Review: Simple Living in Light of Eternity Seminar

Neil with Simple Living seminar teacher Dennis McCallum

Neil with Simple Living seminar teacher Dennis McCallum

Last week we attended a conference with a seminar on simple living in the areas of personal finance, time management, and parenting (as related to the first two). The teacher, author and pastor Dennis McCallum, fleshed out a well-researched rationale for adopting a simple life, which matches our own philosophy of flexibility. He also included helpful lists of “possibilities” and practical ideas. Enjoy a summary of each below.

The Harrowing Alternative to Simple Living

The session defined simple living as freeing yourself from unnecessary pursuits and expenses in order to have more resources for what you consider important. For us this includes having time and money for ministry, family, and charity. But whatever your “why” is, you can have more of it by making financial and time commitments flow from your priorities, rather than the other way around.

A life ruled by debt and over-scheduling is apparently the new American norm:

  • Average hours working per household rising. The average workweek is closer to 50 hours per week compared to 40 in 1970. Plus with 50% more 2-income households compared to 40 years ago, the total working hours per household has significantly increased.
  • Frantic pursuit of kids’ achievement. One measurable indicator is the increase in sports-related injury, including overuse injury. Sports are now more competitive, year-round, or kids play many sports at once. Vicarious living and hope of scholarships because of parents’ debt are cited as reasons.
  • Out of control spending. According to federal research, the average credit card debt per adult is $15,706; mortgage: $156,333; student loans: $32,953.
  • Time scarcity increasing. The Economist’s article “In Search of Lost Time” (Dec 20, 2014) exposed “time scarcity” as a predominant problem of the rich. Harvard Business School survey found 94% of professionals worked at least 50 hrs a week, and almost half worked over 65.
  • Sad rich people. An overwhelming amount of research documents the phenomenon of increased rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, at-risk children, and other unwelcome outcomes amongst the middle-class and affluent in our nation. Apparently the pursuit of happiness through consumerism is working. Find more details in our post Increase Your Usefulness, Not Your Lifestyle.

The Surprising Benefits of Simple Living

“Simple living” doesn’t mean you sleep on the floor, dine mainly on peanut butter, and only wear gray crew-neck tees. As McCallum pointed out, “Simple living is fun, healthy, good for kids, makes people happier, and makes possible the awesome vision of New Testament-style church.” In addition to having more time and money for the pursuits you value, studies are finding kids from simpler families fare much better in college and the career world than their helicoptered counterparts . Over-scheduled, over-pressured kids don’t gain the opportunities to make decisions and think for themselves. Meanwhile, simple living provides a great model for kids on multiple levels. We can show them that humans are made for love relationships, not for frenzied achievement and materialism. We can teach our kids how to live well as they observe our practices and priorities.

A less complicated lifestyle can mean anxiety and more contentment, which is after all The Secret to True Financial Freedom. The simple liver can become a generous giver, and Proverbs 19:17 says “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD–and he will repay you!” I imagine God gives good interest rates.

Sound good? Before we get super-practical, why not think outside the mold with these big-picture possibilities:

  • Take jobs that pay less and require fewer hours, so we will have more time to invest in relationships. Get a reasonable career that provides adequate income. Don’t borrow for degrees that won’t lead to a career.
  • Start young: don’t let yourself foolishly drift into this trap when it’s hard to change.
  • Couples live on only one income while children are young, even if it means moving to a smaller house and driving well-used cars. (I know this is not possible for everyone. That’s why these are “possibilities.”)
  • Stop saying we’re barely making it when in fact we live at one of the highest levels of income in the world. Recognize when we’re succumbing to greed.
  • Stop stressing success for our kids. Instead urge them to grow spiritually. Save money for kids’ college instead of pressuring them to win scholarships.
  • Admit we are not short on time, but in fact have the same number of hours in our week as everyone else in the world (and likely have more time-saving conveniences).
  • Avoid buying a house at the upper limit for which you qualify.
  • If financial control is slipping away, get credit counseling. Don’t wait till you’re on the verge of bankruptcy.

And finally, some best practices (with links to our posts on these topics):

So there’s simple living made simple! I definitely recommend checking out this seminary for more details. The audio, Powerpoint, and additional resources will soon be available for free here. All research sources are included in these materials. Many of the bullet points were taken directly from “Simple Living in Light of Eternity” by Dennis McCallum, 2015.

What do you think about the trends of helicopter parenting and time scarcity? Do you have other ideas for simplifying life?



13 Responses to “Review: Simple Living in Light of Eternity Seminar”

  1. Kirsten says :

    Early next month, I will quit my job and start working for myself. I do have to work, because our student loan debt is too high for my husband to make every penny that we need. But I’m quitting work partly because, as you mentioned, I’m pretty much at 50 hours a week – and that’s on the good weeks. I brought my laptop home this weekend, because that’s what you have to do to stay ahead. I’m tired of the rat race and I’m getting out. I’m looking forward to the simplification that this major shift will bring, and I’m certain I read this post this morning for a reason.

