Democracy and Wealth


brandeis-quote

Louis Dembitz Brandeis was an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He graduated Harvard Law School in 1876 with the highest grade in the school’s history, a record that would stand for 80 years. After graduation he settled in Boston and opened his own firm. Although, like all businesses it has undergone a number of evolutionary changes, Brandeis’ firm is still practicing today under the moniker of Nutter McLennan & Fish.

Beginning somewhere in the early 1890s Brandeis began to make a name for himself as a champion of progressive social causes. In an article he wrote for the Harvard Law Review entitled “Right to Privacy” he all but created the notion of privacy now so enshrined in the laws of nearly every democratic nation. In 1914 he would publish the book “Other People’s Money and How The Bankers Use It.” The book was an exposé on how banks use investment funds to promote and consolidate various businesses and industries at the expense of smaller corporations and sole proprietorships to prevent competition. He harshly criticized investment bankers who controlled large amounts of money deposited by middle class customers and used it build monopolies like Rail Roads and large industrial manufacturers that prevented those same middle class business owners from rising too high up the economic ladder.

By 1916 Brandeis’ work had caught the eye of then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who nominated him to the Supreme Court. For the next 23 years Brandeis would preside over human rights complaints, break-up monopolies and tirelessly work to maintain the democracy of wealth in America. Although appointed by a Progressive Democrat, Brandeis was not a social activist in the way we think of them today. He would be more accurately described as a free market stalwart who believed in open opportunity and sought to limit the power of corporations and the concentration of wealth.

Trickle Down Economics

eattherichIn the 1980s Ronald Reagan popularized the term “Trickle Down Economics.” It is the theory that says benefits for the wealthy trickle down to everyone else. These benefits are usually tax breaks for businesses and other high-income earners. In theory these people use the cash from these tax breaks to expand business growth and thus benefit the rest of society.

At least that’s the theory.

In practice Trickle Down Economics serves to increase economic inequality and concentrate wealth in the hands of a lucky few. In a social welfare state, like America and just about every other democracy worldwide, Trickle Down Economics places too much of the burden for funding government social programs on the middle and lower classes. By giving tax breaks to the wealthy, without cutting social programs the cost must be borne by the very people the programs claim to support. So when you give people free access to universal health care, to use one example, and then increase their taxes to pay for it, any gains they receive through so called Trickle Down economics are cancelled out. The middle-class are no further ahead, the poor feel the pinch and the rich, who could afford to pay for their own health care anyway, laugh all the way to the bank.

The Winner Takes All

The problem lies in the very nature of democracy itself. When the majority of people want free health care, they vote for it and the government is forced to provide it. But then everyone also wants to vote for lower taxes. This is where the power of wealth skews society and serves the real purpose of Trickle Down Economics.

americandreamEveryone is an optimist. The American dream is built on the premise that if I work hard enough, I too can become wealthy one day. The proponents of Trickle Down Economics know this so they wrap it in a form of patriotism saying that by offering tax breaks to the wealthy the government is actually promoting a form of national pride, motivating people to take risks, start businesses and build the economy. “It’s the American way.”

In 1995, economists Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook published the book “The Winner Take All Society” The sub-title of the book is a succinct description of their main thesis: “How More and More Americans Compete for Ever Fewer and Bigger Prizes, Encouraging Economic Waste, Income Inequality, and an Impoverished Cultural Life”. The practice of Trickle Down economics has created the winner take all society. Democracy has become nothing more than a selfish pursuit of personal gain that resembles a snake eating its own tail.

The society that Louis Brandeis envisioned in the 1930s has come to fruition. We no longer have democracy in the way it was originally intended in its place we now have something far more sinister even than a dictatorship. What we have now is a pseudo-democracy that serves the interests of wealth, not even wealthy people, just wealth. The human element has been completely removed. In the interests of self promotion, people have voted themselves out of the system. Now it’s all about money, my money, your money and most importantly, other people’s money, and how it can serve me.

Brandeis was right. But it’s not too late. The question now is what kind of society do we want to live in?

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Quick Tip #1 – Just the Facts


A financial security advisor will help you build a financial portfolio that’s right for you. According to Morningstar – an investment resource that specializes in investment planning – intelligent planning decisions made with the help of an advisor result in 29 per cent more retirement income.

