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Notebook Money

More money talk

(Catherine Lane/istock, modified by WORLD)

Money

More money talk

Helpful habits for giving and saving

Since my Oct. 15 article about having a “money talk” with children, I’ve received lots of emails with money stories and recommendations. The comments and questions are so helpful I can’t resist sharing a few.

First, my most glaring omission: tithing. “Put God and His people first,” one reader put it, “i.e., start with tithing.” Another reader recommended “the 10-10-10 rule.” “With every penny that you get, put 10 percent in a bucket for the church/work of the Lord, put 10 percent in a retirement account, and put 10 percent in a rainy day emergency fund.” The New Testament doesn’t explicitly tell us to tithe 10 percent, but as my former ­pastor James Montgomery Boice often pointed out, surely we should give at least as much as God instructed the people of Israel to give, given the spiritual riches He has lavished on us in Christ.

One reader asked whether we should worry that the diversified mutual funds I and others advocate may be investing in immoral companies. A few companies are inherently immoral—such as a company that makes pornographic movies. Other companies have troubling policies or make troubling contributions. If your mutual fund buys stock in every ­company in the market, your money will go to companies like these.

Some mutual funds address this concern by investing only in companies they deem to be sufficiently moral. I think this is an admirable alternative, but determining which companies are immoral is difficult. Some call tobacco or liquor companies immoral, while others don’t. So many companies contribute to Planned Parenthood—directly or through their employees—or have other morally problematic policies that removing all of them would greatly reduce the breadth of the fund.

I personally invest in traditional indexed mutual funds, rather than seeking out funds that “screen” the companies they invest in. Since the fund is investing in the market or ­sector as a whole, it doesn’t seem nearly as morally problematic as ­singling out an immoral company for investment. But it is important to know that the fund’s net will catch bad fish as well as good ones.

Multiple readers recommended teaching children how to balance a checkbook. Although many millennials barely know what a check is, this still is good advice. Those of us who write far fewer checks than we once did may still need our checkbooks for online banking. I also find the monthly balancing exercise a great way to practice simple math skills. I put my calculator aside until it’s time to double-check—though I’m not much fun to be around during this monthly exercise.

One reader described a 21st-century version of the old-fashioned checkbook. He and his children record each credit card transaction as if it were a check. This is a great way to keep tabs on your credit card use, and also to spot any unauthorized or fraudulent transactions on your credit card bill. Even if you aren’t quite this diligent, it’s a good idea to keep your credit card receipts and double-check them at the end of the month. If you discover an unauthorized charge and report it promptly, most credit card companies will reverse the charge, and they are legally required to cover any amount over $50.

Readers have offered many other words of advice as well. I’ve repeatedly been impressed by the wisdom of the recommendations and that they start in just the right place: Biblical teaching about whom our money really belongs to and how we should use it.