Presvytera Maria Antokas is a former banker who now teaches Economics and Finance. She and her husband, Fr. Dimitrios Antokas, are currently serving St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland. Presvytera Maria is also co-founder of CapitalWise, LLC, which is a financial coaching service for adults who need help organizing and understanding their personal finances. The company just published their first workbook entitled, Don't Call It a Budget - Personal Money Planning in the Age of Stuff Overload, which may be purchased at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Just like many of you, I am a woman who wears more than one hat. The three heaviest hats – wife, mother, daughter – then banker, teacher and finally a special hat, Presvytera. I can probably opine on all of those roles because each one has its challenges and rewards. But what if I jumbled all that experience together? What wisdom could I impart that would help you think about something differently? What would matter to you enough to get to the end of this column? (Keep reading, I won’t talk about stewardship – yet.)
How’s this? “Will I have enough cash flow to pay the bills and set enough money aside to retire?”
Now, you may think, “That’s a random statement – there are a lot more important matters.”
But are there really? Other than health and your kid’s safety, doesn’t that keep you up at night? If you said no, that’s okay. I did meet someone once who didn’t make much money, was heavily in debt, totally maxed out on his credit cards, had a huge personal loan and was drowning in student debt. That person proudly admitted he slept very well at night. Okay, there are those rare birds. In fact, I married one.
Managing money in this financially complicated and expensive world is daunting. On top of that, people get all sorts of pleas to dig deep into their pockets to help here and there. Being an Orthodox Christian, we want to be cheerful givers. As St. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.”
We need to get there. Part of it is attacking our personal finances. Unfortunately, this often gets scheduled for that proverbial “rainy day”. Amazingly, it’s never rainy enough. Whatever our good intentions, most people would rather rub sand in their eyes than sit down and reconcile their bank account. In my career, I’ve witnessed more grudge than cheer when it comes to money management.
According to the latest financial literacy survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, only half of U.S. adults feel confident in the knowledge of personal finance. I assume those are the ones who moan and groan and use excuses like, “Nobody told me there would be math involved,” or “Don’t worry, I’ll get to it…” and then don’t.
This is where I come in. How can I help to make you a cheerful giver? As a banker for 30 years, I’ve coached many people on their personal finances and at most, have made a huge positive change in the way they manage their money. At the least, I prevented a few overdrafts and saved my customers a couple of bucks.
As a teacher, I actually try and get personal finance into the heads of teenagers. Yeah, good luck, you say. Thanks. I also teach personal finance to adults at a local community college. This is not as tricky as trying to teach a 17-year-old how to budget, but has its own nuances. The term “What were you thinking?” comes to mind a lot.
As a Presvytera, I hope that in my future blogs about personal finance that I enlighten you enough to keep you on track towards reaching your financial goals — part of which is becoming a cheerful giver. We’ll talk more about that down the road. Meanwhile, as promised, she said with a smile, “Don’t forget to pay your Stewardship.”
Presvytera Maria Antokas’s book, Don’t Call It a Budget – Personal Money Planning in the Age of Stuff Overload, is available on the OCN Amazon Bookstore.
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