Many of you have probably heard about Dave Ramsey and his popular personal finance course, “Financial Peace University.” Did you know that his daughter, Rachel Cruze, is also an expert on personal finance? She grew up watching her parents manage their money, and she’s now putting those same principles into practice with her own finances. Better yet, she took time last week to talk to us about financial stewardship.
4word: You’ve said “a lot of college students and young professionals don’t think about their checking account in spiritual terms.” What do you mean by that?
Rachel: What you spend your money on is what you value. You can tell a lot about a person by their checkbook. If you go into your online checking account and it seems you’re spending all of your money at the Apple Store or on new clothes, you may need to reconsider your priorities and your values.
4word: Why do you think that we have the tendency to view our money and possessions as things we own instead of as things we are just stewards of?
Rachel: So much of that is our culture. Just watch a few commercials. They’re all saying: “What do you want? What are your desires? Buy this. You’re going to like it.” That’s what our culture teaches us, and it’s difficult to fight. Even if you go to church, it’s still a battle!
4word: What strategies do you suggest for changing that mindset?
Rachel: I think this is a heart issue. We need to realize and believe deeply that this stuff is not ours. It’s all God’s. I even look back at the origin of the word “steward.” It’s not really a part of our culture anymore, but it comes from the Braveheart days. Back then, all of the land was divided into realms. Each one had a lord who lived in the castle, and the second nicest house in the realm was for the steward. He didn’t own anything – the lord did – but he managed all of it.
4word: Is there one particular area of financial stewardship that you think today’s young, professional women struggle with most?
Rachel: I am finding that a lot of young people, male or female, have a hard time with living on a budget. It’s amazing how many young people get a paycheck, then look back a month later and don’t know where the money has gone. I think you need to have a plan, on paper, of where every dollar is going to go. When you know what you are doing with your money and aren’t just throwing it around, you are a better steward of the resources God has given you.
4word: When we view ourselves as stewards, not owners, how does that change the way that we manage our money? Can you give an example?
Rachel: It changes your whole perspective on money, especially on giving. For one thing, it’s easier to give away other people’s money! If I gave $100 to the girl next to me in the pew, she would have an easier time giving it away to others, because it’s not hers. The same thing happens to our finances when we realize we are just stewards of God’s money.
4word: You were blessed to grow up with a dad who taught you sound, Biblical financial principles. Can you share any stories of a situation in which you were glad for the training that your dad had given you? Or has a friend of yours ever said, “Oh, I wish I’d known that earlier?”
Rachel: I think the concept of giving was the biggest thing my parents taught us. We got $5 every week for doing chores, etc., and we were taught the first thing you do with that money is to give a dollar. My parents also involved us in their giving. For example, at Christmas, we would buy a trailer-load of bicycles to take to the inner city and give out to kids. That was huge, getting to experience those things. It helped me see how the eight dollars that I gave actually blessed someone else. Dad also walked us through how giving changes you; it makes you less selfish. I learned that, not only does giving change the world around you, but it also changes you and the way you think about money.
4word: What is the most important thing that today’s young, professional women need to know about managing their money?
Rachel: Budgeting. I always say money is a horrible boss, so you need to be the boss of it. Otherwise, it stresses people out. There are a lot of young people who are at the store about to pay for groceries and wondering if they have enough to pay the power bill. Once you have a budget, the stress is relieved. There’s no guilt involved in your purchases either. You can say, “I have the money to buy these shoes,” because you have a plan and you know you can afford it.