On Faith, Democracy and The Kingdom of Heaven


Last year, during the Canadian federal election campaign I started thinking about my place in the grand scheme of politics and democracy. This week, as the final days and hours of the US election campaign began to point to a Trump presidency those questions started creeping into my conscience again. Of course this time around I didn’t get a vote but as the world’s biggest economy the decisions of the US electorate have a significant impact on us all.

The gospel in just three words is “Jesus is Lord”. I don’t know any Christians who would disagree with that statement. In fact it is as close to a universal statement of faith that exists in the Christian church. No matter your denomination, Catholic, Protestant, Conservative Evangelical or Progressive, we can all agree that Jesus is Lord.

But in our hyper individualized culture this whole concept of lordship is problematic. Wikipedia defines lord as an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others acting like a master, a chief, or a ruler.  By making the statement Jesus is Lord, we are simultaneously submitting ourselves to his authority and rejecting all other individuals and institutions that would seek authority over us.

The democratic process is at its core a game of pick your lord. Every four years the American public is given the opportunity to decide who their lord will be but if Jesus is Lord, then your government is not. The question becomes then, what to do when government and social norms do not align with the Lordship of Christ?

Two Kingdoms Doctrine

churchandstate

Martin Luther was one of the first reformers to champion the separation of church and state and so was also one of the first church leaders since Constantine to wrestle with this question. Before Luther the church was the state so any question of lordship was moot. So when faced with difficult questions about how a Christian should behave as a citizen under the lordship of both a secular government and the lordship of Jesus Luther had to make a compromise. Luther’s compromise made it possible for reformers to retain citizenship in their home countries but would eventually prove to be fatal to the true Lordship of Christ.

What Luther said has become known as the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Again, according to Wikipedia the doctrine states that, God rules the worldly or left-hand kingdom through secular government, by means of law [i.e., the sword or compulsion] and in the heavenly or right-hand kingdom through the gospel of grace. The fatal flaw in this argument should be obvious to anyone who has felt the law of the land precludes them from living out their faith. If God rules the world through secular government what happens when that government contradicts your understanding of the Lordship of Christ?

Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms was developed under a feudal government system and worked well for the kings and lords of the middle-ages. They were able to use it to claim divine authority over vast realms of humanity while functioning in ways that directly contradicted gospel teaching. Romans 13 became a favourite passage of the ruling class as a way to remind the peasants of their place in the world and prevented large scale rebellion.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. [Romans 13:1-5]

But Romans 13 was not written as an instruction manual for how the faithful should live under a “Christian” government. The entire book of Romans, and most of the New Testament for that matter, was written from a prison cell and directed to a minority people without any political power or authority. The New Testament gives no advice to Christians on how to hold on to political power. The doctrine of the two kingdoms therefore is flawed from the beginning. Any biblical instruction on ruler ship is found in the Old Testament and under the old covenant that has been made obsolete by the reign of Jesus.

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. [Hebrews 8:13]

To say therefore that God holds authority over the worldly, left-hand kingdom through law and compulsion assumes that the rulers are godly and returns the Christian to the authority of the Old Testament. We know that is simply not the case but as if that weren’t enough to discredit the doctrine of the two kingdoms it completely falls apart when it is applied to a democratic society.

The Authority of God

freewill

In His infinite love for humankind God has given us the ability to say no to Him. It’s called free will and it is the bed rock of God’s relationship with us. For love to exist there must be the possibility of rejection. No one knows this better than God. The entire story of humanity is the story of love and rejection.

Democracy hands the power of ruler ship, through the free will of the people, to whomever appeals to the broadest segment of society. God’s will is therefore lovingly submitted to the will of the people and God’s authority over the worldly kingdom is muted. Humans do as they please and God is pushed to the margins of society. How then is God’s sovereignty manifest in the world?

Hans Beck was a Swiss Brethen Anabaptist who wrote in response to Luther, his own version of two kingdoms doctrine in 1541.

There are two different kingdoms on earth—namely, the kingdom of this world and the peaceful kingdom of Christ. These two kingdoms cannot share or have communion with each other.

While Luther tried to develop the two kingdoms doctrine as a way appease the church as the primary governing authority of the day, Beck immediately saw the flaw in Luther’s logic and destroyed it by saying simply that the two kingdoms could never coexist. Beck went on to state:

The people in the kingdom of this world are born of the flesh, are earthly and carnally minded. The people in the kingdom of Christ are reborn of the Holy Spirit, live according to the Spirit, and are spiritually minded. The people in the kingdom of the world are equipped for fighting with carnal weapons—spear, sword, armor, guns and powder. The people in Christ’s kingdom are equipped with spiritual weapons—the armor of God, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit to fight against the devil, the world, and their own flesh, together with all that arises against God and his Word.