  2. Hannah says :

    Those big picture options are at the top of mind for my husband and I. We are a one income family while he is in school, but I am hoping to carve out enough part time work to quit my job and squeek by for a few years while he finishes up. I think I will want this even more if we have more kids while he’s still in school.

    • Kalie says :

      That’s great you’re planning ahead about how to make things work on one (or temporarily less than one) income. I talk to so many two-income families who wish both parents weren’t working, so it seems to wise to at least plan for the possibility of living on one income. I hope you can pull off the part-time gig!

  3. Jim Swearingen says :

    Thanks for sharing this summary!
    I like the idea of “possibilities” as each persons situation is different.
    I would add a couple of possibilities:
    spend less than you make
    make a “car payment” to a savings account and buy your cars with cash going forward to save the interest
    Live among the poor
    Make friends with the poor
    Pray and seek guidance from the holy spirit on how to use your financial and time resources to invest in helping other people
    Be rich in good deeds and generous and ready to share with those in need (especially those in need that you have a relationship with)
    Help a young person from a low income family without a Dad involved, learn financial lessons, as these are not usually taught/learned in school

    • Kalie says :

      Great ideas, Jim. Thanks for adding these. Having a car savings fund is an important way to avoid car debt, especially when a car bites the dust quickly! What you have done among the poor in really inspiring and I agree that befriending and mentoring someone could be very impactful.

  4. DC YAM says :

    Interesting concept, and looking at my current schedule and, even more specifically my fall schedule when I start my MBA, I will definitely have little time to devote to relationships and “enjoying” my time. One thing I find interesting is that the advice is to cook your own food instead of picking up food, but what if outsourcing the prep of food frees up hours of time per week? Seems like an easy way to actually gain time?

    • Kalie says :

      The seminar was dealing with freeing up both time and money, so I guess it’s one of those cases where you have to decide what’s worth it to you. The speaker included the practical idea of cooking in large batches and storing or freezing portions for quick meals. That would save both time and money, if you don’t mind leftovers. Good luck this fall! I’m sure it will be busy but it’s also just a season of your life, not a permanent situation.

  5. Brian Jenkins says :

    So how was SI this year?

    Another great post with great points made, but there is more to America’s debt problem and time problem that meets the eye.

    For one thing, employers are demanding that employees (especially salaried employees) spend more time at the office. That is one reason why hours worked has increased since the 70’s. It’s now an employer’s market, unlike in the past when employees had more of an edge. The globalization of jobs, machines and computers, imported workers, and much more has made it this way. Refusal to spend 50+ hours at the office can lead to unemployment for many white-collar workers.

    Your point about borrowing for worthless degrees couldn’t be said better. The other side of the student-loan-debt-coin says that the cost of college has sky rocketed over the past 30 years, and many students are graduating into a lack-luster economy thanks to some reasons mentioned earlier. of course, if we want to earn higher wages, we all know college is a must, not an option. Regardless of how you feel about our current president, he is concerned about the student debt crisis and wants to take action. Sounds like a good idea.

    The past 30-40 years has seen drastic increases in the cost of things like fuel, college, housing, food and more. During the same time, wages for the lower 95% of America have stagnated.

    Meanwhile, many Americans put lousy leaders in office who continually cater to the top few percent. This is not just the White House, but state and local governments also.

    yes, personal accountability is something more of us should practice, but many of us also need to hold both our leaders in government and business accountable also.

    • Kalie says :

      The seminar teacher discussed the problem of the rising cost of college, and it certainly is a problem. There are elements of both civic and personal responsibility for sure.

  6. Forticus says :

    simplifying life: live close to work, max 10 Min drive or 25 Min walk, e.g. when too much snow, you will arrive in time and relaxed. I got my lesson from high school commuting: 9 years wasting 3 hrs/day, 6 days/week. But then, this concept will let you meet/see a lot of people from work time in your spare time: call it town, or village or community.

    helicoptering, scarcity of time: since my own youth I have this urge to spend my time as I want, including daydreaming for hours. And what is good for me, can’t be bad for my son, right? So from the very beginning I helped him to get his share of time and experiment with it. Of course, as a parent and from the helicopter’s outlook it is my part to tell him about possibilities ahead. But it was always his part to decide and my part to help him cope with his decisions.
    If not before children leaving home, when should they learn to use their brain? Think of the carpenter’s apprentice who was allowed to use tools and machines only after he became journeyman.

    • Kalie says :

      Great ideas, and I agree parents should teach their children how to make decisions, rather than making all decisions for them.

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