In this episode of The Stewardology Podcast, we welcome Tyler Rutherford and Bekah Manwiller to the microphone. They strive to help us understand the realities of the financial landscape for today’s young stewards, and we will work together to provide reassurances for any young adults listening to this episode.
“Collectively, Americans owe nearly 10 percent of their disposable income to household debt including mortgages, car and student loans and credit card debt. Total consumer debt was $4.4 trillion in January 2022, increasing by 6.14 percent from the year before. (Source: Federal Reserve)”
Why am I sharing this? Because these days are becoming even more challenging to make ends meet. The life that I have [Drew], the life that my parents had, seems so out of reach to the younger generation (i.e. the Millennials and Gen Z”). So let’s take a look at some information, and hear from our two resident young adults about how they are dealing with, and pushing through these financial issues.
Reality #1: Financial Literacy
The majority of us were never forced to take a home economics or personal finance class. We had to self-initiate our education on topics such as budgeting, saving, investing, paying down debt or bills, etc. Some young people are doing VERY well financially, making really smart decisions and investing wisely. But others listened to foolish advice, and have brought themselves to ruin. Others took no initiative to learn anything about finances, and now they are in crushing debt. Financial literacy is the key to solving the rest of the financial problems ahead!
A subset of this problem is that even if we gain some financial knowledge, it is hard to find someone to help you get started. I remember as a recent college graduate, participating in a Sunday School class about financial stewardship. I became convinced that it would be wise to start investing then, but had no idea where to start. It was almost 10 years later before I finally was able to find someone to help me get started with investing.
REASSURANCE: This podcast exists so that people like you can receive good, solid advice that can help you financially. No one will do it for you. You must learn how to be financially literate in order to keep your financial house in order. We are here to help you not only gain knowledge but also implement wise stewardship in your life. If you have questions about anything you hear on the podcast, schedule a Stewardship Review, or reach out to us (email@example.com).
REALITY #2: Student Loans are at Crisis Levels
When we were young, our parents constantly told us to go to college so that we could get a good job. This was indoctrinated into many young people, to the point where kids were afraid to disappoint their parents by electing not to go to college. Trades were looked down upon. It was always, “go to college so you don’t end up being a plumber or something.” The issue is, many young people felt like they had no choice but to sign on the dotted line to take the student loans and go to college. “Mom and Dad are making me go to college, but I have to pay for it myself.” Let me ask you a question, when you force someone to take out a small fortune of debt to pay for an education that they really don’t want… What do you get? I must disclaim this though, not all parents forced their kids to go to college. Some kids wanted to just go for the experience and not use it for what it was meant to be; A stepping stone.
College Costs vs Average Earnings
- According to the researchers’ analysis of U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics data for the years 1980 to 2019, college costs have increased by 169% over the past four decades — while earnings for workers between the ages of 22 and 27 have increased by just 19%. Even by going to college to ‘get a good paying job,’ who is to say that the job still is able to pay for the cost of college debt?
- Prospective college students: SERIOUSLY consider the cost of college, and how you will pay for it. Talk to people who have dealt with the debt. Figure out if this will truly be the best option for you.
- Current college students: Stop spending money that you don’t have so loosely. Consider that every dollar you borrow will be reckoned. You will have to pay it back. Consider limiting your spending and getting a part time job to supplement your expenses.
- College Graduates: If you have a high interest rate and can refinance to a lower rate, consider doing so. Before the fed increased interest rates, we refinanced to a lower fixed rate and will save almost $80,000 in the long run. At the end of the day, you did agree to pay back what you borrowed (whether you knew it or not). You are responsible for those loans. Pay back your loans and keep your testimony honest. If at all possible, pay more than the minimum payment each month! Whatever your minimum payment is, round it up as high as you can. If your minimum payment is $237.57, pay $250 each month, or $300 if you can. That extra $12.43 or $60.43 can make a huge impact as it all goes to the principal and can decrease the amount of time it takes to repay your loan.
REALITY #3: Housing is Expensive
Any good financial professional will tell you that housing should take up no more than 25-30% of your take home pay. But is that a reality for young people? The average asking rent in America is about $1,900/month. Plus utilities, and other renting expenses. But let’s just work with the $1,900 number for a minute. If you wanted to follow the guidelines by having that only be 25-30% of your take home income, you would need to be taking home $6,200-$7,200/month AFTER taxes. That’s a roughly $100k/year salary, just to meet the basic economics of renting an apartment in America today.
For those more realistically taking home $2,800-$4,000/month, that could mean half of their paycheck going towards rent. How would anyone save for a house when that much of your paycheck is going towards rent?
