Say No to Extra Spending Today – In Order to Create a Stronger Financial Future Tomorrow
Written by Brandon Allen
Executive Director / Fortify Foundation
I’ll never forget an illustration that was passed along to me as a fairly young kid. The speaker in children’s church challenged us by putting a mini candy bar in front of us. He stated that we could take the mini bar now or wait a week and get a king-sized candy bar. For an adult, this would be a really simplistic and easy decision, but as a kid, it was an honest struggle. I would dare say 99% of the kids would always take the mini candy bar in the immediate. Years later, I ended up using a variation of this illustration myself when challenging kids in our youth ministry. In my example, I would often take it a step further and ask why the kids would take the mini candy bar now vs. the king-sized candy bar later. The typical answer was because the mini candy bar was available right now. It was a sure thing that required no waiting and no “what ifs.” What if I get sick and I cannot make it next week? What if you forget, and that king-sized candy bar isn’t there? The guarantee of today was too appealing versus the greater opportunity in the future.
Of course, the whole Biblical premise for this illustration was foregoing some pleasures that this world offers and investing in something that would be enjoyed later. Something that is eternal and could never be taken away (Matthew 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:3-4). It is hard for us to sometimes keep that eternal perspective when we are constantly bombarded by things that detract from that desired perspective. This is why we must be deliberate each and every day, week, month, and year in order to keep that which is most important in front of us. If not, we can often become like that plane we learned about in geometry class. Remember, the one that had a specific start location and destination and then started a degree or two off course and how far away it would be if it traveled 100 miles. It may not seem like that drastic of a change in the immediate, but it makes a vast difference in the end result.
This simple geometry lesson of the plane is kind of like planning for our retirement. Hopefully, regardless of your current stage of life, you have already given thought to planning ahead for retirement. It may not be the “American Dream” retirement but at least you are building a fund to sustain yourself in the future. How did that fund come into being? It requires that we set aside a little today in order to create returns in the future. This is what retirement planning is all about. This is also why there is a whole field of professionals that work in this specific area to help keep people accountable for their ultimate goals in the future. These individuals help us set parameters whereby we can both live on a little less than our current income today and take the “extra” to create future income for ourselves. The thing is, this requires that we say no to something today.
Oftentimes, we still find ourselves focusing on those mini candy bars today rather than setting aside for a bigger candy bar tomorrow. The mentality that there is no guarantee of tomorrow so let’s take what we have and make the most of today reminds me of Ecclesiastes 11:4. Here Solomon relays a scenario about a farmer who is only willing to sow, or set aside, when the conditions are perfect. Of course, for you and I stepping back and assessing that statement, it immediately seems a bit ridiculous. We know there will never be perfect conditions and the farmer must sow at some point if they want to reap. Even to sow a lot, guarantees they reap a little, even if it’s not all that they wanted. If they fail to sow, then, you guessed it, there won’t be any reaping! The solution is, rather than sow, let’s just take advantage of our immediate reaping and pull out altogether, right? As you know, there is no longevity in that. We must set aside some today in order to produce tomorrow.
A while back I was casting the vision with a group of administrators and it was shortly after that I received this reply from Dr. Cecil Beach of Charleston, SC. “I have great interest in what Fortify is doing and wish we had done something like this 30 years ago, but nobody could see that far down the road. It’s sometimes hard to think about the future when the alligators are snipping at you from all sides.” There is no doubt in my mind that this about sums it up for a lot of individuals out there. We want to think about and plan for the future, but it never really seems to be an ideal time. There is always something that is vying for our attention and money, and it constantly keeps us from making the future progress that we ought. The truth is we all would have greatly appreciated and benefited from an endowment fund if someone had the foresight and discipline to set aside something for today. Especially if it was 30 years ago!
