The four accounts

I don’t know about you, but for me trying to budget money feels a lot like math homework, and I thought I had better things to do with my life even while I was still at school! Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, we need some kind of system to function as a “faithful and wise” manager of the resources God entrusts to us.

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? Luke 12:42

That’s why I came up with the 4 accounts idea.  4 accounts are all you need to be a faithful and wise manager of your money.  Whenever money comes in you simply divide it across the 4 accounts.

The 4 accounts

In our house we set up 4 bank accounts but you could just as easily keep money in 4 envelopes if it better suits your circumstances. Let’s look at each account in turn.

Plan Quadrants1. Survival

I call our survival account my family’s household account.  It’s where we buy the basic groceries, pay the rent and utilities and run the car.  We try to keep these expenses as low as possible.  If my savings and investment income one day exceeds those expenses then I am financially secure – I could lose my job and still have enough to live on.

2. Celebration

Remember the party the father threw when his lost son returned home (Luke 15).  In the old testament the Jewish calendar is filled with feasts and festivities to celebrate God.  Some of the tithes in the Bible were collected specifically to pay for those celebrations (e.g. Feast of Tabernacles, Deut. 8:6-18, 12:4-7, 14:22-29).

In our family the celebration account is where we pay for our holidays, birthdays, Christmas, or a nice meal out. If we see something special in the shop that doesn’t qualify as survival, then it is paid for from here.

3. Mission

Mission is what it’s all about.  Doing God’s work here on earth.  Being the hands and feet of Jesus.  The salt and light of the world.  If we get this part right, God promises to look after everything else.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

In my finances, the mission account funds my own family’s personal development (school, learning material, conferences) as well as supporting the missions of other organizations.  God wants us to be generous on every occasion, so good gifts for friends and the extended family also come from the mission account.

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

4. Storehouse

Storehouse is for  personal savings and investments.  The Bible does stipulate against some kinds of savings:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

This is a challenging verse, particularly to Western ears where so much of our security is predicated on financial security. My response is to invest in assets  which are aligned to Kingdom values, and which have an intrinsic value to me.  This means I derive satisfaction from owning them, even if their price on paper is heading down.  I try not to invest in anything for financial returns alone.

Such an approach excludes many of the traditional asset classes favored by investment professionals.  You may be more likely to buy a home with minimal debt, than to take out a huge mortgage and invest money in shares. Coincidentally you would be generating far less revenue for the finance industry by not paying interest charges and trading commissions…

Proportions

The proportion you choose to allocate to each of the 4 accounts will depend on your personal circumstances, and will likely change over time.  My aspiration is to one day achieve 85% going to Mission, and 5% to each of the other accounts.

If you have a job but are lucky enough to live at home rent-free, consider dividing equally between the 4 accounts – 25% to each account.

If you are heavily committed already and struggling to pay off debt then you might need to go the other way, and put 85% to survival.

An easy proportion to remember and calculate is 30/30/30/10.  If 10% goes to celebration then the remaining amount is split equally across survival, kingdom and storehouse.  This is actually easier to achieve than it may first appear.  Parents who feel their mission is raising Godly children can dip into the mission account for childcare costs, and those mortgage repayments could legitimately come from the storehouse account.  Also, if your private income is from running some kind of business you probably want to take out your expenses before you distribute to the accounts!

I hope the above has been helpful.  Do let me know in the comments if you have any questions or suggestions and let me know how you get on.

Pete

Biblical Investment

I am not an investment advisor so this is a personal account of my investing experience and the resolutions I have made as a result.  Your circumstances will surely be different to mine, so please use your own judgement and trusted advisors to decide how to invest your own money.

There is a very large, well-funded industry supported entirely by people like us, people who know very little about investment.  This industry graciously allow us to entrust our life savings to them so they can invest it in a balanced portfolio of instruments tailored to our needs and stage of life.  In return they take a small share, and no responsibility for the returns.

Did God make you a steward over your wealth so you could give it to someone else to risk?

Some years ago I realised the emotional energy involved in watching the value of investments moving up and down.  When it was going up I felt good, and when it was going down I felt bad.  These investments meant nothing to me beyond the number on a screen. I even “owned” an investment property which I had never seen – in reality what I owned was a large debt and the responsibility to service it, along with many other risks I was not qualified or experienced enough to assess.

I resolved not to own any more things that only mattered to me if the price was going up or down.  I also resolved to avoid debt unless I had a very clear plan to pay it back as quickly as possible.

Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:7-8

From now on, there are some basic requirements that I check before investing money into anything that involves risk:

  1. Does it promote God’s kingdom (Philippians 4:8)?
    • True
    • Noble
    • Right
    • Pure
    • Lovely
    • Admirable
    • Excellent
    • Praiseworthy
  2. Does it benefit or promote my mission, even if the value goes down?
    • Does it bless people I minister to?
    • Does it bring me closer to God or remind me of him?
    • Does it help me be a better witness?
    • Does it promote his values and agenda in our world?

By taking these criteria into account you will add a new dimension to your investing experience. You can achieve a level of satisfaction which viewing investments from a purely material perspective makes impossible. And it’s fun!

How to Spend Your Money

ImageDeciding to allocate your money according to Biblical values is an important step on the road to faithful stewardship, resisting powerful currents of consumerism and materialism.  The things we spend our money on expose our true values.  If we want blessed finances then we must align our spending to Biblical values, which include generosity. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.[1]

The Bible describes four areas where our money should go (Figure 1):

  • our survival,
  • our mission,
  • our storehouse and
  • celebration. 

The proportion allocated for each area is up to you and will depend on your circumstances.  Some examples are provided later on.  As finances increase you can be more generous with your allocations, creating a virtuous circle.  Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.[2] Deciding to develop the habit of committing money to all the areas the Bible says are important is what matters.


[1] 2 Corinthians 9:11

[2] Galations 6:7

Ecclesiastes 5:19

Ecclesiastes 5:19

Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.

Whoever loves m…

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.

Ecclesiastes 5:10