A few weeks ago I wrote a post about whether or not a single person who is looking for a spouse should budget money for that search. You can read that post here.
Today I want to talk about handling money in general as a single person. I’d like to share some thoughts that I wish more people would have spoken into my life. The truth is a lot of unmarried people, especially younger folks, don’t get a lot of help with this area of life. I’ve often said that if there was one aspect of my over 20 years of adult singleness that I would live differently that it would be how I handled my money.
First let’s say this: The scriptures are very clear that money matters. What you do with it. How you handle it. Money is mentioned constantly in scripture. Jesus talks about it a ton. The wisdom books talk about it a ton. It matters big time. Again as I’ve often said, it is a large part of our witness. I believe that in our current culture it is one of four areas that give us a witness. Those four areas are: What we do with our money, what we do with out time, what we do with our sexual desire, and how we handle reconciliation. Do those four things as the scriptures teach and people will listen to you talk about Jesus. Do those four things the way the world does them and you lose a ton of credibility.
That said, let’s talk about it.
I think as a single person the first problem is that most likely no one but you knows what you are doing with your money. This is one thing that if I could do over I would. We have all of these small groups and accountability partners, mentors etc. I had all of that. In spades. But none of those people had any idea what I did with my money and I had no idea what they did with theirs.
This is a bad place to be. We all are capable of making really bad decisions by ourselves in a vacuum. This is why we teach people to have accountability in all these other areas. It seems to me that as much as money is talked about in scriptures this ought to be one of the biggest areas of accountability.
Now to be sure, married people can be stupid with their money as well. For sure!!! However at least they have to sort of do it together. So if I were doing it again, I’d invite a couple of people into my finances. I’d have some people that know what I make, spend, and what my long term goals are. Which brings us to point two.
We should have some long term goals no matter what our marital context. When I was first coming on staff with the organization that I work for, a 17 year veteran of that organization said to me, “You need to always take the 401K match and you need to be aggressive. If you do, you can retire from this ministry a millionaire.” Now to be honest I thought the millionaire part was sort of ridiculous. My first year on staff I made about $15,000. But I followed his advice because even as a 23 year old I knew free money was good. Just over twenty years into this deal I can tell you that he was absolutely, one hundred percent correct. Compound interest = Hallelujah.
But frankly that was about the only smart thing I did. I had no budget, which seems crazy considering I made almost no money. It’s not that I went wild but looking back I spent money I didn’t have. When something like a car repair came up, I’d just charge it on the card. When I bought cars, I always had a loan. I chose based on the payment I could make. I literally dealt with the dealer based on that. When I went on trips, I’d charge it and say I’d pay it back later. I also bought a house that I shouldn’t have and later refinanced it based on equity that wasn’t really there. I talked to zero people about any of that.
I also carried the burden of debt alone. What I mean is that I would stare at the numbers and realize that I was sort of in trouble. If something went wrong it would be really bad. But I didn’t bring anyone else into that. It wasn’t really a pride thing frankly. It was just that I was alone staring at it and not knowing what to do. It never entered my mind that I didn’t have to be.
What I’m sort of saying here is that just because you are single, doesn’t mean you have to handle your finances alone. Actually what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t. I also think single people often assume some or all of the following:
- No one else is counting on me so it doesn’t matter what I buy or how in debt I am right now.
- It’s my money so I can do what I want
- If I get married I’ll fix it then and if I don’t it won’t really impact anyone else
- I should go where I want, do what I want while I’m single
- There’s plenty of time to fix this
- As a guy, I don’t have to provide for a family and even if I get married my wife won’t ask that of me, so I can do what I want
- I can’t make any long term goals because I’m not married and if I got married it would all change anyway
- It’s my money, my problem and I’m on my own
I believed and acted out of all of those thoughts at one time or another. The result was not good. I’ve just spent 900+ words sort of defining the problem. In my next post I’ll offer some practical thoughts on what to do as a young single person that can set you up for success regardless of how much you make or whether or not you get married as well as dive in a little deeper on why it matters.