According to Beck, the people of the kingdom of Christ stand apart from the kingdoms of the world. While Luther was trying to appease the authorities in order to retain his German citizenship, Beck was renouncing his Swiss citizenship in order to remain loyal to Christ.

Citizens and Ambassadors

citizensSo the question now is where do Christians fit in a democratic society? Is there a moral obligation for the church to seek political power, or at least attempt to influence those in authority for the good of mankind? Or as Beck would have it, do we write civil society off as inherently evil and withdraw completely?

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church that was immersed in a wealthy culture of excess. A culture predicated on power, money and sex.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. [2 Corinthians 5:18-20]

Paul appears to be saying that the kingdom of heaven can only be achieved through reconciliation with God and His will that this reconciliation comes through Christ. It is therefore the job of the church to be ambassadors of His kingdom in the world. By using the imagery and terminology of ambassadorship Paul at once implies that our citizenship is not of this world. An ambassador is not a citizen of the country or member of the society in which he resides.

When Christ-followers take on the identity of an ambassador the two kingdoms doctrine takes on a new and more plausible meaning for our modern democratic society. As a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom we reside in the world as ambassadors of a spiritual kingdom. The job of an ambassador is to lobby on behalf of their home country, and to a limited degree even participate in without conforming to the culture in which they are placed. This worldly kingdom is not our home, living here is our job.

Jesus laid out the parameters of our job at the end of his time on earth.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

Ambassadors are not part of the society in which they reside they do not make policy and the do not enforce laws. They lobby and promote the interests of their king. As Christ’s ambassadors we are called to lobby on behalf of Jesus and the things he cares about. He opened His earthly ministry by proclaiming “good news for the poor and freedom for the oppressed”. [Luke 4:18].   He preached love for enemies, healed the sick, and gave dignity to foreigners. And then he gave his life in the ultimate act of submission and sacrifice.

Conclusion

On November 8, 2016 the world held its breath while the United States, the world’s largest economy, strongest army and most culturally influential society democratically elected a man and a party whose policies and rhetoric threaten to set social policy back to the 1950s. This man openly opposes immigration, social security, health care, environmental protectionism, and banking regulations aimed at protecting the interests of the working poor. By some accounts four out of five evangelical Christians voted for him. They felt that his stance on certain moral issues like abortion and gay rights was in line enough with their faith that they could look the other way on the ones that clearly aren’t. They felt that to vote for the other candidate would have been to compromise their convictions too much. What they failed to recognize is that as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven their job is not to make decisions in the worldly kingdom but to lobby for change.

I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have voted, (although that is one option open to ambassadors). The sad fact is that no matter who they voted for they had to make a compromise because as ambassadors we have failed in our duty to lobby on behalf of our king.

Luther’s two kingdoms doctrine fails to translate in a modern democracy. Beck’s version is an isolationist fantasy that only works for the Amish or a survivalist cult. In order to be “in the world but not of the world” [John 17:16] we must become better lobbyists and better ambassadors. We must learn to speak truth to power on behalf of our king. We must influence culture without conforming to it. We cannot be afraid to call our brothers and sisters out on their hypocrisy and their compromise. That is our job as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven. If Christ-followers do our job well there is no telling how our influence might grow.

Jesus is Lord!

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4 Keys to Rock Financial Literacy Month


Financial freedom is available to those who learn about it and work for it. [Robert Kiyosaki]

flm2016So November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada.

To be honest, I’m not sure what that means. Personally I don’t put much stock in setting aside specific months, or days to talk about specific issues. Especially issues of day to day significance, like Financial Literacy.

We need to get better at teaching financial literacy in this country. That much is certain.

In 2009 Statistics Canada in conjunction with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), Finance Canada and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, conducted a broad ranging study known as the Canadian Financial Capital Survey. The survey was conducted to shed light on Canadians knowledge, abilities and behavior concerning financial decision making. In other words, how Canadians understand their financial situation, the financial services available to them and their plans for the future. The results were sobering and as a result the agencies involved decided to sponsor Financial Literacy Month every November since 2011.

thumbsdownHow did we do? Overall, Canadians average 67% on the survey. But lower incomes meant lower scores, highlighting the need for financial education, especially in lower income demographics.  Canadians who earned less than $67,000 per year generally received a score of less than 60%, those with incomes of greater than $95,000 generally received a score of 70% or above. The vast majority of Canadians earn between $67,000 and $95,000 per year, making the scores in the mid 60s the most statistically significant.

