Millennials want to change the world. They’re passionate about living lives of purpose and meaning. Unfortunately, they’re often prevented from pursuing their passions because of vast loads of financial debt.
According to Business Insider, millennials hold $1.1 trillion of consumer debt—nearly a third of all consumer debt in the United States even though they make up only a quarter of the population. Millennials also account for more than half of people who say they’re worried about defaulting on their loans.
How did millennials get into so much financial trouble? They’ve received little financial training, college tuition has skyrocketed during their lifetimes, and student loans have become as easy to get as candy canes on Christmas. This combination of factors has landed many millennials in debt, unable to achieve their goals. With all this debt, it’s harder to buy a home, own a car, save for retirement, and start a family. Many millennials are asking how they can make a difference in the world when they can barely make their debt payments.
We’ve been there, too. No two situations are ever the same—and we don’t want to be overly prescriptive where this becomes gospel truth—but we do believe God has provided his people with principles to help manage money.
Here are four common attitudes about money God wants to change in the lives of his followers.
1. Replace ‘It’s mine’ with ‘It’s God’s.’
Many of us look at our money, possessions, and talents as our own to do with as we please. We can have an attitude of ownership and pride. Deuteronomy 8:17–18 warns us against this attitude and reminds us God gives the power to obtain wealth. Psalm 24:1 tells us the earth and everything in it belongs to God. Acknowledging these truths leads us to view ourselves as stewards instead of owners.
A steward asks, “God, what would you have me do with these gifts you’ve given me?” For many, this shift in mindset revolutionizes every financial decision.
2. Replace ‘You only live once!’ with ‘You live better with wisdom.’
YOLO. Who hasn’t blamed an impulsive act on this catchphrase? But too often “YOLO” is the attitude behind foolish financial behavior, an excuse to overspend now and deal with the consequences later. While it feels good in the moment, overspending sentences us to less freedom in the future.
The antidote to YOLO is the wisdom from God’s Word. Scripture teaches five basic money-management principles that, if followed, keep us financially secure and feeling good for longer than a moment:
(1) Spend less than you earn.
(2) Minimize the use of debt (and follow biblical principles when taking on debt).
(3) Give generously.
(4) Maintain an emergency fund.
(5) Set long-term goals.
Walking in wisdom flings open the door to financial freedom in this life.
3. Replace ‘Don’t tell me what to do!’ with ‘I trust your plan for me.’
Materialism and debt are rooted in an insatiable desire for control. They say, “I can get what I want when I want it.” When we cling tightly to money and things, we refuse to trust God is in control. Walking in faith before him causes us to relinquish our need to control and frees us to trust him as the one who meets our needs.
4. Replace ‘A little more money will solve my problems’ with ‘I’m grateful for what I have right now.’
The most basic principle in managing money is to spend less than we make. Most of us focus on making more instead of spending less. The problem is that if you can’t spend less than you’re making today, then you’ll still struggle to do it when you’re making more.
The problem isn’t with the amount of money we make, but with our hearts.
The problem isn’t with the amount of money we make, but with our hearts. Most of us haven’t learned to be content with the lifestyle God has given us right now. We must learn to live within today’s income by being grateful for what we have. By cultivating contentment, we’ll free our hearts from the dangerous allure of using debt to fund our lifestyle.
Practical Tips to Try Today
When you change these attitudes, you move from feeling burdened by debt to experiencing contentment and freedom. You’ll be poised to take initiative to tackle debt, overspending, and other difficult financial realities from a place of confidence.
To reset your beliefs about money, commit to believing that all your money belongs to God, that he has a plan for you, and that what you have today is exactly the right amount. Then, scan through the following practical financial tips and choose one or two you can start to implement this week:
- Set a budget, review it weekly, and find a friend to ask you every week if you’re sticking to it.
- Start giving regularly to your church. Honoring God with your income is a way to acknowledge God’s ownership and your dependence.
- Set aside $1,000 in an emergency fund and make a list ahead of time of what would define an “emergency” for you.
- Pay off debt with the debt snowball. If you have high-interest credit cards, car loans, or other consumer debt, start tackling those first.
- Set aside three to six months of living expenses in a separate bank account.
- Set one-year, five-year, and 15-year financial goals. Ask God to show you what goals he has for you.
- Start saving toward your goals and retirement. Consider setting aside 10 percent of your income into retirement savings.
- Gain a deeper understanding of what the Bible says about money. Read Never Enough? or work through the God Owns It All Bible study.