Recently, I read an article that discussed a survey of American people and their finances they set aside for emergencies.  In the survey, 1/2 of Americans would not be able to come up with $2,000 in case of an emergency.  This puts the United States amoung the most fragile financial countries in the Western world (according to the article).

As I thought about how LDS church leaders repeat over and over again the importance of “saving for a rainy day” (as Gordon B Hinckley used to repeat), I also thought about some things I have heard members of the LDS and Christian communities say about dealing with finances.

In our Christian churches, we hear the importance of putting God first and hear the parable of the rich man who wouldn’t give everything up and follow Jesus.  We also hear the importance of paying tithing and not putting our heart on riches of the world.  I’ve heard people state that if they pay their tithing, everything else will take care of itself financially.  I’ve also heard from other Christians (not so much from LDS Christians) that Jesus is coming soon so there is no need to save money because it will all be destroyed at His coming anyways.

While I agree that we should pay tithing and not set our heart on riches, and if asked, be willing to turn everything over to the Lord, I do not agree with just paying tithing, or deciding not to save and hoping that things will “work themselves out”.  I definitely do not agree with sitting around and waiting for Jesus to come and not saving any money either!  I feel that we should do all in our power to save for a rainy day, as the prophets have taught, along with paying tithing and giving to the poor.

I’m not a financial wizard, but I have read quite a few Christian and LDS books on saving, getting out of debt, and living within our means.  By following these principles along with praying and guidance from the Lord, we have been able to reduce all of our debt (except our house payment) and also save for nearly a year’s worth of living expenses in case of an emergency. 

I believe there are three parts to being financially stable.  Paying tithing is only part of being financially responsible.  Getting and staying out of debt and saving for a rainy day are the other parts.

If someone reading this is struggling with all three of these areas, or just a couple, may I offer some suggestions:

First, if you are not paying tithing or giving to the poor, start doing so.  I firmly believe that this practice helps us keep our hearts where they should be in relation to God.  It also benefits others who are less fortunate.  If you can pay tithing when you have little, when you make more money, it is easier to not get your heart “set on riches” because you are already in the habit of giving back.

Second, if you are paying tithing, but are not paying yourself, start giving yourself a little money each month to prepare for the rainy days ahead.  If you don’t have much, just put a few dollars into a savings account each month.  Shoot for paying yourself at least 10% though.  Have it automatically withdrawn into a savings or money market account and do not stop until you reach at least 6 months of savings you may need should you lose your job.

Finally, pay off debts.  Some may argue that this should be second, before saving money for an emergency.  I believe that it is important to do both at the same time.  The reasoning behind this is that if an emergency hits and you haven’t been saving money, but paying debts down, there will be no where to go but further in debt.  Plus, saving money is a good habit to develop.  A very good talk that describes a strategy on getting out of debt that helped me is by Marvin J Ashton, an LDS Apostle, entitled “One for the Money“.

In conclusion, I know that it is important to pay God first, and I do know that He will bless us mostly spiritually when we do pay our tithing.  However, that is only the first step and by incorporating the other two steps of paying our debts off and staying out of debt and saving money for a rainy day, we can become financially stable in our lives, which allows us to reduce our stress and focus on helping and loving those around us as God would have us do.