I think that leadership translates beyond your professional career. A real leader pays attention to his/her marriage, gives time to his/her kids, and invests in relationships that matter. A real leader is also making wise decisions with money.
- Save for retirement now. We started setting money aside the first year of our marriage. That first year (we were 23-years old) we could only afford $5/month--but knew that we needed to start the habit early. We've increased it every year since.
- Don't use a credit card for anything you can't pay off right away. Use a credit card for convenience, but don't ever pay interest. If you can't control yourself, get rid of the cards.
- Tithe--I really believe that God blesses those who tithe. I think he keeps the car running longer, the roof from leaking as soon as it would have, and He loves to sprinkle you with raises and added cash you didn't expect.
- Give generously. The tithe is the minimum. We began our first year of marriage giving 10% of our income and then increased it every year until we got to 20%. The first 10% goes to the general fund at our church. The other 10% we use to support missionaries, give to new building projects at our church, and bless people who come into our lives.
- If you are married, don't ever make a big purchase without talking to each other. Really, trust me on this.
- No spontaneous purchases. Okay, buying a pair of shorts would be fine. But anything that would be a significant purchase can wait 24-hours. Avoid any vendor who says, "You have to decide now." If the deal can't wait a day, then decide to walk away.
- Live by a budget.
- Teach your kids to handle their money. They aren't going to learn financial management at school. No one else is going to teach them to be generous. By the time they've been out of your house a week, they will have already received 14 credit card invitations. Teach them early.
- Set aside money for fun. Fun with your spouse. Fun with your kids. Fun for yourself (for me, that means buying a geeky gadget on occasion).
- When you can, start a Rainy Day fund. It was many years into our marriage before we could do this, but we began setting aside $25/paycheck. Some day the furnace is going to break or a tree will fall on the side of your house. Or your house will get hit by lightning like ours did earlier this year.
- Put the stuff you want on a list and pray about it. Don't buy it until you can pay for it with cash. This builds your faith, teaches you patience, and gives you a journal to record answers to prayer.
Don't wait until you have more money to put wise financial management into practice in your life. Faith and I started this stuff when we we had no money and we were living on beans and weenies. It just makes "cents."
Note: I first wrote this on August 1, 2006 and it quickly became my highest accessed post during my first year of blogging. With several friends working through personal financial decisions, it seemed like the right time to bring it to the surface again.