In recent articles in both the New York Post and Forbes, financial expert John Madison has been sounding warning bells about the current trends in money management: people are taking on too much debt and Social Security is no longer a given, especially for millennials.
In his first book, “The Steward Plan,” Madison combines his three-decades of experience in financial planning with what he considers the most comprehensive workbook on money-management—the Bible.“We are instructed in Proverbs 27 to ‘know the condition of [our] flocks,’ which we can’t do if we’re not proactively managing them,” says Madison. “This isn’t a suggestion; it’s a directive. Stewards actively manage, not sit passively and hope something good happens.”
Madison was quoted in the Forbes article as saying that millennials should “make plans to not receive Social Security benefits.” But he says, they do have one advantage right now—time.
“Most likely, some small amount of Social Security benefit will be paid to current millennials when they reach retirement age,” says Madison, “but the benefit may cover a substantially smaller percentage of retiree expenses and may start later as life expectancies lengthen. Therefore, it’s smart to exclude them in your retirement income planning. However, with the substantial amount of time millennials have between now and retirement, they can make up for this assumption by starting to invest today. The benefits of compounding over time work to their advantage, but time lost due to delays in starting to save and invest can never be recaptured.”
Madison retired from his work as a CPA at the age of 49, and now offers personal financial counseling as well as free workshops to churches and charities. He says the new tax laws may negatively affect a lot of churches, and he wants to be sure church leaders, as well as their congregations, are aware of the ramifications of their stewardship.
“In my counseling ministry, I have yet to meet anyone who regretted tithing or feels they would have been better off financially or spiritually if they hadn’t done so,” says Madison. “Our stewardship is laid out clearly in the Bible. Jesus Himself addressed the principle of developing a spending plan, a budget, in Luke 14. We can’t expect to maximize the value of the wealth He has blessed us with by managing it without a plan. And though being in debt is not a sin, there are no verses in the Bible praising it either. In fact, the borrower is called a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). We are set free through Christ. Let’s not return chains to ourselves by being in debt. For most families, their greatest long-term wealth-building tool is their income. Whatever portion is committed to debt payments (even at 0% interest rates) cannot be used to honor God, help others, or build wealth.”
The first chapter in “The Steward Plan” talks about what Madison labels the “Capitalist Christian” and addresses a question that often leads to disagreements in faith-based circles: is it appropriate for Christians to be financially successful?
“While the reality is that every Christian will not be financially successful as the world defines it, any Christian who God has blessed with wealth should never be ashamed of that blessing,” says Madison. “Nor should a Christian look negatively toward other believers who may have attained a higher level of wealth. The issue should be how well each of us manages whatever resources God has provided to us, not whether we have more or less than someone else. There is nothing wrong with wealth built honestly and managed using God’s guidance. We run into problems when we try to gain it sinfully or use it for our own selfish purposes.”