In my opinion the fact that even so called wealthy Canadians rarely got better than a B on the survey says something not only about the state of financial education in this country but also our expectations about what constitutes financial literacy.

There are a few fundamentals I think everyone must learn in order to be considered financially literate enough to function in society:

1 – Start a Budget.

Budgeting does need to be fancy or scary. If you prefer, call it a spending plan instead because in essence that’s what it is. Start with figuring out how much money you have, spend it all on paper before the month begins and then stick to it. If you’re on a limited or variable income it helps to triage your money as well, break your expenses down into the 3 main categories – Food, Shelter and Transportation, everything else is luxury anyway.

2 – Pay yourself second.

thinkagainYou read that right. Conventional wisdom says pay yourself first but the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong. Instead, pay your highest interest debts first. By doing that, in a way you are still paying yourself first because every dollar spent on interest is a dollar you can’t spend on anything else. Once your debts are under control then paying yourself first makes sense, until then you’re putting the cart before the horse.

3 – Reduce, reuse, recycle

It’s not just a good slogan for environmental responsibility. In terms of financial literacy it could be rephrased as spend less, keep longer and re-purpose. We live in a throw away society. Not only is it hurting our planet, it’s killing our wallets. When done right, environmental responsibility is very economical. Start small, buy a reusable shopping bag and carry your own insulated travel mug, you’ll save anywhere from 5 to 15 cents every time you shop or go for coffee.

4 – Save, save, save

Save for a rainy day by building an emergency fund of at least 3 months of expenses, preferably 6. Save for retirement.  You’ll need enough to replace 70% of your pre-retirement income if you don’t want to take a major hit in your lifestyle once the pay cheques stop coming. And Save for major purchases like kid’s education, new cars and major repairs.

As part of financial literacy month I put together a little quiz of my own. This one focuses on the types of products and services I offer through my financial practice. Check it out here https://laurensheil.typeform.com/to/uC5wUu Add your email address at the end to be entered in a draw for a $25.00 Tim Horton’s Gift Card.

Happy Financial Literacy Month.

“You Pay Your Bills With Cash”


Book Review –“How the Mighty Fall” by James Collins

I read a book yesterday.

That might not sound like a very big accomplishment and to be honest it’s not.

I read a lot. My goal is to read about 25 pages a day. That works out to an average of one book every 10-14 days or so. I read just about everything I can get my hands on. They can be books about business, philosophy, history, theology, biographies or even the odd novel, the type of book isn’t really the point.

I read to learn. Part of my personal mission as a writer and teacher is to always be learning.

Yesterday I started a new book and was so captivated by it that I read the whole thing, just over 200 pages, in one sitting.

“How the Mighty Fall” by James Collins is a study in failure. It’s a study in how once great companies go from good to great to gone and how some companies can recognize the onset of decline and reverse the trend while others can’t or don’t do the work necessary to bailout and repair a sinking ship.

Collins became famous for his first book, “Good to Great” which is a study in how companies break through mere success to iconic greatness. His follow up book “Built to Last” studied how these great companies are then able to maintain their status over the long haul but within that second study Collins began to notice that some companies, even after a long time of sustained greatness would collapse into irrelevance or disappear completely, sometimes with alarming speed.

Collins claim, based on extensive research, is that there are five stages to decline.

  1. Hubris Born of Success
  2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More
  3. Denial of Risk and Peril
  4. Grasping for Salvation
  5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

Companies can appear to be healthy industry leaders right up until they transition from Stage 3 to Stage 4 but in hind sight the writing is on the wall long beforehand as they arrogantly go about their business under the mistaken impression that they are and will remain invincible. In my work as a Financial Coach both to individuals and small business I see the same 5 stages over and over again. In my experience the tipping point comes in Stage 3, its’ how you avoid or manage risk that is the key to survival.

Towards the end of the book Collins tells the story of Professor Bill Lazier who teaches small business management at Stanford. He begins his course with a case study in failure and asks the class what the central issue was as the company collapsed. These are MBA students that are used to looking at macroeconomic forces and strategic planning so at first the answers he gets are a grand analysis of big schemes and outside forces.

