Thursday, July 31, 2008

Church Finances - Trap or Launch Pad?

It does not take long to read or hear of stories about churches experiencing difficulty in the area of finances. Pastors and staff can get into serious issues as can Treasurers and secretaries. Audit can be expensive for smaller churches with many claiming their worth little.

What can you do to make sure your church financial house is in order?

  • Have a yearly REVIEW (see some options available here) that will walk you and your leadership team through the finances from top to bottom and then give your church a full explanation.
  • Learn how you can share insights weekly with your people without sounding self serving.
  • Know how to develop and keep accountability.
  • Train your lay teams in Church Finances and learn to develop a team approach!
  • Determine to never get lazy in the area of stewardship - it will cost you!

Eklund Stewardship works with many churches in the area of Budgeting, Spending Plans, and Reviews to prevent the disaster from occuring. We would love to hear from you concerning your needs. We love the role that God has provided in allowing us to partner with you in living out the true reality of STEWARDSHIP in your church. You can avoid the messes that are being read about today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Five Signs You Are In Financial Trouble

Sign No. 1 - Your Credit Score is Below 600
Credit bureaus keep track of your payment history, outstanding loan balances and legal judgments against you. They then use this information to compile a credit score that reflects your credit worthiness. The numerical rankings go from a low of 300 to high of 850. The higher the better. It's this score that lenders use to determine whether they'll grant a loan. In general, any credit score below 600 means that you are probably in over your head.

Sign No. 2 - You are Saving Less Than 5%
In 2005, the average rate of personal savings was an astonishing -0.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That means that not only were we spending all of our income, but also that a good number of us were also dipping into personal savings. This was the worst savings rate that Americans have recorded since 1933 when it was -0.7% during the Great Depression. The rate has bounced back into positive territory, but in 2008, it still hadn't cracked 1%A savings rate below 5% means you could be in real danger of financial ruin if someone in your family were to have a medical emergency, or your family home were to burn to the ground. With savings this low, it likely means you wouldn't even have the money to pay the necessary insurance deductibles. Ideally, everyone should try to save as much as they can, but in terms of targets, the rule most financial advisors suggest is 10% of your gross income. Beginning at age 30, if you were to save 10% of your $100,000 annual income in your 401(k), or $10,000 every year, and earn a rate of return of 5%, that money would grow to more than $900,000 by age 65.

Sign No. 3 - Your Credit Card Balances are Rising
If you are one of those people who pays only the minimum due on their credit card balance each month, or if you send in only a small contribution toward the principal balance, then you are most likely in over your head. Ideally, you should only charge what you can pay off at the end of each month. When you can't afford to pay off the balance in its entirety, you should try to make at least some contribution toward the outstanding principal. The importance of paying down credit card balances as soon as possible cannot be understated. A person with $5,000 in credit card debt that makes the minimum payment of just $200 per month will end up spending more than $8,000 and take almost 13 years to pay off that debt.

Sign No. 4 - More Than 28% of Income Goes To Your House
Calculate what percentage of your monthly income goes toward your mortgage, property taxes and insurance. If it's more than 28% of your gross income, then you are likely in over your head.
Why is 28% the magic number? Historically, conservative lenders have used the 28% threshold because their experience has told them that this is the rate at which the average person can get by, make their mortgage payments and still enjoy a reasonable standard of living. Certainly, some homeowners can get by spending a higher percentage on their homes, particularly if they cut back elsewhere, but it's a dangerous line to walk.
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Sign No. 5 - Your Bills are Spiraling Out of Control
Buying on credit and paying by installment has become a national pastime. It's much easier to buy a new flatscreeen TV when the salesman breaks down the price in monthly installments. What's an extra $50 per month, right? The problem is that all of these bills start to add up, and you end up nickel and diming yourself into bankruptcy. If your monthly income is being sliced and diced to pay for dozens of unnecessary installment purchases and services, you are likely in over your head.

