Pedro Rosario is not concerned about being dragged under by the riptide of recession.
“I’m not worried,” says Rosario, eastern North Carolina area director for Crown Financial Ministries.
Rosario has to make tough decisions like everyone else, but “I’m not struggling to survive,” he says. That confidence comes from long ago embracing the biblical financial principals he teaches. That leaves him debt free, except for his home mortgage.
“Think about it,” Rosario says. “If your mortgage is manageable and you have no car debt or credit card debt how much better shape you’re in and how many fewer worries you have.”
Worry-free living is one of the benefits of following biblical principles of personal finance, according to Rosario and others like him who preach that message.
It’s a message unheard by the vast majority of Americans — and Christians — whose need for more, bigger, faster has been the engine driving the economy to collapse.
Ashley Clayton, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s associate vice president for stewardship, said the American culture is driven by debt.
“We define ourselves by the stuff we have,” Clayton said. “People in the pews are just as much in debt as people outside of the church. Even pastors and church leaders are not immune.”
Fifty-six percent of marriages that end in divorce say money was the main reason. The U.S. Courts system says personal and business bankruptcies have increased around 29 percent in 2008 and could top 1.2 million in 2009. National Public Radio reported that the average family filing for bankruptcy has $50,000 in credit card debt.
Rosario says the average credit card debt per household is more than $9,000 and the average family spends $1.04 for every dollar earned. That creeping debt pulls more and more families into a hole every year. But following biblical financial principles can rescue families from those mistakes and their resulting burden, he says.
“Our goal is to bring liberty and freedom to believers,” Clayton said. “We may never know what an impact we can have on the Kingdom if believers are free to give. When individuals begin exercising good financial discipline personally, it will carry over to good financial discipline in the church.”
“Crown has been placed in this world for such a time as this,” says Rosario, a Crown consultant for four years after many years with a telephone company. His wife, Robin, is a Christian counselor.
Money Map coaching
Crown Financial Ministries offers its services free to individuals. A church that wants to offer a course pays just $25 per student. Typically people make huge strides toward pulling the ends of their income and expenses closer to meeting.
The individual counseling tool is called Money Map coaching. Most of the people counselors see for Money Map coaching are on their last financial leg. They are stuck and see no way out.
Rosario says people should see such a coach at the first sign of financial difficulty, but, “People try to do it their own way, the world’s way, and finally they look for a way to do it God’s way.”
Call (800) 722-1976 to be assigned a coach in your area. Some coaching is done online through www.crown.org.
Rosario says the impatient “borrow and spend” attitude of an “entitlement society” is why so many are servants to debt. “We borrow for groceries, and for other everyday items instead of paying for those things with cash,” he says. “Families follow what society is doing, which is getting into debt.
“Because we believe we’re entitled to something we’ll go out there and get it today instead of being patient and saving for a year or waiting until it’s available for a better price.”
A Money Map coach will help counselees create a list of their debts and a spending plan. Many people cannot really account for where they spend their funds.
Not all debt is bad and no set of answers is absolute for every family. Carrying a mortgage of $250,000 may not be bad, depending on your income and the value of the house. But if that mortgage represents 100 percent of the house value, that’s not good, Rosario said. That puts the homeowner in a bad position if values fall, as in the current market.
Total housing expenses, including mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance should not exceed 32 to 36 percent of your income, he says.
Getting your finances back on track is not just about how much money you will save, Rosario says. From a Christian perspective it is also about being able to help unfortunate neighbors, about “providing a shining light to others.”
Financial health package
Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc. For a complete list, click here.