It used to be that four subjects were taboo to discuss around the dining room table—sex, politics, religion and money. Today the only topic you can’t mention is money. Conversation about money is considered impolite. Everyone wants to bolt for the door when the pastor preaches on finances, knowing that a guilt-inducing pitch for more giving probably comes next. Can you imagine bringing up money at a holiday gathering with your in-laws? And yet how we relate to money drives many of our behaviors and dictates much of the good and bad of our lives.
You have probably tried to “do better with money” through brute force, bringing willpower to bear on what you identify as problem areas.
Today you might get a good start. Tomorrow will bring new trials and temptations. After days, weeks or longer, you could find yourself back where you started or worse.
Countless books and other resources will give you the nuts and bolts of making smarter financial decisions. Much of the advice you will find is helpful. But when it comes to your real money problem, we want to offer you a radically different solution. Before you can remake your habits, you need to remake your heart.
We honestly believe good money strategies—by themselves—cannot end the cycle of money problems once and for all. Without changing our inner attitudes toward money, it’s unlikely we will succeed in remaking our outward behaviors. If we want to truly break free from the consumerism that drives us, we must develop a new money mindset.
Using research conducted by Thrivent Financial, we have identified five distinct attitudes people hold toward money—five ways of relating to all that they have and own. These “money mindsets” describe how people think and feel about their financial well‑being—or lack of it.
As we explain the 5 S categories, you will notice a gradually improving relationship with money. But we believe that only one attitude delivers the deep peace and freedom we desire. We believe that only what we call the “surplus” mindset is healthy through and through.
The 5 S Attitudes Toward Money
Surviving: Feeling drained, trapped, with little sense of hope
People who are surviving worry about meeting the basic needs of life, and every bit of what they earn goes to daily survival. Most in this group require financial assistance or a helping hand to get by. This group accounts for 6 percent of Christians in the United States.
Struggling: Feeling strapped in the present and anxious about the future
Money causes much of the stress felt by those who are struggling. As financial pressures build, relationships with families, friends and communities often begin to crack. Strugglers live paycheck to paycheck—or worse, slowly dig themselves deeper into debt. This group accounts for 11 percent of U.S. Christians.
Stable: Feeling OK, experiencing relative calm but hoping for more
The stress level of the stable might be a bit lower, but they don’t yet feel secure. They don’t plan much for the future and likely aren’t as generous as they want to be. They describe themselves as “just making ends meet,” and while this group doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck, they are one disaster away from real hardship. This group accounts for 32 percent of U.S. Christians.
Secure: Feeling mostly confident
Those in the group we call secure feel they have enough for themselves but probably not enough extra to share generously. As their income grows, so do lifestyle expenses, so they perpetually have “just enough,” with only a little extra. Although having a financial strategy might increase their sense of security, these people can be as enslaved to saving as strugglers are to debt. This group encompasses 38 percent of U.S. Christians.
Surplus: Feeling grateful and ready to share
Members of the surplus group believe they have more than enough. They don’t constantly long for more. They display a high level of contentment even if their lifestyle is average—or below. Their purchases match their needs, not their income. And because they feel grateful, they are ready to share. Most joyfully give away more than 10 percent of their gross income. Only 13 percent of U.S. Christians feel they live in surplus.