Safeguarding our health is paramount right now. But most of us are also concerned about safeguarding our finances, and weathering this economic storm as well. I asked my friend, Dr. Mark Matheson, to give Meridian Magazine readers his best tips and he was eager to share. Dr. Matheson is a retired Chartered Financial Analyst and has given financial seminars to church groups, including several for Education Week. You may be familiar with his terrific daily postings on Instagram and Facebook under the handles: ScriptureAnalyst and ConferenceAnalyst.

First, he said we need to understand that the presence or absence of a blessing does not always show that someone is actually living or not living the principles. Just as with our health, living the Word of Wisdom doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick. Challenges come into all our lives. But faith and obedience help us through. That said, here are his Top 12 Tips:

1)  Dealing with money is a righteous goal: It gives you more time for the Lord, Marriage, Family, Service, & Self Improvement.

2)  It’s okay to ask the Lord for help. Money and the Gospel are not isolated subjects. 

Matheson urges us to make God our business partner and consult Him as we make decisions. He refers us to Alma 34:20, which tells us to “cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.” “Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.” (24-25)  And we know that “cry” in this sense does not mean weeping, but raising our voices in mighty prayer.

Today, Matheson says that if President Nelson were to preach this concept he might say instead, “Cry unto him when you are in your office, yea, over all your stocks.” We know wealth is not evil, but can be the means of doing much good and spreading the gospel. In Deuteronomy 8:18 we read, “For it is (the Lord) that giveth thee power to get wealth…”

3)  Don’t beat yourself-up if you have money anxiety. You are not alone. One survey found that 57% of divorced couples said financial disputes were the primary reason they didn’t get along, and this happens whether you have a little money or a great deal. Unfortunately, Matheson says, many couples talk about money only in the middle of a fight.     

4)  Realize that there are only two main strategies to increase your money: Increase your inflow or reduce your outflow.

5)  Having savings can be a great comfort in time of crisis. As Brigham Young said, “If you wish to get rich, save what you get. A fool can earn money; but it takes a wise man to save and dispose of it to his own advantage” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 292).

6)  Buy groceries wisely. We’ve heard the saying, “Buy low/Sell high” when it comes to the stock market, but Matheson advises us to use the same approach when buying food.

“For example,” he says, “I saw a lady at a grocery store.  She bought grapes for $1.99 a pound and sliced meat from the deli at $5.99 a pound.  I bought the kind of apples that were on sale that week for a dollar a pound and the rump roast that was on sale for $1.99 a pound.  So, I bought fruit at 1/2 off and meat at two/thirds lower.

“If I buy Cheerios when they are selling at $2.00 a box instead of $4.00 not on sale, then I have made a 100% return on my money.  There are few such sure investments!” 

He also recommends investing in a supply of food before some luxuries. He’s seen millionaires with only $100 worth of food in their homes. And he once predicted that “one day people will trade their nice cars for food. Let’s hope I am wrong.”

7) Have some cash stored at home–smaller denominations and even coins. Electricity or credit card networks could be down some time for extended period due to other calamities, so we might not always have access to electronic funds. And when this crisis is over, make sure you are ready for the next one by having an emergency fund. If you have a checking account, have overdraft protection.

8) Prepare a Personal Balance Sheet to reduce uncertainty. Some people needlessly worry as they are often in far better shape than they think. The biggest complaint he hears from widows is that their husband took care of all the finances and they don’t know what to do now.

9)  A budget is an attendance roll for your money. Some claim living within a budget takes the fun out of life and is too restrictive. But we would never build a home without plans. It is a framework to build on, not a limiter.

10)  Know the difference between investing and gambling. Gambling is determined solely by the odds. Investors do their homework and shift the odds of winning in their favor.

11)   Determine your Risk Level. Are you like most people who are more concerned with losses than with gains? Living beyond your risk tolerance makes for sleepless nights.  If you consult with experts, most will tell you to minimize risk (such as investing in the stock market) as you get older because you don’t have time to recoup potential losses.

12)  Keep good records. Make future forecasts and do some income projections.  Keep a log of your spending for a week. Keep good records for tithing, taxes, and planning. Look to the Church’s record-keeping as an example.

This pandemic has given us all the chance to re-evaluate our lifestyles, serving, travel, family time, and shopping. Many of us have delved further into Family History, hobbies, and teaching our children at home. Garages are getting cleaned out, Spring Cleaning is underway. And getting financially organized is more than just another good idea for when we’re at home—it’s essential for our future.

To sum up, I’ll share Matheson’s favorite financial quote: “Peace, contentment, love and security in the home are NOT possible when financial anxieties and bickerings prevail….Money in the lives of Latter-day Saints should be used as a means of achieving eternal happiness.  Careless and selfish uses cause us to live in financial bondage…God will open the windows of heaven to us in these matters if we will but live close to him and keep his commandments.” (Elder Marvin J. Ashton “One for the Money” Ensign 7/75 pg.72-73)

Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.