Cultivating a Catholic ‘Money Mindset’

BOOK PICK: ‘How to Attack Debt, Build Savings, and Change the World Through Generosity’

Being Catholic should inform how we view money and live charitably.
Being Catholic should inform how we view money and live charitably. (photo: Shutterstock)

How to Attack Debt, Build Savings, and Change the World Through Generosity

A Catholic Guide to Managing Your Money

By Amanda and Jonathan Teixeira

Our Sunday Visitor, 2022

240 pages, $29.95 (usually on sale online)

To order:

In the opening pages of How to Attack Debt, Build Savings, and Change the World Through Generosity, co-author Amanda Teixeira clarifies: “This book is written from a Catholic worldview.”

To that claim, one might ask a very natural question: What difference does a “Catholic worldview” make? After all, mortgage payments are due every month, a person’s religion is not a factor in FICO scores, and so forth. What does Catholic have to do with debt and finance?

As the authors illustrate throughout their book: plenty.

Former FOCUS missionaries Jonathan and Amanda Teixeira, founders of a financial company called WalletWin, learned much about personal finance the hard way. In their book, they relate being more than $24,000 in debt in 2012 and how they made their way out of debt less than eight months later. Their book contains stories about how and why their debt happened and how and why they decided to aggressively eliminate it. More broadly, they explain — with practical plans and strategies — how the rest of us can do much the same.

Quoting Matthew 6:21 (“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”), they maintain that personal finance begins with a proper “money mindset.” They detail how a person’s views of money are shaped by many factors, including one’s upbringing, the era in which they were raised, and parental attitudes toward finances. Of course, this can create difficulties in a marriage because the husband and wife can have radically different mindsets.

Amanda writes that they had a big argument about money on their honeymoon, “a fight that would have been prevented had we discussed our emotions around money, what money means to us, debt, how much debt, and how money was viewed by our families growing up.”

Amanda explains that a husband and wife must work together to foster a united mindset:

“It was then that we decided together that if we wanted our goals and dreams to happen, we needed to make financial shifts. It was easy for both of us to change when we had this crystal clear and motivating future in our mind’s eye. If you’ve tried to coerce your spouse into changing their financial habits without first sitting down to dream together, that’s what I’d recommend doing first.”

To achieve these goals and dreams, the Teixeiras propose that budgeting is essential, and their advice here is clear and useful. When Lisa and I were married 30 years ago, we used Microsoft Money, which was little more than a computerized check register. But the Teixeiras point out that programs such as “You Need a Budget” is exceptionally helpful. They also propose budgeting monthly to “coincide with the natural rhythm of life.” Budgeting for December, for example, should account for Christmas gift buying, whereas January does not.

They also propose helpful recommendations and strategies for insurance, savings, investments, home buying and paying for college. There is also a beautiful and thoughtful section on “Living Generously,” which again provides an emphasis on viewing finances through the lens of the Catholic faith.

The book’s section on investing is very basic; nevertheless, it provides a decent primer for the beginner. Since it is written from a Catholic perspective, I would have liked to see some discussion of morally responsible investing — a method of investing that seeks to avoid investing in pornography and abortion-related companies. It also might have been helpful to highlight the relative security risks of a debit card versus a credit card.

But the main strength of the book is its emphasis on debt and how to avoid it. Especially within a debt-laden culture, some readers might be surprised at the authors’ strong attitudes about the negative effects of debt. But while we could maintain that debt can be a useful tool, it is nevertheless true that debt frequently harms marriages or would-be marriages.

Jonathan cites, “Nearly 20 million Americans have delayed getting married because of their debt, and 94 million Americans have delayed or are delaying having children because of their finances.”

Relatedly, one main audience for such a book is those couples who have become almost overwhelmed by debt and don’t know where to turn. But another audience is those couples who are just starting out together. As I read the book, I kept thinking that this should be an essential text for pre-Cana courses. After all, if an objective of pre-Cana is to nourish healthy marriages, and financial troubles cause marital troubles, the inclusion of a book such as this seems rather obvious.

For those people who lie awake at nights worried about their finances, rest assured: This book is hopeful. It contains a practical plan for climbing out of debt and relates numerous success stories from people who have done just that. Overall, the authors recommend that we make honest assessments about where we are financially and, more importantly, who we are financially.

As Amanda writes, “Our aim in this book is to give you hope, encouragement, and a step-by-step plan to winning with money without losing your soul.”

In that respect, the book is a success.