Housing costs have gone up exponentially compared to median household income.
- After accounting for inflation, home prices have jumped 118% since 1965, while income has only increased by 15%.
- To [comfortably] afford a home in 2021, Americans need an average income of $144,192 — far more than the median household income of $69,178, Clever Real Estate found.
Bekah’s experience with recently purchasing a home:
It is definitely sound advice to keep your monthly mortgage payment to 20-30% of your take-home pay (include your escrow in this – taxes and homeowners insurance!). As a single woman who recently bought a house, I am certainly wishing I could have kept my mortgage payment to 20-30% of my income. Right now it’s closer to 35% and that is making things tight financially. I felt the stress of “I need a place to live right now” combined with the pressure from close family members to buy instead of rent (which is great advice for the long-term). Thankfully God provided a house that meets my needs and I was able to lock in a relatively low interest rate (especially in comparison to where interest rates are right now!) and He has provided for all of my needs even though things are tight financially. Yes, I have had to tighten up my budget a bit and eliminate some discretionary spending, but I am extremely grateful to be where God wants me to be right now.
- “Just Keep Saving” is the same advice that everyone gives. We acknowledge that it seems like hollow advice at this point, because for many people, there isn’t any margin to warrant any saving. However, there are ways to find those extra dollars. And when you find them, it’s not just keep saving, it’s save before any expenses. Don’t increase your lifestyle expenses. Saving is the right answer, no matter how hollow it sounds. Just be faithful with ‘the little.’
- This will be difficult. We understand that. If you are not in a job that you love, consider making an adjustment to a job that you love and pays well. If your job has potential growth, either ask for a promotion or get another job.
- Mathew 6:31-33 (NIV) “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
- Trust God, that He will provide for your daily needs!
God sees you and knows you. He cares for you.
REALITY #4: Young people tend to Give less Money to the Church
This makes sense right? If there is less money among young people, there is less to give. But let’s look at why.
- Debt – We’ve discussed the towering student debt crisis ($1.8 TRILLION in student loan debt alone, plus consumer debt, etc…)
- Lower Income
- Baby Boomers avg household income – $79k
- Gen X avg household income – $114k
- Millennials avg household income – $84k
- Gen Z avg household income – $38k
- Makes sense… Baby Boomers are retiring. Gen X are in the height of their careers. Millennials are up and coming, and Gen Z is just starting out! But this makes sense that young people are giving less. However, young people need to be growing in the grace of giving.
- Give because “He Is Worthy.”
- Of course 10% is a goal that we want to strive for. 10% is not the ceiling, it’s the floor. So don’t make an idol of “10%.” Give because God is worthy of ALL honor and praise. But start somewhere and intentionally put benchmarks of increased giving to meet or exceed that 10%, trusting that God will provide. God knows that you can live better off the 90% than you can off the 100%. Perhaps some can’t afford to give because they’re not giving.
- Remember Malachi 3:6-12
- “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.”
Bekah & Tyler’s Observations: There Is Good Happening!
- Less car loans: We are encouraged by a swath of young people refusing to take loans out on cars. At least in my personal connections and groups of online friends, many of them are refusing to get a nicer car with a loan, and instead, are settling for cheaper beaters with no loans. This allows for folks to save and cover other expenses.
- Young investors: Im encouraged by younger people taking advantage of their 401K options, and utilizing their company’s matching programs. That’s HUGE!
- Expense Tracking: I have noticed with some of my connections that the more financially literate ones will track their expenses pretty accurately to know exactly where their money is going. They also actively budget. This is a great first step to good stewardship!
- Younger people WANT to be good financial stewards. Their struggle is how to get there in this financial environment.
To our young people out there: We DO care for you, and we want you to succeed! We are so encouraged by so many young people reaching out to us to schedule stewardship reviews.
Seek wise counsel! It is okay to ask questions. It is GOOD to recognize areas in your life where you need advice from someone with more knowledge/experience!
- Prov. 3:9-10 (NIV) “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
- 2 Cor. 4:8 – “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair…”
- Every generation has gone through some hard days. I would agree that what this current younger generation is going through has some similarities, but yet different, and potentially more intense and “hard pressed” on every side!
- But remember the POWER OF GOD at work within you, you will NOT BE CRUSHED.
- You are worth more than the lilies of the field, and the birds of the air, and your God WILL take care of you and meet all your NEEDS according to HIS RICHES in Christ Jesus. Draw close to Him. Pray like you never have in the Past. Trust Him to be your provider (not your job!). And rest that YOU are IN His hands and His care!
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