The starting point for financial contentment is simply living within one's income. How we handle what God has given us will indicate whether we have financial contentment or not. As I've spoken in various venues I've met many families who are content to live in modest houses, drive older cars, and enjoy entertainment at home. Perhaps the breadwinner is a teacher, a church staff member, or in the early stages of a career. Many times they've chosen a simple lifestyle to stay within their means.
I remember one family who told me they'd chosen to give up some of the materialistic items they could have enjoyed. Why would they give that up when the wife had a master of business administration degree? She desired to be at home with their young children rather than traveling at her former job and working 50 hours a week. The husband desired to work—and worked hard—but his occupation didn't pay as much as others. They could have followed the American Dream—and charged everything. But they chose to live within their means to reduce their stress.
On the other extreme, I remember returning from a trip where I met a man who earned in excess of $600,000 a year. Instead of being content and at peace, he was miserable. He had financial pressures because he was spending $100,000 more each year than he was making. The key to contentment in one's finances is not the amount one makes, but rather a willingness to live within that amount.
Recently when I spoke to a group of men, I asked them how many of them were making twice what they were making 10 years ago. Every hand in the audience went up. I then asked them another question. If 10 years before they had been asked, "Would you be content if you were making twice what you're making now?" would they have answered yes? Here again they all answered positively.
But when I asked them if they were in fact content now, they said no. Thepoint is, their income had doubled, but they had not learned to live within that income. Therefore, they were not content. I have found in my counseling that living within one's income is an indicator of contentment. Some people look for a great financial secret—the magic pill, the black box, the cure-all financial step. If you've bought this book, you're looking for some helpful financial information. You might think, Enough of this touchy-feely contentment stuff. Give me the solution to why there's more month than money or why my increased wealth doesn't satisfy. Be patient. We'll have plenty of detailed information in the remainder of the book.
Financial contentment has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems, and decisions. Financial contentment brings peace of mind. Despite the claims in commercials for financial service companies, financial security is not the same as financial peace of mind. Both may help you move further along toward financial contentment. But it's possible to have financial security without financial peace of mind. Peace of mind comes from having:
- Eternal perspective
- Faith-based decisions
- Biblically wise counsel
- Financially wise counsel