Staying Together Chapter Eight: Putting Your Money Where Your Value Is

4 09 2017

Note: This thirteen-week blog series will share a snippet from each chapter of our new book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve & Mary Prokopchak. This book is now available through House to House Publications.

If your goal was to tear apart your marriage, money arguments would certainly help. But marriage is not about me and mine; it’s about us and ours.

Mary and I already confessed to you that our biggest disagreements early on in our marriage had to do with money. We talked about our differences in how we valued and viewed finances. But what we didn’t discuss was how to make those distinct differences a point of strength rather than a point of weakness within our relationship. Often, right down to the demise of a marriage relationship, we can experience deeply heated and contested issues over money and co-owned possessions.

If God provides for us and shares this wealth with us, then our position before Him is that it is all His, and we simply steward that which He shares with us.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10). This is the first step in our own financial discipline. It is a step that says Jesus is Lord of our finances.

We will ask you to complete a budget in this chapter so that you can “see” what’s coming in and what’s going out, along with many other financial values questions to consider as a couple.

Other ordering options:

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/staying-together-steve-mary-prokopchak/1125534926?ean=9780768414905

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Staying-Together-Marriage-Life-Affair/dp/0768414903/ref=sr_1_2?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1499959168&sr=8-2&keywords=steve+prokopchak

CBD (Christianbooks.com): https://www.christianbook.com/staying-together-marriage-a-lifelong-affair/steve-prokopchak/9780768414905/pd/414905?event=ESRCG

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Ten Ideas to Help Your Son or Daughter Pay for College

10 07 2017

My wife and I helped three children through college and we learned a lot from that experience. There are some things we would do over if given the opportunity, but more so we wanted to pass on to you some ideas about paying for college. It can seem impossible, but we do not believe that your son or daughter has to leave college with huge debt that inhibits them for their future. So here are our recommendations for those children who may be college bound.

  1. Take as many college courses as possible while still in high school. This can start while your student is still a junior in high school and it’s cheap. These courses are typically affiliated with a local college campus and they love starting students in their educational programs early.  Also, high school AP courses are often accepted for college credit.
  2. Start looking for scholarships while still in high school. Have them talk to their high school counselors about local scholarships. Money is out there; you have to make it your job (and your student’s job) to find the resources. We even found interest free loans from agencies in our local area that helped our children. Some schools, in conjunction with local rotary clubs and the like, have loan funds available to students.
  3. Attend a school in your state. Often there are heavy discounts for attending a school in your home state. (Obviously these are state schools only and not private schools.) Sometimes scholarships are available just for staying in state.
  4. Take your general education courses (normally the first two years) at a local community college. Community colleges are so much less expensive than universities offering the same courses. Live at home and go to community college and then attend your last two years on the campus of your choice to complete your education. It doesn’t sound as exotic, but it dramatically lowers the debt load.  As well, take advantage of on-line courses. Nine out of ten colleges now offer on-line courses at a far less expense.
  5. Take a year off to work after high school – a “gap” year. There definitely is a gap year advantage as most students do not know what they desire to study. Enter the work force and learn about labor, serving, hourly wages, taxes and saving for college. Perhaps you can locate a job that will continue even as you enter college. Two of our children were waiters at local restaurants and made good incomes in the field.
  6. Do you have a grandparent that would like to sow into their grandchildren’s education? Ask…perhaps they are waiting to help in any way possible. Start 529 Education Savings accounts into which parents and grandparents can contribute and those contributions may be state income tax-deductible.
  7. Be very aware of which loans you sign up for. When parents co-sign for loans they become responsible for those loans. You cannot predict what might happen in the future. Know that federally “subsidized” loans have deferred interest until six months after graduation. Complete your FAFSA forms as early as possible for possible state grant money.
  8. Keep working to lower your borrowed dollars. Your student should work full-time during the summer and at least part-time during the school year. There are jobs on campus and off. It all adds up and helps tremendously.
  9. Keep a close eye on all your loans, the accrual and the interest rates. A good rule of thumb is that your child would graduate from a four-year college program with no more than one year of tuition debt.  (For example: if tuition is $28K per year, your student would graduate with no more than $28K in debt.)
  10. Finally, consider a career assessment test for your son or daughter that helps them to narrow down and/or identify possible majors to study. When your child knows what they desire to study according to their gifts, wasting money on subjects that will not relate to his or her field of study will decrease.

