Last week in part 1 of this series I introduced you to Andy Stanley’s book, Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions. The book talks about the most important question to ask before making any decision. That question is not is it the right thing to do. The question is “Is it the wise thing to do?”.
There are many choices we make every day. Sometimes the choices we make aren’t necessarily wrong. But they are not wise. This is especially true in our financial decisions. There is nothing wrong with buying a new car, for example, but depending on your situation it may not be a wise choice. We looked at several of these situations last week. I think so many times when we find ourselves in a financial mess, it isn’t because we have done something wrong. It is because we have a pattern of making decisions that are unwise.
So, that leads to the question. If you want to make wiser decisions but are unsure of what to do, how do you learn to make wiser decisions?
Know what you don’t know
The path to wisdom starts with humility. Wise people know what they don’t know.
But sometimes that hurts our pride a but. Guys especially sometimes feel like it is our job to know. How many jokes are based around men’s infamous refusal to stop and ask for directions when we are lost? Seeking counsel is not something that always comes very naturally to us.
Consider this though. Why do all great athletes have coaches? Coaches help them see things that they can’t see from the midst of the action and improve even in areas where they already excel. If superstar athletes can benefit from the advice of a coach then perhaps we can learn from wise counsel in our financial matters.
6 ways to find wisdom
As a Christian I believe wisdom starts with our Heavenly Father. James 1:5 tells us:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
The first place we should always turn is our Heavenly Father. And yet, I am shamed to admit how often I make financial decisions without really stopping to pray about it first. Or if I do stop to pray, it is after I have already decided what I want to do and and I’m just hoping for God to “bless” the decision I already made.
When we are unsure of what to do or even if we do think we know, the first step should always be to pray and ask God for guidance.
The book of wisdom
Second, and related to the first, is ask yourself if the Bible has anything to say about your decisions. Particularly, when it comes to financial decisions check out the book of Proverbs. It is known as the book of wisdom and so much of that wisdom is related to financial matters. If you have never done it I would encourage you to simply read through the book of Proverbs and as you go highlight every verse you find that relates to money, work, business, investing, etc. I am convinced that if all you ever did was apply the financial principles found in the book of Proverbs, you would have a pretty successful life.
If you are new to the Bible and are looking to find out what it really says about money, The Financial Stewardship Bible is a good place to get started. There are over 2300 scriptures in the Bible that relate to money and the folks at Compass Financial Ministries helped to create this version with those scriptures highlighted and devotions to help you understand what the Bible has to say about money.
Consult your spouse
If you are married, talk it over with your spouse. We all come from different perspectives and see things in different ways. Proverbs 31:10-11 says:
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.
And I don’t think it is bending the scripture too far to flip that and say an excellent husband is worth more than jewels and his wife trusts him and will have no lack of gain.
There is an old saying that two are better than one, and I believe this part of God’s plan for marriage. If you are looking at a major financial decision and your partner has misgivings about it, you would be wise to heed those concerns and slow down until you are both in agreement.
Seek a mentor
Like successful athletes who find a coach, most successful people find mentors to help them learn wise decision-making.
One great way to find wisdom is to find someone who has already been successful and learn how they did it. If you want a great marriage talk to that couple in their 70’s that has been married for 50 years and still hold hands. Talk to them and learn how they did it.
By the same token if you want to be financially successful, find someone who has done well and offer to buy them lunch. Pick their brains. Ask questions. Learn from their successes and their mistakes.
Find good advisers
No matter how smart you may be no one can be an expert in all areas. Some things like taxes, real estate, or investing can be very complicated if you do not deal with them everyday.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22
Find a good professional to help you in areas where you don’t have a lot of experience. The key to finding a good adviser though is finding someone who is willing to help you understand what you don’t know. Never do something just because an adviser told you to. If you don’t understand it, ask questions until you do. If the adviser can’t explain it or tries to belittle your lack of understanding it is time to find a new adviser.
A good adviser is one who will help you learn what you don’t know so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.
Commit to being a lifelong learner
You might never have the opportunity to have lunch with some of the brightest financial minds around. But there is a way that you can learn from them even if you never meet.
Find books by people you admire and read. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out my Bookshelf for some great books to get you started
Take a class. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a great class. This class changed our financial lives and I have since led many people through the course. There are no magic bullets. Following the plan requires sacrifice at least for a while, especially if you have a bit of a mess. But if you do the things Dave teaches you can truly change your life.
I love podcasts and I think they are a great way to learn. Podcasts are kind of like free, on-demand, radio programs that you can listen to anytime you want. There are thousands of great podcasts out there on practically every topic you can imagine from sports to hobbies to politics and current events to history and literature. You name it. And of course there are hundreds of great podcasts that deal with financially related topics. Check out 8 of my favorite financial podcasts for some ideas to get started.
Making wiser choices
Be willing to be teachable. Sometimes we choose not to seek counsel because in our hearts we already know what we should do but we want to do something else.
So many of our financial choices are really not a matter of right or wrong, They are a matter of wise and unwise.
One final thing I will say. All of us have regrets. Decisions that we have made that as we reflect back we realize were not very wise. We can’t change the past. What is done is done. Give yourself the grace to forgive yourself for past mistakes.
We all have made choices we wish we could redo. That’s part of life.