On God and Money

money

Courtney is a law librarian living in NYC. She likes poetry, bikes, and Ethiopian food. Her next career will be in finance.

As a Mormon, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about God. As a questioning Mormon, one who passed years deeply seeking answers, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the incontrovertible truths of the universe and what those might be. I had years of prayer, years of study, years of cyclical thought, all of which shaped me. But today, as an inactive Mormon, I don’t think about these things quite as much.

I confessed to a friend that I was worried that the headspace I once occupied with God, I now occupied with money. I speculated about what that meant and what that said about me. Had I become a worse person, a secular person, since stepping away from my family’s faith? Was I worshiping an idol in place of God?

The root of my concern was that I spend a lot of time thinking about money. I have spreadsheets to track my finances and to chart my progress getting out of debt. I have a 401(k), a high-yield savings account, and a cash-back credit card that I use for the rewards. I have emergency savings that I’m working to build to a 3-month, then a 6-month minimum. I think about how to max my 401(k) contributions (IRS allowable limit for 2016 is $18,000) and then how to possibly cut back and save even more. I get excited at the thought of one day opening a Roth IRA or at the mention of exchange-traded funds. This is my dirty talk. My favorite conversations: how to manage money, how to save money, how to get out of debt, how to wisely invest.

I am not rich, but I am not as poor as I was. I finished grad school more than 40K in the hole. The nation was still clawing its way back from the subprime mortgage crisis, and I couldn’t get a job. I worked temp for years, trying to make my education worth something, hoping to one day land on my feet.

I count thrift as one of my inherited Mormon virtues. I remember lessons about preparedness, about the importance of having our houses in order, financially as well as spiritually. I believe in charity and know the value of taking care of yourself so that you’re in a position to better help others.

So have I messed up my mental priorities with all this money-thinking and no worship of God? Truthfully, I don’t know. I can’t speak conclusively about who I am now versus who I was. They are both good people. But I can say that in my most lucid moments, I am not ashamed of the proportion of time I spend thinking about money. For me, it is not about materialism or the accumulation of wealth. It’s practical. It’s about my own ability to take care of myself and others. It’s about a problem I can solve that I tackle with gusto. It’s about independence. It’s about feminism. It’s about my increased desire for knowledge across all areas. It may be a little bit about revenge (it does, in a very petty way, make me slightly pleased that I make more than my ex-husband and a slew of ex-boyfriends, many of whom didn’t have jobs…another story).

I would never advocate that anyone turn away from God in favor of money, but I advocate strongly for financial literacy (especially among women). If you have to clear some headspace to do it, do it.

You may also like...

19 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Financial freedom is for sure a feminist issue. Thank you for this thoughtful post. xo

  2. A Happy Hubby says:

    I wonder if there is any feelings that you are not 110% sure God has your pocketbook covered like you used to and now you feel like it is more up to you? Not trying to project this on you as I think it is probably mostly me commenting how I am this way now.

  3. Andrew R. says:

    Seems to me that you have a large amount of “Mormon” still in you. Those are precisely the things you should be doing if you are following the Prophet (or do I mean Profit).

    Keep at it. When you are debt free, and your 401K is set to keep you into your old age you can reevaluate. If you are still only thinking about making MORE money then maybe it will have become a god/idol. However, until accumulating wealth for the sake of it is your only goal I think you are on the right path financially.

  4. Nancy Ross says:

    I love this post. Money is absolutely a feminist issue. I was recently listening to an episode of the A Thoughtful Faith podcast where Gina Colvin and Joanna Brooks were talking about the importance of money and understanding it within Mormonism. Joanna expressed a concern that we have a lot of magical thinking about money and no financial transparency or accountability from our church. I have certainly been guilty of magical thinking with regard to money and I think that this is one of the reasons my family struggled financially when I was a kid. Financial literacy is so important for building a stable life.

    • Courtney says:

      This was a great comment. I completely agree. The lack of financial transparency within the church bothers me. And while I don’t think it’s the church’s obligation to teach financial literacy, I think it would be easy to do (within the context of teaching about tithing and emergency preparedness) and that it would benefit the church immensely in a broader context — creating a more stable, secure base with resources to help others. In a cynical context it would also benefit the church because they’d rake in more tithing funds. The people at the highest levels are all financially secure. They don’t call broke jokes to positions of authority. I’m being uncouth, but you get my point. How I wish they would especially teach young women financial literacy. How many of them will go on to support their husbands through school? I certainly did.

  5. I recently read a great article about how economic problems contribute to issues we often consider “women’s issues”. Money really blends into everything.

  6. Ziff says:

    I don’t know that I had ever thought of financial literacy as a feminist issue, but it totally makes sense that it is. Thanks for bringing this up! And kudos for you for all your work to make yourself more financially independent! This is exactly the type of thing I should think about more, but I often don’t.

  7. EmilyCC says:

    Love this, Courtney! (and so excited to see you here! 🙂 )

    I feel like my upbringing taught me that I needn’t trouble my pretty little head about money, so I haven’t much. In fact, my spouse is the one who challenges me on why I don’t know more about finances. It’s a way benevolent patriarchy keeps women dependent.

  8. Olea says:

    Yeah, I wish the times we discussed money in YW, we weren’t assuming we’d have a steady budget from a working husband. How about supporting ourselves through education? When to take a low-paying job, and when to go back to school? And, of course, what kinds of occupations will give us financial stability in our own right?

    • Courtney says:

      All great questions that aren’t being given due consideration! Here are my ideas for some YW activities (financial & life-related): how to build a spreadsheet, introduction to coding, responsible ways to build credit, ideas on how to keep yourself safe on a college campus…

  9. spunky says:

    Amen and amen. I wrote this post
    http://www.the-exponent.com/marriage-and-a-piece-of-paper/

    Which was basically about documenting my finances in case of divorce. Doing this saved my marriage- smart money is calming, and I suggest – spirit invoking.

    Great post.

Leave a Reply