“No! Think!” is Lazier’s response to these egg-head answers. Eventually a student will somewhat sheepishly venture what seems so simplistic that it couldn’t possibly by right, this is an graduate class at one of the most prestigious universities in the world after all. They will say something like “they can’t make payroll next week, they are out of cash.”

At that point Lazier will jump up and write in huge capital letters two-feet high, CASH. “You pay your bills with cash! Never forget, you can be profitable on paper and bankrupt at the same time.”

Cash is king. Everyone knows that, especially when you are first starting out in life or business, but as we become more and more successful we can get drawn in to the North American lifestyle of buy now, pay later, so we forget that. When available cash is replaced by access to credit and the whole system gets flipped on its head.

The key lesson I took from this book is the simple fact that we must pay our bills with cash.

We may be able to buy on credit, we may even be able to extend credit and pay off one card with a different one but all this is a fool’s errand! Eventually you will have to pay – in cash. Buy now pay later is always replaced with pay now or else.

To a large extent the North American way of life was built on what sociologists and historians have dubbed The Protestant Ethic. Max Webber literally wrote the book on it in 1904, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” originally published in Germany in 1905, put words to a sentiment that had been growing in western democracies for over two centuries. Simply put the Protestant Ethic says that time is money and there is honor in any work that contributes to the common good.  In addition, wealth comes to those who diligently work at their given task and spend less than they make.

But another social-economist, Daniel Bell would later note in the 1970s that the Protestant Ethic was dead due mainly to the invention of credit. Bell published his seminal work on the demise of the Protestant Ethic and the rise of capitalism, “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism” in 1976 at a time when interest rates and inflation were on the rise, and for the first time since the Second World War people were spending less and going deeper into debt.

The Protestant Ethic is undermined not by modernism but by capitalism itself. The greatest single engine in the destruction of the Protestant Ethic was the invention of the installment plan, or instant credit. – Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

Now, according to Bell you can achieve the trappings of wealth quickly without completing the work previously required to get there. And that contradicts the basics of capitalism and capital allocation. Buy now pay later is just horrible planning and fundamentally wrong both ethically and mathematically.

And so, we come full circle. As a Financial Coach I see it every day. The Protestant Ethic, if not completely dead as Bell would have it, is indeed on life-support, put there by continued access to easy credit. Paying in cash is viewed as a curiosity at most retail institutions and downright discouraged at others. (Ever try to book a hotel room, or buy a car with cash?) In recent years central banks have continually lowered interest rates in order to encourage people to borrow ever more money so that they continue to spend money and keep this giant wheel called the economy moving.

People who refuse to take part in debt fueled spending are dismissed as “old fashioned” and even looked upon by their peers as a bit delusional, to be pitied as folks who just don’t know how to enjoy life. I know, I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of derision more than once.

But – At that end of the day, as Professor Lazier likes to so dramatically point out to his students – “You Pay Your Bills in Cash!” Staying on top of cash flow is the first, second and last thing every person interested in building wealth needs to get a handle on. Without it you become locked in a perpetual cycle of working for the things you’ve already consumed and continually mortgaging your future for the things you think you want now. You’re taking on more risk than you can handle and you’re teetering on the edge of Stage 4 decline. Once you start grasping at straws in order to stay afloat, the dominos start falling quickly and it’s a short trip to the bottom.

Contact me for more information on how we can help you return to the Protestant Ethic, work hard, save for the future, and get out of debt before you reach the tipping point to stage 4 decline and it’s too late do anything about it.

 

 

 

Under pressure – 3 steps to making things better


Money worries are never far from mind – but did you know they can also affect your health?

Whether it’s a looming deadline at work or a race to get out the door on time, we all get stressed sometimes. But too much stress can be overwhelming – and according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, chronic stress can have an impact on our lives. Being stressed out affects our ability to concentrate and our self-confidence. It can even lead to sleep difficulties, headaches and more frequent illness.

While plenty of things in life may cause us to feel stressed, one of the biggest culprits is money. Before I faced facts and went bankrupt in 2005 I was losing a lot of sleep and it seemed like the headaches would never go away.