Again, we know we need to do this for our own personal finances if we want to avoid moving in with our kids, or perhaps grandkids, in the future. While we know they may love us and may enjoy spending time with us, the benefit of “grands” is that you get to see both the headlights and taillights. It’s great when it is a come and go relationship and not a burden to have to take care of us, especially if it was due to a lack of planning on our own part.
Here’s the thing, the sooner we start the better off we will be in the future! As a former accountant, I tend to gravitate towards statistics. While I know that is not everyone’s thing, I do want to share just some quick easy data. Did you realize that those who start saving at the age of 25 vs. 35 accrue more than double the amount by the age of 67? If you could go back and tell your younger self when to start saving and planning ahead, would you have made any changes? I know I would! There’s always something that we can do differently even if it is just a little bit more. This typically requires a shift in our thinking.
Often, this is played out at our fundraising events. We know that if we could get each of our donors to donate a small gift such as $20, the totality of the gifts would make a major impact. To the donor however, that $20 may seem like such a minuscule amount from the total needed and in order to accomplish the overall goal, they often neglect to give the small amount in hoping to contribute a larger amount later. Thinking of the donor side, we also know that that intended gift seldom happens. Why? Because life is always pulling our finances in all sorts of directions.
I’ll never forget an older gentlemen in our church who passed along some words of “encouragement” as we were beginning a new stage of life with the addition of our first child, ‘watch out because your wallet will never be the same.’ Three kids later, I understand that statement more than ever. Fortunately, we are about out of the diapers stage which will save a few dollars each month. Still, there are always things vying for that same dollar that you would have otherwise gifted or saved in the past. The point is, our intentions don’t always meet our expectations and so we need to be that much more intentional in the area of finance if we want to make any progress.
A while back, we produced an article talking about the difference between Immediate, Intermediate, and Infinite financial strategies. The immediate strategy is always in front of us. So much so that it’s often difficult for us to think about the intermediate and near impossible to think about the infinite. Those that plan better for the intermediate tend to fare better with those larger projects and can typically move the needle of possibility to the infinite. The probability factor is when we start to think down the road well beyond ourselves. Just as Proverbs 13:22 relays that it’s a good man that has wealth to pass on, not only to their children, but also to their grandchildren! In other words, they developed a strategy that lived well beyond them. They looked down the road and planned accordingly. This is rather different than the typical ‘do they have enough to cover their own funeral expenses’ that is seen more and more today. Hopefully, what we create today isn’t a burden for tomorrow.
In every thing there needs to be balance. Think of your next major project. Is it to expand your facilities? Is it to remodel the current ones? Those are wonderful goals! However, if your expansion or beautification is such that it causes a greater burden on the next generation, is it really worth it? It has been so wonderful to hear story after story of all the Christian schools that have experienced growth since 2020. Many of these schools are looking to complete things that they have wanted for many years! What a blessing it is! However, balance is important here to make sure we don’t overdo one thing in a way that isn’t sustainable for our future. We hope that the trend in enrollment continues, but that is not guaranteed. We hope that this new facility creates more classrooms to help us expand, but again that is not guaranteed. In balance, we have to make sure we are not creating something that ends up being a top-heavy burden for our ministry. Enrollment goes up, tuition increases, expenditures move with it. Just like the individual that increases their spending with their salary, they aren’t faring any better off than they were before. If we are not careful, we can create a monstrosity that looks and feels great but places us in a position of vulnerability in the future. An organization can become so bloated and top heavy that they struggle to just pay the minimum in these expenditures. If I could say it one more time, balance!
It’s a sad state when people who seemingly gain more and more still have less and less. In other words, their incomes may have increased from years past, but they are still in a situation where they aren’t any financially stronger than they were in the past. Oftentimes it is due to the decision to raise the level of living that takes away that increase in annual income, so they end up in the same situation as they were before.
Balance requires foregoing the mini candy bar today in order to have the king size bar next week. This provides a way for a stronger future! If we want to continue to have a stable and independent financial future, then we must plan accordingly today!