessary expense. 

The amount of resources we dedicate to preserving and supporting our military is equal to the power we have in the world.

It seems to me that the problems we are facing are getting more difficult, but they are also getting less physical, more intellectual, more technological, more cunning, and more easily implemented.  Hackers don't necessarily need the newest equipment to devastate our lives, they just need an internet connection and the knowledge of how it operates.  We are already seeing the effects of attacks from China and other communist countries.  In time, that power will belong to any small person living anywhere in the world.  It isn't love that makes people hurt others, it is hate.  There are a lot of people who don't like the United States, Christianity, freedom........whatever their gripe is, innocent people are the ones who suffer most.

I have had the thought that a lot of our budget woes would not exist if we didn't have so much debt to cover interest payments for.  Imagine where we could apply all that interest payment money.  It is the same issue at the household level, with credit cards and other forms of debt...  it takes away from the money you would normally have to spend.  We all need a small amount of emergency credit, but if our debt is too large, the payments take all of our income.  That is what Obama has done to us as a country.  Our debt is so large it is eating up all of our resources just to make the payments.  It is making the military look like the problem, or social service programs, or healthcare programs like Medicaid and Medicare, or Social Security, and so on.

If we can get our debt under control, a lot of the other problems will be less threatening... and the military won't be the villain anymore... and we can protect our country better.


Tuesday, 10 NOV 2015 :: Republican Debate tonight !

I was able to view the Republican debate in Wisconsin tonight... online...with great perseverance.  It took up all my afternoon and evening.  My old computer was very slow, at one point it was behind by at least fifteen minutes...I gave up being frustrated and laid down to listen without looking at it.  I missed the end, and who knows what else between commercials and a slow computer.  At least I was able to see most of it this time.

We all remember different parts of any conversation, the parts that matter to us.  I remember that one of the debaters, I think it was Christie, said that over seventy percent of our tax income goes to debt payments and "entitlements" -- which is misleading but it lets the hearer think that is mostly payments to lazy people who need to be doing something else besides living off the government.  The cry of every election is how to get rid of the poor... as if that is even possible.  I have read articles that said our debt payments take up the bulk of our government's tax income, and other articles that say entitlement payments are a small portion of the annual budget.  I can't remember the exact percentage, but the focus of the article I remember was that it was relatively low, especially compared to the military. I have also noticed that some people like to include Social Security payments in the figures... and, technically, most of Social Security payments are not "entitlements" - they are more like insurance payments.

I remember the discussions about our military power and how we need to invest in it.  And the associated talk about aggressive computer hacking of US computers by China.  Weapons for war and strategies against computer infiltration are two separate military issues.  I have also read articles about the military budget when compared to subsidies and other questionable spending by the government... it is also a relatively small part of the total budget.

In the conversations about taxes I was surprised to hear that American spending is approximately two thirds of the GDP.  To me that means a flat tax on spending (sales tax only) would create a decent amount of income.  My concept is ONE tax, a sales tax, a permanently fixed amount that cannot be raised at the whim of a desperate Congress, because we are heading into a global environment for everything.  (I felt a ten percent flat sales tax could be divided, in the US, into 1 percent for international government, and 3 percent each for Federal, State, and County governments.) It was mentioned that some people pay over half of their income (their paychecks) to the government in taxes.  Is that the way things should be?  No.  I don't think so.  Taxes were created for a purpose, and it was not to take over the populace.

Rubio faltered a couple times in his family protections argument about tax reform, but I think he presented well tonight...  I was also impressed with some of the others.  I, personally, think that Jindal needs to be move up to the main group, and will be watching to see who drops out.  I think Jindal is pretty equal in energy with Rubio...and his experience seems to be good.  I don't know why he isn't higher in the group, but I suppose he is an unknown in many ways.  I liked Rand Paul's contributions to the needs of America and government finances and accountability.  I thought it was very lively, and they all seemed to get excited about the topic of our economy.  I found out a little more about some of the candidates in the after debate interviews.

When I was watching, I tried to see who would represent the US to the world the best... it isn't easy to decide.  We want our leaders to be strong, decent, respectful people who are able to achieve the hard goals we have for our country.  Are they honest?  Can they solve problems?  Will they be able to overcome the power struggles that are firmly entrenched in government?  Will they succumb to the temptations power carries with it?  If we elect them, can we trust them to do what they promise?

One of the candidates stated that this election is critical for America, that our life as a nation is in jeopardy... and other candidates repeated that statement.  It always came back to money... and that means taxes.  Money was also attached to over-regulation and small business and jobs.  I noted that the idea of education was included in the job issues... vocational education, and welder jobs that pay more than some other work options.  I think the effects of technology were downplayed, especially in job issues, and manufacturing, and future income, and taxes, and every other aspect of our lives.  Education programs can cost a lot. Are they a necessity or a luxury?  I have seen people in fields of technology state that in twenty-five years or so, technology will advance so much that it will disrupt all of our lives, our work, our survival.  Robots and computers don't pay taxes...yet.  :-(

I will think of more things that affected me in the debate process and share them tomorrow or another time.  I have already decided to take notes during the next debate.  :-)

Monday, 9 NOV 2015 :: Internet distractions

I barely made it here (to post) before midnight, but it is still Monday... Tonight I got distracted by YouTube videos.  I was researching the costs of some supplies I need, and one page offered a link to a video tutorial or something.  I watched that one, and then discovered more great topics to watch... for hours.

This is a continuing battle for me and I don't know if I will ever win it!  :-)

I am not alone in fighting this time-consuming enemy.  I read business articles that talk about controlling your time with emails, with social media, etc.  One day, I was trying to figure out how much information I would be able to gather in ten minutes on Facebook. 

My main complaint is that I want to connect with certain people and groups first, and then go from there.  I did discover a way to put one of the pages I follow at the top of my Facebook feed, but I would like to create a larger priority list. I have started using the "stop following this post" option for as many as I can.  I am even using the stop ALL posts from some of the items that get shared to my timeline.  I am considering making separate pages for different groups of people (family, friends, work) to see if that will help, but I will still need more than ten minutes a day to check on what is happening in the rest of the world
I think it was 60 Minutes this weekend that had a segment on one of the scientists that discovered the smallest molecule so far -- the one that is attached to that huge machine they made to prove it exists.  I smiled when they said he doesn't watch TV.  I think they said he doesn't have a cell phone either, but I can't remember right now.  It made me wonder if I could return to that kind of detached life again.  I don't know how I could right now.  I like to hear the news because I currently don't have access to a daily newspaper.

On to a new thought...

I am praying for my future these days.  There are a lot more things that you have no control over when you are older... and you seriously have to begin planning for the day you will no longer exist.  The possibility of serious medical situations grows.  And I am growing more and more aware of how greatly End Time prophecies are going to change our lives.  I am now trying to plan a different life than I thought I would have.

These issues are not something I am facing alone... they are the same issues that many other seniors are facing.

We seem to think that America's people will always be good and kind and caring and giving, and wealthy.  Our country survives by the level of our shopping... and technology is changing the job markets. Many of the things we have grown us to having, and expect to continue, may fall away with the loss of spendable income... including morality, family, law, respect, equality, honesty, peace...

There are so many actions, activities, and perspectives that are attached to what matters in our lives... to how we survive, and thrive in our existence.  I think they are attached to GOD, and our faith in Him.  I don't know how we can keep what makes life good without keeping our faith in GOD.

I suppose I will have to fight this internet battle again tomorrow...  I hope I do better.