An Ex-Catholic and Her Money Guilt
Sep 24, 2015 WEALTH MANAGEMENT
STACY FRANCIS: I am extremely excited for the Papal visit this week. I am especially fond of Pope Francis. He is a man of the people and we even share the same name–Francis.
Excited, yes. But a Catholic? No. I converted from the Catholic Church two years ago. My husband and children are baptized in the Episcopal Church, and I felt the calling to convert. I joke that I converted to rid myself of Catholic guilt. I can assure you that I still have the guilt, especially about money.
I grew up in a very religious family. We went to church at least two times a week. Money and greed’s deadly grip over us was a favorite topic for Sunday sermons, and many financial lessons were taught. Money obsession was the devil’s work and those who put the dollar before God were on the path to hell.
The Bible teaches us that a person cannot worship both God and the dollar. According to Scripture, it’s quite all right to buy the bigger house–but the more you earn and spend on yourself, the more you must give to others.
With such messages, it is not surprising that 71% of us agree that “being greedy is a sin against God,” according to a study of Religion and Economic Values by Princeton University. Only 22% of those surveyed, think that “God doesn’t care how I use my money.” Most Americans believe their faith is relevant to their finances and many have what I call “money guilt.”
When I spend money on something that may not be necessary, I sometimes feel bad about the purchase. A perfect example is when I met my husband for coffee yesterday. I purchased a plain coffee at Starbucks instead of the venti pumpkin spice latte that I wanted for fear of being frivolous with my money. I did not want to feel the shame. You may laugh at what seems like a small expense, but I still cannot reconcile the value of paying so much money for designer coffee when this money can be used in a more valuable way. When the guy in line behind me yelled out, “I’ll have a pumpkin latte. Make that venti,” I was green with envy. I am sure that I committed another sin.
My money guilt also rears its ugly head also during offering at church. The basket comes down our aisle, and I stuff a $20 bill, looking both ways and hoping that no one sees. I am keenly aware that I am not abiding by the 10% tithing that many religious people of stature urge you to give. Don’t get me wrong, we give a huge amount of money to charity–just not to our church. I still feel guilty.
Money guilt is a downside of being faithful, but the upside is that being religious increases your chances of being financially successful.
According to a study conducted by economists, Luc Renneboog and Christophe Spaenjers of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, religious households tend to save more money and plan for the future than nonreligious families. Bible-believing folks also put a lot of focus on not only wanting to save for their financial future, but also for that of their children. According to Renneboog and Spaenjers, Catholics, in particular, tend to take fewer large financial risks and often have more conservative portfolios.
Another advantage of religion is that faith can aid us in feeling better about ourselves whether we are worried about our finances, or we have great financial wealth. When I was younger and dealing with money issues, I prayed to God to find the strength to keep working. These prayers were particularly helpful when I started my financial-planning and wealth-management firm 13 years ago at the age of 27.
Faith also gives me great peace knowing that everything will be alright in the long run–in my life and in the world. I light candles and pray for all the important people in my life as well as peace, food and shelter for those who are in need….and for the stock market to rebound. Is this yet another thing about which I should feel guilty? Maybe. At least, I feel better hoping that God is on my side when it comes to the market.
In the end, whether you are religious or not, we all wish we did a better job with our money. Even for those who are not spiritual, there are quite a few money lessons that we can all learn from the Bible. The one I wish I could let go of is the guilt. Even converting religions does not get rid of Catholic money guilt. Believe me…I have tried.
Stacy Francis is president and CEO of Francis Financial, a fee-only boutique wealth management and financial planning firm.