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Money--What Are My Priorities?

"I passed by the field of a sluggard,

by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,

and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns. Then I considered it.

A little sleep, a little folding of the hands to rest,

and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man."

Ancient Proverb

A journalist tells a story about a man at a car rental counter who angrily insisted he needed a black Continental because everyone going to his New Year's Eve party would be driving black Continentals. On the man's tee shirt was this inscription: "The one who dies with the most toys wins."

Did the man really believe that motto? Is it an adequate philosophy for life? Did anyone help him when he was a young man to discern what his priorities would be?

Money Facts to Consider

Since facts about money habits and statistics will change, it is well to check leading economic indicators for current patterns. At the present time, here are some sobering trends in the US worth considering:

* Over 50 percent of US families spend more than they earn.

* Average Americans incur about $15,950 in credit card debt. If you make a $360 payment every month at an annual APR of 15 percent, it would take about thirty years to pay off this debt.

* On his website, financial expert Dave Ramsey shows how it's possible to live debt-free.

Money Values to Share

* Money is morally neutral; it's neither good nor bad. It can be used by individuals for great benefit or terrible destruction.

* Affluence can be a source of personal happiness, and it can make a positive difference in society.

* Due to preconceived biases, people critical of wealth may refuse to see that money can be used for great social good. Similarly, wealthy people may not have considered how their money could help others less fortunate.

* Simply giving money to persons or organizations may do more harm than good if it promotes laziness or an "entitlement mentality" that reduces initiative and gratitude.

* Money can deceive us into thinking we are totally self-sufficient. It is when we feel gratitude for material blessings that happiness increases.

* Economic setbacks like unemployment can signal a big decline in happiness, or it can lead to rethinking one's values in life. Wise counsel can help individuals reset their course in life according to their core values.

Money Questions to Ask

1. What are your income goals? What matters to you financially? 2. How do your goals fit in with your sense of purpose in life? 3. How would you prioritize your goals? 4. By age forty or fifty, what amount of income would you like to receive? 5. How do you plan to manage your money (instead of letting your money managing you)?

Your questions will take on greater credibility if you ask and answer them first yourself. Remember that more money does not always satisfy. Perhaps we all can learn from businessman Lee Atwater's change of perspective:

"I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can

acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I

trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I

pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me

eye-to-eye with that truth-a truth that the country, caught up in its

ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime."

Let's face it: money can deceive us. We might assume we are doing "good" (helping make the world a better place) when we are only doing "well" (accumulating enough toys to "win" social approval).

Without compassionate generosity, evidence suggests that money can destroy our sense of well-being. But with compassion that appropriately provides for people less fortunate, we can experience a deep satisfaction. The happy smiles of the recipients of wise benevolence multiply our own happiness.

How can you help the person you mentor make wise money decisions?

God Bless,

Paul W. Swets

P.S. FINDING HAPPINESS BLOGS are excerpts from the new book, Finding Happiness. For information, go to .

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