Americans are facing tough financial times. Where can you turn? Christians can respond in faith—not fear—despite the current economic crisis. Certified financial planner Jerry Foster talks today about trusting God in the midst of uncertainty.
Americans are facing tough financial times. Where can you turn? Christians can respond in faith—not fear—despite the current economic crisis. Certified financial planner Jerry Foster talks today about trusting God in the midst of uncertainty.
Bob: Jerry Foster is a financial planner and a business owner who has been experiencing the effect of the current economic downturn on his business. All of a sudden, it dawned on him recently – this is affecting more than just my business.
Jerry: I went home and sat down with my wife, and we began to look at our own budget, and what I discovered is that we're getting pretty sloppy ourselves, personally. We weren't paying attention to the details. It got a little bit complacent, and so we sat down and started looking at our budget and started trying to figure out, "Now, how did this happen? How did we get to this point? What do we really need?" And some of the discussions of needs versus wants became very healthy discussions for us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 23rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. With financial news making headlines every day, what should we be doing to make sure our family finances are in good shape. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You have been wanting to have kind of a heart-to-heart with our listeners for some time now, haven't you?
Dennis: I have, in fact, I've got a quarter in my hand here that says, "United States of America, Quarter Dollar," I can't read the date on it, but it says right next to George's portrait there, "Liberty" is on the left, "In God We Trust" is on the right.
Bob: It's still on the money, isn't it?
Dennis: It's still on the money. I think the question for each of us is – do we? Are we a nation of individuals who, in spite of our financial challenges today, do we trust in God? And I think if there has ever been a time when the nation and specifically the community of faith ought to come back to the basics of what it believes about life, about money, about possessions, about what's important, it's today.
We have a friend with us who is going to help us navigate some challenging days. Jerry Foster joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Jerry, welcome back.
Jerry: Thanks for having me.
Dennis: Jerry is a financial planner and Chief Executive Officer of the Foster Group, which is a financial planning and life coaching company in west "Dez Moinez", Iowa. Des Moines …
Bob: I know, I know.
Dennis: I'm sorry.
Bob: I love calling it Dez Moinez.
Dennis: I do, I do, it's just a fun city. And his wife, Nancy, live there, and they have four children. Of course, Nancy and Jerry have been speaking at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences now for, what, 10 years?
Jerry: Ten years.
Dennis: Ten years, and just one of our great couples who shares God's blueprints for marriages and families and Bob and I talked about this, and we thought, you know, if we're going to talk to someone about financial planning, about how we ought to look at not just a quarter but the money that we have and how we trust in God, we thought, why don't we get Jerry in here and have a conversation? These are really interesting days, aren't they, Jerry?
Jerry: Oh, boy, I think we are seeing something that probably all of our listeners have never seen in their entire lifetime.
Bob: And let me ask you in that regard – how bad is this? Because I read an article the other day that said it's not like the Great Depression, the metrics in the Great Depression were much worse than now. This is really more like the early '80s and it's kind of back-and-forth in terms of we know this is a challenging time, but how bad is it really? Are we in for a serious course correction or is this a blip that we'll get through?
Jerry: Well, I think what's interesting about this is we are looking at this particular event, kind of in a vacuum of a very short time horizon, and I think we have to be able to step back and assess this from a bigger-picture standpoint. If you look at what happened in the Depression, you look at what's happening now, while there are some correlations, it's a very different environment that we live in.
And I think what's happening right now is that fear is driving a lot of what's happening. People are responding out of fear, and, you know, while this particular event seems that we need to have some significant changes that need to take place, a lot of it has to do with just good, solid investment and financial planning principles.
Dennis: Jerry, there is a technical definition for a recession, but I'm told there isn't one for what a depression is. How would you define what a depression is, as a financial planner? I mean, there is all this fear that's floating around, and I think, at points, we listening to the newscasts on the radio, TV, the Internet, and we think, "Are we in one?"
Bob: Well, and does it really matter whether we call it a recession or a depression – is that technical differentiation mean different things to how I'm going to adjust my life in the midst of it?
Jerry: Yeah, I think that that's really it. I mean, where is the line between the two that gets really difficult? You know, if you look at the numbers that were happening back then, you look at them now, it's not even close to the same thing. I mean, we're looking at 8 percent unemployment now versus 25 percent to 30 percent at that point. A lot of other circumstances were being thrown in to the mix at that time that we're not experiencing now. We have a lot of things that are just different.
