The Politics of Personal Finance

Thrift, frugality, and investing are pursuits that cross political, religious, and social boundaries. Regardless of your ideology, sound personal finance habits can help you live a better life.

There seem to be three distinct classes of personal finance books:

  • Those with an overt religious-based foundation for thrift. Dave Ramsey bases the ideas in The Total Money Makeover on his Christian faith. Miserly Moms takes its cues from Christianity, too.
  • Those espousing a “reactionary” back-to-the-earth philosophy. I'm currently reading Living Simply with Children, which is a great book, but clearly written from a more “liberal” perspective.
  • Those that fall somewhere between, or which straddle both camps. This group comprises the bulk of personal finance books. Some, like Your Money or Your Life, manage to simultaneously promote Christian beliefs and a sort of “New Age” philosophy. Others studiously avoid any sort of dogma.

There's nothing wrong with any of these perspectives. They're all good. And they allow authors to bring new ideas and new techniques to the realm of personal finance. In Living Simply with Children, for example, Marie Sherlock talks about raising children with no concept of Christmas. But in Miserly Moms, the Joni McCoy argues that there's a Biblical basis for mothers staying home with their children.

Despite the political and spiritual viewpoints espoused in these books, they offer excellent advice. You don't have to agree with the author's premise to find value in what he or she writes.

Even if you're bothered by the blatantly liberal perspective of The Two-Income Trap, you can glean some useful information. You may think religion is a curse, but if you suffer from back-breaking debt, there's no better starting point than Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover, Bible verses and all! Ignore the liberal rants. Ignore the Bible verses. Focus on the financial advice.

Personal finance is non-political. It helps everyone when another person avoids debt, learns to save, and becomes financially independent.

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Sally Parrott Ashbrook
Sally Parrott Ashbrook
13 years ago

Amen, JD! Very well-said. I am Christian and liberal. I enjoy some of Dave’s touches on Christian principles but ignore his conservative politics. You have to take what you can and not let the rest bother you.

Josiah
Josiah
13 years ago

I’ve been reading your blog since it started. I like this post.

J.D.
J.D.
13 years ago

You have to take what you can and not let the rest bother you.

This is perfectly phrased.

Sometimes I feel it’s like a treasure hunt. I’ll be slogging through books that are so thick with sentiments that bug me that I’m ready to quit, when all of a sudden the author will produce some concept I’ve never heard before. It’s amazing.

kg
kg
13 years ago

Sounds good. I really enjoy your blog.

As a Christian, I’m interested to hear what they have to say about raising children without Christmas, because to me, the high consumption me me me thing Christmas has become really misses the whole point. But I’m interested to hear what advice they have for what kids would think when they hear about their friends’ Christmases.

Schizohedron
Schizohedron
13 years ago

Bruce Lee would agree with your approach: “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

J.D.
J.D.
13 years ago

Hi, KG. Thanks for visiting.

I hope I haven’t overstated Sherlock’s position, but I fear I probably have. (I have a notoriously poor memory, and don’t own her book to fact-check.) I was able to find one article that she’s posted to the web: Four Steps to a More Meaninful, Less Commercialized Holiday — With Kids. She certainly advocates a much simpler approach to winter holidays, but it may be that she doesn’t advocate raising children with no concept of them at all.

Justin Thibault
Justin Thibault
13 years ago

Well, it’s not too much of a strech to write books on finance from a Christian perspective; because the Bible is full of verses on money. For instance, there are admonitions against debt and for hard work saving in Proverbs, a call to support the church financially in Malachi, Jesus’ parable of the Talents utilitizes currency to make a point about risk, and in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he instructs parents to save for their children.

nyxmoxie
nyxmoxie
9 years ago

I don’t care for Dave Ramsey, he seems like slick car salesman to me, but one thing that I read in his book that I like “live like no one else and then later on you will live like no one else.” I liked that. I’m agnostic and have been for years, grew up in a religious family but realized that it didn’t make sense to me when I reached adulthood, so the whole faith thing doesn’t resonate for me. However I’ve learned to take what works for me and disregard the rest. I don’t think the bible is unique… Read more »

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