And far from just anecdotal, the evidence is strong. According to a national survey by the Financial Planning Standards Council, 42 per cent of Canadians now rank finances as their number-one source of stress. That’s not surprising when you consider how financially stretched we are. As we work to save for retirement and pay for our kids’ education, we’re also dealing with more debt than ever before. As I have noted many times, for the first time in our 147 year history, Canada’s consumer-debt-to-income ratio (total household debt compared to disposable income) topped 163.3 percent in 2014 as we take on debt to pay for homes, cars and vacations.

And these money worries are affecting our health. A recent study but Manulife and Ipso Reid shows that financial stress can take a toll on our mental and physical well-being – and even affect us on the job. Here are a few key findings:

  • 76 per cent of those who report high stress levels say the state of their finances is partly or entirely to blame.
  • Highly stressed individuals are significantly less likely to be motivated to do their best at work or feel they have a healthy work-life balance.
  • Those who are very comfortable with their current financial situation are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy and are 1.5 times more likely to report that they are in good health. They are also more likely to be exercising regularly.

While being in poor financial shape can cause a lot of anxiety, (I know, I’ve been there), the good news is there are ways to help fix it. In fact, making improvements to your financial health can have a positive impact on your personal well-being. If you’re feeling stressed because of money issues, here are three steps you can take to help make things better:

 

  1. Face it. Finding money to contribute to your retirement savings or dealing with a drawer full of unpaid bills can seem like monumental tasks. Even today, over a decade later I struggle with this one, it’s easy to set your bills aside and forget about them, especially if you don’t have the money right now. But if I don’t stay on top of my bills I know that there will be a painful reckoning in the not too distant future. The longer you ignore your financial situation, the worse your stress is likely to get. Facing the issue is the first step towards improving matters and alleviating your stress. Open up to your spouse, your advisor and others who can help you take control of your finances. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can begin to tackle the issue head-on.
  2. Make a plan. Having a concrete strategy in place, such as a debt repayment plan, can help you feel more positive and in control of your future. I can work with you to assess your goals and put together a step-by-step plan to achieve them. Step one of my six steps to financial freedom is Dominate Debt.
  3. Have fun. Whether it’s a walk in the park or a nice dinner at home, make room for relaxation and fun. Laughter and friendship are excellent stress-busters. Find low-cost or free ways to let off some steam and enjoy life.

Remember: your finances don’t have to drag down your health. If you address your money worries, you might just find you have a lot more to be positive about than you thought. In fact, talking to someone and taking steps towards financial wellness can lead to a happier and healthier you.

Contact us today and start taking control of your finances for a better tomorrow.  Or as I say around here nearly every day, “Take Action Today That Your Future Self Will Thank You For.”

Mercy, Mercy Me, (The Ecology) – Pacifist Lamentations Part 2


Woo ah, mercy mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east
Woo mercy, mercy me, mercy father
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no [Marvin Gaye, 1971]

earthonfireWhat is the role of mankind upon the earth?

According to Genesis Chapter one, mankind was made in the image of God. That’s all of us as I wrote about last week in the first installment of this series on why I am a pacifist and why I believe pacifism is the true calling of the Christ-Follower.

Continuing from where I left off in the scriptures we read this:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28]

If we stop there it becomes fairly easy to justify all of the ways in which mankind has been raping and pillaging the earth for the last hundred or so years. This is the mindset that is prevalent among most climate change deniers on the so called “Christian” right and the mindset that has permeated the corporate world, politics and average humans since the 1960s.

When Rachel Carson, an employee of the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, first published her research into the disappearance of certain bird species in the book Silent Spring no one had even heard of Global Warming. That was 1962 but Carson had been studying bird populations in the US Mid-West for over a decade at that point.

The book documented the detrimental effects on the environment, caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation about the safety of their products. Not surprisingly the book drew fierce criticism from corporate America, specifically companies like DOW Chemical and Monsanto. But as a result of Carson’s undaunted pursuit of the truth and meticulous documentation she was eventually credited with starting the debate that resulted in the North America wide banning of DDT and many other similar pesticides.

But the work Rachel Carson started more than 50 years ago is far from done. And the naysayers have been far from silenced.