The problem we have is that you look at all of these economic indicators, and they're – I mean, turn on the news every night, you're going to hear about them. You're going to hear about unemployment rates, you're going to hear about a lot of different things. What I'm trying to tell our clients is that the only indicator that really matters is your own checkbook, your own circumstance.
You can get so hung up with what you're hearing on the news that you begin to make decisions that really are inappropriate decisions because you're not being affected by all the things that are happening out there.
What's happening with your own cash flow? What's coming in? What's going out? How are you sitting? That's really what is the indicator that we should be looking at.
Bob: And for the average family – I know there are some families where there has been significant upheaval because Mom's out of work, Dad's out of work, there has been job loss. I would think, for the average family, what's most likely happened is some loss of future economic benefit because you've had some money in your 401k or you've had some money in the stock market, that's down; maybe didn't get a raise this year or maybe you've taken a 5 percent or 10 percent pay cut in order to deal with what's going on.
I guess the question is – are most families feeling a pinch from what we're going through right now, or are they just responding to the headlines?
Jerry: Well, I think that, for many, they are responding to the headlines. No doubt, there are some families out there that are experiencing a pinch, but what I would say is that what we're all experiencing is maybe a correction that needed to happen in our own hearts and our own attitudes.
I think we were living through a period of time in which we all were kind of lulled into this false sense of it's always just going to keep going the way it's going, and we got pretty comfortable with that. In fact, I'd say we got sloppy. We weren't paying attention to the details, we weren't making good, solid decisions with regards to our personal finances.
What I'm seeing now is I'm seeing that people are stopping, they're thinking about how they're spending money, they're making good decisions, they're going back to the Scriptures and trying to understand what does God have to say about money? And I feel like this is a correction that we needed in our culture to bring us back to the basic principles.
Bob: You said that you and your wife, Nancy, have experienced some of that yourselves, right?
Jerry: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I'm a business owner, and we're going to experience a 30 percent decrease in revenues. We sat down, as a business, and sat around a conference table and had some incredible discussions as owners of the business and found ourselves making decisions from a business standpoint that were sound. They were good business decisions.
I went home and sat down with my wife, and we began to look at our own budget, and what I discovered is that we were getting pretty sloppy ourselves, personally. We weren't paying attention to the details. It got a little bit complacent, and so we sat down and started looking at our budget and started, you know, trying to figure out, "Now, how did this happen? How did we get to this point? What do we really need?" And some of the discussions of needs versus wants became very healthy discussions for us.
And, I have to tell you, that right now, looking at a significant decrease in income, it feels good. It feels good because we're making the right kind of decisions.
Dennis: You know, I think when we talk about where we are today, it's easy to point our fingers to Wall Street or Washington, D.C. or some third party that we can blame, but the greed that we've seen in public places seeps all the way through the nation, doesn't it?
Jerry: It does.
Dennis: To individuals – and I think, as you go through something like this, one of the things that I think is very important is that there be a personal inventory taken in your own heart and your own life about how is greed manifesting itself in me? You actually were talking with a group of leaders in another country, and you were asked a pretty pointed question by one of those who was attending the lecture that you were giving.
Jerry: Yes, I was in Brussels and was speaking to the Brussels Leadership Forum – Christian Leadership Forum, and these are people that are working with the European Union and a lot of very influential leaders, and I was – I spoke about leadership principles, and when I was done I took questions from the audience, and one of the ladies posed this question to me, and based upon my bio, being in finance, she made an assumption – I'm assuming, anyway – that I was involved somewhat in maybe the bad decisions that had taken place over here in the United States.
Dennis: Like maybe you were in charge of Wall Street.
Bob: And worked for Bear Stearns?
Jerry: Yeah, or owned Bear Stearns or something like that, I'm not sure what she thought, but she asked me, based upon what I do for a living and what is happening here in the United States, she said, "Do you feel the need to repent?"
And I thought about that, and here is the way I answered her. I said, "There are two emotions that drive financial decisions – greed and fear, and greed has gotten us where we are today. Now, you ask me if I need to repent? There is not a single part of my life that I don't wake up every day and feel the need to repent." When it comes to the issue of greed, it's real easy for us to sit back and look at the United States right now and to look at these big Wall Street firms and place the blame on them because it's so extenuated. I mean, it's in the news, everybody sees it, but the reality of it is, the decisions that we all make individually are no different. We've wanted things to come easy, we want to take shortcuts, and we've gotten pretty used to doing that.
And so I said, "You know what? We all need to take responsibility for this. We can't point our fingers at any one person. Greed has brought us where we are today. Fear is keeping us there."
