Back in 2002, my good friend and cofounder of Crown Financial Ministries, Larry Burkett, had this to say about the economy: "The storm clouds aren’t all gone, but the U.S. economy appears poised for growth this year."

But, wasn’t 2002 one of the worst years ever for the U.S. economy? Well, not really. That year, The Wall Street Journal noted: "Surely the most under-reported story of the past year has been the economy’s amazing resilience in the face of terrorism, war uncertainties, corporate scandals, the telecom meltdown, and a vast loss of paper wealth by investors in technology companies."

The Journal was exactly right. The economy grew by about 3 percent that year -- not a record-setter but a vast improvement over 2001. Both productivity and profits were up, consumer confidence rebounded, and the outlook appeared to be solid.

Of course, no one can predict the long-term economic impact of war with Iraq -- it could be either negative or positive, depending on the length and the outcome -- but since that time in 2002 we have seen modest, but steady growth.

And, even though the average U.S. stock fund in 2001 lost 21.5 percent, stocks continued to rebound from the depths the following year as low interest rates and lower taxes helped companies improve their bottom line.

There is no predicting just how the nation’s tax burden will turn out through the legislative process, but sound proposals should cause the wheels of the economy to turn faster by spurring investments, savings and job creation.

What about 2006? If Larry were still alive, what would be his forecast for this year? Of course, we don’t really know. But, whether or not 2006 turns out well in the general economy, one thing is certain: You can make this a good year for yourself by taking some steps in your personal finances:

First, pray before you pay. God wants to help you be a good steward of His resources, so ask Him for willpower and wisdom "Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).

Plan ahead, develop and use a monthly budget as your spending guide. Don’t forget to plan for those occasional expenses, such as car insurance. Crown has free online budget helps that we invite you to use.

Make giving to God a priority. Give intentionally, regularly and generously to God’s work. It’s His money anyway. Loosening up those purse strings will help loosen the grip money has on your heart. "Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share" (1 Timothy 6:18).

Every month put some money into savings so that you’ll have a reserve for emergencies.

"Precious treasure and oil are in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man consumes them" (Proverbs 21:20).

Remember this simple financial principle: If you don’t keep borrowing, you can’t get further into debt. "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).

What’s the economic forecast for 2006? I’ll leave that to those who predict such matters, but no one really can foresee the future. Nevertheless, every Christian should know that we serve a God who is the same today as He was yesterday, and He will be the same on our every tomorrow. Our God never changes, nor does His Word. That’s why we can depend upon His biblical principles to guide us confidently into an unknown future, with our well-known God, through Jesus Christ.


Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.

© 2006 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.