In 2013 it was widely reported that 97.2 percent of scientists believe that humans are playing a major role in climate change. Another way to say that is that is if you put 100 scientists in a room together, 97 of them would think the remaining 3 are idiots! But if that’s what the experts say then why is it that only 33 percent of people in the general public believe them?

smokestackAs a Christ-follower and a pacifist, I believe that part of the blame lies with our incomplete and misdirected understanding of the creation story from Genesis.  We have been taught that the role of mankind on the earth is to “rule over” and “subdue” our environment. In so doing we have inadvertently and irrevocably changed it. As Marvin Gaye sang so eloquently in 1971, a result of our ruler ship, “things ain’t what they used to be.” And we continually refuse to see the evidence that is right in front of our eyes. We caused this. And if we continue on this path we will continue to cause ever increasingly severe and irrevocable damage to our domain.

But there is another way to look at creation. You don’t even really have to read between the lines or change your interpretation of Genesis 1:28, you just have to keep reading and see what else God says about mankind’s role in creation.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Genesis 2:15]

Do you see it?

“Take care” of it!

Ruler ship from the perspective of a caretaker is very different from ruler ship from the perspective of a master. If mankind is the master of this world then we have no one to answer to but ourselves and there are no consequences for our actions. Many climate change deniers, when backed into a corner and forced to acknowledge the evidence will use as a last line of defense some variation of the notion that sure maybe there is something going on that we have caused but it will take so long for the ice caps to melt that we won’t be around to see it and future generations will have time to evolved and adapt.

This is not only rude and callus, it’s just wrong on several fronts!

sewingseedsThe fact is there is a master and He is not us. We are merely caretakers of His creation. Caretakers have to take responsibility for their actions, maintain balance and submit to the authority of the master. They have to do their jobs and then hand over the garden to the next generation in as good or better shape than they found it. It’s not ours we don’t have the authority to alter it irrevocably. We are merely caretakers.

As a Christ-follower and a pacifist my role in all of this is to remain conscious and consciences about how I am altering the environment. And make no mistake; I am altering it, that’s unavoidable. I must be aware of the amounts of carbon and methane that I personally cause to be released into the air and do my part to control and mitigate the damage that I do. If I do my job well I can hand over the reins to my replacement, the next generation, without saddling them with an unmanageable problem that I caused.

God created me to rule over His creation, not as the ultimate master but in submission to His will and His design. God created me to be a caretaker for Him. And that is what I believe is the only proper response of a Christ-follower on questions of environmentalism and climate change.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and my Pacifist Lamentations write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or go to Twitter and follow the hashtag #pacifistlaments.  Stay tuned to this space for the next installment of Pacifist Lamentations where I plan to discuss the problem of evil from the perspective of pacifism.

Houston – You Have A Problem!


houstonLet me say it again – You have a problem!

Everyone who has ever lived, currently living and will ever live has the same problem.

There is no solution to this problem.

But there is a way to make it seem a little less scary and a little less painful for the people around you, the people you love and the people who depend on you to solve the problem.

What is this unsolvable, 100% unavoidable problem?

 

 

You’re going to die!

Probably not today and probably not tomorrow, hopefully maybe not for a very long time, but the probability that you will die is 100%. There is no cure coming for the end of your life. There are no research labs, no doctors and no scientists working on a cure for death. Sure they are trying to figure out ways to combat certain diseases and we are all living longer but that just creates another problem, the problem of outliving your money.

But one problem at a time.

Everybody dies. That’s a fact.

I cannot solve this problem. No one can. But we can make it a little less painful for you and the people you love.

How?

Insurance!

Life Insurance to be exact. But let’s be clear, you actually don’t need life insurance. You don’t need it because it’s not about you. Simply put Life Insurance is money for your loved ones when they need it the most.

Money when they are hurting, your income suddenly stops, your debts come due and you are no longer there to do all the things you do to keep your family safe and secure.

coupleattableLet’s be honest, money can’t replace everything you bring to this world. It can’t hold your partner’s hand and tell them everything is going to be all right. It can’t drive your kids to hockey practice, give them dating and career advice or make a toast at their wedding. But it can make sure your family gets as close to a normal life as possible if the unthinkable happens.

Money can ensure a measure of stability, help your kids get an education, find happiness and have families of their own.  And that’s the ultimate goal right?

So I’ll say it one last time – You have a problem!

There is no real solution to your problem. But you can at least make it a little less painful for the people you love.

My name is Lauren C. Sheil. I’m a Financial Security Advisor. And my mission is to help you solve your money problems. I want to help you live life to the fullest, even though all good things must come to an end, and to teach you live debt free, build wealth and leave a legacy.

Call or text me today for a FREE, no obligation consultation: 613-295-4141

Let’s solve some problems.