A story of compassion with: LOVE Inc. Budget Coaching, Part 1
When my dad was in college, he made a groundbreaking discovery—whenever he visited an ATM, it spit out as much money as he wished. He termed it a “magic money box.” Whatever he wanted, he could get. Later, when he got a credit card, he enjoyed the same revelation as before: swiping the card paid for any and every expense that came his way. It seemed too good to be true.
Of course, when the credit card bills came it became clear such revelations were too good to be true. And yet, something within my dad’s college financial woes ought to resonate with many of us; how are we to treat money and how does money affect us? While we don’t all believe ATMs are magic money boxes, it is just as easy to watch cash slip away or give up on the expense pie charts optimistically draws up at the start of a financial year.
Not only that, but money affects us too. How, where, and why we spend money can expose our idols, our self-images, and our worldview. Rich Henderson is head of LOVE Inc., an organization dedicated to helping connect local church resources with the needs of our community’s people, all in the name of Jesus. Grace South Bay has been a supporter with LOVE Inc for several years now. Part of this connection between church and community is manifested in LOVE Inc’s long-term service: budget coaching. I interviewed two budget coaches, Jack and Bevery Wong, to find out more about how this program works and what they learned from this 30 week commitment.
We began by finding out why they wanted to be budget coaches in the first place. Bevery explains, “Personal finance has always been something we find very important, and it’s something that we’ve worked on earlier in our adulthood…[but] depending on your family background, you may…not have … that [financial] knowledge which sets you up for success as you go into adulthood.” Recognizing the importance of financial knowledge, Bevery and Jack were quick to signup and become budget coaches.
Overtime they realized: “We spent so much time on forums and reading different trackers… we’ve learned that there’s a lot of people that may not necessarily be in the same position as us [in terms of financial stability or know-how], and they’re a little bit older or what not,” and ultimately, such revelations pushed them to commit to being budget coaches with LOVE Inc.
As budget coaches, Jack explains that their role is to help lead somebody, a mentee, “through the full LOVE Inc budget program and support them throughout their process of that transformation of financial selves.” Not only that, but Jack adds, “Our role is to not only serve as a center of knowledge for any questions that they have, but also to exist as a support system primarily to continue to be their accountability partner during this walk and transformation.”
The entire program is about 30 weeks long, split into three sections. Bevery explains: “The first section is about finances and expenses and you’re really going through your bank statements, your inflows and outflows, and then the last two sections are really about becoming what God intended and …knowing your worth.”
What really surprised her, however, was realizing that her initial assumptions walking into the program were to be entirely overthrown. “We walked in thinking it was really just gonna be math, expenses and inflows, but…the program is [actually] set out to help you marry your budgeting process along with your values, what you find important, how you want to spend your time and your goals, as well as what you’re worth to God. So to me it was surprising…of the 30 weeks, …we have 18 weeks focused on how it relates to Christianity.”
The act of budget coaching taught the coaches too. While they were well-equipped as financial guides, they were less equipped in “the understanding of how you should perceive your relationship to God across a wide range of domains that go beyond finance,” according to Jack. He notes that budget coaching goes beyond the execution side— “Before you can even execute, you have to have the confidence and the acceptance of who you are and the decisions that you have made in the past so you can move forward and make better decisions in the future. And that is why 18 weeks of that 30 weeks is dedicated towards that how do you find yourself valuable, how does God perceive you, all those things.”
It wasn’t always easy.
Jack shares his insight, “This program really bridges—or essentially brings— two groups that aren’t generally juxtaposed into one room. So you have two people who are very different in terms of their financial state most of the time…for us, for example, we were engaging with people who had very different points of view…
So the challenges that they face are different, their goals and aspirations are different, so for us the most challenging thing was to deconstruct any understanding that we had about the world and rebuild it up from their perspective.”
Not only did that challenge promise deconstruction of bias, initial understandings, and rebuilding of perspectives, it promised to take time. “We all wanted [it] to be a quick process,” Bevery says, but while “it’s easy to get a handle on the math part… seeing change and seeing that hit your banks statements and how that’s going to affect your net worth and your goals, paying off something— it’s not an overnight process.”
Jack and Bevery spent around 8 months with their budget mentee, from around February to November. “You get to learn why… they want to spend x y or x, or why they are in this financial situation,” says Bevery.
Jack adds, “Especially when you spend some 80 hours with them, it’s inevitable that you will get to know them in a very deep way.”
“You kinda just go with what you can and make each transaction count,” Bevery remarks. Such flexibility extends beyond money; as we treat each interaction with people, finances, and God, we learn how to budget our hearts. An ordering of loves is what helps us ultimately live in right relationship with each other, with God, and with the rest of creation. As we learn to put God first, money second, we can learn through relationship how to live a life not constantly waiting for a magic box to save us yet again.