“Be wary when ye gather in groups, lest ye overshare and create an awkward spirit amongst the brethren” (Fake but Needed Verse)
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Real Verse, Romans 12:4-5)
At Abraham’s Wallet, we believe in the real need for heavy community involvement in your financial life. This is both important and totally foreign to us. In an era where social media, that great destructor of actual relationship, has obliterated most social norms (“Don’t talk about politics with people you don’t know well”? Yeah, that sounds almost quaint, now…), you still don’t see people posting their budget or income on the Facebook. But we Kingdom dudes do things quite a bit differently so…
Here’s How to Make Yourself A Budget Board of Review (and save your neck over and over)
Have you heard of a board of directors? Sure you have; most companies have a board of directors. This is because they understand that outsiders can look at a situation and often see angles that the folks inside of a company would miss. Good companies of all sizes put a ton of thought into their board of directors, because those are the people who will save them from making stupid moves.
Now then: your home is also a kind of enterprise that you run. As with a business venture, you have goals and will be making decisions. Some of those decisions will involve money, and while we’ve become mostly comfortable as a culture asking for input on… say… a parenting question, it’s still pretty out there to solicit honest feedback on your money choices. If you bow to this cultural norm, you’re going to miss out on what every reasonable business venture understands – you need outsiders to help you navigate the traps and crucial decisions around money.
To create your board of review, you’ll need first to assemble trusted people (for us this means “they know you and love God”) across a variety of income/wealth levels. The fact that Bob Ferguson goes to church with you does not, on its own, make him a good candidate for this, sorry. (Seriously? Bob Ferguson??) Now, does Bob make decisions with his money that indicate a deep understanding of stewardship and a willingness to obey the Father in deploying resources and acquiring capitals, even at his own short-term pain? Oh! Well then yes, Bob will be great. “Glad you have you aboard Bob! Have you lost weight?”
I say that you should look for some diversity because I’ve found that people in certain economic brackets fall victim to certain traps—can’t help it; it just happens:
- The most well-intentioned family builders who earn gobs of money will tend to drift towards overspending on luxury if left in a homogenous group of themselves. (We have a doctor in the family and I can tell you that I see this regularly in physician communities of higher income.)
- Not only do high-income Christian-identifying folks often make each other feel ok about suspicious luxury spending, they also often fail to challenge each other on wise investing and saving (For instance, the aforementioned high-earning medical community is notoriously terrible with money, whether they’re believers or not).
- But it’s not only that rich people make each other feel ok about their BMWs. Low income folks also fall victim to poverty mentalities and can have equally destructive echo chambers if they fail to involve people managing large chunks of money in their circles. I’ve had to re-educate friends who were instinctively anti-debt (bless ‘em) on the appropriateness of using the tool of debt to take advantage of a great business opportunity that they were well prepared to take on. If they’d only had access to people without experience in (what we consider) the proper use of debt, they would have passed on an opportunity that led to great profit for their family.
- And lower income households might insist that, for instance, business class travel is always an irrational, unwise, and ungodly use of money. (I know; I was there at one point and this kind of thing came out of my mouth regularly.)
Once you’ve picked out the people, that’s where the real fun begins. First you’ll have to ask them to look at your money. Of course, this can get weird. I recommend that you explain your goals first. “I’m looking for some stewardship-minded folks who can help me deploy the resources I’ve got to the greatest possible effect, and I have a hunch that you’d fit the bill nicely”. Usually, if they agree to the deal, you’ll want to form a reciprocal relationship. It’s not an absolute requirement, but since you’re looking for deep community I’d think long and hard whether the person is a good choice if they don’t see enough value in this to reciprocate the openness.
Now that you’ve got a taker (look for at least a couple of families, eventually), show these people your toolbox. Budgets, salaries, goals… we want people who can dream with us, provide guardrails for us and encourage us to go full steam ahead when the LORD speaks about how we are to be deploying dollars. Prepare for your time with your board members. Create easily digestible summary views that show where your money is going, and highlight big decisions that are coming up. I’d recommend at least touching base with each of your board members a couple of times per year. As with any accountability group arrangement, this doesn’t work at all if you hold back, so spend most of your time picking the right people with whom you can become an open book and then fill your financial universe with light!
Having several people know the gritty detail of your money situation will take some work, but there are great benefits! Among them:
- Peace when you need to make big moves because you’re going on more than the hunches of you and your spouse.
- Access to the wisdom and council of others whom you’ve judged as wise. In business settings your board members often will introduce you to the perfect people when their expertise may not cover a question that arises. Your family’s money board can do the same thing (“Oh you’re thinking about investing in a goat farm? Let me introduce you to my buddy Shmuel. He runs goats like a pro!”).
- You’ll find yourself a touch more circumspect about the decisions you make because you’ll know that others will be reviewing those decisions with you later.
- Your children will see you giving the finger to cultural norms around money and this will communicate in just one more way that you’re not being led by those norms. I’ve had many a good chat with my eldest daughter about why we meet with other families who get to offer advice and correction to us concerning the money that we steward.
I’ve experienced each of the above in real life. I walked out of a car dealership once saying OUT LOUD to myself, “If I buy this stupid fancy car I’ll never be able to show my face to the families that are going to be combing through our budget in a few weeks”. I’ve also had a friend look at my monthly grocery spend, which I was QUITE proud of having chopped to the bare minimum, and say, “you know this is almost at out of control levels right?” Again, comparing ourselves to the high-spending medical crew had given us the sense that we were doing pretty great. A wise outsider was able to provide correction that would not have occurred unless we made it happen on purpose in this way. Go create a board for yourself and let us know what works, how you structure your meetings, and how these people are saving your bacon on the regular!