Lay out all of your monthly bills on your kitchen table, and go through them one by one. Do you have a cell phone bill, a PDA bill, an internet bill, a premium cable TV package, a satellite radio bill, and all of those other gadgets that generate countless monthly bills? Ask yourself whether each product or service is really necessary. For example, do you really need a 500-channel premium cable TV package, or would you really notice the difference if you had fewer channels (and paid less)?

Some of the best places to find savings include your telephone bills (cell and land line), your utility bills (turn off the lights, and don't run the air conditioning if nobody is home) and your entertainment expenses (you could stand to dine out less and to pack a lunch for work).

Bottom Line, as a nation, we are digging ourselves ever deeper into debt. To avoid becoming part of the gloomy bankruptcy and foreclosure statistics, it's important to measure your financial health regularly. The five signs presented here are not a death sentence; instead, they should be seen as symptoms that allow you to diagnose a problem before it gets worse.

Being a Steward should be a top priority for everyone! We will not be able to reach the world if we cannot get a handle on our daily lives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

5 Keys About God and Stewardship

If we are to live and teach STEWARDSHIP we need to know the keys that form the foundation in our lives. Believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ should operate according to the following master KEYS OF STEWARDSHIP:

# 1 - God is the creator and supreme giver. Psalm 24: 1 "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Thus there is not any room for us to claim ownership - God owns it all.

#2 - God is the sustainer of all things. He as creator is the one who knows how to sustain it. Not us! He gives life. Our job is to be obedient and to accomplish His will - not ours or our thoughts! We are not needed apart from our limited role as STEWARDS.

#3 - God is the one enables us to accomplish! James 1: 17 "every good and perfect gift is from above. God has enough of everything. He never lacks anything. He works to help us in our obedience to to get His best in, and working through, our lives.

#4 - God is a God abundance. He has more than you and I can imagine or even dream! It is His desire for us to soar. We limit ourselves. We need to seek His desires and His parameters.

#5 - God is a God of Grace! He is the all time most loving and most forgiving of all! He is also the ultimate Steward in every way, all of the time.

Next, we will look at what it means to be a Steward. Are you ready for 2009 Budget preparation? Eklund Stewardship can help!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Some tips for Gas Savings

Here are a collection of tips to help you save money with your car:

UPS squeezes every last drop of mileage from its fleet of 94,000 vehicles, saving 3 million gallons of gas a year. Some expert tips:
Plan ahead. Map out the most efficient routes and make single stops for multiple tasks in the same area. "Do all your work in one trip," says Jack Levis of UPS, "and time your trips so you don't run into congestion."
Keep moving. "Left turns waste time and energy," says UPS spokesperson Donna Barrett — you don't want the engine idling at a green light while you wait for oncoming traffic to pass. When you do make a planned stop, turn off the engine.

Avoid aggressive driving. "Drive as if you had a hard-boiled egg between your foot and the gas pedal," says John H. Davis, host of PBS's MotorWeek. "It's OK to break the eggshell, but you can't squash it." By observing speed limits and avoiding abrupt starts and stops, you can increase mileage by 5% on city streets and up to 33% on the highway &mdash that's $27 per 20-gallon fill-up.
Control your speed. Using cruise control automatically reduces the amount of fuel you burn on the highway. When you set your speed, keep in mind that gas mileage decreases dramatically when you exceed 60 mph. Stick to the right lane, and you can reduce your fuel consumption by up to 20%.
Lighten your load. An extra 100 pounds of weight reduces mileage by as much as 2%, the equivalent of 8 cents per gallon. In other words, you can save up to $50 per year simply by cleaning out your trunk.
Don't idle. If traffic is at a standstill, turn off the engine. An hour of idling can swallow a gallon of gas. Also, avoid long lines at drive-through windows. You'll save money by going inside.

Roll up your windows. It may seem odd, but you'll get better summer mileage by cranking the A/C on the highway, since open windows create drag at high speeds. (If you're just running errands around town, fresh air is best.)
Maintain a sleek profile. Avoid accessories like luggage racks, which increase drag, and keep your tailgate upright. Fix any dents, especially to the front of the car. A high-gloss finish won't help your mileage much, but keeping the body straight will.

Doing a little can save you a little and that is good STEWARDSHIP!