Saving my hard-earned money when I was a teenager was not my strong suit. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would swear there were holes in my pockets. When I married in my early 20s, I would like to say that I instantly grew wise and saving became a priority – but that would be a lie. We never thought we were wasteful. We didn’t buy expensive cars or take exotic vacations. We simply didn’t make saving a priority. Early on in our marriage we didn’t make much money and I used that as an excuse – and I thought it was a good one. Unfortunately, not making much money also meant that we didn’t give much either. We did give regularly, but our financial commitment to our church was not what it should be, and we knew it.

After five years of marriage, God blessed us with our first of three children. Although we had begun to understand that placing God first in our life meant giving Him our first fruits, having a child did not make it any easier. We were saving, but it too wasn’t nearly what it should be. The long and short of it: my finances clearly showed where my priorities were.

To this day it is difficult to talk about those younger years, but it is also necessary. I have found I learn more from my failures than I ever do from my successes. You see, it took a while, but God eventually got a hold of us. God needed to come first, even over our own needs and wants, and our future needed to become more of a priority.

Two of my three boys have graduated college, and it is my mission to make sure I pass down the lessons it took me too long to learn. I cannot depend upon others to teach my sons about finances; I consider it my responsibility. I sure wish I had someone guiding me when I was that young teenager burning through every dollar I earned.

Besides, if I let society guide my kids, then there is a good chance they will end up where most of society is. Unfortunately, the statistics are scary. According to a recent article on msn.com the average American under age 25 has less than 1% of the daily expenditures going towards giving. While giving does increase with each generation, the largest givers—those over 65—still only give a measly 4.9% of their daily expenditures.

As far as saving is concerned, another article on cnbc.com showed that 65% of Americans save less than 10% of their income and 40% save less than 5%.

One thing that Americans spend an average of over 11% of their expenditures on is personal indulgence (entertainment, eating out, and alcohol). Does this mean we shouldn’t enjoy life? No, I am not saying that. What I am saying is that we obviously have our priorities out of order. I know I did.

My sons are off to a decent start. They have a budget they follow, which includes giving and saving at least 10% towards each. Will they continue this trend? I hope so, but I know this will only happen if they continue to place God first and foremost in their lives. If they want to have nothing like everybody else, then they can follow society. Although that doesn’t seem like a desirable option.

Mark Etting

Author Mark Etting

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