Here are a couple interviews with financial expert and columnist Liz Pulliam Weston and Pay Yourself First Challenge winner Kristen Shaul.
1. First of all, congratulations on winning! You definitely accomplished much and I commend you and your husband. What was the hardest part of the whole experience? And the easiest?
The hardest part would have been finding a balance between cutting our expenses and going too far sacrificing small pleasures that add value to our life. On top of that, it was difficult creating a system where both Michael and I had a small fund that we could spend out of guilt free. After a couple months of tension we found a solution that both bolstered our savings, while allowing each person to spend on whatever they liked without feeling like they were taking from the family budget.
The easiest was finding alternative revenues on the side. Especially in those early months of the competition (the fall of 2008), the local economy in Omaha was still very strong. Add to that an integrated network in the community through Michael’s family, and we found it easy to find ways to earn extra cash. Although the jobs themselves required hard work, the opportunities were plentiful.
2. I’ve read on your blog about your giving. How has faith played a role in your finances and your choice of career?
Our relationship with GOD through JESUS is the foundation of our life. We chose our path in this world based upon our understanding of GOD’s heart for the nations through the Bible, as well as personal experiences we have had which burdened us to give our lives to HIM through missions. Following JESUS affects both the large decisions in our life (career path), as well as the everyday choices we make (having a family budget, impulse buying, finding the highest yield savings account, etc.). Everything that we have is HIS, we are simply administering it for a short time. We want to honor HIM in our administration.
3. How has living in another country changed your perspective on life? On the United States?
On a heart level, living in a developing country has broken us with the reality that so many live in poverty. So many people around the world live in hardship, without opportunities to live the ‘good life’ so many take for granted. This has changed the ways in which we see money, time, and investing ourselves. The reality is there is a lot of injustice out there. No perfect formula exists by which we can measure acceptable spending versus selfish spending, but our hearts have led us personally to minimize what we consume on ourselves, and maximize what we can do for underprivileged peoples. While the United States gives more aid than any other country, we still see wasteful consumption all around. Our take is most people just don’t realize what the world is out there. Because both Michael and I grew up in the United States we understand the normalcy that our culture teaches towards self-centered living. Many of us were taught that way, it’s something that has been passed down for generations, making it not completely our fault. We were privileged to have the opportunity to go and see ourselves what it’s like to. And it changed our life. But facts are facts: the US is the richest country in the history of the world, and billions of people are barley getting by.
We believe that we have been blessed so that we can bless others. Our lives should be a conduit of blessing. If we are faithful in what we have been given, GOD will continue to increase HIS blessing to us in order to reach more and more people. For those of us who are so fortunate to have been born in the States, we have a responsibility to do well with what we have. To him that has been given much, much will be expected. And we have found it is a joy doing it!
4. You seem to have a great relationship with your husband. What would be your best piece of advice to newlyweds?
Create the time and the space necessary to adjust to married life. Don’t go crazy with work schedules; instead maximize your time together. Learn to very open, and very honest with each other. Fluid communication is key in the beginning of marriage (not the mention the rest of it!). Discover those little things that you can both enjoy doing together. And finally, keep things simple, and keep love the center.
5. And finally, who is the role model who has made the biggest impact on you?
There has been a lot of people who I have looked up to over the years, it’s hard to pick just one. But someone who sticks out would be a woman named Kathryn Wilson. Her and her husband Thomi have been involved in missions (both local and abroad) for years. They did it well while raising a family of five kids. When I began doing missions work as a youth, they were my first leaders, and for years Kathryn took me under her wing. She taught me to believe in who GOD made me to be, to serve like CHRIST, and to work hard. I owe a lot of who I am today to her.
Check out Kristen’s personal blog and consider helping her and her husband’s ministry.
1. Liz, being a widely read personal finance writer, what’s the single best piece of advice you can give given the economic climate that we’re in right now?
Remember: This too shall pass. We can’t know the exact shape the future will bring, but we know things always change, and every economic cycle in the past has eventually worked itself out. This one is no different.
2. As this is a Christian based blog, what role do you think faith can play in finances?
I think gratitude should play a role in everyone’s finances. We can give thanks for all that we’ve been given by sharing with others.
3. What advice can you give someone who is out of a job and is desperately searching for one but doesn’t seem to making any progress?
Make a list of everyone you know-and I mean everyone, from your grade-school buddies to your coworkers at every one of your previous jobs to people you know from church to your relatives-and let them know you’re looking. Many people find jobs through their “weak” links or the people they don’t know that well. In other words, the co-worker from three jobs ago may be more likely than your best friend to find you your next job.
4. How important is an emergency fund especially now?
Money in the bank has always helped you sleep better at night, and it’s particularly important now as more people are lose their jobs and stay unemployed longer.
But you still have to coordinate an emergency fund with your other priorities. If you still have a job and aren’t facing an immediate layoff, I wouldn’t stop saving for retirement or halt your credit card repayment plans to build up your emergency fund. It’s tough, but you need to make progress on all fronts.
5. And finally, being so knowledgeable on finances, who or what has made the greatest impact on your financial education and what do you think every high school or college student should know about money?
My mom. She believed in saving for a rainy day, avoiding debt, investing for the long term and sharing with others. If we could convince every graduate to save at least 10% of their incomes, pay their credit card bills in full every month, invest for retirement starting with their first job and give regularly to charities, then most money problems would be a thing of the past.
Liz Pulliam Weston is the most-read personal finance columnist on the Internet and writes for MSN Money and several newspapers including the L.A. Times and others. She has also authored several books on personal finance. Check out her website or follow her on Twitter.