Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Never Enough?, by Ron Blue

On the short list of Christian financial experts, Ron Blue is always going to be near the top.  With nearly a half century of experience as a financial advisor and a shelf full of books he's written, Blue is definitely the go-to guy for Christian financial planning.  In his new book, Never Enough?3 Keys to Financial Contentment, Blue, with coauthor Karen Guess, introduces simple principles to apply for financial sanity, stability, and commitment.

Blue tells plenty of stories and anecdotes to illustrate his points, but the principles he teaches are so simple that they can be summed up in a page or two.  Responding the the question of the title: what is enough?  Blue writes, "Scripture teaches that the answer to the 'how much is enough' question is what I have right now."  I hadn't thought about contentment quite like this before, but he's right.  No matter what my status is, the only right attitude is contentment.  That's a good word.

Whatever our financial condition, Blue has provided some principles to follow:
  1. Spend less than you earn because every sucess in your financial life depends on this habit.
  2. Avoid debt because debt always mortgages the future.
  3. Give generously because giving breaks the power of money.
  4. Plan for financial margin because the unexpected will come.
  5. Set long-term goals because there is always a trade-off between the short-term and the long-term.
If you are already doing all of these things, you probably don't need to read this book.  OK, even if you are doing these things,  you will benefit from Blue's insights.  If you are not doing these things, well, you are Blue's target audience.  He doesn't go into a ton of details procedural depth with these goals, but gives some guidelines to help you get there.

I liked his pie chart method to see where your money is going.  There are basically four places our money goes: live, give, owe, and grow.  One slice of the pie, usually the largest, goes to living expenses.  The next slice, which Blue encourages us to make bigger than it probably is, is give.  He believes in a lifestyle of giving to church, to other causes, to help out friends and family.  Third is owe, both debt and taxes.  Finally, grow, saving and investing for the short-term and long-term future.  I know most people need this slice to be larger.

The first step in growing slices of the pie that we want to be larger, like give and grow, is to work on making the live and owe slices smaller.  Blue helps with that, and gives examples of clients and others who have applied these principles.  This is actually the part of the book I didn't like.  One the one hand, it's inspiring to read about families who give sacrificially, and then receive abundantly later on.  Blue talks about giving to a ministry even though it meant giving up a summer vacation that year.  Well, "God in his grace provided not one but three all-inclusive vacations . . . We did not pay for a vacation for years after that experience."  The problem is making something like this normative, where we give expecting God to deliver like that.  It's dangerously close to the "health-and-wealth," vending machine type of gospel.  I believe God blessed the Blues, and he can bless my family, but I'm uncomfortable with a theology that teaches this as the norm.

There's no question in my mind that, whatever your view of God's provision for your life is, if you follow the basic principles in this book, you will be financially better off.  And trusting in God, being content in his provision for your life, is never a bad idea.  Never Enough? is a good kick-start for you to make sure your financial life is on track and focused on God.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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