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Your Host, Randy Petrick
  • Writer's pictureRandy Petrick

Xylophobia

Handling Fear, Cow Pies, and Extra Cash on the Road to Stewardship


What’s That Wooden Sound?

Are you familiar with the musical percussion instrument called the Xylophone?


A highly polished wooden xylophone with two white tipped mallets laying on top.

As you’ll recall, it has wooden bars of various lengths that are struck with mallets. Don’t quote me on this, but I think they have about 28 “bars” from which the player can choose. For me, that’s about 27 too many choices!

 

I find it interesting that the name “xylophone” comes from Greek words that mean “wooden sound” because that’s so like the sound my neighbors might hear when I’m confronted with too many investment choices. (In reality, it is just the sound of my head striking the wall.)

 

“Xylophobia” is a word I made up to describe the paralysis we sometimes face when confronted with too many choices. We have some money, but so many investment choices are available that we freeze and do nothing.

 

Yes, there are many saving and investment choices. Should that cause us to freeze up and take no action? No. We should learn as much as possible, consult several people who are good with money management, pray, and make our best decisions.

 

Why “several” people? Proverbs 15:22 (NIV) says,

 

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.

 

Proverbs 11:14 and 24:6 also mention the value of having “an abundance of counselors.” We are wise when we seek input and advice from a wide range of others rather than relying on our limited knowledge or intuition. Of course, we must also be careful about what kind of counselors we seek. You wouldn’t seek your podiatrist about your tooth pain, right? And no one always gets it right; even wise people can see things differently.

 

Don’t let Xylophobia panic you into inaction. We should invest somewhere rather than freak out and do our investing at the mall. Remember, even if you make a poor choice, you can still learn from your mistakes. Get your money out there. That’s what good stewards do.

 

Cow Pies Next 75 Miles

The road to good stewardship and financial peace can be challenging: sloppy, stinky, and


A photograph of cows in a field. Two have their noses inches from the camera in curiousity.

squishy, kind of like the fields that surrounded the town I grew up in. (Cows outnumbered humans in our area by about five or six to one, if that gives you a clue. Thank God for boots.)  

 

No matter the current financial conditions, the state of the economy, the level of interest rates, the rate of inflation, or the cost of groceries (all the financial cow pies), the road to stewardship is always open. Here’s a list of things you can do to ensure that you are continuing forward along the beautiful but sometimes challenging road we call stewardship:

 

1)   Ask yourself: “What one thing can I do to save some money today?” Do that one thing.


2) Make it a daily goal to spend at least a few minutes gaining more financial knowledge and wisdom.

Here are two books to start your learning:

a.    The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (2013) is a master class with easy steps for anyone struggling with debt and credit cards. [Review coming soon.]

b.    The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn (2001) was another eye-opener and life-changer for me.


3)   Find ways to contribute. What can you give others who are having difficulty? You’ll be amazed how your anxiety lessens when focusing on helping someone else.


4)   Reduce the mental and physical clutter that surrounds you. Clutter prevents clarity. Small amounts of daily time in this practice pay big dividends. I have two books to recommend here as well:

a.    Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer is full of inspiring stories and valuable tips for dealing with physical clutter.

b. Kurt Bruner’s Traveling Light is a good book if you want to reduce mental clutter and increase clarity in your thinking.


5)   Remember that you don’t have to have perfect clarity about your direction before you take any action.


6)   Continue taking small steps in the direction that (prayerfully) seems best to you.


Extra Ca$h

(April’s Question of the Month)


Question: “I am in debt but have a small amount of extra cash available. Should I put my extra cash toward paying off my debt or growing my emergency fund?”

A glass jar filled with currency with a $100 bill prominently at the top.

 

Answer: Generally, debt reduction would come first because debts usually have higher interest rates. You want to have interest working in your favor, not against you. That said, I believe the best answer for you will come from asking: “Which use of this money will reduce my stress the most?” If building your emergency fund will reduce your stress more than putting extra money toward your debts, then put some (or all) of the money in the emergency fund. It may not be the “logical” decision, but if it reduces your stress, that’s an okay trade-off.

 

PS: Don’t forget there is a third option: giving the money to someone with even more critical needs than your own. If your action is a prayerful, considered response to the love God has shown you, it could be the best decision of all.


 

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