Bonus: Teach your son or daughter to utilize a budgeting tool so they learn how to budget their money and help control their spending and saving while on campus. It might help them to not visit Starbucks daily, purchasing five-dollar drinks. Train them to use cash or debit cards and not credit cards for common purchases. Finally, check out this blog on 7 Ways To Go To College For Free.





Is Your Identity For Sale?

13 03 2017

imagesMy wife and I were speaking to 30 plus senior high youth recently. They were passionate, hungry, open, teachable, vulnerable and beautifully smiling back at us as we taught. We spoke about life mission, boundaries, identity, pornography, priorities and praying for a life mate. We were straightforward and honest. They listened intently. As I observed these kids and the pressure they’re under, I thought about their personal introductions to porn, sex, drugs, broken families, raunchy TV and movies and peer pressure. “How do they cope in a world so different from the world I lived in when I was their age?” And then this question came to me, “Will they sell their identity?”images-6

It was a church youth group. They will soon head to college, technical school or enter the work force. How often will they be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on their faith? What college professors will tell them Christianity is for the weak, the brainless and/or the non-thinker? What young girl might attempt to seduce one of these young boys or vice versa? Which ones will sell their identity and which ones will hold onto their Christ-centered identity?

images-8Quickly the answer to the question of how will they cope came: you and I. The adults in their lives will touch them, love them, pray for and with them and visit them when they are off to college. We will text them, email them and even snail mail them to encourage their faith. We will send them books and articles that will help to protect their identity and we will speak life to them. We will tell them they are accepted, of value to us and to God and we will tell them how beautiful they are. We will challenge them to live righteously and hold them accountable to the truths taught to them.

Who are the young people in your life? They need you in their life today so they do not sell their identity tomorrow.





Teaching Your Children to Steal

20 02 2017

imagesSome years ago I was meeting with a young married man for various counseling issues. I really cannot remember what they were, but I do remember one thing from that time. He inadvertently mentioned that he enjoyed “breaking and entering.” I said, “You what?” He shared that for years he and his friends would break into garages and sheds and steal small items simply for, “The thrill of it.”   I shared, “You do know that stealing is against the law, not to mention one of the Ten Commandments, right?”   He assured me that he did, but added that no one has been hurt by his actions and that he enjoyed the dare and the challenge. “Further,” he said, “I find nothing wrong with it.” I added, “But I thought you told me you were a Christian.” He assured me he was.images-4

images-3A counseling plan: During his history statement he shared that he and his wife had a young son who was five years old. I had a plan. I looked straight at him and with boldness said, “I recommend you take your five year-old son along with you and the gang the next time you decide to break into a place.” He said, “What?” “Yea,” I continued, “Take your son, he’s small and you can put him through a window and then he can unlock the door for you to enter.” With a wrinkled face he replied, “I thought you said you were a Christian counselor.” “I am,” I told him. “But here’s the thing…start your son out young and train him thoroughly in thievery so he can be just like his dad.” I went on to say, “In commonality the two of you can have some real father/son bonding time breaking into sheds and garages.” I went on to say, “You’ll be so proud when he becomes just like you!”

He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God…   (I Kings 15:3)





Marriage, Millennials and Grandparenting

16 01 2017

images-4It’s pretty rare to attend a wedding today where the bride and groom are under age 25. More often, it’s a couple who are approaching their mid 30’s. The reasons? There’s college and then there’s college debt. Then a career to help pay that debt and perhaps even graduate school – more debt. The pervasive attitude becomes waiting until all the stars align, i.e., school, jobs, housing, money, etc.

I read a recent study that indicated in cities where millennial’s flock for employment there has been a rise of single-hood. In Washington DC alone, the situation is “extreme” with “81 percent of young people still single.” One young man quipped, “This is the easiest place I’ve ever been to find somebody for the night, and the hardest place to find somebody for a week or a month or a year.”