Dennis: Jerry, to that point, in my own life, I read the book of Ecclesiastes a number of years ago, and it stuck in between my ears in my brain and in my heart. And there is a phrase in Ecclesiastes because here is the wealthiest man in all the world, the wisest man in all the world. He's got servants, he's got vineyards, he's got orchards, he's got wealth beyond imagination, and in Ecclesiastes 2:10, it says, "All that my eyes beheld, all the my eyes saw, I did not withhold from them."
Now, I have been walking down the mall, and I have been walking by storefronts, offering shoes, clothing, trinkets, whatever – the latest, greatest electronics, and that verse has bounced its way around my brain all the way down to my heart, and I think, at many points, kept me from trying to satisfy my eyes.
Because the greed that really has tripped up Wall Street is really something we all face at some level. And if you don't have the Scripture in your heart to realign your purchasing, to realign your wants, your desires, what you are about, everything you look at, you're going to want, and you're going to decide to go ahead and get.
Bob: I want to explore this with both of you, because I don't think – if we would just ask ourselves, "Do you think of yourself as a greedy person?" I'd say, "I don't think I'm fundamentally greedy." I have this picture of a greedy person saying, "I want everything, and I'm going to mean if I don't get it," you know?
But what you're describing, Dennis, when you describe that enticement of consumerism in the ads you watch on TV, and you go, you know, I really would be happy finally – I would finally experience real rest and peace in my soul if I could get the latest Mac book, or if I could get the iPhone, or if I could get whatever it is that your heart desires.
How do we differentiate spiritually – how do we know what's wrong and what's – is any of that okay to want some of that stuff or say I could benefit from some of that stuff or I'd like to have that stuff? How do we know how to adjust our lives in the midst of all of that?
Jerry: I think it boils down to an issue of contentment, is what it boils down to. You know, one of my favorite verses that we're using as an organization and working with our clients, comes from 1 Timothy 6:17-19, and basically it says, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain." Well, that pretty much defines where we are at right now.
Dennis: It's back to the quarter.
Jerry: That's exactly right.
Dennis: "In God We Trust."
Jerry: Right, because right after that it says, "But to put their hope in God who" – now listen to this part – "who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." So he's not saying that we shouldn't enjoy those things. The issue is, where is our hope?
And I think that's where we've lost it in our culture in this time, is that our hope has gone into those things as opposed to our hope being in God.
Dennis: A few moments ago, Jerry, you said the indicator in a financial crisis that you need to pay the most attention to is your checkbook. I think there is another indicator that you would agree with, in fact, it really underscores everything you have written about, you teach, and you share with those that you advise financially, and that's your faith indicator. It's ultimately – and it's what we're talking about here – where is your trust?
Jerry: Yeah, where is your hope?
Dennis: Where is your hope? Is it in God or is it in your circumstances and in your 401k, and the bank account and how large it is and what you're going to be able to draw down or be able to utilize?
Jerry: Right. I was just teaching to a men's group that I teach at a few weeks ago, and one – I was teaching about Hezekiah, and Hezekiah was a king of Israel, and he was a godly man, and so godly that he held true to his principles, and at one point the king of Assyria was demanding that he bow down to his gods and worship him, and Hezekiah said, "No, I'm not going to do it."
And so Assyria was going to, in essence, annihilate Israel, but there was something that was really puzzling the king of Assyria, because here was this little nation that had no chance of being able to survive this attack, and yet he was standing there with confidence. And before they attacked, the king of Assyria sent his commander down to ask one question – and he says, "The king of Assyria wants to know one thing – in whom do you trust that gives you such confidence?" He was blown away by his confidence because he knew he had nothing to support it. He didn't have the army, he didn't have anything to support his confidence in whom do you trust that gives you such confidence?
I think that we are in a time right now where, especially as believers, we have an opportunity to make an impact, and for people to look at us and say – ask the same question – in whom do you trust that gives you such confidence? Am I living my life in the way that people are looking at me and saying, "Wait a minute. Something doesn't add up here. We are in the midst of this and yet look at the confidence that he's living with."
Dennis: Who are you going to listen to is the real issue.
Jerry: That's it.
Dennis: Are you going to listen to the nightly news and all the cable TV that is just pounding the daylights out of you with fear? In fact, some nights, honestly, I feel like I sit in my living room, and I watch the news, and I feel like it is a flood, like a tsunami, of financial bad news washing over me one way right after another, and yet if you look at the Scripture, you look at the Bible, what is it ultimately calling us to do? This book right here is calling us to faith. We need to come back and be men and women of faith and lead our families in this, too, by the way. We need to have some discussions around the dinner table with our kids, away from fear and toward trust in God.
