Author, The 21 Day Financial Fast (2014)
Her award-winning Washington Post column, "The Color of Money" syndicated to 100 newspapers across the country
Is a regular contributor to NPR'S "Day to Day"
Appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, "Nightline," "The Oprah Winfrey
Show," and other popular shows
Graduate of the University of Maryland and has a Masters in Business and Management from Johns Hopkins University
Married with 3 children
Michelle Singletary Talks Financial Freedom
Award-winning financial columnist Michelle Singletary says people should remain the same financially no matter what the economy. With the recession, people are under more financial strain and this is a new financial day! People can no longer live pay check to pay check. She urges individuals to not go back to their old financial habits. We need to take care of debt, regroup, relearn how to handle things, and move forward financially. She also says we need to change our viewpoints about money. Consider where budget cuts/changes can be made. Get more out of your comfort zone. This doesn’t mean to live a “miserly life” - God wants us to prosper. Find the balance, the safe way financially to live in God’s prosperity. Also ask yourself, “What is your financial legacy? What will people remember you for financially?
As Christians we should not fear because where there is fear there is no faith. Michelle says we don’t have to fear with the basic financial principles God has given us. The Bible is a great source of financial advice and wisdom. Christ’s teachings are full of financial wisdom. The book of Proverbs cites the blessing of the Lord comes with no sorrow. Borrowing is not a part of God’s plan because it comes with sorrow. We can’t be fearful of investing.
Also in Genesis, the story of Joseph shows that what you do financially is not just for us, but to help others. Michelle encourages people to not just do enough for yourself and your family - do more!!! It’s not about us; God wants us to give to others. For Michelle, Matthew 6:21 sums it up: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
THE FINANCIAL FAST
Michelle still conducts the 21-Day Financial Fast. She just completed a nationwide fast that started on January 13, 2014. People were asked to sign up at wapo.st/financialfast. This link had day-to-day tips, accountability, and encouragement. Nearly 1,000 people signed up to fast together and dozens of them posted their progress on Facebook and Twitter. As a result, many of the participants said they saved money for the first time and several people tweeted or posted that they began to tithe for the first time. Also, during a separate twitter chat with Essence Magazine, hundreds of people join in to discuss the fast asking questions about how to do it successfully.
To review, this financial fast is for 21 days. You will not shop or use your credit or debit cards. (This is to separate you from credit cards. Debit cards too, which are the “kissing cousins” to credit cards. Debit cards are not the same as cash. Studies show that people spend more using both of these than they would with cash.) You can only buy necessities (food, medicine, bare essentials). You will refrain from any type of shopping (this includes window shopping, on-line shopping, or on-line browsing of any kind because these lead to the temptation to spend money on non-essential items). No restaurant meals of any kind. No buying meals at work or getting coffee. No spending on entertainment, such as movies. Also, no buying gifts or gift cards during the fast. You can have fun on the fast; you just can’t buy or spend on anything that isn’t a necessity.
As a part of a volunteer program at her church, money expert Michelle Singletary introduced the concept of a financial fast to the members of the congregation. Michelle was inspired with the idea of this fast by looking at the prophet Daniel’s fast in Daniel 3:10. For three weeks, Daniel “ate no choice food; no meat nor wine.” Michelle thought that if Daniel could apply this fast to food, these principles could apply to finances as well. Daniel fasted as a way to get closer to God. The principle of the financial fast is also for the purpose of denying the flesh so you could get closer to God. The principle of the financial fast is also for the purpose of denying the flesh so you could get closer to God. Fasting is a way to separate yourself from worldly pleasures. During this time of separation and away from worldly temptation, you can begin to break the bonds that keep you broke.
You have to understand that you can’t make financial changes until you know the reasons why you use money the way you do. It is good to track your money and budget. You have to see where the money from each paycheck is
going. (Michelle has updated the financial resources provided, such as financial website links and budgeting worksheets.) We all need the resources/tools and it is important to do the lessons and exercises in the book for each day of the fast.
THE PURPOSE OF THE FINANCIAL FAST
The purpose of the financial fast is to get us closer to God and get a balanced, Godly view of money, giving, spending, and money management. It’s not just about adjusting our consumer habits, but also adjusting our mindsets, like the feelings of entitlement. God wants us to prosper, with a purpose. God’s prosperity is where financial blessings help community and our country, not just ourselves. Also, we need to rely on God, for His provision, and manage properly what He gives us. We say we rely on God, but our actions show we don’t. People should get away from using debt. Michelle says that there are no positive scriptures about debt. Worldly wisdom tells you to use debt, but there is no such thing as good debt. Many people are serving the master of debt by using credit cards to the detriment of their relationships and families. No matter if you already manage your money well, or are in debt, or are somewhere in between, the financial fast can help you be a better steward of your money. Breaking bad money habits doesn’t just stop after 21 days. Michelle suggests continuing what you’ve learned in your daily life. You can begin this by tracking your spending with a 30-day spending journal.
TWO AREAS TO FOCUS ON DURING THIS FAST
For this financial fast, Michelle would like to focus on the areas of long term care (Financial Fast Day 16: The Caregiver Cliff) and leaving a financial legacy (Day 11: Leave a Legacy of Good Money Sense). For long term care, there is a caregiver cliff crisis. Most long-term care plans are costly. You have to ask some tough questions, like, “Can you afford it?” You have to plan. Some things to consider are: insurance, how to save for it, where you are going to stay (i.e., with family members, in a care facility, etc.).
For leaving a financial legacy, Michelle says it is important to leave a financial legacy to your family. This means not just leaving money, it means leaving practical knowledge about finances as well. You can do this at any age. It’s never too late - as long as you have breath, teach your family. Teach your children your knowledge about finances (if you don’t know, you can learn and pass on what you’ve learned). Many times, people waste money from inheritances because they don’t have any financial wisdom. It is godly to leave a financial legacy for your family and others.
MICHELLE’S TOP THREE TAX TIPS FOR 2014
1) Free File: If you earn $58,000 or less you may qualify to have your taxes filed for free through the IRS Free File program. Go to the IRS website. Once there you can select one of the private companies that will help you prepare, print and e-file your tax return. Even if you don’t qualify for the Free File program, you can still file your return electronically using IRS e-file. When you use e-file, the math is done for you. To e-file, you have to use tax-preparation software or file electronically through an authorized professional preparer. Nearly all tax preparers use e-file now, and many are required by law to do so.
2) Where’s Your Refund: This year the IRS won’t be taking questions about your refund right away. So you need to get used to using the agency’s online refund tool “Where’s My Refund.” The IRS says its customer-service representatives will research the status of your refund only if it has been 21 days or more since your return was filed electronically. If you file a paper return through the mail, you’ll also have to use the online tool unless it has been more than six weeks. If you have a question about your refund, the IRS will direct you to its “Where’s My Refund?” tool available in English and Spanish through the IRS2Go mobile app, IRS.gov and the agency’s automated telephone service.
3) Tax Time Scams: This time of year there’s always an increase in the number of scams related to filing your taxes. So be extra careful of emails or phone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS. In particular watch out for preparer fraud. About 60 percent of taxpayers used tax professionals last year to prepare their tax returns.
Remember that you are legally responsible for what’s on your tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. If you get an email you suspect is fraudulent don’t open any attachments or click on any links in the message. Forward the email to email@example.com.
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