Do millennial’s want to get married? They do, but there is so much pressure on them to be financially stable they don’t always see it as practical or reasonable. A huge concern then becomes couples that choose to live together rather than marry. Couples who live together are not always thinking about the long-term aspect of building a home together, raising a family and/or integrating into local church life. Putting marriage on a back burner in order to have a career, a new car, a house, a whatever will only delay parenting and delaying parenting can directly influence the number of children families actually give birth to. It will also affect grand-parenting. images-8Grandparents can pass on or become too old to relate in healthy and fun ways with their grandchildren. And when that happens, something very, very important and essential is lost in our culture.images-6





Weariness: Going From 2016 to 2017

2 01 2017

 images-3Weariness. This morning Mary and I prayed together about “a spirit of weariness.” We felt it at different times throughout the year of 2016. There were multiple illnesses we were battling. There were major concerns in our family with aging parents. There were emotional and spiritual attacks that seemed to come out of nowhere. Of course the elections were within themselves a whole new level of campaign weariness and continually planting seeds that did not appear to take root. It’s a bit hard to describe or put our finger on any one thing, but all together they spelled:  W E A R I N E S S.

I love that Jesus addressed weariness because He himself became weary of the Pharisees, the crowds, the unbelief and the world around Him. He even became weary of His own disciples telling one of them to get behind Him and others, seemingly, scolding them for their lack of faith. The Apostle Paul describe himself as weary in II Corinthians 11:27. It just happens when the weights, the issues, the pressures of this world begin to take a toll on our hearts, our minds and our faith.images-2

Answers for 2017: Isaiah said that we would run and not grow weary (Is. 40:31). Jesus said to come to Him all of you who are weary (Mt. 11:28). He promised rest. Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:9 to not grow weary in doing good or in doing the right thing. I love the honesty of the Psalmist who said in Psalms 119, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” But mostly, I take courage from this verse in the book of Revelation, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” In other words, you have not given up.

imagesPress on. 2017 is a whole new opportunity. No matter what is at the root of your weariness, do not give up!





The Child-Like Excitement of a Four-Year Old Flying

12 12 2016

images-4Those of us who fly tens of thousands of miles a year barely endure the whole experience. We’ve lost our youthful vigor when it comes to flying. It has become something we tolerate rather than embrace with excitement.

Enter Raygen, the rambunctious four-year old seated in the row directly in front of me on our short Washington DC flight. I first noticed him in the airport waiting to board. With his mom in tow, running around seeing the planes outside the huge windows was simply a wonder to him. When this little blond-haired youngster finally boarded the plane, every other passenger knew it too. It was his very first experience with flying and no one was going to deny him his elation. Raygen’s energy level was high and his voice was screeching with delight. Everything was new to him and he just couldn’t contain himself while blurting out his excessively loud observations.images-3

The seasoned passengers around him began to smile and some even laughed as Raygen’s parents tried in vain to quiet him. The stewardess took him to meet the pilots as he returned with a huge grin and a set of those coveted plastic wings. He looked out the window and ran an ongoing verbal commentary. He told his parents how much he loved them. (He was obviously crediting them for this experience.) As we began to taxi his excitement escalated. At this point, he needed the seat belt just to stay seated. Finally the engines roared to capacity and off we went. Raygen was yelling, “Wow…cool…this is awesome…Mom, look…I imagescan see everything…it’s getting smaller down there…I love flying!”

I found myself pondering about the last time in my life I became that excited, totally thrilled with a life experience of any sort. I wondered when was the last time I could barely stay in my seat with exhilaration and anticipation. And sadly, I couldn’t recall any such recent experience.

Jesus once said that we need to become as little children. Raygen modeled something to me that day and it was sacredly child-like as he reintroduced me to youthful exhilaration. I want to be that excited about Jesus in my life. I don’t want to mature when it comes to anticipating Him and what miracle is about to happen, all the while, refusing to allow my faith to become boring and predictable. Do you need some Raygen excitement? Talk with your Heavenly Dad and ask Him for that spirit of anticipation, uncompromising exhilaration and child-like faith.








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