Bob: This is one of those times in life, and you've been emphasizing this verse a lot lately – it's Romans 12:2 where the Scriptures say, "Don't be conformed to this world."
Bob: And if you are conformed to this world, then the headlines are going to drive your thinking, and it's going to create fear in you. But – be transformed how? By the renewing of your mind, which is, by looking at what the Scriptures say, by believing what God's word has to say and by responding as if it's true, because it is.
Dennis: Yeah, and I just want to put a little plug in at that point, Bob, for couples to go to the Weekend to Remember, because what happens at the Weekend to Remember is you get a biblical view of marriage and family. And I'm going to tell you something – in an economic crisis, all roads come back home, and you better be able to live a life of faith there where it matters most.
And so if you haven't been to a Weekend to Remember, and I know, because I've met some of you out there who are listening on the radio right now – I've met you. You've come up, and you say, "I listen to you all the time," and I say, "Have you and your bride been to the Weekend to Remember?" "Oh, no, well, we're going to get around to it, we're going to go."
You know what? You need to set aside time right now to come to a Weekend to Remember because those commitments at home are going to become increasingly valuable as you move into the future.
Bob: You just were at one of those Weekend to Remember conferences not long ago, weren't you?
Dennis: With a few of our friends. We had the largest conference in the history of our ministry – 4,064, I think, came to the Dallas/Fort Worth Weekend to Remember at the Gaylord Texan. What a great time we had there with Dan Jarrell, of course, Jerry knows Dan, he's a pastor from Anchorage, Alaska, and Kyle and Sharon Dodd, who are also on the speaker team – we teamed up and shared God's blueprints for marriages and families there with all those folks, and what a treat. What a life-changing weekend.
Bob: Yes, I'm looking forward this weekend to being up in Newport, Rhode Island, where we've got a conference taking place – hundreds of couples joining us for the weekend, and we've also got conferences this weekend in Boise, Idaho, and Branson, Missouri; Fargo, North Dakota; Lincoln, Nebraska; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; Ontario, California; and then conferences throughout the rest of the spring in places like Atlanta and Chicago and Little Rock, Portland, Seattle, Southern California – there is a complete list of conference locations and dates on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, and, as Dennis said, if you've not been to one of these conferences, make it a priority for you and your spouse to get away for a weekend and to take care of the core, to make sure that your marriage relationship is where it needs to be, especially in the midst of what are challenging days for us as a country and for many of us as families.
More information about the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference can be found on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. You can register online, if you'd like, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. I should also mention there is information on our website about resources we have available to help families with the very practical issues that every family faces as you try to get your finances in order.
We've got copies of Howard Dayton's book, "Your Money Map," which is designed to provide a simple roadmap for organizing your finances, getting your spending under control, saving for emergencies, paying off credit card debt, the stuff that Jerry has talked about here today.
We also have the Family Financial Workbook, which provides couples with a way to lay out a spending plan so that you are prepared for the financial realities of life. Again, these resources are available from our FamilyLife Resource Center online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
In the midst of all of the economic uncertainty we are experiencing as a nation, we want to say a special word of thanks to those of you who have been able to stand with us financially. We have heard from many of our listeners, and we do appreciate those of you who have contacted us either online or by phone to make donations to the ministry.
Candidly, like many ministries, we are experiencing fewer donations this year than we have experienced in past years, and we are having to look very carefully at how we weather this financial storm as a ministry.
So when you are able to make a donation, and when you do get in touch with us either online or by phone, it means so much to us, and we appreciate those of you who have done that in recent days.
This month, if you are able to make a donation of any amount either online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by phone at 1-800-FLTODAY, we'd like to send you as a thank you gift the most widely watched movie of all time, "The Jesus Film," on DVD. In addition to the main theatrical motion picture, there is also "The Story of Jesus for Children," that is a part of this DVD. It's about – I think it's about 80 minutes long, and it tells the story of Jesus through the eyes of a child. Kids absolutely are riveted by this portrayal of the Gospel story through "The Jesus Film" on DVD.
Again, if you can help with a donation of any amount this month, you can request this DVD as your thank you gift. If you are online making your donation, write "JesusDVD" in the keycode box on the donation form, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and just ask for "The Jesus Film" on DVD, and, again, we want to say thanks for your financial support of the ministry and for standing with us financially.
Now, tomorrow we're going to talk more about what families can do to make sure their financial house is in order. Jerry Foster is going to be back with us, I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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