Our faith calls us to regularly assess our lives, and the new year provides a great opportunity to do that with our finances. Our ultimate financial goal should be to become the steward the Lord wants us to be.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls it being a “steward of providence” (No. 2404). This means we’ll use the talents, gifts and resources the Lord has given us in ways that are pleasing to him.
The starting point of being a good steward is to continually grow in our relationship with God. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to implement a daily spiritual plan of reading, meditation and prayer, and to focus on achieving a healthy attitude toward material things. In addition, by looking at your spending habits in light of the Gospel, you’ll more effectively separate “needs” from “wants,” helping to overcome any habitual overspending.
One of the most effective practical ways to keep God first in our financial lives is to be generous with tithing and almsgiving. By giving back to God from your first fruits, you’ll foster a closer relationship with him and experience the joy of assisting in the building of Christ’s kingdom here on earth.
Unity in marriage
Money issues are often a major cause of friction in marriages. This is a shame, because our Lord calls us to a life of union, love and peace with our spouse. The antidote to marital conflict over money is for each spouse to “put on Christ.” As husband and wife grow closer to Christ, they will grow closer to each other. Instead of having “his” and “her” attitudes toward finances, they both think from Christ’s perspective. Once this point is reached, many of the conflicts over money resolve themselves.
With the coming new year, I encourage all to make a resolution to enhance the unity within your marriages. Often, a true conversion of heart is needed for both spouses. The words contained in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) that are so often misconstrued can be food for thought. True, Paul calls for the wife to be subordinate to the husband. But the husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Christ loved us (and the Church) enough to make the ultimate sacrifice of his life. It is this same type of mutual self-sacrificing love to which Paul is calling us.
Sometimes couples need help in learning how to enter into the type of relationship about which St. Paul writes. In cases like this, some have achieved great success by working through groups like Marriage Encounter or Retrouvaille. I encourage those having difficulty to contact their pastor or a diocesan representative about what programs they would recommend that can help spouses take a first step at reconciliation. I also encourage those spouses to utilize the Sacrament of Confession as they work through these difficulties.
Manage the basics
The beginning of the year is always a great time to resolve to becoming better organized. Here are some of the key points of effective personal finance organization:
— So much starts with an effective filing system. The beginning of the year is a great time to get rid of old paperwork you no longer need and to set up a filing system for bills and important papers that will help keep you organized through the year. Even your digital files need to be organized.
— Manage your checkbook. Keep it current and reconcile to your bank statement each month. Watch those cash withdrawals from ATMs. Work to minimize these, but when necessary, at least make sure they get properly recorded.
— Set a budget and track your expenses.
— Create a debt repayment strategy that works with your budget.
— Use reserve funds to save for longer-term needs like retirement, college, home improvements and weddings.
By implementing a solid financial plan right now — and sticking with it throughout the year — you’ll find yourself well on your way to financial peace. God love you!
Phil Lenahan is the president of Veritas Financial Ministries (VeritasFinancialMinistries.com) and the author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free” (OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.