Something I've noticed in my brief readings of Personal Finance and Financial Independence websites and blogs has been an absence of gratitude*, a failure to acknowledge that we really owe ALL our riches to the Grace of God.** Okay, maybe I haven't read enough, or paid close enough attention, but it sure seems like the overwhelming message out there is that through our own personal effort, we can pull ourselves out of whatever mess we've fallen into, and enter into a state of monetary abundance.
Perhaps this is true. I've worked with a few single mothers who through grit and determination and what I would consider an almost superhuman amount of energy have built a better life for their children and themselves. (Notice that the welfare of the children comes first!) But I've also known people who, as soon as they begin to claw their way out of a bad situation, immediately get hammered again with some awful expense, more often than not medical.
The truth is that if your main worry in life is your debt, or the sorry condition of your retirement savings, how fortunate you are, particularly if you're still healthy! Maybe the FIRST thing we should do when devising a plan to improve our finances is to pray, to offer thanks for all the blessings in our lives, and for the opportunity to even worry about such piddling affairs as credit card debt and 401k or IRA funding.
It's one thing to talk about thankfulness, to say, "Thank you, God, for all you've given me," but it's another thing entirely to actually DO SOMETHING to show your gratitude. I believe that charity, (tithing, helping friends, family, and strangers), is the highest form of gratitude; being able to give to
those in need is indeed a great priviledge.
Many people believe that 10% of our net income should be given to charity, and that this should be our first spending priority. They will also tell you that you will receive back tenfold what you give. Alas! - I can't attest to the truth of this one way or the other, for my charitable giving falls far short of the 10% mark. Too many other expenses is my (flimsy) excuse.
But maybe I have it backwards? Maybe instead of gritting my teeth and arguing with my wife about our credit card spending, I should be concentrating on increasing our charitable giving to the 10% level recommended to people since the beginning of time, (or at least historical records). What if I work on helping others FIRST? Would I really receive back ten times what I gave, and if so, in what form?
It's a huge leap of faith, and I am probably not ready yet myself to take that jump, but paying your "charity accounts" first, before paying any of your other expenses, is a concept I think all of us should think over.
* - Dave Ramsey, of course, is a spectacular exception to this, as is Dan Miller, I believe. Kudos to both of them, and any other blogger who acknowledges Grace/Mercy of some form.
** - by "God", I mean whatever universal purpose it is that drives existence. If it makes you feel more comfortable, substitute the word "God" with "The-Powers-That-Be", "Providence", "Allah", "Jehovah", "The Force", or whatever term you use to refer to the Higher Power that guides our lives.
On the other hand, if you're a devout atheist, well .... good luck!