Money – specifically, how to handle money – is an important subject in our materialistic culture. The media provides an abundance of business and investment news, but, other than the occasional article on personal debt levels, there’s little information on basic financial management. As a result, many people live more by messages received through advertisements and marketers than according to common sense. Lacking a financial plan, consumers borrow themselves into financial trouble.
In 7 Money Rules for Life Mary Hunt sets forth guidelines for individuals to take control of their finances. Hunt begins by identifying the problem of financial ignorance and tells her story of spending and debt. She collected credit cards “like baseball cards” and spent freely. It was easy money, but of course debt compounds, and eventually has to be repaid. Hunt and her husband came to a crisis point and were forced to make serious changes. She made a list that developed into the seven rules.
Money management is not difficult, Hunt says. Anyone can learn to apply these rules and follow the path of financial freedom. She also notes that these rules are for every income, every age, and every stage of life. Though Hunt says the rules should be followed together (not in steps or stages), she stresses that the first rule is foundational to the rest: “spend less than you earn.”
It seems too simple to be a significant part of a successful financial plan, yet many people are seduced by materialism, and don’t follow such common sense.
The other six rules are as follows: as you receive income, transfer 10 percent into long-term savings; give away some of your money out of gratitude, with no strings attached or expectation of anything in return; anticipate irregular expenses and prepare accordingly; tell your money where to go, then make sure it gets there; manage your credit rating to achieve a high level of creditworthiness; and borrow only what you know you can repay. In each chapter, Hunt offers insights into the challenges of living by the rule, and practical advice on how to follow it. The secret to spending less than you earn, she suggests, is contentment.
Supplement giving advice with biblical teaching
Hunt is a Christian. The role of faith in shaping the seven financial rules is evident, but her book is clearly written for a wider audience. It is great to see that one of Hunt’s rules is giving; however, the material in this chapter seems more for the secular giver. In introducing the rules, Hunt states they aren’t based on emotion, but when it comes to giving, she suggests you give to what tugs at your heartstrings and recommends giving to local causes so you know where the money is going. Hunt emphasizes that the purpose of giving is to break the grip of greed. This is an important factor, but biblically, the primary reason we give is because God is generous and we are his followers. The Jesus follower should supplement Hunt’s third rule with additional biblical teaching.
The strength of 7 Money Rules for Life is Hunt’s simple, sound, practical plan for individuals to gain control of their personal finances, and her advice for those who have previously made credit mistakes to get out of debt.
Many people shy away from books on money because of the difficulties in understanding financial concepts. 7 Money Rules for Life is an easy read with clear explanations. Hunt may even go too far in trying not to scare people off; Rule 5 is about budgeting, but Hunt avoids the use of the “b” word in the chapter title because of the negative connotation many people associate with budgeting.
Hunt provides a reasonable approach to basic money management. She issues strong warnings about debt, but differentiates between various kinds of debt. Hunt discusses three categories of debt: 1) reasonable, or good, debt; 2) toxic debt; and 3) neutral debt. She provides safe borrowing guidelines, for example, for a home mortgage or student loan. Hunt’s material is balanced and very helpful.
The reader should understand the limitations of 7 Money Rules for Life. Hunt incorporates Christian principles, but doesn’t go as far as biblical teaching does, particularly on giving. The book lays a great foundation, but doesn’t go on to other important aspects of a financial plan, such as insurance, investing, and getting money to work for you.
Mary Hunt runs a debt-proof-living website. She has a good program with useful materials, but takes a whole chapter inviting readers to join her movement. The length of her advertising pitch within a book is excessive.
Overall, I highly recommend 7 Money Rules for Life. I plan to follow her rules with my own finances, to incorporate her concepts in my teaching, and to share this book with others.