Over the years there have been several published advice columnists who have answered questions from readers. Random House distributed Abigail Van Buren’s advice for decades. Ann Landers answered questions from anyone willing to pour out their heart. As recently as 2000, those two trusted advisors were published in over 500 newspapers across the USA.

These two headliners spurred others to offer similar, although more targeted, Q&A columns. Billy Graham published his “My Answer” column six days each week from 1952 through his death in March of 2018. For many years, Dr. Jack Cottrell has answered a wide array of questions in The Restoration Herald, published by the Christian Restoration Association.

As media has inexorably moved from print to electronic dissemination, the Q&A popularity has continued. CNBC’s “Mad Money” host, Jim Cramer, regularly rings “the lightening round” bell signaling a time when he addresses questions from individuals about his opinion on specific stocks. Alessandra Malito, addresses financial questions about retirement under the “Help Me Retire” banner on MarketWatch.com. This format also continues with the answers provided by Dave Ramsey, Liz Weston, “The Penny Hoarder,” Michelle Singletary, and more!

This Blog will not join the Q&A cadre, but it is an opportunity to invite “Pennie” (our own pension plan expert) to offer guiding financial principles. These principles come from experience. Some of that experience has been developed by making mistakes. Some has been developed from years of discussions with individuals at conferences, telephone conversations, and email exchanges.

  • Be careful not to allow lifestyle creep to create a debt burden that carries into the years when your income will be lower. Lifestyle creep is a reality for everyone in all occupations. As we grow in our career, we normally find our salary increasing. We realize we can afford the higher payments for the larger home, more expensive car, the newest appliances, etc. The only difference between those in ministry and major league athletes is the numbers. Without realizing it, we reach the time we want to retire but our debt burden cannot afford the pay cut. This debt burden builds slowly, but it chokes the joy from the senior years! Rather than pursuing our passions of being able to serve as volunteers, we find ourselves hunting the highest paying part time job doing something we never wanted to do!
  • Be careful not to allow yourself to say, “I am 64, or 57, and I have saved nothing.” Yes, it is very difficult to commit to saving for the future when we are in the early stages of our career or ministry. When we are building a family, purchasing a home, and NEED to buy a new car with more room it is VERY TOUGH to put money away. But this advice is absolutely sound, “Start saving today if you have not begun already.” Not next month, TODAY. Not one 27 year-old plans to be 57, or 67, with nothing saved, but it does happen. A medical professional recently confessed to one of the Q&A experts that they were 57 years old with nothing put away. Begin today saving money for the future. It comes quickly! It may come in the form of poor health conditions that are totally unexpected. While we know we can do things that will help prevent illness and disability, none of us can prevent life threatening issues. Social media is flooded with politics as this is written, but it is also flooded with the stories of people who face death or disability much younger than they imagined. One friend was travelling the world and running marathons one year, and on full disability the next because their body was invaded by a rare disease. They do not know where it was contracted. All they know is they cannot run marathons any longer, and they cannot be active in ministry! This can be any of us. We need to save when we are young, in spite of the difficulty.

Pennie does not have all the answers, just two guiding principles. Principles that require thought, discussion with the spouse, and absolute commitment. Principles that are not easy. In fact, these are principles that will force us to take a different path from others. However, the destination where this path leads is one of financial freedom.